Sunday, March 23, 2008

In Pursuit of Traditional Conservatism

Dred Tory

Long-time readers of my old blog may recall that decrying the unfortunate perversion of “authentic” conservatism and the debasement of our political language was an occasional hobby-horse of mine. As a displaced “Red Tory” myself, it’s a great pleasure therefore to promote the new blog of a good friend, an honest to goodness old-school Tory, who keenly appreciates the traditional basis of Canada’s distinct political culture and is committed to vigorously prosecuting the argument against further encroachment into our political discourse by the degenerate brand of “movement” conservatism that’s already so horribly disfigured American politics.

“The task of a real conservative is to keep alive the idea that conservatism can and must have a spirit, a mind, a memory, and deep roots in our living tradition, and, by so doing, reveal the current “Conservative” Party of Canada as the soulless, corrupt, hack-led apparatus it is.”

Amen to that.

Update: Points of Convergence

I just want to expand on something in the comments to explain myself a little better.

In recent decades, traditional conservatism (what some might call “authentic” conservatism or “Toryism” if you will) hasn’t been much in evidence in Canada. It’s become a somewhat unfashionably quaint notion, largely forgotten if not altogether unknown by younger Canadians, displaced instead by a loathsome, right-wing American-inspired “movement” version that’s politically expedient and cynical to the core. Movement conservatism of course is really little more than neo-liberal market worship that embraces the wholesale disruption of traditional Canadian values so long as corporations are making money in the process and the ever-increasing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few continues unabated. It channels the reactionary and xenophobic impulses of its followers into a few red-meat issues – abortion, gays, immigration, crime and so on – that pose no threat whatsoever to the corporate power structure.

Contrary to what one might be inclined to gather from reading the endless steam of puerile, culturally illiterate right-wing bilge disgorged ad nauseam by the so-called “Blogging Tories” (a tragic misnomer) or the obscenely inane twaddle of pundits in the mainstream media, the bedrock political philosophy of Canadian conservatives has always been one that’s wary of American empire, firmly federalist, and politically centrist. In fact, traditional conservatives are as suspicious of free-market libertarians and corporatists on the right as they are of the anti-establishment socialists on the left. Whereas being a Tory in Canada used to mean adherence to the principles of universality, the common good, and the progressive role of the state in nation-building, these concepts are now considered reprehensibly “liberal” and, as such, are widely reviled and loudly denounced by the extreme right-wing ideologues operating in conservative disguise.

While so-called “progressives” may be at fundamental odds with the tenets of traditional conservatism in several key respects, there are also many points of convergence with which common cause can be made. For example, it seems fair to suggest a shared disgust amongst both groups with what might be called “Wal-Mart conservatives” — by which I mean people who worship at the altar of the “cheapest price” — and the prevalent utilitarian values of the market right generally. On the both the environmental and “New Urbanism” fronts, there is also much inspiration that draws heavily from the conservative well (although you’d never know it from the dunderheads that comprise the “Blogging Tories”) such as the thinking of Jane Jacobs and E.F. Schumacher, to name but a couple of influences in these areas. In terms of nationalism and opposition to the relentless economic integration with the United States, here too many “progressives” are of one mind in terms of developing our own distinctly Canadian economic and cultural sovereignty.

My point in all this is that in today’s “dumbed down” political discourse, dominated as it is by the highly adversarial left/right paradigm, we “progressives” would do well to look beyond the hackneyed ideological stereotypes. There are allies out there, and not always where one might expect to find them.