By Robert Capehert
THERE once existed a time when social critic Stanley Crouch was the masculine matador of the highbrow essay, examining the uniqueness of America and it’s philosophical underpinnings.
Mr Crouch was famous for his Jazz infused spontaneity—the beauty of American diction, coupled with seasoned observations of American mulatto textures and the cultural argot brimming across American virtuosity.
Time has not been kind to Mr Crouch, however, as the amount of intoxicating leftist agitprop wafting off his computer keyboard—much of it he used to critised openly—has become the former bull of intelligentsia’s china shop’s main delicacy.
There is little nuance attached to Mr Crouch’s prose of late, replaced by the drinking-of-the Kool-Aid of progressive assumptions—responsible for the rapid decline in national prowess.
Some of this is not Mr Crouch’s fault. Columnist Crouch is simply reacting, instead of being pro-active in a serious investigation of classical liberal formulations.
Maybe Mr Crouch does not give a hoot in hell. Who knows?
The Jazz essayist, who once threw a punch in an editorial smack down, has made some insightful observations of late. Talent is addictive, and attractive. But it is Mr Crouch’s conclusions of late—since President Obama was elected—that his astute observations have been replaced by lowbrow perspective. Politics offers more than a few chances to butter one’s bread; a subtext linked with Crede, ut intelligas entire mantra.
There was a time when the progressive ideals spoken by leftists were routinely held under a microscope by Mr Crouch—where the Jazz aficionado (maybe without noticing) attacked much of the premises of progressive polity.
It would appear the Bush administration pricked more than a few folk’s fingers on the left and the right. The right lost legitimacy with voters because it defended the Bush White House despite the administration’s lack of conservative depth. So went the thinking, Mr Bush was not conservative enough—but the alternative (see Barack Obama) was far worse.
I agree. But not without undue reflection.
Those who built chalets on the acreage somewhere in the ideological middle, felt they needed to drive further left—which is what Mr Crouch has done.
Mr Crouch seems to attack Republicans seated backwards on horses—without ability to deal with modern life. There is much of the Republican Party—presuming the consequences of a free society—in which this is an apt observance. After all, a free society—one of Madisonian diversity, seems largely absent in conservative, Republican rumination.
But Mr Crouch’s newly arrived at shallowness of mind is a bebop, skip, and jump past ideological sense, (of simplistic dilapidation), therefore in Mr Crouch’s reasoning, progressivism must be the only viable solution.
One could profess the Republican’s ideological problem is a lack of ideology. Conservatism is weak sauce to cook with absent ideological location. Secondarily, the G.O.P. has a cultural problem.
Recently, Mr Crouch seems to have forgotten that the mesa upon which Negro American life improved and opportunities expanded in station were directly connected to classical liberal principals becoming more a reality in American governance—not less.
Progressivism impeded civil rights progress—it did not animate equality.
Negro American Frederick Douglas defended his political positions by light of classical liberalism—always, and evermore. The early civil rights movement was not societal fixture assuming the kind of horse manure animating progressive thought.
Speech codes, a lack of diversity—the impugning of a society teeming with islands of separation—were not the America Mr Douglas and other classical liberal Negroes would have praised.
Mr Crouch’s mentors are the same ones influencing Mr Beilstein and myself—in terms of race—those being the late Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray. As it stands now, the lessons of Mr Murray’s seminal book—The Omni-Americans—and the late Mr Ellison’s thematic interlude in Invisible Man, are lessons Mr Crouch might consider relearning.
Part of Mr Murray’s point in The Omni-Americans summits an attack upon social science witchcraft and it’s attendant breakdown of individual worth and national prestige—a defense, if you will, of the mulatto-textured of American democratic life. Such democratic sophistication is diverse–ever changing, and ever pliable to individual need and achievement. But the idea of the individual is completely lost within progressivism’s ideological prism. And the idea the individual is served by the state within enumerated, separated powers—is exactly what progressivism inhibits.
Philosophically considered, progressivism winnows away individuality because islands of separation are the enemy of all tyrannical ideologies, soft or hard.
The presumption the state knows better than a nation’s peoples is a recipe for the few to control the many. Such an ideological configuration has no real punch or philosophical ground upon which to dismantle segregation or the mistreatment of large groups of people.
