I was going to more or less skip the political commentary this morning, but this was too silly to pass up. Via Hot Air Headlines:
“Neoconservative” and “neocon” have become terms of abuse, denoting right-wing extremism. But the original neoconservatives began mostly as left-leaning intellectuals who only deserted the Democratic Party after it fell under the influence of the counterculture during the Vietnam War. With Barack Obama about to become president, is there any chance neoconservatives will finally return to the roost?
A month or two ago, the question would have seemed preposterous.
Speaking as a “neoconservative:” it still does.
Three reasons why:
- We’re not internally homogenous. The intellectual laziness that caused the chattering classes to sum up the post-9/11 defense realignment of American politics under one heading of “neoconservatism” is on full display here. It’s a term that no two people use in quite the same way, and while Schoenfeld’s argument might work on a percentage of the people he calls “neocons” it won’t particularly work on any of the people that, say, Pat Buchanan would. And if we’re talking about the people who use the term to mean “conservatives that I don’t like,” well…
- The arguments themselves being used are deeply silly. Yes, many “neoconservatives” are big on personal responsibility. It’s the mark of a mature adult, and shouldn’t be a liberal/conservative thing at all. Obama is marking a return to that? Does that mean that the Democrats are currently not personally responsible? Will they admit it? Yes, many “neoconservatives” are moderate on immigration policy. Schoenfeld aside, so was President Bush, and we actually knew that quite well. Obama’s going well to the Left there will not actually put the issue in an area that will please us as a subclass. Yes, a common defining point for “neoconservatism” is being a foreign policy hawk. Is Barack Obama prepared to go on national television and admit that we were right, he and his party were wrong, and apologize for driving us out? No? Such a pity.
- It assumes that we are trapped in our opinions like flies in amber. Come, I will hide nothing from you: in 2001 I was still a nominal Democrat. I didn’t change my party affiliation to Republican until the 2004 elections. Up until the point that it became clear that Lieberman was out, I was prepared to take under consideration the possibility of voting Democrat. If I remember correctly, I voted for the Democratic incumbent in my CD: Hoyer was, after all, reasonably sound on the war. Four years later I vote a straight GOP ticket, down the line. Proximity with Republicans has moved me distinctly Right on several issues (fiscal conservatism, abortion) and caused me to change my tactics on several more (same-sex marriage, immigration). I am no longer as enamoured of using the government and/or the courts to set social policy as I used to be: I somehow suspect that I’m not the only “neoconservative” in America who has made that switch.
And I haven’t even brought up how progressives would feel about the whole thing. From their point of view, bringing back in the “neocons” without any crawling and truckling on our part would be a complete betrayal of their service and energy for the last two election cycles. The cynical among us might reply that this is nothing new – but even they have their limits, and this would trangress them. Because, rest assured, we’d make their public humiliation be part of the price of admission.
So… thanks, but no thanks, and all of that. The GOP’s stuck with us for a while.
Sorry about that.
Crossposted at Moe Lane.