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The Conservative Creed


Below are two paragraphs from See No Evil? by Myron Magnet in City Journal.

They resonate with me as little else recently has.

It is my personal anecdotal experience that those two paragraphs express a sentiment that conservatives know instinctively, innately, in their bones; in their very cells. It is embedded in their prehistoric evolutionary essence, programmed into their DNA, by millennia of human experience.

That instinctive knowing seems to be the deep earth piling upon which rest the “binding” moral foundations, and which is the tap root of conservatism’s innate reverence for, and desperate need to care for, moral capital. Trump won because he, unlike any other candidate in memory other than Lincoln or Reagan, tapped into it. If politics is more like religion than like shopping then this is The Conservative Creed.

I fear that, except for a few of us remaining graybeards and some immigrants from the world’s manifold tyrannies and anarchies, most Americans are too young to remember, even vicariously, the ills that the world can inflict and the effort it takes to withstand and restrain them. They have studied no history, so not only can they not distinguish Napoleon from Hitler, but also they have no conception of how many ills mankind has suffered or inflicted on itself and how heroic has been the effort of the great, the wise, and the good over the centuries to advance the world’s enlightenment and civilization—efforts that the young have learned to scorn as the self-interested machinations of dead white men to maintain their dominance. While young people are examining their belly buttons for microaggressions, real evil still haunts the world, still inheres in human nature; and those who don’t know this are at risk of being ambushed and crushed by it.

Slogans, placards, and chants won’t stop it: the world is not a campus, Donald Trump is not Adolf Hitler, the Israelis are not Nazis. Moreover, it is disgracefully, cloyingly naive to think—as the professor hurt in the melee to keep Charles Murray from addressing a Middlebury College audience recently put it in the New York Times—that “All violence is a breakdown of communication.” An hour’s talk over a nice cup of tea would not have kept Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine, or persuaded an Islamist terrorist not to explode his bomb. Misunderstanding does not cause murder, and reasoned conversation does not penetrate the heart of darkness.

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