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Does Conservatism oppose Democracy?

Updated on December 4, 2010

Does Conservatism oppose Democracy?

Earlier, I wrote a piece called, “De-constructing Levin” in which I stated that conservatism was the domination of society by an aristocracy, and that it was incompatible with Democracy and more compatible with Monarchy, Theocracy, Aristocracy and other forms of authoritarian rule. I found that it was a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.

Generally, my approach to finding the truth about things follows deductive reasoning. I look for something to disprove a claim rather than the inductive approach of looking for things that support a claim. I’m still looking for statements from conservatives that prove my assertion wrong, but all I find is statements from conservatives that support the claim rather than render it false.

Pat Buchanan is a well-known conservative who is interviewed from time to time on a variety of shows. He’s a regular contributor to MSNBC, as well as a guest on Sean Hannity’s radio program. So I examined a few of his views. Here is what I’ve found.

On African-Americans

After Sen. Carol Moseley Braun blocked a federal patent for a Confederate flag insignia, Buchanan wrote that she was “putting on an act” by associating the Confederacy with slavery: “The War Between the States was about independence, about self-determination, about the right of a people to break free of a government to which they could no longer give allegiance,” Buchanan asserted. “How long is this endless groveling before every cry of ‘racism’ going to continue before the whole country collectively throws up?” (syndicated column, 7/28/93)

Actually, according to the articles of secession from the state of Mississippi, it was about something else.

A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.

“In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course. “
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.”
(I think Pat may be oversimplifying things just a bit.)

On Immigrants and People of Color:
In a September 1993 speech to the Christian Coalition, Buchanan described multiculturalism as “an across-the-board assault on our Anglo-American heritage.”

On Jews:
Buchanan referred to Capitol Hill as “Israeli-occupied territory.” (St. Louis Post Dispatch, 10/20/90)

In a 1977 column, Buchanan said that despite Hitler’s anti-Semitic and genocidal tendencies, he was “an individual of great courage…. Hitler’s success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.” (Guardian, 1/14/92)

On Women:
“The real liberators of American women were not the feminist noise-makers, they were the automobile, the supermarket, the shopping center, the dishwasher, the washer-dryer, the freezer.” (Right from the Beginning, p. 149)

And finally…

On Democracy:
Attacking what he considers the “democratist temptation, the worship of democracy as a form of governance,” Buchanan commented: “Like all idolatries, democratism substitutes a false god for the real, a love of process for a love of country.” (Patrick J. Buchanan: From the Right, newsletter, Spring/90)

In a January, 1991 column, Buchanan suggested that “quasi-dictatorial rule” might be the solution to the problems of big municipalities and the federal fiscal crisis: “If the people are corrupt, the more democracy, the worse the government.” (Washington Times, 1/9/91) He has written disparagingly of the “one man, one vote Earl Warren system.”

In “Right from the Beginning”, Buchanan refers to Spanish dictator Francisco Franco as a “Catholic savior.” He called Franco, along with Chile’s Gen. Pinochet, “soldier-patriots.” (syndicated column 9/17/89) Both men overthrew democracy in their countries.

There is no questioning Pat Buchanan’s conservative credentials. I just question the concept of conservatism itself. How is anything of this nature conducive to Democracy? Is Democracy not something that conservatives favor? Do they oppose it? If so, then why do I hear people like Hannity praising it so much? Hannity frequently interviews Buchanan on the radio. Chris Matthews will have him appear on his show as the conservative voice in a debate. If they oppose Democracy, why not simply come out and say it. Or is that too dangerous a position to take? Is it too radical a concept in a country whose history is wrapped in the concept of a Constitutional Democratic Republic?

Is it possible for conservatives to question their own beliefs? The great scientific philosopher Karl Popper said, “I hold that orthodoxy is the death of knowledge, since the growth of knowledge depends entirely on the existence of disagreement.” Jefferson said, ”Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” We’ve already seen what Buchanan has said.

Is there a conservative that is willing to entertain any position and holds all his positions, including his most fundamental standards, goals, and decisions, and his basic philosophical position itself, open to criticism; one who never cuts off an argument by resorting to faith, or irrational commitment to justify some belief that has been under severe critical fire; one who is committed, attached, addicted, to no position?

No…I doubt it. That isn’t what conservatism is about. It never questions itself. And because of that, it is locked in a box ( its theory of rationality) of its own making. How does it grow its sphere of influence? It doesn’t. That isn’t what it’s about either. It’s about maintaining institutions and beliefs that provide it with solid ground. It never rocks the boat. And as a result, it never explores mans potential for greatness. It can only hope that people come to it as a last resort. It’s safe. It’s uncompromising. It’s the corral that the sheep live within. It’s a voice of authority. It’s basically timid. A person who describes himself as a Recovering Republican commented on one of my articles with this view, which I thought was pretty accurate. He said, “What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism. It will resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism”.

This is a fascinating look at what I think is a completely accurate way of describing conservatism. It seems to resist innovation and finally accepts that innovative idea as its own, and then resists the next innovation in an endless cycle of resistance and acceptance. As a result, it never leads. It always follows the innovation of liberalism which never stays in one place. Always behind the curve, always resisting change, always hopeful that reality will conform to it, rather than the other way around. How can an idea ever be right, if it doesn’t contain the possibility of being wrong?

This is Pat Buchanan’s Theory of Rationality


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