After David Larsen posted some thoughts he shared at a recent panel discussion hosted by the goon squad over at CNJ I wondered how long it would take them to pull out the long knives and go for Larsen’s throat. Surprisingly, it took all of a week – during which time not one of the CNJ zoo crew offered a detailed account of what actually transpired at that January 19 gathering or the lessons learned from the discussions. Instead, the reader’s intelligence is insulted with a hit piece titled “Is Conservatism a Lifestyle?” purportedly authored by “Molly Liebowitz” that clearly has Bill Winkler’s slimy fingerprints all over it.
As usual, Winkler quotes Larsen out of context and attributes his remarks as being directed to Dr. Sabrin when, in fact, Larsen’s remarks were directed squarely at the likes of Bill Winkler and Rob Eichmann. Here is the full text from Larsen’s Facebook page:
Many of you understand, Conservatism is a life style, not a covert name tag to wear during a primary. We are witnessing the Republican Majority House Leader removing Conservatives from positions of influence. The same GOP strategically hanging Conservative incumbent Representatives “Out To Dry” during their reelection campaigns. Unfortunately we have individuals who cloak themselves as Conservatives with some “Ear Candy” organizational name, attempting to collect intell, influence, corrupt and control other true Conservatives and like minded grass roots organizations. We must remain alert & diligent as we navigate our way to re-establishing the GOP as a True Conservative Party. There are disguised “Wolves amongst the Sheep”, so let us not allow ourselves to be devoured by the Wolves.
So…is Conservatism a lifestyle? It’s an excellent question – one worthy of volumes of words and hours of conversation – and yet Winkler wastes precious bandwidth by knocking down a conga line of strawmen before proceeding to the real reason for the piece: attacking David Larsen.
The first part of Larsen’s comment was aimed at a Republican Establishment hell-bent on destroying the conservative movement from the outside even as wolves in sheep’s wool labor intently to hijack the conservative movement from within.
It therefore comes as no surprise that Winkler – an obscure mediocrity and hack oppo researcher who fancies himself a ‘seasoned political consultant’ – dismisses Larsen as “very new to the conservative movement” and a man who just doesn’t seem to understand
…that a number of different philosophies exist uneasily under the banner “conservative” and that these are often at odds with each other. They accept that people who self-identify as “conservatives” often have a very loose understanding of the term and what it means, either in its historic context or in its modern American usage.
So who is a conservative and who is not is a matter of self-identification, personal aspiration, and debate among that vague and undefined community who call themselves “conservative”. Nobody owns the trademark – and it is not a matter of lifestyle.
This is arrant non-sense, of course. By “lifestyle” Larsen obviously means the style in which a person lives out his life as the sum and substance of his thoughts, his words and, ultimately, his actions. In effect, it is the difference between “talking the talk” and “walking the walk.”
Conservatism as reflected through the prism of one’s life is anything but vague and those whose lives are immersed in its principled application consider them anything but undefined. Personal aspiration is ultimately meaningless if the object of that aspiration is amorphous or ephemeral and self-identification is likewise an exercise in self-delusion for as long as the Bill Winklers among us remain determined to grasp at the form while blissfully ignoring the substance.
You see, by Winkler’s logic, if you call yourself a Conservative – regardless of your political creed or moral foundation – then, ipso facto, you are a Conservative because “nobody owns the trademark – and it is not a matter of lifestyle,” a rather convenient dodge for political whores who couldn’t grasp the first principle of Conservatism if Edmund Burke himself rose from the grave and fetched them a clout on their heads.
Hence Winkler’s sadly predictable invocation of Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley as a sort of talismanic foil to the strawmen he created – clueless of the fact that both Reagan and Buckley stand as paragons of the very thing he denies: these men lived and breathed Conservatism. For them it was not a badge of aspiration but a way of life that governed every aspect of their waking existence. Reagan and Buckley were men of character and integrity for whom Conservatism was an extension of their own souls, the tangible trademark of who and what they truly were, not simply what they professed to be.
Winkler would do well to familiarize himself with Russell Kirk, whose seminal 1953 classic The Conservative Mind set the stage for the later emergence of Movement Conservatism. In his 1993 book The Politics of Prudence, Dr. Kirk sets forth what he calls the Ten Principles of Conservatism and by way of introduction, lends us some insight into what it means to be a Conservative (emphasis added):
Perhaps it would be well, most of the time, to use this word “conservative” as an adjective chiefly. For there exists no Model Conservative, and conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.
In other words, David Larsen is entirely correct: Conservatism IS a lifestyle – a state of mind and type of character that manifests itself unmistakably in the way one who professes to be a Conservative actually conducts his life. It most certainly is NOT an ID badge worn for political expedience or the acquisition of power – the very sort of thing Winkler, Eichmann and the Lonegan Cabal have been actively engaged in for the past three years and nowhere does that wretched animus surface more clearly than in the last two paragraphs of “Molly’s” hit piece:
For all its strong points, the two campaigns of David Larsen did not exhibit an intimate understanding of the different contexts which make up the conservative movement. According to activists involved in Larsen’s effort, there were strong religious overtones to his campaign meetings that did little to reassure those conservatives who happened to be of other faiths or indeed, no faith at all.
These were self-inflicted problems that plagued Larsen’s campaigns and cost him support. If the former candidate seems a little bitter for the experience, he should look no further than the mirror for the cause. Certainty is the cause of many a failed campaign – and nothing is more certain than when a candidate believes that God has pre-ordained his victory.
This goes beyond the pale and is precisely the sort of attack one expects from a Republican Establishment that despises Evangelical Conservatives even as it courts self-styled “aspirational conservatives” who have no difficulty cannibalizing their brethren for political gain. Thus the execrable State Senator Michael Doherty, who refused to endorse Larsen and instead became a paid operative for Larsen’s Establishment RINO opponent Leonard Lance in the 2012 primary, a betrayal that effectively crippled Larsen’s campaign and ensured the re-election of a Congressman who the National Journal ranked as 49% liberal on social policy and 52% liberal on economic policy. What Winkler erroneously perceives as “bitterness” is the agony a man of integrity experiences when a supposed ally plunges a knife in his back. But enough of Doherty’s treachery: it will return to haunt him should he ever seek higher office.
Instead, let us dispatch at once the “strong religious overtones” shibboleth: David Larsen is a devout Christian and a man of deep and abiding faith living in a time when such men are as rare in political circles as flawless diamonds in a Vermont pasture. His probity is legendary and his integrity stands as a bulwark and a rampart in an age when so many others can be compromised for much less than thirty pieces of silver. That he is not ashamed of his faith and chooses not to banish it from his political campaigns only serves to embody in practice what Dr. Kirk described when he wrote:
The … conservative is concerned, first of all, for the regeneration of spirit and character—with the perennial problem of the inner order of the soul, the restoration of the ethical understanding, and the religious sanction upon which any life worth living is founded. This is conservatism at its highest.
It is also conservatism in its most pure and uncorrupted form and it should therefore come as no surprise that the first of Kirk’s Ten Principles of Conservatism tells us that “…there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.”
Moral truths do indeed perdure and have their foundation as inalienable rights not in the intellectual constructs of men but in Nature and Nature’s God. Those who have difficulty grasping this elegantly simple equation are advised to acquaint themselves with the men of faith who founded this republic.
Sadly, these nuances are utterly lost on Winkler and his fellow travelers, for whom Conservatism isn’t a mindset, an extension of character or even a way of perceiving the civil social order but rather, the aspirational badge of poseurs who are the embodiment of the wolves in the fold about whom David Larsen so properly warns us.