Category Archives: Dreams

American Conservatism, 1945–2017

What it’s like to teach the intellectual history of the movement to students who aren’t old enough to remember Ronald Reagan’s time in the spotlight.

I’ve spent the last two weeks teaching a course on the history of the conservative intellectual movement for the Hertog political studies program. This is the second year Hertog has offered the course, and the first time under President Trump. I like to joke that I offered the students, all of whom were intelligent, well spoken, and impressive, a complete story. There was a beginning, middle, and end. If, as Alfred North Whitehead said, the history of philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, then the history of intellectual conservatism in America is a series of influences on the mind of William F. Buckley Jr. We spent the first week reading the thinkers behind National Review: classical liberals such as F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman, traditionalists such as Richard Weaver and Russell Kirk, the majoritarian constitutionalist Willmoore Kendall, and anti-Communists Whittaker Chambers and, perhaps most important of all, James Burnham. All of these strains of thought are visible in Buckley’s statement of principles in the first National Review, published in the autumn of 1955.

The second week of the course surveyed the years since that debut. The conservatism of National Review found allies in Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, and other neoconservative intellectuals who contributed to The Public Interest and Commentary. Conservatism unearthed a mass base of support among the middle-American radicals who opposed the Great Society and counterculture of the late 1960s and the social liberalism of the 1970s. Religious conservatism developed as liberal theologians Richard John Neuhaus and Michael Novak transitioned to the right. Conservative thought gave way to conservative politics beginning with Barry Goldwater’s nomination for president in 1964, continuing with Nixon’s Southern Strategy in 1968 and Ronald Reagan’s primary against Gerald Ford in 1976, and culminating in Reagan’s victory in 1980. We ended our time together by discussing current splits in the right. The differences between foreign-policy neoconservatives and paleoconservatives became acute after victory in the Cold War. In 2017 the spectrum of conservative thought in America runs from libertarians to neos to paleos to traditionalists to nation-state populists all the way to the alt-right fringe. You have Senator Jeff Flake and his Conscience of a Conservative on one hand, and Steve Bannon and Breitbart.com on the other. The various claimants to the conservative throne each have problems.

Post-World War II American conservatism began as an elite intellectual movement with no mass presence. It ends in the post-post-Cold War era as a mass political movement with no elite support. A visitor to my class remarked that the fusion of intellectuals, activists, and elected officials during the Reagan presidency may have been something that occurs only once in a lifetime. It was hard to argue with him.

My students quickly grasped the importance of anti-Communism to the conservative intellectual movement. We read a passage from James Burnham’s Struggle for the World (1947) in which he said that there always is a “key to the situation” in political life. For Burnham, and for conservatives in general between the publication of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom in 1944 and Francis Fukuyama’s End of History and the Last Man in 1992, the key to the situation was the menace of the Soviet Union. All of the factions opposed Soviet tyranny and the forms of collectivism and statist economics associated with it. When the Soviet Union disappeared, so too did conservative unity.

Many conservatives, and I am one of them, see radical Islam as another militant ideology dangerous to American national security and to the principles of a free society. But it also seems to me that attempts to build a conservative coalition around opposition to radical Islam have failed. There are too many intellectual critics of this view. Nor does radical Islam enjoy the support of secular intellectuals as Communism did. The key to the situation today may be that there is no key. The United States faces multiple internal and external threats. The effort to formulate a theory that includes them all is bound to fail.

Another takeaway was just how badly damaged the conservative cause was by its opposition to the civil-rights movement and federal desegregation of schools. The defenses of the South that Buckley wrote throughout the late ’50s and early ’60s persuaded neither the public at large nor some of the editors of his own magazine. For students today, this history is a barrier to adopting or even wanting to understand the other arguments of conservative intellectuals. One day we watched a lecture Russell Kirk delivered at the University Club in 1980. The students were struck by how white and male the crowd was. For them, Kirk’s monochromatic audience obscured his message.

