Dan Erwin: Power and influence


In a recent article in The Atlantic, the New York Times opinion writer, David Brooks, asked what happened to American Conservatism? A spot-on question. I've only voted for a Republican presidential candidate once in my voting life of 65 years. I voted for Richard Nixon--and for the wrong reason. I thought--at the time--that I didn't want a Catholic in the White House. That was a serious mistake for that reason alone. I left that prejudice years ago. And teaching at a Benedictine University was not the only dagger to put an end to such personal naivete. But I am perturbed by the fact that the majority of Supreme Court justices are Catholic. The notion that their faith doesn't impact their rulings is utter nonsense. With my Protestant background, I disagree on a number of faith issue that seriously influence their rulings. I have enough psych background to understand that religious neutrality in the practice of the law is nonsense. 

Still, I had a lot of satisfaction with many espousing a conservative judiciary, Republican legislators and governors for whom I did not vote, until--that is--McConnell took over the senate. It wasn't just Trump and Trumpism. I flirted awhile with Libertarianism until I realized that it was utterly pagan and totally irresponsible--a stupid stance. I've been a middle-of-the road Democrat with an occasional infatuation with progressive ideas. Unlike many older people, I haven't gotten more conservative over time. But I thought David Brooks' article spelled out the kind of Republican conservatism that managed the state of Michigan very well in my early years.


Much of my readership is too young to have experienced that healthy conservatism, so here's some Brooks' insight and commitment that made the two party system work for years--even though I disagree with some of his Burkean thought. But here some of his insights from the Atlantic article (January-February 2022).

The setup is that "the rich philosophical tradition I fell in love with has been reduced to Fox News and voter suppression....I fell in love with conservatism in my 20s. As a politics and crime reporter in Chicago, I often found myself around public-housing projects like Cabrini-Green and the Robert Taylor Homes, which had been built with the best of intentions but had become nightmares. The urban planners who designed those projects thought they could improve lives by replacing ramshackle old neighborhoods with a series of neatly ordered high-rises."

But Brooks came to his conservatism uniquely. .


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