|Edmund Burke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|Buckley (right) and L. Brent Bozell Jr. promote their book McCarthy and His Enemies, 1954 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|English: American conservative publicist Phyllis Schlafly in 2007 in Washington, DC at the Values Voters conference (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
In the four days since Bruce Jenner came out as a woman named Caitlyn, many Americans have celebrated her transformation as a courageous and even heroic act.
But among the social conservatives who are a powerful force within the Republican Party, there is a far darker view. To them, the widespread acceptance of Jenner’s evolution from an Olympic gold medalist whose masculinity was enshrined on a Wheaties box to a shapely woman posing suggestively on the cover of Vanity Fair was a reminder that they are losing the culture wars.
Across social media, blogs and talk radio this week, conservatives painted an apocalyptic view of America. They said they felt frustrated and increasingly isolated by the country’s sudden recognition and even embrace of transgender people. They see it as immoral and foreign. They drew comparisons to two grimly futuristic novels, George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”
“People feel like they’re under siege and that the terms of the debate are now you either applaud it or you’re a bigot,” said William J. Bennett, education secretary in the Reagan administration. “It’s like American culture is being dragged kicking and screaming not only toward acceptance but approval.”
Jenner’s watershed moment — which coincides with the Supreme Court preparing to rule on whether to allow same-sex marriage nationwide — leaves the GOP and its stable of presidential candidates grappling with how to represent conservatives who don’t wish to accept Jenner and more moderate voters who have already done so.What's striking about the state of debate on the Right is the absence of any. They have forgotten how. They seem incapable of considering even thought experiments that involve change. Manicheans all, they inhabit a world of fear and anger, in which the once reliable foot soldiers of their movement, facing the choices between Good and Evil, shrug and say, "Meh."
Burke argued that conservatism is about the management of change.
William F. Buckley called for conservatives to "stand athwart history, yelling, 'Stop!'"
Today's American conservatives are in full embrace of l'ancien regime: we must not only tell history stop, we must roll it back. White males must again rule. Women must uphold the sanctity of traditional marriage and continue to species against the depredations of the gay minority that is, somehow, both infinitesimally small and an existential threat to the human species. Black and brown Americans must retreat to the enclaves the majority grants them, and work on the never-ending (and, in the majority conservative view, futile) process of self-improvement and bootstrapification. Water will be pure for those who can afford it; the skies will be clear for those with enough land, far enough from centers of commerce, and the means to get to it with the leisure to enjoy it.
But conservatives today seem gobsmacked. They cannot comprehend, only condemn.
A man who spends 65 years feeling he is really a woman, has the means to make formal and tangible those feelings, and the coterie of consultants to manage it in public view: how is he sinful? How is she a threat? It's the ultimate American- conservative- success story: amassing wealth from God-given talent; charting one's own course, and realizing- fully- one's calling as a free individual making individual choices.