Mike Lee and the illiberal chic

But at another level, Senator Lee sent a well-crafted message, one that came through loud and clear: The American experiment is worth it only when my view prevails.

This message fits a growing and disturbing trend. Among the conservative intelligentsia, especially in certain legal circles, it has become stylish to view self-governance as nothing more than a means to a very particular set of ends. And should “conservative” policies lose out in the democratic process, then liberal democracy itself should go…

And that’s where the real trouble lies: The illiberal conservative chic rejects the idea of intellectual and cultural modesty, the humility and self-confidence to admit that you might not always be correct and that your opponents might occasionally have the better of the policy debate. Adrian Vermeule knows what moral codes a strong ruler should impose. I suspect that Senator Lee probably has a very well-defined concept of human flourishing in mind, one that may well exclude a good chunk of Americans. That leaves little room for individual choice, and not much space for collective self-government.

America will be lucky if this worrisome trend little influences public opinion and dies with Trump’s defeat. But it will likely persist, receiving intellectual cover from the Adrian Vermeules and populist shots-in-the arm from the Mike Lees.

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