What Is This “America” Conservatives Love?

Kevin D WilliamsonKevin D Williamson wrote a really pathetic apologia for Rudy Giuliani, Rudy Is Right. As I will write in a later article, I agree: Obama doesn’t not love America. But I have something actually interesting to say in that article. As far as what Giuliani meant when he talked about Obama not loving America, Williamson perfectly encapsulated it by way of refutation. You know, the way huge numbers of conservatives will believe something truly outrageous and someone who writes for National Review brushes it aside as though mentioning it means that that it isn’t a real thing.

Williamson wrote, “To ask the question is not the same as venting the familiar swamp gasses: that he’s a foreigner, at heart if not in fact; that he’s a Manchurian candidate sent to undermine the republic; that he’s a secret Marxist or secret jihadist sympathizer; etc.” Well actually, yes it is. His argument is basically that well, maybe the Fox News hicks believe that nonsense, but not a “respectable” man like Rudy Giuliani. There is no other way to put it: Giuliani doesn’t think that Obama loves America because Giuliani either believes and just wants to push the idea that Obama is some foreign other. Is it that he’s black? Yes. But not just that. Obviously, Giuliani would never say the same thing of a black conservative.

But what really blew my mind was how Williamson managed to lump all progressives into one tight knit group who, like Holden Caulfield (Really!) just hate all those phonies of American history:

For the progressive, there is very little to love about the United States. Washington, Jefferson, Madison? A bunch of rotten slaveholders, hypocrites, and cowards even when their hearts were in the right places. The Declaration of Independence? A manifesto for the propertied classes. The Constitution? An artifact of sexism and white supremacy. The sacrifices in the great wars of the 20th century? Feeding the poor and the disenfranchised into the meat-grinder of imperialism. The gifts of Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Morgan, Astor? Blood money from self-aggrandizing robber barons.

Now this is pretty much the way I see these discrete things. Just look at what I wrote the last three years on George Washington’s birthday. But the fact is that the Constitution was a racist document and even the Revolutionary War was largely a racist war. But we get better. America is a better place now than it was then. But what is it that America is for conservatives? As Williamson himself talks about, they aren’t without their criticisms. So the real difference is that liberals tend to be proud of America in an aspirational way, “Look how far we’ve come!” But the conservative take on America is one of decay, “Look how far we’ve gone!”

So the conservative ideal is some lost long ago. But of course they won’t tell you when that was. They won’t say the 1960s because that was probably the greatest triumph of liberalism. So they generally have to go back further. But the further you go back, the worse it gets. This leads to the kind of stuff I discussed in, More Libertarian Economic Hokum. In the article I was addressing, the writer argued that we didn’t need child labor laws because the market would take care of it. The same argument is more commonly made about how slavery was dying — if it weren’t for Lincoln and his Civil War, the free market would have ended slavery!

Thus, as I’ve discussed before, conservatives don’t believe in the America of today or the America of any given time. They believe in “America” — some mythical place that never existed. So if Williamson thinks that we liberals are all a bunch of discontented adolescents, what exactly are the conservatives? I think David Cross has it right: conservatives hate this country. They just love a myth they’ve created:

And that’s not love. I’ve had a surprising number of women who loved some idea they had about who I was. And there have been a fair share of women about whom I loved some idea rather than the actual woman. But that isn’t love. That’s the immature crap of, “I love her, but I don’t really like her.” Yeah, that means you don’t love her. It means she treats you like dirt and you “love” the idea that maybe some day she might treat you like a human being.

So it is pretty funny that Kevin D Williamson calls liberals Holden Caulfield, when the liberal approach to America is nuanced, and I dare say mature. It’s the conservative who believes in clear myths that blind her to whatever it is that “America” is. Which is what I’ll be writing about later.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

6 thoughts on “What Is This “America” Conservatives Love?

  1. If liberals are discontented adolescents, conservatives are suffering from dementia. And one can be either at any age.

    William Grieder, whom I like a lot (he’s over at “The Nation” now, and I doubt anybody reads him ‘cuz he’s old), once wrote that it would be a shame if America passed from adolescence into senility without ever experiencing adulthood. That’s spot-on.

    • Yeah, that’s about right.

      Actually, the biggest problem in America today is that the working class has given up on the ideals that supposedly define this country. They just accept that we live in a class based society. If you want to be rich, either be lucky or born to the right parents. But I really do wonder how things are going to look in 40 years when there will be no illusions about daughters doing better than their mothers.

      I’m probably going to write an article about how today the median income is what the minimum wage was in 1968. In another 20 years at the most, it will be less than it was. In a relative sense, people can’t even expect lives as good as the the bottom wrung of the economic ladder when I was a little boy. Pathetic.

      • What’s worse than a class-based society? A permanent one. At least in the British Empire you might sign up for the dragoons, then your kid might become a low-level officer, on and on until your heirs became administrators in some colony somewhere, helping coordinate the subjugation of locals. Rotten business. There was some level of class mobility available for dutiful servants of the crown, though.

        We had something similar once; your union job let you save for your kid’s college tuition. Forget about it now. It’s still vaguely possible if you start out middle class to eventually get your kid into one of the big-name schools, the only places financial firms look to for high-paying jobs. If you start out working-class, your kids will never get there in ten generations.

        And the idea that the only jobs which should pay anything are for skeezy financial firms is a pretty rotten business, too; I guess this is how empires work.

        • Add to that the fact that getting your kids a good education just doesn’t matter anymore. In a sense, I think that’s best. I don’t think education should be about economic advancement. But that was better than the way it is now. In a few years, I suspect we will look back at Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bait and Switch and think, “Those were the good old days!” Most college graduates today would be thrilled to get a job that they would be canned from in a decade or two. Now they just go to work at Starbucks.

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