Subversive American Conservatism


Much talk of “red lines” these days. There are fine lines, too. That means their crossing is not always clear, and people of good will who wish not themselves to appear the creators of ill will, the stokers of social distemper, will refrain from stating that others have already crossed and created and stoked.

Beginning apparently with ex GE chief Jack Welch, who now disserves his nation as significantly as he served it by running his corporation so well, and followed by a radically ill-intended horde, wide swaths of American conservatives have challenged the latest employment figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Conservatives accuse the BLS of serving as a partisan arm of the Obama campaign, not as a servant agency of the government of the United States and its people. Beginning with Welch, they accuse the Obama campaign (the “Chicago” people)  of having coopted a part of the government to serve rather – in typical demagogic-tyrant style, like Hugo Chavez – the partisan undemocratic aims of a regime, not a government intended to be respected by its people, no matter for whom they voted or their own party affiliation.

This is partisan politics that has well crossed a line, a line first inched beyond when the Republican Party committed itself on the very day of President Obama’s inauguration, not, as its first priority, to advocating their own ideas in behalf of the nation, and in loyal opposition to a governing administration the legitimacy of which, in true democratic tradition, it honored, but first to obstructing every effort of that administration to govern and to dishonoring it as the government.

To subvert: undermine the power and authority of (an established system or institution)

Subversive: seeking or intended to subvert an established system or institution

This is not political campaigning, the contention of ideas and causes in a democracy. It is activity “to pervert or corrupt by an undermining of morals, allegiance, or faith.”

In order to grasp the powers of government, many conservatives today act to undermine and corrupt the citizenry’s allegiance to and faith in the government. They risk this because they believe that having recaptured the institutions of power, they can transfer their own good faith and legitimacy to the government they take back. They believe this because they have forgotten the bedrock principle of a constitutional republic – that the transfer of legitimacy works in the opposite direction instead, from the people and their abiding civil institutions to the new government.

The first principle of subversion is that subversive contempt is morally superior to what it seeks to destroy. The second principle is that moral disdain can recreate by the mere force of it superiority the legitimacy of that which was destroyed. That is the arrogance of the subversive. That is why the nation is framed as a nation of laws and not of people. Because people and their passionate beliefs do not confer legitimacy; the just and honored institutions they construct from those beliefs do. Rob the government of the people’s faith in its justness and honor, and all you have left is the power. That is a very old story.


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