Why Conservatives Always Lose

And Why the Left took Power

by Stephen Baskerville (September 2022)

The Friends (Round Table)
, Egon Schiele, 1918


Why do conservatives lose every battle? More urgent right now, why did they also lose the war? Why was the left allowed to stage a coup and take over the United States government?

But perhaps the biggest question is this: Why does no one ask these questions? Answering this question may answer the others.

For not only did the right decisively lose, and the left decisively won—where it has been positioned to enact a series of catastrophes, from an engineered epidemic and deadly pseudo-vaccine, to uncontrolled immigration, out-of-control crime, recession, censorship, political prosecutions, perhaps global famine, and possibly nuclear war—but few on the right seems interested in asking why, or understanding what to do about it. Instead, conservatives continue doing what they were doing before and what brought about their defeat in the first place. The main solution seems to be to expect salvation from the next election. This is like waiting for the Messiah—as if the mythical “pendulum” will swing back and all the people dying from viruses, vaccines, lockdowns, crime, incarceration, starvation, and war will come back to life. I do not think that is how we are supposed to envision the Second Coming and Resurrection, as compensation for our fecklessness.

Conservatives have lost every battle except gun rights, and that may go soon, with their feeble response to mass shootings. (One might reply that they just won a big battle over abortion, but after a half-century it is too soon to know if it will survive the sabatoge.) Now, spectacularly, they have lost power altogether in the US. Notwithstanding the excuses—stolen elections, globalists’ machinations—the point stands. The left won and the right lost, and there is no shortage of pundits setting out the grisly details. But as Dylan Thomas said of books about the wasp, they tell us everything except why.

The best answer may be, again, that no one wants to ask the question. The right seems utterly incapable of self-criticism. In the last two years, exactly zero discussion has been permitted on questions like who allowed this to happen and why. “Rather than look inward and assess their own role in the disaster—what did we do wrong … and other questions that emotionally mature adults might have asked,” leaders carry on with business-as-usual. Thus Tucker Carlson describes the Democrats after their 2016 defeat, but I suspect he was really thinking of Republicans since 2020. Historian Victor Davis Hanson rebukes his leftist counterparts: “There is oddly zero self-criticism or indeed any self-reflection of their own shortcomings.” But why should there be? They won. Hanson himself never criticizes Republicans, who need it far more, so they gratefully publish and promote his work.

Christians have a principle that before going off to fight evil elsewhere, one must first conquer “the sin within.” This is precisely what today’s conservatives never do. Any person or group that cannot face external challenges by starting with their own failings and instead insist upon hurling anathemas at their opponents is bound to be stagnant and ineffective.

Confirming this is the right-wing establishment’s measures to punish dissidents who do criticize: ostracism, purges, and a “cancel” culture as vicious as any on the left. As Will Knowland (himself purged from the venerable Eton College) observes, “People on the right with a spine [are] being eliminated. And perhaps this is why we see such a weak response from the right.”

Consistent with its stereotype, the right is highly authoritarian, tolerates no dissent, and readily punishes heterodoxy—all the things of which they accuse the left. “The conservative movement is extremely centralized and authoritarian,” says Paul Gottfried. “So when conservatives say that they’re fighting ‘cancel culture’ they’re lying … They’re worse than anyone on the left.”

This brings us to the poorly understood problem of conservative organizations. Organization is essential to political effectiveness, and for leftists it comes naturally. They love meetings, discussions, organizing, protests, stirring speeches, demonstrations of righteous indignation.

Conservative organizations, by contrast, are usually vehicles for advancing the few. If this can be accomplished by working for a “good cause,” all the better, but the main purpose is not to accomplish a goal but to achieve success for the leaders. Leftist organizations do degenerate similarly, but they usually start as a genuine effort to realize some righteous purpose. Conservative groups, whatever their professed aims, are often from the start enterprises for the empowerment and enrichment of the privileged. They have perfected the art of pandering to wealthy funders using boilerplate cliches. Above all, they vindicate the iron law of Washington: those paid to address problems quickly develop a vested interest in perpetuating the problems they are paid to address.

All this is especially conspicuous—and debilitating—among conservative intellectual institutions: colleges, universities, seminaries, think tanks. Pressure groups can tolerate heterodoxy only so far, arguably, because they have goals to accomplish. But institutions of learning thrive and depend on the free exchange of ideas.

The silence and authoritarianism of these institutions is glaring, given their supposed role as alternatives to mainstream, left universities. They seldom risk controversy or take a stand (even on educational issues) but instead operate as patronage machines, funneling students into power jobs to gain political influence. Their faculty are treated as hired hands, rather than scholars or intellectuals, who must be watched for heterodoxy and who are expected to shut up and teach. Even now, as the country sinks beneath one left-instigated fiasco after another, faculty at conservative colleges are mostly mute. The few that do publish avoid problems of public policy, even in fields like political science, and prefer to moralize and philosophize about the “common good” and “human flourishing.”

Some conservative institutions are even at the forefront of devising ruthless legal methods to silence troublesome academics—not renegade liberals, who can be removed legitimately by invoking an institution’s mission statement, but conservatives who resist their institutions’ leftward drift.

Gottfried, who edits the traditionalist Chronicles magazine, writes of “authorized conservatives identifying their conservatism with such unoffensive subjects as the preservation of classical architecture or the rejection of twelve-tone musical compositions”:

There is a critical difference between those who approach cultural or aesthetic subjects from a traditionalist perspective and those who seem to be…avoiding the risks of grappling with sticky political problems. Sometimes avowed anti-modernists give the impression of wanting to burnish their conservative credentials without endangering their mainstream status. They know the left is not likely to go after someone who builds his conservatism on fighting things that happened centuries ago, particularly when that person doesn’t also frontally attack the left’s … call for a larger welfare state.

