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Equality, Left and Right

Among the significant changes on the American intellectual right in the last 50 years is the growing emphasis on equality. From the speeches of Jack Kemp and the collected works of Professor Harry V. Jaffa to the arguments advanced for Proposition 209 in California, it seems that equality is not only a principle worthy of our attention: It is now the highest principle and one that Jack Kemp calls the "conservative principle" par excellence. Although such tributes to equality predictably come from neoconservative politicians and Straussian "political philosophers," they do indicate what is becoming a characteristic of the conservative mainstream.

According to this recently revealed conservative dogma, the United States was founded as a "proposition nation," and its germinal creed is "All men are created equal." Abraham Lincoln, by destroying the states, helped give flesh to that creed, and the federal government waged war on foreign powers in this century to advance it. (This was Allan Bloom's argument in The Closing of the American Mind.) Moreover, the American crusade for equality continued as the "good" civil rights movement, exemplified by Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bayard Rustin, and in "moderate" as opposed to "radical" feminism. Since respectable conservatives do not want the egalitarian ox to get close enough to gore them, the march...

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