Hey, Congress: Stop Making Journalists and ‘Deep State’ Do Your Job
The Flynn revelations embody conservatism at its finest
Instead of suggesting the leaks coming out of Washington have arrived by way of ‘shadow’ governmental Obama loyalists and that ‘mainstream’ media’s reporting of those leaks perpetuates upon the public some dreadful deceit of reality, conservatives — true conservatives — should rather admit that there has not been for decades any better embodiment of conservatism itself than that of these leaks and of the investigative journalism which has unearthed them.
Make no mistake: we are indeed dealing with loyalists, but these loyalists owe nothing to the previous administration. These loyalists are Republican — that is, loyalists to the Republic — and they embody Republicanism in ways more numbered than many members of the political party which bears the name.
Pseudo-conservatives having abandoned genuine conservative battlements long ago, journalists and leakers have out of necessity manned them. If these leaks are a crime, then Congress committed it, modus operandi failure to provide an adequate conserving force in the face of progressivism and, more importantly, in the face of regressivism.
Let us not forget what conservatism is. Perhaps we already have. Conservatism, like any philosophy, is nothing more than a body of advice. Taken together that advice should act as a tool, kept in the top drawer until the proper situation for its use arises. Many such tools build politics. As a bolt needs a wrench to be of any use, and a few washers besides, so does conservatism need to function properly other philosophies. Most crucial is the one we call progressivism.
Each of the two gives its particular recommendations on any current state of affairs, but by and large progressivism will find society’s betterment in pushing that state of affairs to unexplored areas; conservatism will find the betterment in preserving what state of affairs progressivism has already achieved.
Progressivism is therefore offense. It focuses on winning, not through any endless implementation of brilliant ideas but through generating a great number of bad ones that are weeded out until the good ones remain. To weed them out is the toil of conservatism. Conservatism thus acts as a defense, and as any good defense it should not focus on winning so much as it should focus on not losing.
But offense is sexier than defense. There is an allure to it which defense lacks. Scoring earns credit. History remembers feats of achievement but makes little record of prevented disasters. A mechanic who dissuades a car owner from an unneeded extensive repair is honest but earns no income.
Understandably frustrating though it may be, defense is the function of conservatism nonetheless. Yet conservatism has perhaps over time been neglected in favor of something else, of fielding a second sort of offense, one which must necessarily take the field at the same time as the first offense but, as a result, offend in the opposing direction.
What naturally follows from this is the scoring of own-goals.
Do not mistake the relationship between progressivism and conservatism for the mythical and much-vaunted bi-partisan Obama middle-ground, where both sides seek to implement their best ideas only to wind up compromising with their third, fourth, and fifth best ideas to the mediocrity of all involved. The relationship ought on the contrary to be one where progressivism proposes an idea and conservatism offers its skepticism, suggests that what progressivism has so far achieved may be sufficient, and proposes that in trying to gain anything more society might actually lose something.
We no longer have this skepticism towards a speculative future. We have assurance of an unspeculative return to a “known” (i.e. forgotten) past. The progressive-conservative relationship has been pirated by agents who wish not to conserve progress but solely to regress it.
Progressivism unchecked is likewise run amuck. It is also distracted. For not only did Trump’s campaign force the media to assume a conservative mantle — that is, to defend the status quo — it made typically-progressive members of society do the same. This may explain why so many described the Democratic nominee as a status quo candidate. In 2008 the balance was not so out of whack as now, and Obama’s campaign was regarded all around as a progressive one. That 2016 had been shaping up to be ‘Hillary Clinton’s year’ for years prior was not necessarily because she was Hilary Clinton: perhaps, in the face of increasing migration to regressivism during Obama’s tenure, she was Nature’s only service toward a defenseless status quo.
If we had had adequate conservatism, issues raised by Occupy Wall Street and Citizen’s United might have been avoided with the suggestion that advantage toward outcome should be freely granted until it comes into conflict with equal opportunity, whereupon it must be at once adjusted in favor of opportunity and set free to once again pursue advantage wheresoever it may find it. Political correctness, instead of morphing into a doctrine which denies offensive figures the right to be offensive, might have become a considerate standard of etiquette to which public figures of influence would hold themselves in order that groups lacking a proportionate degree of public influence were not obliged to counterattack against unfair advantage. The entire argument against questionable climate change science might have been nullified by the simple observation that to argue about whether the science is correct misses the point: the consequences of acting as if it is wrong are too catastrophic to risk. When conservatism retreats excessively to regressivism we must navigate a society in which outrage becomes a form of currency, in which controversies become opportunities for political posturing, and in which bi-partisan efforts like NAFTA gleefully sneak into law and end up twenty years later making both political philosophies look equally inept.
Most crucially, where true conservatives ought to have been in early 2016 denouncing as fundamentally un-Republican Donald Trump’s elevation of harmful rhetoric above political substance, there were instead merely unblinking eyes, volleying back and forth from Trump to the electorate, as if rhetoric over substance could pass for conservatism nowadays; or as if the small, unhappening town of conservatism would resist the vines of nature taking her back once all her residents left on the next bus to regressivism, since the price of a ticket was only going to increase anyhow.
Turns out the return trip will be even pricier. In the aftermath of hefty allegations of collusion with a foreign government, these same pseudo-conservatives would like to avoid the cost of a ticket home. They would much prefer that the current administration be allowed to go about its business as though this ignorance too represents conservatism at its finest.
Defending the status quo is no longer the interest of any member of Congress who stands in the way of further investigation. These people have asked for the leaks by not fulfilling their function in the first place. It is all rather like a school janitor who skips a day of work, content for the hallway floors to become scuffed in his absence, and is yet outraged on arriving the following morning to discover the floors polished, subsequently demanding whoever it was who did his work for him should speak up and be fired.
These pseudo-conservatives’ interests are elsewhere: in the next election, in the small number of intolerant regressive constituents to whom they must answer should anything of worth be uncovered about their party’s administration; in pleasing that visible and vocal minority above all else; in their own hides; and in not damaging what little remains of the Republican brand.
These leaks set a precedent, certainly, and perhaps a dangerous one, but it is a precedent that was always waiting to show itself, and at least we can now recognize it. However, to direct anger about it anywhere other than at the abandonment of a conserving force in U.S. politics is anger misplaced. Barring the limited actions of a few Republicans, Democrats, and journalists, these leaks represent the first massively conservative action our government has taken in years.
Regressivism is no doubt required in a democracy. Logically, if progressivism advances and conservatism hangs on, a third force which seeks to go backwards must be possible and sometimes, in the course where conservatism fails to keep hold of the status quo as it ought, necessary. So I make no argument there. My argument, as a skeptic, is rather, first, that the throngs of conservatives who have flocked towards the regressive space have left the conservative space too few resources to be healthy; second, that owing to this, journalists, the so-termed ‘Deep State’, Democrats both genuine and opportunistic, and a few true Republicans have been drawn into that space to prevent its collapsing wholly; third, that the space needs to be repopulated by all politicians as soon as possible; and fourth, that of the three philosophies discussed here, conservatism ought to be considered most valuable.
For this is now evident.
To all members of Congress who have so far stood in opposition to further investigation, be it independent, journalistic, governmental, or otherwise: if in moving away from conservatism you hoped to save it through well-remembered achievement, be aware that now is your chance.
What remains is not if you will be remembered but how.