John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Reflections of a Neo-Conservative

Click hew to review and purchase

Click hew to review and purchase

What book most dramatically influenced your political views?

This matter of a book influencing your political thinking isn’t quite as transformational as it sounds.

What it usually means is you found a book by an author who articulated well political beliefs and policy positions that affirmed your own developing but still unformed political inclinations.

For me (a life long Democrat), ironically, it is Irving Kristol’s “Reflection of a Neo-Conservative: Looking Back, Looking Ahead” written in 1983 and stumbled upon by me a few years later.

I liked it because it was at a time when the liberalism of the 30s–60s was coasting lazily along and in need of a more disciplined, modern and relevant set of guiding principles. I liked Kristol’s ability to insert morality without being too churchy; to respect and champion the best of market capitalism while being grounded in social justice and with a sense of community; a restrained foreign policy that didn’t meddle where it wasn’t provoked or nationally vital; a sense of tradition and patriotism that seemed lost on the liberalism prominent in the 1970s but also rationally grounded and not merely reflexive.

jyb_musingsSadly, “Neo-Conservativism” which I viewed at the time of this book’s publication as a hardy and healthy critique of the stupor that parts of modern liberalism had fallen into (much like the same stupor conservatism fell into in the last decade) ended up as a disdained distortion of its original self in later years. Neo-conservitism, as a philosophy, became hijacked by disingenuous ideologues who transmuted it into a failed foreign policy overreach.

But its origins, as articulated by Irving Kristol, a man who wrote with clarity, intellectual originality, sincerity, and integrity toward the goal of a better political system for all spoke to me at an important point in my personal political development. Irving Kristol had an impact on me.

He was, to me, the “grown up in the room” of all the political commentators filling up the air and airwaves at a time I was trying to make some sense of it all.  He wasn’t a firebrand or shock jock or whiny knee jerk type. He was a serious person with serious ideas articulated for a serious audience in hopes of making a positive impact on the country he lived in.

He affirmed many of the things I felt and made it OK for me to think that way.  And OK, too, to keep thinking for myself.

Thank you, Irving Kristol.

How about you?


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