Image Credit: Russell Kirk, 1962 (Wikimedia)

Judging the Past

Joshua Tait, who is completing a dissertation on the American conservative movement at the University of North Carolina, is a virtue-signaling expert on his object of study. Never does Tait hold back in judging past conservatives by his super-duper progressive standards. For example, he offers this on one particularly revered conservative icon: “[Russell] Kirk was an idealist and an ideologue, but this was in the context of massive resistance to school integration and the Jim Crow regime enforced by state sponsored violence. He was willfully ignorant of the realities of white supremacy.”

Tait locates pure evil lurking in Kirk’s statement of more than 50 years ago that “the South need feel no shame for its defense of beliefs that were not concocted yesterday.” Tait complains that Kirk dealt “abstractly and unreflectively” with such abominations as the Confederacy and Jim Crow, and that he often expressed high regard for Robert E. Lee as a Christian gentleman—a vice shared by Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, and even Bill Clinton, among many others. Of course, it’s not even clear that Kirk’s comments were defending slavery or segregation—it is entirely possible he was speaking about the folkways of pre-industrial farming communities.

Tait all the same has raised a serious question as our political conversation continues to veer leftward....

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