The Jesus/Woodrow Wilson Conspiracy

Before we bury the “libertarian moment” meme for the time being, I want to acknowledge one proponent who appears to be in personal agony at Republican resistance to the Revolution: Ben Domenech, the famously controversial (partly for plagiarism allegations) RedState co-founder, Breitbart collaborator and most recently Federalist founder. In an interesting cry for help at Politico Magazine, Domenech acts as a spokesman for millennial libertarianish folk and warns The Kids will never warm to the GOP if it continues to love Jesus and embrace similar “progressive” bushwa.

No, Domenech doesn’t precisely put it that way, but if you read his piece that’s the pretty unmistakable impression:

Depending on which Republicans you listen to, the rise of libertarian views among millennial Americans is either nonexistent, a great threat to the country or both. Few recognize the truth: that it is a trend of the Republican Party’s own making. And it represents an opportunity for the GOP to decide, after almost a decade in the wilderness, what kind of party it wants to be – a party still clinging to the compassionate conservative lie, or one that believes in the primacy of liberty.

Most of today’s leading Republicans are even now making the wrong choice, it seems. Potential presidential candidates like Republican governors Chris Christie, John Kasich and Mike Pence have already given up the fight against President Obama’s health-care law and are creeping toward more compromise with the Democrats. More and more, when it comes to entitlement expansion, we are hearing religious-toned “my brother’s keeper” rhetoric from them. As Kasich put it bluntly: “When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.”

This sort of God-talk, like compassion itself, is self-evidently offensive to Domenech. But if you don’t “get it,” he wants you to understand that religiously-compelled but publicly-enabled concern for those less fortunate is the original sin of the original Evil Progressive:

A century ago, another presidential candidate made the case that Christian religious belief required a more active government to address social needs—including the prohibition of social ills, the expansion of entitlements and the centralization of power. “America was born a Christian nation,” this man said. “America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture.” That candidate was Woodrow Wilson, and although he was a Democrat, his strain of religion-soaked, utopian progressivism is the historical antecedent to the compassionate conservatives of today, who still feel called to work diligently to make government do good, instead of rolling government out of arenas of life in which it has no business.

Now as it happens, many precincts of the Christian Right now harbor activists that are as hostile to government as is Domenech, at least until such time as it’s put under completely righteous management. But you get the sense Domenech is impatient with, or doesn’t quite trust, cooperation with people who are willing to subordinate absolute property rights–his own golden calf–to anything or anybody, particularly an Almighty Anybody.

Ah, what undercurrents of resentment and bad faith seem to suffuse the conservative movement these days, despite all the continuing triumphalism over its imminent political victories! If they ever do achieve total political power, it will be fascinating to see if they can maintain their focus on wrecking every communal capacity of this country before trying to throttle each other.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.