Tuesday, January 12, 2021
But there they were—and here we are. It didn’t work out so well for Athenian democracy. Will it be any better for us? No one’s crystal ball is farsighted enough to say. The conflict is between what Samuel Huntington called the American Creed—fired by a belief in the sanctity of individual liberty, private property, and limited government—and the assault on that creed by the forces of “progressive” political correctness and identity politics.
Later ages are always surprised by the casual brutality of totalitarian regimes. What those innocent ages neglect is the unshakeable (though misguided) conviction of virtue that animates the totalitarians. The historian John Kekes, writing about Robespierre in City Journal some years ago, touched on the essential point. If we understand Robespierre, “we understand that it is utterly useless to appeal to reason and morality in dealing with ideologues. For they are convinced that reason and morality are on their side and that their enemies are irrational and immoral simply because they are enemies.” That is the position of conservatives in American culture today.