Still, they were enraptured when Ronald Reagan took the stage in his 1978 Firing Line debate with William F. Buckley Jr. over the Panama Canal Treaties. It was not only Reagan’s commanding presence and voice that got their attention, but also his mastery of detail, his simple language, and his wry jokes. I found it both heartening and depressing that Reagan was as alive to them as he was to that audience 40 years ago. Heartening, because there is still an audience for champions of freedom. Depressing, because Reagan left office more than half a decade before these students were born.

I was happy to dispel some myths about conservatives. During an afternoon session on theocons, we watched an interview with Robert George. A few of the students were surprised. When they heard the phrase “religious conservative,” they thought of Sarah Palin. But here they were watching a soft spoken, earnest, civil Princeton professor quoting moral philosophers and name-checking Cornel West while arguing forcefully against abortion and same-sex marriage. The other day I asked the class if they’d had any idea that so many disputatious conservative intellectual journals are published on a regular basis. The students said no.

What’s the future of conservatism? I abjure speculation. But it is important to remember that American conservatism has gone through several cycles of diffusion and consolidation. In the beginning when Buckley founded National Review, the conservative world was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep. After the landslide defeat of Goldwater, and then Nixon’s resignation, conservatism and the Republican party were both thought to be finished. But then came 1980. Later, after Reagan, figures as different as R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and John B. Judis heralded the arrival of the “conservative crackup.” A few years later, Newt Gingrich rallied the movement to win Congress. The obituaries of conservatism were written once more after Barack Obama’s victory in 2008. They were followed by the Tea Party.

Social conditions and individual personalities seem to matter just as much, if not more than, the ideas of intellectuals. Infighting, dogmatism, cliché, conspiracy theories, animosity, confusion, and the absence of authority may characterize the present moment, but one of the lessons of studying conservatism is that the present moment will change. This change will arrive suddenly. Rapidly. And from a direction no one expects.

From National Review: American Conservatism

50 Very Simple Ways to be Romantic

@kevonr_photography 88

Ok, so maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t for another month, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show your partner some special attention now. In fact, I invite you to join me in this experiment. The plan is to show your love for your partner in a small and different way each day for a whole month and see what magic happens.Here are a list of 50 things you can do to express your love. If things aren’t good between you and your partner right now, this might be just the thing to slowly melt the ice between you both. If things are already good, this will strengthen your relationship further. By the way, there is nothing expensive on this list so there is no excuse not to give this a shot.

  • Write “I love you” in the steam on the bathroom mirror after he takes a shower.
  • Offer a back massage with some good smelling lotion.
  • Write a poem. Then use Google Translator to translate a poem into either French or Italian. Then handwrite it out with the translation on the back side. Or better yet, greet your partner at night and read it to them with passion and then hand them the translation.
  • While in public, declare “I love you, Matilda!” (not Matilda, but your partner’s name.)
  • Make a CD with a few songs that are meaningful to your relationship.
  • Invite him to take a bath complete with bubbles, champagne, candles, and maybe a little Barry White. (the music, not actually Barry White in your tub.)
  • Surprise her at work and take her out to lunch, maybe take-out food in the park or maybe to a little diner, for a midday romantic interlude.
  • Put together a little gift on his pillow: chocolate and a note that says “Your love is like chocolate: sweet and delicious.”
  • If your partner has a work presentation at an off site location, have flowers and a note of support delivered there.
  • Dedicate a song to him on the radio and send him an email telling him when to listen.
  • Cook a special love meal of your partner’s favorite foods. Play his favorite music and turn the lights low for a romantic dinner.
  • Give your partner a pedicure and foot rub.
  • Send a text message or email that says “I love you!”
  • Mail a card and inside write down the top 10 things you love about your partner.
  • Give him a picture of you for his wallet that says “I love you.”
  • Leave a love note in her car telling her to have a great day.
  • Carve your initials in a tree.
  • When your partner least expects it, give him a great big kiss, even if it’s in public!
  • Go see a romantic movie, sit in the back row, hold hands, and cuddle.
  • King for a Day/ Queen for a Day. Declare that you will dedicate a particular day just to your partner to do whatever they want. Maybe start with breakfast in bed.
  • Buy a tree and invite your partner to plant it with you explaining that this tree represents the love between you both that will grow over the years.
  • In the midst of talking about how your days went, the chores that need to be done, etc. interrupt and say “I have something important to tell you. I love you and here’s why.” Then list 5 things (or more) that you really appreciate about your partner. Finish with a kiss and say, “Ok, so you were talking about the water heater.”
  • Write an old fashioned love letter and mail it. Be romantic and lavish. Have some fun with it.
  • Before going to a party together come up with some secret code words you can use during conversation. You can be telling each other “I can’t wait to get you alone tonight!” without anyone knowing!
  • Find a hotel that has a jacuzzi and book it for a one night getaway somewhere close but fun.

