Provocative if not true:
What [Barry] Goldwater failed to understand was that in the flux of [the 60s], adherence to conservative principles was not the point. Evil was the point. And the evil that America owned up to in that era was more than a match for principle. It could destroy whatever principle built. Evil had given us slavery in the middle of a principled democracy. The ’60s gave America the idea of its own evil—and we have not been the same since.
This turn of events opened an extremely prolific vein of power that the left seized upon immediately. Admitting evil obligated America to seek redemption by actually earning an innocence of past sins. Proving your innocence in this way earned you moral authority and, ultimately, political power.
So out of nowhere in the mid-’60s came the Great Society, the War on Poverty, forced busing, public housing, affirmative action and so on—a proliferation of redemptive actions meant to reify innocence as a currency of power. Liberalism became essentially a moral movement more informed by ideas of the good than by constitutional principles—more in thrall to innocence than to freedom.
… The new liberal motto, “Resist,” is firstly an assertion of innocence.
Conservatism’s vulnerability is simply that it has no way to extract power from the evils America owned up to in the ’60s—no way to use the sins of the past to coerce Americans into doing what it wants. Thus conservatism’s heretofore lackluster showing in our continuing culture war.
But today there is a way for conservatism to overcome its vulnerability. The world has truly reformed since the ’60s. Racism remains a dark impulse in humankind, but America has already delegitimized it. Today minorities suffer from underdevelopment, not racism ….
Shelby Steele (paywall)