Fear Itself


I seem to be on a Sullivan kick.  Lately he’s been part of a running conversation with other conservative bloggers (and some liberals) about gay marriage/civil unions.

This bit, quoted from a New Republic blogger, caught my eye:

First, as I noted above, he fears change. This is perhaps the most fundamental characteristic of the conservative temperament.


Fear is the core of conservatism.  Sometimes it is passive. It says any new idea or program probably won’t work, so we shouldn’t even try it.  Sometimes its fear is aggressive; then you get Dick Cheney and Daniel Pipes and Tom Tancredo; in earlier generations, Richard Nixon and George Wallace and Joe McCarthy, Father Coughlin and Samuel Morse.

There will always be something to be afraid of, and for any given thing, there will always be some facet of it that’s scary.  Conservatism says we should live by that fear.

A man driven by fear killed Martin Luther King, 41 years ago today.


5 Responses to “Fear Itself”

  1. alsturgeon Says:

    I still find myself surrounded by conservatism. Only I could try to make a radical change in my life, move to leftist Malibu, and end up at a CofC/conservative law school. I wonder what my next trick will be?

    Part of what I’ve been thinking about recently won’t contribute too much to this conversation, but one thing that seems to separate me from my peers/friends around here could be seen one of two ways – my “lack of strong conviction” is the negative way of seeing it, and “openness for change” is the positive spin. I guess the easiest way to characterize it is saying that even I don’t know if it should be looked at positively or negatively. 🙂

    I believe this was the subject of your very first post back on the old Houseflies blog format. John Kerry’s flip-flopping v. George Bush’s decisiveness. That still resonates with me.

    • urbino Says:

      Yeah, I think it was something like that. Not so much about fear, directly, but related.

      I don’t want to come down too hard on conservatism. We need it. We need the 2 to be in creative tension. But in recent decades, conservatism hasn’t been contributing to creative tension; it’s been destructive.

  2. unicorntx Says:

    As a fellow sufferer of “lack of strong conviction” or “openness to change” (of course, I like to think it is the latter), I identify with you.
    But, I think whether you are at Pepperdine, or your local church, (or a lot of other places!) you are likely to be surrounded by conservative thinking.
    The post is dead on – fear is the underlying element, and fear of change its primary expression. Yet, reason would suggest that history is nothing but change. And, while some change is not good, I’d have to say much of it is – i.e. end of slavery, new roles for women, racism curbed (though far from eliminated!) and homosexuality at least being talked about, if not yet accepted.

  3. stevemacgregor Says:

    Don’t think the Conservative leadership is afraid. I think they just use fear as a weapon and a motivator to get out the vote. I take that back. They are afraid of one thing – the Liberal vote.


    P.S Love the Blog.

  4. urbino Says:

    Thanks, steve! The blog loves you, too.

    I didn’t mean so much that, say, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are personally, emotionally afraid. Well, actually, I sort of did. I meant 2 things. One, that conservatism as a political philosophy is about fear, more than anything else. Two, yeah, that the GOP leadership tends to panic and overreact in response to world events, foreign or domestic.

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