Patrick Deneen: Abandoning Defensive Crouch Conservatism

The Right is constantly accused of “authoritarianism” by the Left.

This recent provocative essay by Patrick Deneen was on my mind when the Sines v. Kessler verdict came down. The entire American Right from David French through the Alt-Right in Charlottesville where Jason Kessler styled himself as a White civil rights advocate has been championing classical liberalism and has spent years lamenting the demise of liberal norms. We have spent years wailing about the “intolerant Left” and wallowing in our own victimhood while the other side wields power against us.

Patrick Deneen:

“Shortly before the 2016 general election, constitutional scholar Mark Tushnet wrote an astonishingly bold essay that called for an end to what he titled “Defensive Crouch Liberal Constitutionalism.” Anticipating an easy Hillary Clinton victory and an imminent change of the Court’s composition, he called for a revolutionary jurisprudence that would aggressively overturn loathed conservative (or even classically liberal) precedents; declared that the “culture war” had been unconditionally won by the left; and insisted that the left should therefore govern accordingly – treating their defeated conservative enemies with “a hard line” similar to that of the Allies “in Germany and Japan after 1945.”

This essay exploded like a bomb on the right, and perhaps unwittingly played a role in motivating conservatives who were on the fence about whether to vote at all to turn out for Trump. But more remarkably, the essay showed that among the progressives who occupy the commanding heights of elite institutions such as Harvard Law School, there remained frustration about the overly slow pace of social and political progressive advance. This stated impatience was the most breathtaking revelation of the essay – not only that progressives wanted to treat their fellow citizens like the defeated fascists, but that in 2016 they believed America was still too conservative. …

It was a wake-up call for conservatives – but most have chosen to hit the snooze button.

Instead, Conservatism Inc. retreated into a genuine “defensive crouch,” calling for a return to a “better” liberalism. Rather than responding with an alternative vision of a good society, mainstream conservatism instead begged – Rodney King style – “can’t we all get along?” To the threat of a domineering vision of Progressivism, conservatism adopted the pose of John Rawls, asking the other side just to “bracket” any idea of the good …

Consider the positions that the mainstream of American conservatism spends a great deal of its time and treasure defending today:

Religious liberty

“Limited” government

The inviolability of private institutions (e.g., corporations)

Academic Freedom

Constitutional “Originalism”

Free Markets

Free speech and “expression”

Each of these positions was a creation of early modern liberalism, designed to overthrow a predominantly Aristotelian/Thomistic worldview. Each of these liberal features represent an aspect of what Alasdair MacIntyre has called “the privatization of the good.” Each was designed as a battering ram to demolish any prospect for a social, political, and economic order that – while never perfect – nevertheless understood that society must be ordered toward the end of advancing the telos of human beings. …”

Liberalism is dead.

Maybe we shouldn’t be crying over its corpse?

It was liberal institutions like the New York Times and the ACLU which abandoned liberalism and caved to leftwing authoritarianism. The Left has moved on from liberalism and the Right should as well. We currently have a mismatch between rightwing liberalism and leftwing authoritarianism.

It is extremely rare that you see anyone on the Right point out that this is a losing position. Maybe the other side shouldn’t have free speech? Maybe the other side should be purged from institutions? Maybe the other side should be investigated and prosecuted and put on trial by the state? In spite of all the talk about “authoritarianism,” virtually no one in the mainstream Right talks like this.

All the other side cares about in their cracked Woke worldview is race and sex and ideology. They don’t care liberal norms like due process. They don’t care about evidence. Kyle Rittenhouse was a White male conservative. Social justice requires that he should go to prison for life. He was born guilty for having that demographic profile and for defending himself from the righteous violent mob.

Who can deny now that this is how the opposition thinks? How do you coexist under one-sided liberal norms with people who think that way? You don’t.

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  1. The prerequisite for this is that the Right has some kind of unifying mythology. It used to be free speech, ‘mericuh, individual rights, democracy & etc. but the Right needs to grok that Wokeism also flows logically from these ideas (if “all men are created equal”, then any differences must be due to “oppression”) which is why they’re useless is opposing it. White identity and White history offers the only plausible alternative, but we’re still waiting for the dam to break on that.

