About a year ago, I wrote a bunch of stuff in response to a piece Jeffrey Hart published in the WSJ. Power Lines Scott Johnson calls our attention to James Paneros profile of Hart, written for the Dartmouth alumni magazine. Hart is still hard at work waging intellectual war against the Bush Administration.
But this chunk says something about Harts conservatism:
“Like the Whig gentry who were the Founders, I loathe populism,” Hart explains. “Most especially in the form of populist religion, i.e., the current pestiferous bible-banging evangelicals, whom I regard as organized ignorance, a menace to public health, to science, to medicine, to serious Western religion, to intellect and indeed to sanity. Evangelicalism, driven by emotion, and not creedal, is thoroughly erratic and by its nature cannot be conservative. My conservatism is aristocratic in spirit, anti-populist and rooted in the Northeast. It is Burke brought up to date. A ‘social conservative’ in my view is not a moral authoritarian Evangelical who wants to push people around, but an American gentleman, conservative in a social sense. He has gone to a good school, maybe shops at J. Press, maybe plays tennis or golf, and drinks either Bombay or Beefeater martinis, or maybe Dewars on the rocks, or both."
Other things in the article suggest to me that Hart is closer to Andrew Sullivan in spirit than to anyone else.
In any event, Harts recitation of the ways in which his judgments about issues like abortion and stem cell research are supported by public opinion point to a kind of conservatism that evolves, not one that stands athwart history shouting "stop!" (a bad paraphrase, I know). Its also not at all clear to me how this "aristocratic" conservatism is anything other than a matter of style, or how it relates to any form of religion. (He clearly doesnt like evangelicalism because of what he calls its lack of creed, but that obviously paints with too broad a brush. Indeed, the non-creedal character of some evangelicals would surely help them "evolve" in a way of which Hart would likely approve. And a genuinely "conservative" religion is creedal, but, as such, wouldnt simply give in to public opinion in the way that Hart seems to.