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So's Your Father! The Path to Real Change

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The Liberals' Mommy Fascism

by Christopher Chantrill
February 01, 2008 at 3:18 am


AT THE END of the Bush administration conservatives need to clear their heads and think about the future. It’s time to do some serious political philosophy.

Jonah Goldberg believes that the way to start is to understand how ubiquitous fascist ideas have become in our present age.

A project like that runs immediately into the problem, first articulated by George Orwell right after World War II, that the word “fascism” no longer refers to the specific movement founded by Benito Mussolini. It has become merely a handy pejorative. For half a century the left has used the word to define themselves as the good guys and anyone that opposed them as the fascist bad guys.

As a conservative writer routinely blackguarded as a Nazi and a fascist by the Angry Left Jonah Goldberg understandably wants to put an end to all that. He does it by proposing that we think of fascism as a broad approach to government in which the frank revolutionary movements of Lenin’s Bolshevism, Mussolini’s Fascism, and Hitler’s Nazism are specific instantiations.

Then, in Liberal Fascism:The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, he takes the fateful step. He argues that the American liberal tradition—from early twentieth century Progressivism to the New Deal to Michael Lerner’s politics of meaning and Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village—is also an instantiation of the fascist concept.

Liberals would say that “liberal fascism” is an oxymoron, and a hateful one at that. How could liberals have anything to do with right-wing fascism. But sixty years ago Hayek in The Road to Serfdom had already made the connection. He quoted Peter Drucker: “Fascism is the stage reached after communism has proved an illusion.” Communists and fascists, Hayek continues, “compete for the same type of mind and reserve for each other the hatred of the heretic.”

Goldberg does not say that American liberals are street-fighting revolutionaries like Hitler and Mussolini. He means that they belong to the same nostalgic tradition as the communists and fascists. They want to use political power to reestablish in the alienated modern city the lost innocence of community and kinship of the pre-modern village.

For Goldberg American liberal fascism begins with the Progressive movement that flourished at the turn of the twentieth century and reached its full flood in the “we planned in war” economy of the Wilson administration in World War I. American voters turned the Progressives out in 1920, so when the Progressives returned to power in 1932 with the New Deal they rebranded themselves as liberals.

Liberal or Progressive, the New Deal was fascist, Goldberg argues. The NRA, run by Army General Johnson, cartelized the entire economy, and the beloved Civilian Conservation Corps was consciously organized on military lines.

CCCers... wore World War I uniforms; were transported around the country by troop trains; answered to army sergeants; march[ed] in formation... went to bed in army tents listening to taps; woke to reveille.

That was then. What about now? What about the Clintons? Fascists to the core, of course.

When we get to today’s liberal fascism Jonah describes what I would like to call mommy fascism. The fascism of the 1930s was a daddy fascism featuring a militarized command economy and smart CCC uniforms with everyone marching in step. Mommy fascism is different and Jonah takes the reader through Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village to show how it works.

If Orwell’s 1984 described a masculine dystopia then Clinton’s Village echoes the feminine dystopia of Brave New World “where man is smothered with care, not cruelty” from the very cradle.

In chapter after chapter she argues for interventions on behalf of children from literally the moment they are born...

Then there are the home inspectors, the advisers, the teachers, the social workers. Clinton relies on her loyal army of experts to dispense advice about every jot of child rearing[.]

Of course Clinton’s army of experts are not volunteering their expertise. They are paid agents of the government, backed by the police power. This is not the myriad of civil society institutions but the monolithic power of the state.

Many critics think that Jonah’s idea of branding Hillary Clinton as a liberal fascist is an insult to liberals. But I see his book instead as a challenge to conservatives. If liberals have moved on from daddy fascism to mommy fascism, isn’t it time for conservatives to buttress our daddy conservatism with a mommy conservatism?

The problem with fascism, daddy or mommy variety, revolutionary or reformist, is that it turns the clock back on the modern differentiation of society and the separation of church and state. It closes the public square of freedom between faith and politics.

When you talk about the “politics of meaning” and imagine the nation as a scaled-up village you are talking about combining meaning and politics, collapsing the political sector and the faith sector into one. When you merge all the sectors and institutions of society into one you are totalizing the differentiations into a single compact whole: fascism.

Compare this approach to government with the philosophy of modern conservatism.

Conservatism began with Burke and his astonishing prophecy in 1790 that the French Revolution and its politics of reason would end in blood. Inspired by Burke conservatives have insisted that modern society should not be a monolithic empire of reason but a differentiated republic of human-scale associations. In the nineteenth century “little platoons” of ordinary men actually got to build this daddy conservatism, a vast infrastructure of churches, labor unions, and fraternal lodges.

But now that women have come out into the public square there’s a desperate need to scope out a mommy conservatism that complements the masculine “platoons” with a more feminine “web of relationship.”

We are talking about weaving a world in which “women with needs” would instinctively turn to a conservative web of relationship to meet their needs, and scorn the monolithic mommy fascism of Hillary Clinton and her experts.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.

Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050

Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust

What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican

Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State

Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self

US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008

Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006

Never Trust Experts

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, “Letter to Lord Lytton”

Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph

Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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