    • The prerequisite for this is that the Right has some kind of unifying mythology
      A unified hatred of the woke will do, as the more people get to know them, the more horrible they look. It used to be that you could ignore the woke, but now that they have power, that is no longer an option for normies.

      • No, “unified hatred of the woke” is not enough. For at least 60 years the Left has had a coherent, unified vision of where they want to push society, and the Right has not. When it comes to the very few exceptions, like gun rights and the lowest possible taxes for billionaires, it’s no coincidence that leftism has failed to make much progress.

        If you want a society with zero immigration to ensure a white majority, and where state institutions actively celebrate and promote white history and achievements, you have to actually put that on the agenda.

        • Even with zero immigration, Whites are already the minority in the youngest generations. There is practically 0% chance Whites will maintain a majority in the USA. It would require deportations of brown people with actual citizenship or a miraculous turnaround in White birth rates, but judging by the state of sex relations and marriages in millennials and gen Z that isn’t going to happen.

          The time for “ensuring White majority” was the 1980s, but Whites were high on MLK color blindness and Reaganism, so that opportunity has come and gone. Now the fight needs to be for the legal ability to form ethnic enclaves. Wokeness is already heading in that direction, but only for PoCs. We need to ensure that the ability to self-segregate is extended to Whites as well. Adaptation to a minority strategy is the only chance we have in North America.

          Unfortunately, instead of leaning into the segregationist rhetoric of wokeness, the mainstream right has instead been arguing for a return to MLK colorblindness. While Whites are being mowed down by BLM terrorists in the streets, with the media encouraging it, much of the mainstream right is still telling them to never see color. When someone like Elie Mystal writes about how he is “so tired” and needs to get away from Whites, the response should be to agree, not to complain that he isn’t living up to the vision of Saint Dr Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. We are also so tired, and would like to get away from Elie Mystal.

    • This is right on the money. We need a post-liberal mythology.

      Even fighting “the left” shows a liberal bias; it means we’re orienting ourselves around the French Revolution, as if the fatal conceit of Utopian social planning is the cause of our problems. If we were against liberalism instead, we’d center the Netherlands of the 1600s. Here we find all of the problems in embryo. Locke was there in exile writing A Letter Concerning Toleration. Spinoza, the greatest of allies, was also in Amsterdam writing about naturalism and why we shouldn’t obey church and state. All of the subjective proto-modernist stuff is there too, from Descartes in Leiden penning “I think, therefore I am” to the portraits of Rembrandt which emphasize who you are on the inside. The origins of modern bureaucracy are there, along with the first corporation, globalism, and multiculturalism. Anabaptists were marching through streets naked in the 1580s just like feminists today, while hordes of insane fanatics were smashing statues and cathedrals, reminiscent of the iconoclastic behavior we saw in 2020. The Dutch created New Amsterdam; the Dutch invaded England in 1688. The rest is a road that leads directly to today.

      When you see people defending classical liberalism, you know they’re part of the problem. They prefer to contrast the French Revolution as the bad revolution with the American revolution as the good revolution, but that’s bullshit.

      We need to figure out a way to tell a story of Europeanism that replaces or supersedes Americanism in a way that’s not cringe. Some of it will be aspirational since European consciousness as European consciousness is historically new. Americanism was Whiggery from its very beginnings, especially its Yankee population, which comes directly from dissenter shitlibs from the English Civil War. Most of the population during the revolution was royalist, but the shitlib patriots got their way through cancel culture — tar and feathering, ransacking houses, arbitrarily imprisoning people and extracting false confessions. (It didn’t help that the homeland sent useless Whig MPs like Howe and Cornwallis to put the rebellion down.) America is cancel culture and always has been. I don’t know why people identify with it.

      Not content with the conquest of half of Mexico, the South, and the Plains Indians, the American leadership then decides to conquer the ethnic groups they brought in as cheap labor. E. Michael Jones thoroughly documents this in his book “Slaughter of the Cities: Urban Renewal as Ethnic Cleansing.” The WASP elite, using housing projects, expressways, and university construction, deliberately destroyed communities of Poles, Germans, Irish, Italians, precisely because they were stable and homogenous. The goal was to undo unionization (they didn’t want repeats of the 1893 Pullman strike), to break up the anti-war crowd (think Lindbergh, Father Coughlin etc.), and to spread their shitlib Enlightenment ideals of through suburbanization. Loss of community means advertising, public education, and the media fill the void, which, as documents show, was by design.

