Let’s Duke it Out

by Brad NelsonPoliticsThumbSm
I find the usual political BS so tiring. So it was nice to run into this excellent bit of commentary by Selwyn Duke: Why Millennials Won’t Turn ‘Conservative’. He’s hitting on all cylinders here.

Let me pull a few relevant quotes:

I’ll say that I don’t at all consider the WWII FDR voters the “greatest generation,” though it makes for a nice narrative. The greatest generation was the one that founded our nation and wondered if we could “keep” its republic, and there has been a consistent, but accelerating, degeneration ever since.


Moreover, millennials may have soured on Obama somewhat, but this reflects cynicism more than conservatism. Of course, that they’d be cynical is no surprise; they’ve been raised in an unraveling West in which feckless, morally-confused adults in their homes, schools, government, houses of worship and elsewhere have let them down.


Consider that while a conservative in 1952 America was staunchly anti-communist, a conservative in the Soviet Union at the time was a communist. And “conservatives” in Western Europe are often our liberals’ ideological soulmates. This isn’t for lack of truth in political advertising. Rather, it’s because the only consistent definition of “conservative” is “a desire to maintain the status quo” while “liberal’s” only consistent definition involves a desire to change it. This means “conservatism” is always changing: tomorrow’s version will reflect today’s liberalism’s success in altering the status quo. Conservatism is the caboose to liberalism’s locomotive (I treat this in-depth here).


That so few recognize this reflects the relativism of our time, where we label ourselves with provisional terms and measure ourselves against other people (it’s people who define the political spectrum). If we want to see matters clearly, however, we must define them differently: in absolute terms.

In other words, what do millennials actually believe? Well, never before has an American generation been so tolerant of intolerable sexual practices, so supportive of faux marriage and skeptical of actual marriage, so relativistic and disconnected from Christianity (church attendance is one of the best predictors of voting habits). Never before has an American generation been to their degree socially “liberal.”

This next bit is truly brilliant (emphasis mine):

This brings us to the claim that millennials are, at least, fiscally conservative. Now, not only is convincing evidence of this elusive, but considering it a saving grace is essentially saying that it profits a man to gain the world but lose his soul. Regardless, however, while the social liberalism/fiscal conservatism marriage may exist in particular cases, I suspect that in principle it is an impossibility.

For instance, speaking of principle versus particular, if you ask people, “Do you believe government should balance its budget and be frugal,” of course they’ll say yes. But if you ask them if they’re willing to relinquish their particular piece of the pie (government college aid?), their tune changes. Espousing fiscal responsibility requires only a voice; achieving it requires virtue.

And this:

Second, consider the side-effects of social liberalism in modern times. And this should be prefaced by saying that since this explanation warrants a book, my treatment here will necessarily be lacking. But just as an example, social liberalism means loose sexual mores. Loose sexual mores mean a high rate of single motherhood (today it’s 42 percent… and rising). And what does this mean? Since the modern West won’t let these women twist in the wind, the government will step into the breach and play daddy with handouts and/or mommy with tax-funded daycare. It is unavoidable.

I second Mr. Duke’s belief that the idea of being socially liberal and fiscally conservative is indeed a fantasy. More good stuff from Duke:

Government can be no better than the public’s virtue, though it can be worse. And this morality-government relationship is evident in voting patterns. Is it a coincidence that every group orthodox Christians label immoral — those involved in “alternative” sexual deathstyles, criminally inclined inner-city dwellers, effete college professors, grunge-type youths scarred with multiple tattoos and body piercings — vote left? “What fellowship hath light with darkness?” The darkness hates the light. When people have sins they yearn to rationalize away, the last thing they’ll do is support leaders who would uphold, even just through word, a moral standard condemning their passions.

I couldn’t have written a better manifesto for StubbornThings.org myself than this final paragraphy by Duke:

Speaking of wisdom, when conservatives indulge wishful thinking and suppose that millennials will “wake up,” they ignore that we actually need a shakeup, something that changes the cultural trajectory on which we’ve long been (so if an asteroid strikes the Earth, millennials may turn into conservatives — of course, they instead may turn into cavemen, too). Until then, whatever the keepers of the flame plan had better require the participation of only a zealous minority. For the masses will not wake up when beset by a cultural narcolepsy in which nightmares are fancied nice dreams.


Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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17 Responses to Let’s Duke it Out

  1. RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

    I’m not so pessimistic (yes some days I am but not today).

    Conservatism is a diverse (it the true sense), rich, deep adaptive cultural political intellectual movement. It won’t go away so easily but like any movement it will predominate in cycles.

    The Jacobins in France assured generations of conservative rule in Britain.
    Wilson combined with the Soviet revolution in Russia give us three consecutive Conservative presidencies and a culture conservatism which lasted until the 50s.

    FDR bequeathed us anticommunist presidencies of Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy.

    Johnson and the 60s bequeathed a revitalized conservatism that gave us Reagan.

    Carter’s liberalism solidified 1950’s ardent liberals into rock solid neoconservatives bringing us Bush over Gore or Kerry. Complain as you will about Bush, consider the alternatives we could have had.

    The intellectual merits of conservatism are just to obvious and they will be desired sooner rather than later as we all begin to suffer the plight bequeathed us from liberals.

    We need to be patient but active and conservatism will return.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’m very realistic, Rob. Perhaps pessimistic. I think the best book title (but certainly not the best book) was John Derbyshire’s “We Are Doomed.”

      Nothing is pulling this culture to the time-tested ideas of reality, let alone conservatism. Our culture is guided by a juvenile and vulgar pop culture layered on top of the intellectual and moral shortcomings foisted on us by government schools.

      Duke does an amazing (if only because of its brevity) send-off of the Paulbots when he said:

      Of course, some will now say, “But why do you think millennials supported Ron Paul? They want liberty!” Sure they do.

      So does a tiger in a zoo.

      So does a toddler.

      As for the school of hard knocks turning yutes (or anyone else) to conservatism, I see no reason to believe this as echoed in an excellent comment to Duke’s article at American Thinker:

      if these under 30 millennials, so fully indoctrinated in progressivism can’t learn after witnessing 4 plus years of Hussein failures, why would we think they will abandon their cultist faith, when it’s easier to blame the imaginary boogerman of repub greed standing in the way of messiah Hussein’s promise of making life fair

      Neither conservatives nor libertarians should fall for the idea that the American system of principles and values are what we humans normally default to when we get through going off on goofy tangents.

      • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

        I’m offering realism.

        Cultural as well as politically we will go through swings. The Gay 90’s brought about a more conservative pre ww1 American Victorianism.

        The roaring 20s brought about a more conservative 30’s to 50’s

        The radical 1960’s and 70’s brought a conservative 80’s.

        People will see the result of the shallow libertinism of the Obama age and will walk back from it.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          If we define conservatism as adhering to the Constitution, free markets (not socialism or central control), personal responsibility (instead of endless bailouts), the centrality of intact families (instead of nanny government), an informed electorate (instead of the dumbed-down “low information voter” we have now), then I don’t see anything institutionally in place that would tend to tilt anyone toward conservatism.

          It’s possible for cultures to swing from fad to fad, but is Big Government and the institutions surrounding it (including our vast unelected bureaucracies) a fad? Is there any reason to believe that a significant crisis or downturn wouldn’t just produce more government, whether in the style of FDR’s “alphabet soup” approach or the Alinsky “don’t let a crisis go to waste” approach?

          If you blow up a double-decker bus with dynamite, it’s not going to self-assemble into a sleek Ferrari. America, to some extent, was an act of will, an act of conscious and informed choice. Does anyone younger than 40 today have the ability to even frame the question?

          And as far as I know, the Roaring Twenties were very conservative in the sense that it was a productive time. It was freedom. And what followed wasn’t conservatism but fascism in Europe and socialism under FDR in America. The Roaring 20’s are still demonized as a supposed excess of greed — the same thing said about the 1980’s which were also productive, free market times.

          And I think we can say with some confidence now that Reagan was an aberration and that the 1960’s and 70’s brought forth what we are experiencing now. Reagan and Thatcher, by the very force of their personalities and ideas, could be seen as eeking out an electoral majority with the remnants of the last vestiges of pre-Leftist America and Britain.

          But most of those people have either died off now or have been replaced (electorally) with “Progressives” and the general left-of-center culture that we inhabit now. Perhaps both of those politicians could still get elected, but I doubt it. They would be foreigners in their own countries.

