The explosively angry reaction on the right to Jesse Myerson’s recent Rolling Stone piece, “Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For” is, like its earlier reaction to “Pajama Boy” both richly deserved and extremely frustrating.

That the piece is poorly thought out and economically illiterate is obvious. That it was practically plagiarized from the Soviet Constitution, and is written like a college freshman’s essay finished at 3 a.m. under the influence of multiple brain-addling substances also goes without saying.

Yet focusing solely on these flaws misses bigger problems with the piece – namely, that it is targeted to millennials but does not comport remotely comporting with their interests and that, in other ways, it is as American as apple pie. Conservatives are obligated to engage with both problems seriously, rather than simply retreat to yelling “Stalin” in a theater crowded only with the choir to whom they so often preach.

The anti-millennial character of the piece is more obvious, as its proposed solutions are much, much worse than the problems they are meant to solve. It endorses a land value taxes that will obviously hit tenants worse than landlords, and given how few millennials own homes, this will hit them the hardest. It also proposes sovereign wealth funds and state-owned banks, while ignoring that such institutions introduce perverse incentives that concentrate investment in increasingly obsolete manufacturing industries, while disfavoring the kind of innovation economy that best serves tech-savvy and entrepreneurial millennials.

As to the comparison with the Soviet Union’s 1936 constitution, it reveals the extent to which these proposals are utopian, rather than practical. What’s more, they are transparently aimed to help arbitrarily favored groups, rather than crafting any sort of objectively justified national policy.

There was a time, from the age of FDR through the age of Reagan, when the right regarded both temptations – utopianism and naked political favoritism – as unforgivable sins. More recently, it has become fashionable among conservatives to rebrand utopianism as “optimism” and to support political favoritism on behalf groups and industries that conservatives find culturally or aesthetically appealing.

These twin tendencies have so emasculated conservatism that all it took for Washington Post writer Dylan Matthews to frame Myerson’s every prong as a “conservative” policy proposal was either to claim it would achieve a conservative-sounding, but vague utopian goal (“tear down the welfare bureaucracy,” “eliminate job-killing income, payroll and corporate taxes”) or change its intended beneficiaries (“help small businesses grow” vs.  “offer cheap loans to farmers, students and businesses”).  It’s fashionable on the right to mark every instance of a Republican politician behaving badly with the hashtag #thisiswhywelose. But Matthews’ clearly tongue-in-cheek piece might as well have been titled #thisiswhywecantgovern, so completely did it illustrate the content-free optimism of many on the right who privilege the protection of core constituencies over the defense of conservative principles.

Granted, many conservative commentators (such as Charles Krauthammer) correctly point out that the right must make peace with living in a post-New Deal world. Indeed, many of the right’s brightest stars, like Paul Ryan, endeavor to use conservative economic and political principles to save the New Deal’s achievements from the left. But there is a world of difference between using conservatism to save liberalism from itself, on the one hand, and either accepting the left’s vices as if they are virtues or endorsing the left’s aesthetics the instant they become culturally convenient, on the other.

Similarly, there is a difference between acknowledging that trying to relitigate the New Deal would be politically foolish and admitting that you don’t see much wrong with the goals of unreconstructed leftism. In fact, at least the latter act is self-aware, unlike the supposed “conservatism” of former Carter staffer Mike Gerson, or, say, the sort of person who thinks “the greatest threat to conservatism today is too much individual freedom.”

It is, for instance, truly sad that only the Objectivists pointed out the disconnect between Sen. Mike Lee’s paeans to Norman Rockwell (painter of a New Deal propaganda piece extolling “freedom from want”) and Frank Capra (whose “It’s a Wonderful Life” was investigated for Communist influence by the FBI) and his commitment to  American individualism. Then there’s how quickly many conservatives forgot that “corporations are people, my friend,” and therefore enjoy the freedom of association, as soon as one company made an (admittedly imprudent and problematic) firing decision with which they disagreed. I’ve often complained about excessive attention to purity on the right, but a little more purity about this sort of thing, rather than whether someone supports an obviously doomed political maneuver, or had the effrontery to attend an Ivy League school, might be helpful.

The bottom line is this: If Myerson’s column is a utopian vision of a world without conservatism, then Matthews’ imitation is a frightening portent of a world in which conservatism has become nothing but the ghost of liberalism past, reflected through a glass darkly. I have spent many words writing about what conservatives must do in order to win hearts and minds. But in order to govern again, they will have to figure out what – beyond their choice of TV show, preferred food item, or preferred recipient of forcefully expropriated money – makes them fundamentally at odds with the left’s vision for America.

Otherwise, when #fullcommunism comes to this country, it may be wrapped in the flag and carrying a duck call.

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