Peggy Noonan wrote one of her masterpieces and it appeared at WSJ today. She is dealing with the hard left turn the Democrats are taking and calling for a response from Republicans. She is undeniably right on. But I want o focus on just a couple of lines she wrote in this great, great piece:
…Democrats are not only going left, they will do it badly. They will lurch, they will be spurred by anger and abstractions, they will be destructive. They really would kill the goose that laid the golden egg, because they feel no loyalty to it.
The natural job of conservatives is to conserve….
I have been thinking a lot about the nature of conservation lately. I recently attended a performance of Shakespeare that was deeply troubling – deeply. I do not wish to pick on the particular institution offering the performance, nor the performers, directors and crew involved so I will offer no more detail. What I will comment on is that the play was radically altered from what I read in high school. Of course, it was in a left leaning direction, but that is almost immaterial. The point was that those putting this presentation together thought themselves somehow better and smarter than the original author and had no problem appropriating it to their ends. This is actually pretty common with Shakespeare anymore which is why I do not want to pick on anybody specific. In the end it is a deeply selfish act. This is part of what Noonan is talking about when she says, “…they will do it badly.”
Which takes me back to the piece I posted yesterday about perpetuating unhappiness. In that piece I talked about the desire on the Left to make sure everyone has economic security – which most justify as an act of charity. Whenever I discuss this issue with left-leaning Christians I am immediately tossed all the scriptures that urge us to be charitable. But I wonder if it actually is charitable?
You see, that piece yesterday was also about earned success. Again, anecdotal, but most of the Left that I know that hold these positions have not earned their success – think Hollywood here. I will not bore you with the details, but I have worked a lot in “the Industry” and while they may put in long hours at times, the amount of work they put in for the compensation they receive simply does not compare to what a working stiff in a manufacturing operation or agriculture has to do for his dinner. The business model in the television and motion picture industry is pretty sweet. Big bets with enormous rewards – more gambling than earning. If you “make it” in that industry (there are of course countless failures) you will have more than plenty and a vague sense that you were more lucky than skilled – you will not have the sense that you earned it. There is a feeling of guilt that comes with that.
And hence what they claim is a charitable urge. Is it really charitable, or is it an effort to assuage this ill-defined sense of guilt born of their unearned success? Is charity born of guilt really charitable? No, charity is about the other, assuaging guilt is about the self.
Which brings me back to the nature of conservation. We are conserving more than a governmental or economic system. We are conserving grand ideas and values. Noonan is dead-nuts on when she writes,
They need to be moderate, peaceable and tactful on social issues, but firm, too. This is where the left really is insane: As the earnest, dimwitted governor of Virginia thoughtfully pointed out, they do allow the full-term baby to be born, then make it comfortable as they debate whether it should be allowed to take its first breath or quietly expire on the table.
We are conserving grand ideas about life, about charity, about happiness, and about so much more. These ideas are not abandoned – they are eroded. Noonan put it this way, “… to win half or a quarter of it, and on victory will declare themselves to have been moderate all along. The next day they will continue to push for everything.” We have permitted this erosion by buying into the “moderate all along” trope.
They are now exposing themselves for what they truly are. The absurdity of the GND, the utter ugliness of the near-birth abortion laws, give us an opportunity to stand firmly but gently. But we will only have the will to do so if we hold the those bottom line, grand ideas. If we act selfishly too – all is lost.