          As long as government maintains such a large footprint, the very character and nature of the electorate is changed. And it’s certainly not changed or formed in any way the gives an advantage to conservatism. All we can do now is pretend this isn’t so with various mind games. You get Romney’s boast of being “very conservative” or what Duke was talking about in terms of what is little more than guarding the status quo. That is Paul Ryan’s “conservatism.”

          Maybe the “Progressive” future won’t be so bad. But it will not be a conservative future. The state has such deep tentacles in our lives now (especially in regards to forming our attitudes), nothing short of a revolution could overthrow it. And, generally speaking, revolutions cannot be counted on to create anything better.

          I think the greatest thing we can hope for (other than avoiding a financial collapse or nuclear terrorism) is that the Goldbergian “friendly fascism” that we are experiencing now stays that way, that we don’t delve into a hard kind of fascism, the kind that Cass Sunstein and his ilk would love. In some respects, the ascendency of feminism might keep that edge softened.

          • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

            Feminism is a fascist enterprise onto itself so don’t hold you breath on that one.

            Conservatism is wide and varied. But cultural conservatism will return ascendent. The template is there and it has been built before many a time.

            Economic conservatism will come too, there is simply no alternative. The money will not be there for any other option.

            Can it be ugly, yes but will we move past that. They hay-market riots were ugly but limited and brief, same with the riots of the 60s.

            America will persevere.

    • Kung Fu Zu says:

      History does not repeat itself, the old saying notwithstanding. It is human nature which does not change. Technology, demographics, wars, famine and many other things effect whether a particular population is trending “conservative” or “left”.

      As regards England and the Jacobins, I don’t believe that England was very leftist before the Jacobins, so I don’t believe there is any cause/effect there. . Furthermore, during most of the period you mention, the franchise was strictly limited to property owners.

      The Truman administration was much less anti-communist than is now commonly believed. He maintained many of FDR’s people, some of whom were known to be far left. I can’t recall the names, but Truman apparently knew that some of the people the House UnAmerican Activities Committee went after were in fact commies. Furthermore, Truman came to office through FDR’s death and had no great mandate from the voters in his second term. Also, he got deeper into Korea than he actually wished.

      Eisenhower was more concerned about the Soviets as he had dealt with them. And the anti Soviet mood in the country probably had more to do with Soviet aggressiveness in Eastern Europe and the rise of Red China than anything the American public wished to reject about FDR.

      The Vietnam War crushed Johnson and brought us Nixon who brought us Ford who brought us Carter.

      Carter brought us Reagan, much like Bush brought us Obama.

      As to the intellectual merits of conservatism being obvious, I don’t notice a lot of intellectual activity out there with Mili(?) Cyrus, twitter, Facebook pages, network tv, the internet, in a word, the mass culture. Don’t count too much on the intellectual merits convincing many of the poorly educated, overly proud crowd below about 40 years of age or younger.

      If anything brings conservatism back I think it will be the hard reality of bad times, but bad times can also bring tyrants.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        If anything brings conservatism back I think it will be the hard reality of bad times, but bad times can also bring tyrants.

        Good points. Where I diverge from libertarianism (and why I am an American Reagan-style conservatism) is because I do not think that society self-organizes itself into a good thing if the main or only ground rules are freedom and free markets.

        That is, the Utopia dream (whether based in the Left or the anarchic right) is folly. It’s a pleasing notion that all can be sunshine and roses if we just follow a few basic rules, but it’s still folly.

        But at least the Left has folly as an organizing principles. Islam has their Caliphate. The Left has its Utopia, and libertarianism/Paulbotism tends to have its Utopia of “non-intervention” which is based on the idea that if no one is coerced to do anything, we’ll all be peeing rainbows and farting perfume.

        I just don’t believe that. There have been many prime influences involved in creating the West. They include the free market, the printed book (and education), technology, Christianity, and certain principles of unalienable rights via actual political liberalism (less class-based and more individual-rights-based). But I don’t believe that Western Civilization was a particularly self-conscious effort. But it would have been impossible if Islam, for instance, had been our religion or Communism (or tribalism or conquest) had been our main form of gaining wealth.

