Alas, Regardless Of Their Doom, The Little Goldbergs Play!
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July 29, 2004

[with apologies to Thomas Gray]

[Recently by Paul Gottfried: France's Anti-Hate Hysteria: Facts Need Not Apply]

Jonah Goldberg claims (NRO, July 19 Baby Cons in the Mist), in his response to the article on "young conservatives" published in the New York Times, that author David Kirkpatrick had been insufficiently aware that "disagreements among conservatives have almost nothing to do with when they were born." [Young Right Tries to Define Post-Buckley Future, By David D. Kirkpatrick, July 17, 2004]

Kirkpatrick had grouped together several self-identified conservatives, between the ages of 18 and 35, because of what he believed to be their shared generational experience. In contrast, Goldberg argues that two very odd "conservatives," Andrew Sullivan whose conservatism is "influenced by his views on homosexuality and the war" and Pat Buchanan, who is "opposed to free trade, opposed to immigration, opposed to homosexuality," cannot be viewed as products of their ages.

Thus, says Goldberg, Buchanan "would take his ideological chimera and call it a more authentic conservatism—and yet virtually no critiques of Buchanan have much to do with his place on the secular zodiac..."

 But is this generalization, which strains for rhetorical effect, founded on facts?

I believe there is a clear generational effect among conservatives. Most of the young "conservatives" interviewed by Kirkpatrick are recognizably neoconservatives or simply Republican propagandists, for example Eric Cohen and Ramesh Ponnuru.

The dominant issues for these "conservatives" are reelecting President Bush, supporting his agenda and being for the "market" (which is more or less whatever economic arrangement we now have).

What these youngsters couldn't care less about, and what even authentic conservatives cited in the New York Times article, Dan McCarthy and Jeff Nelson, did not get around to discussing (or perhaps weren't quoted on), are issues like immigration, and dismantling the federal anti-discrimination "affirmative action" apparatus. 

After all, these issues could hurt their social career inside the Beltway.

This is why, from my perch outside the Beltway, I have argued that what these operatives represent is not conservatism but "Goldbergism"—the ideology (or, more accurately, rationalizations) of the right wing of the permanent government party.

Goldberg's attempt to treat homosexual activist Andrew Sullivan as a "conservative" shows how far to the social Left the "Right" now extends— at least in Goldberg's mind.

Goldberg's contrasting Sullivan's bid for conservative respectability with Buchanan's "ideological chimera" is, of course, yet another disgraceful insinuation that Buchanan, who was working for a Republican president before Goldberg was born, is not a "conservative" but a fascistic weirdo.

Unfortunately for this attempted taxonomy, Buchanan may actually be to the left of where conservatives once stood on social issues, e.g., where the editorial board of Goldberg's magazine National Review had stood on race, before being completely taken over by its present neocon hijackers after the firing of John O'Sullivan in 1997.

In fact, most of these "young conservatives" today appear to be well to the left of where conservatives and many liberals were situated in the fifties and sixties. The social spectrum in the last fifty years has lurched leftward throughout the Western world. The issues on which Goldberg and his companions are now "moderate," such as homosexual marriage, would have seemed tasteless jokes even to an earlier generation of Democrats or English Labourites.

However, the neoconservatives, who as Sam Francis correctly observes in Chronicles (August 2004) would not have been considered conservative in any sense in the 1960s, have taken over the infrastructure of a Zombie Right. This takeover has decisively shaped the permissible ambits of conservative thought for the ambitious younger generation. It explains why most of the interviewees presented in the New York Times sound as they do.

Another curious point that Goldberg makes, in a syntactically garbled way toward the end of his ramblings, is that American youth is becoming more conservative because it is becoming healthier. And this correlation is related to another one: "America is getting healthier as it becomes more conservative."

Goldberg bases these undocumented assertions on the Pollyanna pep talk given by James K. Glassman in "Good News! The Kids Are Alright" (Tech Central Station, July 16).

Glassman's remarks in turn depend, in a typical piece of neoconservative back-scratching, on an article published by Kay S. Hymowitz in the Manhattan Institute's City Journal.  This purports to show that Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979) is less casual about sex and more favorably disposed toward marriage than the preceding generational cohort. [It's Morning After in America, Spring 2004]

My view: Whether or not Hymowitz's conclusions are correct, it is wrong to read too much into them. Hymowitz is examining not ideology but the possibility of the younger generation forming stable marriages. Glassman concedes, contrary to what Goldberg suggests, that this younger generation of voters have actually moved leftward and will in all likelihood cast their ballots for Kerry. Indeed it is hard to see how Glassman arrives at his contradictory statement about the rightward march of American youth, particularly if one factors in the growing proportion of young Latinos.

What Hymowitz and Glassman do agree about is that immigration has helped to create the "healthier" America they fantasize about.

In Glassman' words:

" Immigration which has produced what [Hymowitz] calls a "fervent work ethic—which can raise the bar for slacker American kids, as any high schooler with more than three Asian students in his algebra class will attest.

Are we to believe that those Asian mathematical whizzes Glassman and Hymowitz pull out of their multicultural hats typify the vast masses of Third world immigrants?

Do the Central American immigrants, both legal and illegal, who account for almost half the enriching "New Americans" now arriving here, drive up the mathematical competency in our high schools?

It would be remarkable if they can manage this while contributing disproportionately to criminal violence, unemployment, and illegitimate births.

Of course, the notion of a mentally, morally healthy youth now building a conservative America incorporates multiple fantasies. It might be unfair to single out this particular stupidity. One can only marvel at how the neoconservative dogma of unlimited immigration finds its way into a subject that would seem to have no relation to it.

One is reminded of Charles Dickens's childlike character Mr. Dick, who could never forget while addressing anyone about Charles I and his untimely execution.

But Mr. Dick had a charming and quite harmless fixation. The delusions of the neoconservative hijackers of the once-great American conservative movement, echoed by their GOP lapdogs, have consequences— abroad and at home.       

Paul Gottfried is Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of After Liberalism.

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