Don’t stop now because there are more tips for being romantic ahead.

  1. Place an ad in the classifieds declaring your love. Then take the newspaper, wrap it in a bow, and put a little note on it saying what page to look on.
  2. Blindfold surprise. Blindfold your partner and drive them to the place where you had your first date, and have that date all over again!
  3. Write a love poem for her.
  4. Make an early valentine. Cut out some paper in the shape of a heart. Write something sweet on it in red and put it in her purse or his briefcase.
  5. If your partner is going on a business trip secretly hide a love note inside their luggage.
  6. Offer to help them with some dreaded chore they must complete and make it into a fun time maybe with some music. (cleaning out the basement, raking the leaves, shoveling after a big snow storm, giving the dog a bath, washing the car, etc.)
  7. Do something romantic and spontaneous, like picking a flower and giving it to her right on the spot.
  8. Invent a meal and name it after him or her.
  9. Buy some body paint and write your love message on your body.
  10. Record yourself reading a romantic love poem for your honey. Then give your partner a CD and tell them to play it in the car on their way to work.
  11. Make a small postcard sized love collage. Then cover it with clear packing tape. Write a love message on the other side and mail it!
  12. Keep a box with mementos of fun things you’ve done together. Later when the box is filled, arrange them on a board and have it framed.
  13. Buy some underwear with special messages on it. Or buy your own and paint a special picture or message with fabric paints.
  14. Make a donation to charity in the name of your love for your partner. Give your sweetheart a card that tells how grateful you are to share your life with her.
  15. Keep a box with special cards, letters, photographs, and other mementos. On your anniversary or on Valentine’s day take a little time to share fond memories together as you review the contents.
  16. Create a mindmap of all the things you love about your partner and make it into a card.
  17. Take a walk on the beach together. Run up ahead and write a message in the sand, and then call your partner to see what you “found.”
  18. Say “I love you” often, slowly, and with feeling.
  19. Play hooky together. You work hard. Now today take a day to work easy at just sharing some fun time together. Call it an “I love you day.”
  20. Send an e-card to your sweetie to brighten his day. Here are free e-card resources: BlueMountainHallmark.
  21. Make little “I love you” posters with either crayons, markers, collage, paint, whatever. Post them in surprising places: the bathroom, the closet, the car, under her pillow, on her pillow.
  22. Create a small website or blog dedicated to your partner. Write a short love message each day for a month…or forever.
  23. Complete that chore or favor that your partner has wanted you to do for a long time.
  24. Be super kind for a whole day. Act like you would with a new love, a child, or a frail person. Show lots of kindness, generosity, and love no matter what for a whole day.
  25. Take an interest in your partner’s interests. For a woman it might be watching a football game with your guy. And for men it might be going to see a chick-flick. Do it with a spirit of enthusiasm and love. Have fun.

Print this out and do one each day. Make up your own. You don’t have to tell your partner that this is something you are doing. Just do it. Who knows, maybe you’ll establish a positive habit of expressing your love on a daily basis.

Original article: 50 Romantic Ideas