In terms of America, it is the classical liberal elasticity of the U.S. Constitution that enabled individuals to oppose immoral laws when Negro American’s rights were violated. Negro American inalienable rights could be violated in spite of constitutional law—not because of them.
One of the reasons Republicans fail with minority voters is the idea conservatism is no more than cultural—regressive in purpose; a step back into luddite paranoia—returning back to the ways society used to be. Folks like Mr Crouch have pointed out such “conservatism” does seem attentive to old ways and old scores—where Negroes knew their place and white folks did too.
Such a shallow conservation becomes unattractive to those communities whose civil life was remarkably circumscribed—where the state defined the limits of freedom, and whom it applied to.
But it is classical liberalism in its full scope, which seeks to break down cultural and societal barriers—where diversity is more than a punch line, (i.e., progressives wanted only and to hell with any other ideological convictions)—but truly diverse.
Whereas classical liberalism is naturally geared to the nature, and interests of the individual—regardless of circumstance, progressivism becomes individualities’ immense antipode—removing individual motive and purpose in order to make the state “god”—where the good society is maligned and the utopian hoisted upon society wide-spread, creating egalitarian misery.
What becomes important is the comprehension Mr Crouch’s foolish intoxication with progressivism is aided in large part with conservatism’s lack of adequate communication.
Once, conservatism presented its ideas with remarkable acuity—Mr Crouch did praise Buckley “fusionism” recently—pitting such conservatism against its modern, and undisciplined counter-point. Said better, Crouch and others are reacting to the fundamentalism animating conservative culture—not its constitutional depth.
In most cases, it appears.
America is a liberal society in the classical sense. A moment in history existed once when this was assumed and argued in favour of by conservatives. Once, the Goldwater conservative countenanced repealing laws, not making new laws—the conservation of people being allowed to do whatever they desire in the pursuit of happiness, sans impeding or assaulting other people’s inalienable rights, defined conservative action.
While presidential contender Goldwater was defeated in ’64, the conservative movement became jovial in November of 1980 when providence showed Goldwater had won—it just took 16 years to unfold.
Sadly, the idealism of the modern conservative movement—where the premise of the state is not much different in conservative and progressive circles—lacks cogency and political pulchritude. Since the threat of tyrannical ideological legislation has always been the enemy of free peoples—folks like former Sen. Barry Goldwater used to argue in time it would be conservatives whom the term liberal would be applied to.
We have arrived at the opportune time.
Too many conservatives do not read the opposition’s ideological assumptions about conservatism. As such, the Democratic Party is running against a Republican Party locked in the cloudiness of the past—unable to wade into the future confidently, unafraid of opposition. Insofar as classical liberalism is the conservation of American rule of law, conservatism must be communicated with its full sweep, vigorously.
To ignore what Mr Crouch has written (even with large errors embracing his essays), is to ignore where the Republican Party wavers in inconsistency over the paradigmatic foundations of classical liberalism. If one understands Jazz music parlance, one comprehends the give and take and virtuosity connected to Jazz’s musical form—trading twelve’s being a syncopated give-and-take, an apt analogy of the American cultural, political character.
Mr Crouch’s essays on race betray a further inability for the fisticuff prone essayist to enter fresh territory. One of the resounding conclusions of the New York Daily News columnist happens to be the importance he gives to individuality, over contrivances of race-baited politics.
Politically, Mr Crouch’s defense of progressive ideological footing becomes the quickest route to depress the power and abilities of individual life.
Live long enough, the day will arrive when large disappointment with someone, or something, will see light.
Even so, the defense of classical liberalism will bypass much of Mr Crouch’s—and others, misconceptions about the duty and purpose of conservative politics. Consensus is a worthy, necessary goal. While contrarians have an honoured place within American cultural intercourse, contrariness is not the end game. In order to create a better society, culturally and economically, majorities of voters must be won over in the arena of ideas.
To be conservative is to be persuasive, animating innovation throughout American culture and life. As such, what most endangers conservative politics in our time is the successful mischaracterisation of what conservatism is by progressives in light of “half-ass conservatism”—coupled with a misunderstanding by conservatives themselves about the proper duties of the state.
*Editor & Chief Mr David Beilstein wrote a piece on Mr Stanley Crouch, December 26, 2012.