Coronavirus and the end of the conservative temperament

Brooks and Larison both concluded temperamental conservatism has been deleteriously eroded by the Republican Party’s shift toward shallow ideology, rejection of economic and military limits, and epistemological hubris. The American right’s response to the global pandemic of COVID-19 shows that erosion is nearly complete.

Temperamental conservatism’s response to the threat of pandemic would be a “better safe than sorry” approach, not panic-induced prepping but judicious stockpiling of enough supplies to make reasonable self-quarantine possible. As the conservative temperament is not stridently individualist, it would also include some preparation to help family, friends, and neighbors who, for logistical or financial reasons, can’t create a stockpile of their own. Understanding the motivation here is crucial: It’s not rash indulgence of fear. It’s prudence and a sense of community responsibility, preservation, and benevolence.

My colleague Damon Linker’s Friday repudiation of “the pretense of mastery and control” and acceptance of the “profound and painful lesson” of our limitations which the novel coronavirus is teaching us is an archetypal example of the conservative temperament. So are calls from National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty for a “sober-minded realism” which rejects the false “notion that things will go on roughly as they always have.” The conservative temperament thinks ahead and plans accordingly. It would rather err on the side of being too careful than too reckless or presumptive that everything will work itself out for the best.

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