Thursday, February 13, 2020


A few years ago, before Donald Trump came along and drove David Frum (and establishment conservatives generally) crazy, he made a sound distinction between conservatism and toryism.

Tories can look a lot like conservatives, and often work in alliance with them, but they differ in that they are cynical about human beings whereas conservatives are cynical about reformers and their projects to make life better for everyone. Tories tend to put great faith in institutions because they think these will keep the people in bounds.

A case in point would be Kevin Williamson.
Populists and pseudo-populists Left and Right sniff at the idea of political parties, at the idea that there should be some mediating layer — they call it “the Establishment” — standing between the People and power. From time to time, there are calls to abolish the parties or to supplant them with “nonpartisan” procedures, for example the “nonpartisan” primary rules in California that help to ensure no Republican ever wins an election west of Barstow.
There is a legitimate point here. The United States is not a democracy and that is a good thing. It is a republic. Canada is a constitutional monarchy that works an awful lot like a republic.

Williamson goes on to make the point that the US needs functioning political parties. That's true enough but notice why this is important to him: 'bitch all you like about “the Establishment,” a Democratic party with a functioning leadership would not let Bernie Sanders get within smelling distance of the presidential nomination, not least because he is not a member of the Democratic Party'. Notice the 'not least'. For Bernie could easily join the party. Williamson would want the party to stop him even if he were a member.

And he wanted the same as regards Trump.

Here is Frum back in more sensible days on the subject of Daniel Moniyhan:
At its best, Toryism teaches us the limits of public policy — and that’s the Toryism of Moynihan the thinker. At its worst, Toryism sinks into a cynical defense of political evils, because (it believes) the alternative can only be worse. That, sad to say, is often the Toryism of Moynihan the politician.
 And that is where Never Trumpers now reside. For some, I'm thinking of Ramesh Ponnuru here, were already there long before Trump arrived on the scene.

Yes, we need functioning political parties but the responsibility for making them such lies with the parties themselves. If they fail, then they deserve to die. There is no guarantee they will be replaced by anything better. Everything could fall apart—the natural state of the world is chaos, not order, and it is only constant effort that keeps a civilization from crumbling to dust. The people have the right to tear down the parties they don't like. It is up to aspiring leaders to build something that works; it is not up to the people to support a corrupt establishment just because the alternative might be worse.

No comments:

Post a Comment