Liberals Love to Write Conservatism’s Obituary

Did you know that the election of Barack Obama means that conservatism is dead forever more? The New Yorker thinks it is anyway. Its recent piece on the authors of the “Little House on the Prairie” series not only pronounces conservatism likely dead but also imagines the same fate for capitalism itself. This is just another example of how the self-congratulatory, isolated left constantly announces the death of capitalism and conservatism as it has been doing since FDR, our second most socialist president ever, came to power.

So how does one get from talking about the beloved children’s classic of rugged individualists eking out a living in the wild, wide-open wilderness to the announcement that capitalism and conservatism are dead? It’s the sort of trick that only a left leaning publication like the New Yorker can do and it does it well here.

As it happens, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder and co-author of the “Little House” series, Rose Lane Wilder, was in her later life a high profile conservative or libertarian who hobnobbed with the likes of Ayn Rand. In the middle of the 20th century with their history of self-reliance, Rose and mother Laura shied away from the Democrats when FDR was elected because he advocated statism. Rose Lane called FDR a “dictator” and decried the generous welfare programs that the Democrats were sponsoring.

New Yorker writer Judith Thurman seems somewhat aghast that anyone could imagine that rugged individualism is a good personal philosophy and is obviously put out by the fact that Rose Lane rightly saw FDR as dictatorial. Though, in fact, as each decade passes more and more historians and economists are finding that FDR’s socialist New Deal policies prolonged and deepened The Great Depression by at least five years if not seven, and set the stage for the disastrous remaking of the Democrat Party that sent it barreling headlong down the road to European socialism, a road from which it has yet to veer.

Thurman scoffs at the Wilder women’s assumptions of self-reliance and seems to dismiss as a misinformed delusion the hardscrabble life they scratched out on their own out of the American frontier.

Nevertheless, from Rocky Ridge, the predicament of the urban poor was a remote abstraction, and the Wilders blamed rural poverty on the Democrats’ support, as they saw it, of industry at the expense of agriculture. They opposed legislation that compelled farmers to plow crops under as a strategy for price support. Miller writes that, according to Rose, Almanzo was ready to run off an agent from the Agriculture Department with a shotgun, telling him, “I’ll plant whatever I damn please on my own farm.” In 1943, the year that Laura published “These Happy Golden Years” (the final installment of her saga), she told a Republican congressman from Malone, New York, “What we accomplished was without help of any kind, from anyone.”

The Wilders had, in fact, received unacknowledged help from their families, and the Ingallses, like all pioneers, were dependent, to some degree, on the railroads; on taxpayer-financed schools (Mary’s tuition at a college for the blind, Hill points out, was paid for by the Dakota Territory); on credit–which is to say, the savings of their fellow-citizens; on “boughten” supplies they couldn’t make or grow; and, most of all, on the federal government, which had cleared their land of its previous owners.

Only a liberal could think that credit (something that must be paid back) is somehow like welfare or could imagine that FDR’s disastrous farm policies were good ideas. Only a liberal could equate help from families as somehow just like “help” from the government.

Thurman waves away the claims of the Wilders clan as rugged individuals creating a life out of nothing and attempts to paint them as liars that were really recipients of government largess. But noting could be further from the truth.

In any case, Thurman sums up her look at the Wilders with her obvious hope that conservatism and capitalism are dead.

Fellman concludes, “The popularity of the Little House books . . . helped create a constituency for politicians like Reagan who sought to unsettle the so-called liberal consensus established by New Deal politics.” Considering the outcome of the November election, and the present debacle of laissez-faire capitalism, that popularity may have peaked. On the other hand, it may not have. Hard times whet the appetite for survival stories.

So, “considering the outcome of the November election” a liberal once again declares that conservatism and capitalism are dead letters. Just like they did when Robert “Mr. Republican” Taft faded away, just as they did when the New Deal came on like an economic wrecking ball, just like they did when Barry “Mr. Conservative” Goldwater went down to defeat, just as they did when Bill Clinton was elected and now as they are doing with the election of our most socialist president of all, Barack Obama.

Of course, the truth is that every time the left declares their permanent majority and their permanent victory, conservatism is resurgent and there is absolutely no reason to imagine the age of Obama will change that history. Looking at his falling approval ratings and seeing his agenda on the verge of collapse one cannot help but think that the news of conservatism’s death has been greatly exaggerated… again.

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