Great liberal apologist and Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne last week wrote something so comical that I just cannot let it pass. Dionne, we are supposed to believe, is suddenly worried about the state of American Conservatism. The downfall of the conservatives will be the result of “untempered individualism,” writes Dionne.
While I appreciate the concern, this seems like an odd moment to be worried about the fate of conservatism in America. After all, the conservative movement has never before been more prominent in political life and, having already seized the House of Representatives, is poised to oust the most liberal President to date.
With blathering nonsense heaped atop an oleo of vagaries, Dionne attempts to make his case. Immediately finding none, he instead sews together a Frankenstein’s monster of non-contextual quotes, hoping no one will see his true point – namely that conservatives are only to be lauded when they bend to liberal desires.
As much as I would love to dissect the Dionne column, I am constrained by time. Instead I will appeal to the great voice of American individualism, the bard of self-reliance, the quintessential American thinker, Ralph Waldo Emerson to address Dionne’s claim that our greatness comes not from individualism, but communalism.
In Emerson’s own words:
“Man exists for his own sake and not to add a laborer to the State”
“The less government we have the better – the fewer laws and the less confided power. The antidote to this abuse of formal government is the influence of private character, the growth of the individual.”
“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”
“Self-reliance, the height and perfection of man, is reliance on God”
“I call on you to live for yourselves.”
“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius.”
“Every man is a divinity in disguise.”
“My life is for itself and not for a spectacle.”
“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”
“The sublime is excited in me by the great stoical doctrine, Obey thyself”
“Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will.”
Finally, because I love Emerson dearly, one more quote, as a reminder for Mr. Dionne.
“There is always a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority in its fact.”