        And, of course, no one or nothing is perfect so, indeed, a certain amount of conquest was involved in the creation of Western Civilization….and quite arguably, much of the world is the better for the British Empire. India certainly is, as is Australia and other places.

        Mankind needs some kind of impressing influence on him. We can hope for it to be a good one, but hope alone doesn’t get us there. The challenge today is reassembling a positive belief in ourselves from the ashes and Utopian toxins of Leftism. And this is still an almost impossible thing to do until we start accepting the idea that politics, for one, is war by other means. The Republicans do not grasp this…or they just don’t care. And this war cannot even be engaged until spending is reduced and the size and scope of the national government begins to at least marginally hold to the Constitution.

        But I also agree with Mr. Kung that culture effects everything. Although it is tempting to see our current problems as political (and they do have deep political roots now, if only because of entitlements), we are mostly facing a cultural problem.

        Politics is where good ideas go to die, and where bad ones are very often born. We can’t look to DC for solutions. All of the solutions we need from them are for DC to shrink back and reduce itself. And there is not enough integrity in government right now for this to happen on even a small scale. And the people themselves have become so corrupted by the bread-and-circuses of entitlements (as well as a dumbed-down entertainment and education culture) that there is no reason to believe that WE the PEOPLE can find a solution out of our growing socialist hell.

        If positive change is to happen, we must first understand why America has historically worked and then forthrightly confront the toxic and Utopian ideology of the Left at every turn, sparing no feelings, no holds barred, at least rhetorically. And I would say to jettison the political mindset. Think of the problem from a Christian perspective or a financial perspective or a family perspective. And although I consider myself a conservative, it will not be talking politics that fixes what needs fixing. In some respects, the left-vs-right argument has taken on a life (and a black life indeed quite often) apart from the very realities of the nation and our culture.

        That doesn’t mean I don’t or won’t parse thing through a conservative lens. I will continue to do so…in everything from the politics of the day to movie reviews. But the point is that our culture is sick on Utopia and various pipe dreams. Reality itself is not allowed to intrude on the Grand Visions of so many boobs and nincompoops. We must force-feed them a little reality before most people will not even have the smallest inkling what American conservatism is….and that includes many (such as Romney) who claim to be conservative.

        • Kurt NY says:

          “I do not think that society self-organizes itself into a good thing if the main or only ground rules are freedom and free markets.” Bravo. Which also dovetails with John Adams quote about our system of governance as only fitting for a religious and virtuous people. Culture is everything.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Ahhhh…..it all comes back to John Adams.

            It’s funny, because after reading H.W. Brands’ biography of Adams, you’d think John and John Quincy were the devil reincarnate, at least according to Jackson.

            I thought this article was terrific. And I emailed Mr. Duke to see if I could post it here in its entirety. I haven’t heard back yet. But I just thought (to my ears) is was so wonderfully refreshing in its candor.

      • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

        Truman’s stance in South Korea was pretty solid…?

        Conservatives always fear the worst, are usually proven right and bring about ‘a return to normalcy’.

        I just finished a great Teaching Company course – ‘The Conservative Tradition’.

        Frankly it was inspiring, you walk away respecting conservatism even more and deriding liberalism further. Its Conservatism that is diverse, intellectual, adaptable and capable of mass appeal. Liberalism which is staid and fanciful and only offers momentary appeal until the ‘buzz’ wear’s off.

        Anyway if you get the chance check it out, conservatism never goes away.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    I have noticed that the social liberalism of northeastern Republicans tends to bleed over into their fiscal policies, causing the likes of William Weld and George Pataki to start off as alleged fiscal conservatives who eventually becomes spendaholics just like their Democratic opponents. I thought this was a natural outcome of group dynamics (fiscally conservative social liberals coming to align themselves with liberalism rather than conservatism). But Duke’s explanation makes a lot of sense. Phyllis Schlafly has made similar points on occasion.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Yes, I think Duke’s argument regarding the “socially liberal/fiscally conservative” idea makes a lot of sense…particularly because I’ve argued the same thing.

      It’s common, particularly for libertarians, to don the “socially liberal/fiscally conservative” idea. And you can make this work if you simply restrict yourself to individual choices/individual responsibility. If you stick blinkers on, gay marriage is a great example of this. Technically, a gay couple down the road getting married is their business and should, in theory, cost me nothing.