So conservatives await their electoral Messiah. He might well come, but I doubt he will be impressed with our own efforts, and I am not at all sure in which category some conservative leaders will find themselves when he starts separating the sheep from the goats. Nothing guarantees that any election will be free or, at this point, that it will happen at all.

What it will do is perpetuate the conservative political class, with its contempt for ordinary people and stubborn refusal to address government practices that destroy their lives. Some are now coming back to haunt Republicans, like prosecutorial misconduct, which preys on numerous innocent people but is nowhere on the conservatives’ radar screen, even when the targets become Donald Trump and January 6 defendants.

One possible explanation for the left’s ascendency lies in generations of adolescents raised with no effective family structure and especially no fathers and now demanding power. This suggestion has not been disproved, but then it has not been debated, nor has any other. As with the far left, the right-wing leadership ensures that certain questions are not asked and subjects not discussed.


Table of Contents 


Stephen Baskerville is professor and head of department of political studies at the Collegium Intermarium University in Warsaw and author of The New Politics of Sex: The Sexual Revoluition, Civil Liberties, and the Growth of Government Power (2017). His recent publications are available at www.StephenBaskerville.com.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast


7 Responses

  1. Introspection seems to be in short supply these days. The democrats didn’t believe they lost in 2016 and the republicans don’t believe we lost in 2020. No time in the wilderness, just staying on continual attack. The elections are never over. Not a recipe for social peace.

  2. Mr. Baskerville there are 2 reasons why conservative elected officials and organizations are ineffective; Democrat infiltrators and their sincere members don’t know what they are.

    What they are is explained and proven by 3 articles at Wisdomgoodlife. com, which basically is the devil is very real and is the controlling force behind behind the Democrat party, and the 2 major political parties are humans grouping together to accomplish mostly good or mostly evil.

    Democrats know their goal and rapidly implement destruction and death, and they act in unison so effectively because they are under a single commander. Most Republicans don’t know their purpose is to accomplish good which is another way of saying serve God of The Bible, unlike Democrats who gave up their free will Republicans still have it and so they squabble (recall 2016 presidential primaries) and each saying go this direction.

  3. Good satire!
    The politicians, GOP and Dems, mainly exist to enrich themselves, and to insulate themselves from the coming collapse. “Apres moi, le deluge”. If one’s only principles are to enrich one’s self, it’s easy to let things slide and only focus on how any government action harms or helps them. The laws Congress passes often doesn’t apply to the Congress.

    I am terribly disappointed that no-one will say that “No, men can’t have babies”, and “A women is a mature adult female”. We have turned away from God and lost our minds! Fear of the alphabet crowd and BLM has caused a lot of silence for people with families and need their income, but though it’s said in a lowered tone, very cautiously, the people know we’re headed for a cliff.

    To the end of turning around, for now, almost all of us hope that changing the seats in the Congress can place a brake on this nonsense. We do need some imagination to determine how to oppose the foolishness. If any conservative action can be perceived as violent, however, that probably won’t work, Just look at the mileage the Dems have gotten from the “insurrection” – some insurrection, the peasants didn’t even bring pitchforks.

  4. Not to be personal, but I believe Mitch McConnell, as an example of “Leadership,” captures the problem. MM would rather be a minority mandarin than be a majority piñata. Surely, that’s the establishment take away from 2016 and the subsequent putsch vs Trump; a purge, I might add, which continues as we speak. Given a choice between a principle and a post, a Beltway politician will take the sinecure every time.

  5. A stake has to be put through the double heart of modern American Conservatism:
    The supply side always lower taxes never met a bad corporation intellectuals and elected apparatchiks.
    The neo con always Munich, always making enemies, never met a defense budget too expensive to fund, talking head morons and elected apparatchiks.

    These beasts must be slain before a new right can take control of the GOP. The road is long but it is the only way. From the dog catcher upwards, all must pass through the change.

  6. I second the arguments of the author and the observations of Northern Observer.

    I had no objection to Buckleyite and Reaganite/Thatcherite conservatism- it was of its time and seemed to meet the needs and conflicts of its time. And it was distinct from and better than liberalism, better yet than emergent modern sub-Marxist progressivism, then still working partly from the shadows but making itself felt. It even limited its overarching foreign policy ambitions to overthrowing, rather than merely containing and living with communism.

    I am a lot less certain that overthrowing the Soviets was best- look at the poisons that leached from their corpse [to which I do not mean Putin’s milder and less conceptually and militarily threatening regime] and spread through the west, plus what has risen from the sudden collapse of all conceptual limits in the west itself. Still I think it had to be done. I just wish we had been better prepared with better ideas for foreign policy, security, commerce, and more robust principles other than only Reagan’s contra-Soviet emphasis on freedom. Perhaps a more robust defence of freedom as I’m sure Reagan meant it, rather than as Marxist trained gender warriors and others mean it.

    But the right was in no way prepared for those changes. The left actually WAS. They were ready to take the war to the metaphorical hills and streets and back alleys. The right seemed to think there was a straight line from Reagan to neoconservatism, which are not the same thing, that the world had to be remade only slightly different from what Hillary clinton might make it, and that America and to a lesser extent the rest of the West only existed as the moral engine to make that happen.

    I can hardly think of anything since 1989 that I would not have rather seen done differently.

    Since I still respect Burke, I’ll refrain from using the term Whig entirely as one of abuse, but sometimes I regret that the Whig/Liberal tradition so totally dominates Anglo-American conservatism. Indeed, now it’s whiggism without even the substantive intellectual side of that tradition- pretty much just everybody do what they want except speak freely, and go make money and seek pleasure where you can heedlessly and without shame, while shaming everybody else with no sense of irony.

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