Keeping down with the times

I’m surprised, but not that surprised, at the prospect of President Trump for the next four years at least. No sense in speculating on the practical outcomes now – I have my worries, and a few hopes. The essential lesson of recent encounters with democracy is that cultural liberals (and economic liberals where protectionism and nationalism are concerned) need to cut out the very idea of ‘keeping up with the times’, and think hard about what’s actually wrong with conservatism. Why should we not all adopt conservative values as many ordinary people think they can?

In the last resort, the issue can always come down to keeping the peace. As victor, Trump has made his effort to reach out – to all Americans and the rest of the world. I do not doubt he means it. But the devils are in the details. Those conflicts over immigration, trade and jobs, healthcare, abortion, global power politics, religion, and so on, cannot be talked away; they have to be worked away. Political, religious, and moral conservatives typically want peace and stability. Indeed, they don’t want the turmoil, fragmentation, and indeed warfare which has fed so much of ‘modernisation’. But with their very reliance on the traditions and identity of Our Group, Our Nation, Our Family, etc., they encourage the very separations and divisions which break things up. If the whole world could have a single conservative ‘identity’ there might be no problem. But neither politician nor academic sociologist seems to find that possible.

At least liberal opinion is not tied in principle to excluding the Outsiders, however much of an In Group liberals often seem to be. That is why liberalisms keep popping up; not because this is the 21st century rather than the Middle Ages.

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