      The same with the idea of consensual sex. Drugs. Whatever. But as Duke points out, our society is not situated at present where it is going to try to play the nanny. The idea of people owning their own mistakes is now a foreign concept. Thus this idea of “socially liberal/fiscally conservative” only works in theory and quite apart from the world that we presently live in.

      There is no “socially liberal” policy in existence that I know of that doesn’t socialize the costs of whatever dysfunction and harm such a policy brings. Yes, we Americans must start to learn to live again with risk, personal responsibility, and not expecting government to always bail us out. But simply spouting the mantra of “socially liberal/fiscally conservative” doesn’t get that done. In fact, it simply acts as a denial mechanism, which is what Paulbotism is.

      So many are trying to have their cake and eat it too. They want the liberalism of the libertine orientation, but don’t want to pay any of the costs. This institutionalized denial of reality is what we are living in now. And when simply the debt of this socializing of costs bites us in the ass, I see absolutely no reason to believe that this will shock anyone into the awareness that, gee, I guess this Paulbotian or Leftism Utopia is indeed a fool’s dream.

  3. Kung Fu Zu says:

    Culture effects everything. Free market economics did not simply spring from Zeus’ head one day.

    This is why I have something close to contempt for those libertarians who seem to believe they can ignore Western History and the development of our institutions and assume everything will be hunky dory when we all accept homosexual marriage, legalized dope, total withdrawal from the world, etc.

    I was pleased to read Duke’s analysis of the problems which arise from loose sexual mores. One doesn’t even have to be religious to know that sex produces little human beings and little human beings born without a family unit generally have a difficult time in life. There was a reason that childbirth out of wedlock was stigmatized. Of course, today’s geniuses know much better than our ancestors.

    The pill was supposed to help reduce unwanted pregnancies, but look at the actual numbers and it is clear someone miscalculated. Another progressive genius. .

    • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

      Agree and the accepted cultural norms of today offer a bleak future but…

      the result from today’s accepted norms will become self evident just as they always have. People will want conservatism for the stability it provides, conservatism will return.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I wonder what will happen when the pain starts to hit. Really, if you count unemployment, the pain is already there for many. If you count the many ruptured families, the pain is already there.

        The problem is that “Progressives” and everyone on the Left (whether they know they are on the Left or not) are sure of one thing: Conservatives are the opposite of all that is good. Even as Obama shows himself to be an incompetent boob — and even liberals may be willing to admit this — there is no way that they will ever come to view conservatives as having been right all along.

        Oh, some will. But not the bulk. They have (as Thomas Sowell notes) too much invested in the idea of themselves as the specially-anointed. They really do think the sun shines out of their own asses.

        When the housing boom and bust happened, what was the lesson everyone learned? That’s right, that it was Wall Street’s fault and that we didn’t have enough government oversite. When Obamacare leads to higher healthcare costs, longer waiting periods, and decreased quality of care, what will everyone have learned? That’s right, that it’s those nasty insurance companies that are at fault. Or it’s those old people who use up more than their “fair” share. Or some other scapegoat.

        I think we all underestimate the amount of cult-like programming these people have been subjected to. And now these liberal goons want to institute “early childhood education” which means the indoctrination will start as young as three.

        And even if this were not so, everything in pop culture is aligned to produce the so-called low information voter. We are producing people who are very good about tattooing themselves on the outside but have very little going on on the inside. Our culture tends to make people shallow, vulgar, and narcissistic. That is not the right kind of soil in which to grow conservatism, no matter what hardships may come people’s way.

        I thus remain a pessimist…maybe a realist. What we know for sure is that the American character is no longer developed by hard work and facing challenges. We’ve are very much becoming the kind of distasteful sheep of Huxley’s novel, “Brave New World.” We are witnessing “After America.” We will, as Steyn notes, still have a zip code. But it won’t be America.

        People who feed their minds on the garbage that is on TV are not able to government themselves. They are not able to select good leaders. They’re always going to pick the guy now with the Styrofoam columns.

        As Duke so eloquently noted, these people who have been raised in darkness (or just bland inanity) will have a need to see it echoed back to them.

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