Here’s a quote I put in my What Conservatives Think entry:
John Stuart Mill called Conservatives the stupid party b/c they don’t think much about where their ideas come from and are satisfied just to sit and think….. or just sit. “Let me rest: I lie in possession” says Fafnir, the king’s son in Norse mythology. Russell Kirk himself says Conservatives are selfish and self-centered. I must agree with him at least on this point. But he characterizes radicals as envious. Maybe. I don’t know. I’m not a radical despite what the Social Studies Department in my school thought. Here is a devastating quote (if you don’t know who Russell Kirk is you should google him): “Most conservatives [I would spell it with a capital C] hold by their particular social convictions because of early prejudices and experiences; their minds are not susceptible to temperate argument, nor can they express with much lucidity the postulates from which they draw their professed opinions.”
That bodes ill for bridging the gap in world views.
I just finished an article in The New York Review of Books taken from a speech; in the speech, Marilynne Robinson resurfaces the argument found in Colin Woodard’s American Nation and other attempts to understand the divide in the country: the belief in humans as property and the belief in humans as humans. The former is associated with the Cavaliers and the latter with the Puritans. She condemns the intellectual lock down that occurs when the word Puritan is uttered and points out just how humane many Puritan principles of governance were in comparison with what was going on back in England under the Anglicans. For some reason we do not flinch at the word Cavalier, but it is their belief in the sanctity of hierarchy and property in other human beings that dominate our politics today. Mitch McConnell is sent to Congress to maintain the right of the aristocracy of wealth to make laws which cripple the rest of us. The resistance to civil rights for Blacks – and this is my opinion – comes not just from a terrible distaste for Black people but from outrage over the breaching of the sanctity of hierarchy. White over Black, rich over poor, Christian over non-Christian, Southern over Northern, that is, the voting patterns we see among us today.
Many complications stir the pot such as children of immigrants siding with the Cavaliers; the Cavalier party, Republicans, encouraging free enterprise, at least in words, despite its disruptive effects on hierarchy; welcoming immigrants who can enrich the already wealthy; the willingness to embrace useful non-Christians; and so on. Each individual brings to the pot his/her own “early prejudices and experiences,” yet we are still confronted with what has been called the Southernization of America, and we cannot afford to be ‘cavalier’ about this.