      Like capitalism, America is not your friend. The sooner people learn this the better off we’ll be.

      • Nah. The Whigs did nothing wrong. Racist Whiggery is the core of White identity. It was forged in the cauldron of a 1000 year struggle against the Kings, Queens, Aristocrats, and Clergymen who cruelly forced the Peasants into a subsistence existence eating serf gruel, as well as the racial struggles of the 1600s and 1700s against the merciless Indian savages, and the question of Black Slavery, where no one until the Abolitionists advocated equality or racial mixing.

        Whig Identity was formed by the traumatic fear of Medieval Subjugation and Racial Extinction. White identity itself exists because the Pilgrims whom you hate so much came to North America and waged a 250 year struggle against the Indians, who they immediately found out were very much not like them. White identity and American identity were tied together all the way down through the early 1900s. Eugenics and Racial Purity/Hygein were both conceptualized and instituted by WASP elites like Lothrop Stoddard who saw the direction Western Civilization was headed and warned against it. Henry Ford, an elite WASP capitalist, was at the forefront of the JQ and published the much reviled Dearborn Independent.

        Your opposition to Capitalism and Americanism is not rooted in Popular Sovereignty or protecting Normal Whites, its rooted in Third Worldism, which imagines that the “Proletarian Revolution” can somehow be weaponized in favor of (underclass) Whites. The twitter user Thuletide has done a marvelous job slapping this shit down. Third Worldism doesn’t represent me and doesn’t represent Normal Whites who work for a living. Capitalism has issues, but Communism can never be based.

        • >based Whiggery

          If we like the way things are going, if we like Whiggery, Woke Capital, Progress, Reason, Social Justice, making Wall Street richer, directing even more of our resources to the Pentagon, immigration, outsourcing, all of that stuff, we don’t need change anything in either party. While the economic stagnation and decline are bad, the cultural stuff is worse, since without the support of tight communities, many succumb to alcoholism, drugs, and suicide.?

          I would completely forget about politics and just vote for democrats without thinking like a robot if they became more socialist and less woke. That’s not the way things work though. What we see on college campuses is always the norm 30 years in the future. No matter who is in charge, liberal norms are probably not going to survive. We need to get in front of this, and that means getting yourself and others comfortable with the state.

          And even on the happy path where we get lucky and the left becomes more relaxed and liberal norms survive, we still want the state to rein in big tech, to tax the bananas out of the rich so they can’t afford to bankroll multi-million dollar Death Star legal teams that annihilate their critics into financial oblivion, etc.

          As an aside, I agree that the quiet, pious, do-gooder Anglo identity of the Whiggish sort grew from the severe selection pressures of various occupations — Roman, Viking, etc. While the Shoah killed 1/3rd of the Jews, the Normans killed 3/4ths of the population of the North when setting up what became England’s caste/class system. So the lower class Anglos who survived (now what’s left of the Yankee WASP elite in the US) are very much like our fellow white people in having low power distance. Both groups are averse to authority (but have no scruples forcing you to be free), both have similar rags-to-riches stories, both take personal responsibility for their own education and finance, etc., because those are the kinds of people who survive in environments dominated by outsiders. I understand why people admire this.

          This stuff doesn’t matter as much today as most Jews are largely secular and have interests aligned with the Anglo-American elite, which is why they were let in their circles while the bad icky rural and ethnic whites were and are kept out. Look at the families of Biden and Trump. While I’m not a conspiratard like Henry Ford, I do know that the interests of this class are not my interests.

  2. There is a hatred far far worse than racial hatred and that is hatred of the innocent. Don’t take the bait, don’t become a Christ killer. Your external, everlasting soul depends on it.

    • @Robert Browning – None of us, who are over the age of eight years old, is “innocent”.

  3. Yep, I think it became evident that the old norms had really changed the moment antifa attacked all those families of normal republicans in the spring of 2016 at that Trump rally at UIC circle campus in Chicago. That is when they crossed the rubicon and escalated their attacks from beyond the pale stuff like Amren to Regular Americans whom they now officially demoted to “deplorables.”

