Sorab Ahmari’s article on First Things continues to provoke discussion, both on First Things and elsewhere. The National Review has taken up the banner of classical liberalism and leapt to its defense, with “The Post-Liberals Incoherence” being the newest attack on Ahamri and other skeptics of liberalism.
Frankly the National Reviews articles about liberalism reek of detachment from the scale of the culture war that is occurring. They argue that liberalism remains our best framework for living in a pluralistic civil society and benefiting from the fruits of civilization even when viewpoints about what constitutes the “highest good” are diverse. Conservatives have lost every cultural battle in the past 20 years so resoundingly that the left feel as though they no longer have an opponent at all and continue to accelerate their agenda of “social progress” where all individuals have the unequivocal right to express themselves as they please so long as it doesn’t cause direct physical harm to anyone else. What bulwark to the continuing march of cultural destruction does the National Review offer? According to the National Review we can rely on the courts and they cite a few irrelevant victories to really drive their non-argument home.
The writers at the National Review are still enamored with the ideal of liberalism even when the real expression of liberalism erodes the fabric of their nation around them. They fail to understand that liberalism is no longer a framework that politics exists within, it’s now a weapon that is continuing to bludgeon them into irrelevance as they completely fail time after time to put up any meaningful resistance to the incredibly destructive social change that has been occurring over the past 20 years. As Ahmari points out you can’t fight the continuing moral decay of society when that the policies that promote the decay are predicated on the absolute value of liberal personal freedom and autonomy. The National Review writers are ineffectual lumps who try to take the high road with “I don’t agree with you destroying western civilization but I’ll fight to the death for your right to destroy it”.
It’s not the first time the National Review has been completely disconnected from what is going on in the culture. They threw their hat in with the “never Trumpers”, completely failing to see the winds of change that were occurring and instead choosing to throw their hats in with the same set of self interested nominally socially conservative but primarily economically neo-liberal Republicans who have cheerfully been selling off the soul of America in the name of short term economic prosperity. These are people who saw the political landscape of America in 2016 and decided that Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio were the men they wanted leading their nation for the next four years. Yikes. Such a monumental lapse of judgement almost disqualifies the National Review from being seriously considered when they weigh into issues like this.
The disconnect between First Things and the National Review is, in a nutshell, because religious morals and values are the canary in the coalmine for the health of a functioning society. For the First Things writers who are primarily concerned with religious matters and see the west through a Christian lens things look dire and possibly terminal. To the National Review who are mostly interested in maintaining economic neo-liberalism and see raging against “socialism” as espoused by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a pressing issue things seem to be chugging along relatively fine. They see the moral decay of nations as a blip, a roadbump, a fad that will inevitably sort itself out if we have enough discourse and debates. In essence First Things realizes the urgency with with we must right the ship and the National Review is mocking them for being hysterical and to just stay the course even as their ship sits upon the wave that is about to capsize them.
The National Reviews obliviousness to the scale of the issue that confronts them is captured well in this quote:
Writing at First Things, Sohrab Ahmari has argued vaguely that it does, and he has pointed to the existence of something called “drag-queen story hour” at a library in Sacramento, Calif., the existence of which apparently demonstrates that we are sliding to Gomorrah on John Locke’s back. Leaving aside that there is nothing intrinsic to the liberal order that prompted such an event — America had the same political, judicial, and constitutional system in 1930, and there is no way that this would have happened then“The Post Liberals Incoherence” – Charles C.W. Cooke
While he is correct that it wouldn’t have happened in the 1930’s he impressively misses the bigger point that the influence of liberalism and the decay it was causing in the moral fabric of society was observable even back then and noted by people such as Spengler. Just because we’re further along on the inexorable slide of liberalism and things are occurring now that would have been unthinkable only 20 years ago, let alone 50 or 80, does not mean that the slide doesn’t exist.
The final point, and this is the one that the National Review cannot grasp at all, is that this is as much a spiritual battle as it is a political one. God handed down His commandments and said “If you live by these you will flourish, if not in this life then the one to come”. The short sighted greed, hostility to tradition and norms in favor of individual liberation, the selfishness, isolation and disconnectedness displayed by so many in the current culture is the result of a rejection of God as much as it is rejection of western tradition (which itself was built upon the foundation of Christian teachings). The writers at First Things do realize this fact and they also realize that should the darker parts of our natures prevail there is no future for the west period. Without God embodied in Christ, our shining light and star that was used to navigate our way through our lives we are lost.
I hope that the writers and editors at the National Review wake up and smell the roses soon. They’re presiding over the embers of a once vibrant civilization and attempting to convince themselves that if we just convince the people who want to destroy it in the name of personal freedom and autonomy that we just need more personal freedom and autonomy things will work out alright. We’re in the last hour of western civilization, the clock is about to strike midnight. The National Review strikes me like the Romans who lived in the time of Julius Nepos and thought that it was just a blip in the great history of the invincible Roman Empire. That life would go on as it always had and it was just the usual politicking.
Time for the National Review to start realizing the scale of the battle they fight and acknowledge the signs of the times.
The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ “And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?Matthew 16:1-3