The Confusion of Jonah Goldberg (and Yuval Levin), Part V

National Review just made available Yuval Levin’s review of Jonah Goldberg’s Suicide of the West: How Everything I Don’t Like Has Killed Our Country and How Only Us Eggheads Can Save It. (Ok, that’s not the real title but it should have been.)

Levin, of course, is famous for his deep studies of Edmund Burke and also for getting the 2016 election completely wrong.

His review is useful because it makes very clear Goldberg’s (and Levin’s own) position. I assume you’re all very familiar with it by now, but I think it’s helpful to see it in its clearest expression. Here is Levin:

Goldberg borrows his title from James Burnham’s 1964 classic of the same name. And his book shares with Burnham’s the view that the only way the West could be robbed of its strength is by a loss of confidence in its own civilization — a loss that seems, alas, to be under way.

I know what you’re thinking: he couldn’t possibly mean that Trump supporters who are fighting to keep Western civilization alive are actually part of the horde who are giving up on it? Could he? Yes, in fact that’s exactly what Levin and Goldberg mean:

In our time, Goldberg argues, the mindset of the Left has invaded the thinking of the Right, so that our politics has become a struggle between two angry, populist romanticisms, while the defense of the Miracle — of constitutionalism, liberal democracy, and capitalism — has been largely abandoned. “Progressivism, in other words, conjured a nationalist backlash that is less an alternative to the statism of the left and more a right-wing version of it.”

Us “populist romantics” are helping the Left tear down the very fabric of our civilization, along with all of its traditions and inheritances. This reality can be reversed only through intellectuals making arguments. (I’m serious, that’s Levin’s actual argument: “This is why the task of restoration must be a labor of love, and why its character must be fundamentally intellectual.”)

The foregoing might seem obvious to everyone here. But I think it needs to be pointed out time and time again: our former brethren in the small (and growing smaller) circle of elite movement conservatives see us in principle as the enemy as much as the Left. You should always keep that in mind.

About Tom Doniphon

Tom Doniphon is not, as you may imagine, an iconic character from John Ford's greatest western. He is, rather, a writer in the Midwest. The moniker, suffice to say, is a pseudonym.

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