    I think the interpretation that we aren’t really 245 years old but are more apt to France and living in the 3rd republic. The scenario seeing the first republic dying in the Civil War, Lincoln creating the second republic and FDR creating the third makes sense. We are probably in the transition to a fourth with the norms of the 3rd republic dying. The ACLU types who argued for nazi costume clowns to parade in Skokie and supported “free speech” movements on campus in the 60s are now gone. It was all a ruse to trick us into letting them take over and they aren’t going to make that same mistake themselves. “The Deep State” is essentially code for Jews in the bureaucracy and their gentile buddies with the same mindset and this was created by FDR. My mom has a Jewish friend and I remember her talking about her dad being from Southern WV somewhere you’d never think Jewish People lived and being employed with the FDR bureaucracy. They were already organizing black pullman unions etc in the 30s, FDR’s wife was full on civil rights ideology, the whole thing was ready to go but had to wait until after the depression and war. McCarthy gave them a hiccup but the 3rd republic came into fruition in the 60s. The question now is whether there will actually be a fourth republic or if the elites have gone so mad with ideology we will see a spectacular collapse.

    I actually think the later is better for mankind in the long run. It would completely delegitimize the US system of mass democracy, global finance, all the toxic social ideologies like feminism, the alphabet pervert movements, “black” worship, etc. Eastern Europe is doomed if they keep on with a government created by “voting.” Our enemies are masters at this game and will always win in the long run. People like Orban are playing chess against Bobby Fisher, the globalists are experts in this game and may get surprised here and there like they did with Trump in 2016, but will ultimately win the match if you continue to play their game. It’s why Xi wants that “democracy” crap gone from Hong Kong, he knows it’s a Trojan Horse for the globalists and knows they’d use Hollywood to influence the Chinese into electing globalist puppets who’d have Xi and his regime buddies in a cage for their final years. Don’t end up like Pinochet or Milosovich who unfortunately lived in the 90s when Fukuyama’s universal liberal democracy seemed triumphant before the rise of China and Putin.

    It’s hard to see an alternate reality where South Africa could have hung on, even now the Chinese need African resources and have to placate the blacks to some extent. At a minimum they would have needed a non-democratic white government that payed lip service to civil rights but effectively kept the black population on a short lease to keep from destroying the place like they ended up doing. But there are positive trends away from the NYC Potomac norms. Afghans tossed them off in the very first inning of post American Afghanistan, and Burma pulled the plug on letting the globalists rule them through that women they handpicked. You still have absolute monarchies on the Arabian Peninsula who are allied with 3rd Republic Washington only out of expedience, but certainly aren’t going to listen to 4th Republic “woke” ideas the little girls with HR, literature, and gender studies degrees want to impose on them. The “Arab Spring” is over, Turkey is moving away from the west. It’s very important for the entire world to see video of the clown world post modern America has evolved into, the crime and drugs, cities that look like the ruins of Chernobyl, bizarre gender freaks, all this helps, but what is needed is a spectacular failure of the American regime for all the world to see. We will probably get Biden’s little girls turning off the power to the cold north with their green crap, people freezing in their homes and contracting pneumonia will North Korean style poverty stuff they won’t want the world to see, but losing to China…that would clinch it.

  4. A reason that what has passed for conservatism in America has always failed is that our politicians want office, but not to actually constructively use power . With office gained, conservative politicians have acted as if the ends of governance were attained and nothing need be done to improve or even preserve the people or the common life. By default, the program of conservative politicians has become whatever the donors have want. Say what you will about the Chamber of Commerce, at least they have an idea of what they want from Republicans holding office.

    Pat Buchanan in his early book “Conservative Votes and Liberal Victories” presented the dynamic that leads us to almost always lose. Conservative support Republicans; Republicans carry water for big business: big business donates to and sustains the Democrats; the Democrats win victories for the left. Our political successes only lead to our ultimate defeats. Almost all of his succeeding works have been in providing intellectual grounds for breaking with big business and the Republican establishment that serves it,

    In his works, Deneen is engaged in a complimentary task to Buchanan. Deneen and his associates are attempting to counter conservative’s anti-power attitudes by championing a break with classical liberalism, which is nothing more than Victorian leftism.

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