Scholarly Abuse of Edmunde Burke

From a review of Edmund Burke in America, by Drew Maciag:

Given his assumptions, Maciag’s book can best be understood as a kind of primer for liberals on the use and abuse of Burke by conservatives. On Maciag’s reading, interpretations of Burke in America always have been about American issues and politics, not the actual, historical Burke and his body of thought. And, in the hands of ideological conservatives, he argues, Burke has been a convenient apologist for everything from a hidebound opposition to “progress” to “cold war hysteria.”

I am continually amused by the outsized role Edmund Burke apparently plays in liberal imaginations of conservative and Republican thought. It seems that his name is mentioned far more often by liberals citing some purported failure of Republicans to live up to true conservative ideals, as expressed by Burke.

I can remember, off the top of my head, no mention of his name by actually relevant Republicans or conservatives more generally, at least in recent history.

There is a cottage industry among liberal legal commentators dedicated to maligning as false–that is, not “Burkean”–conservatives and judicial activists any who would overturn arch-activist Warren Court precedent. And lately, frequently in support of misguided attempts to define judicial activism as failure to defer to the legislature.

A professor of mine once lamented Justice Souter’s resignation from the Court, describing him as the “last of the Burkean conservatives,” or something to that effect. Even were this a reasonable standard of conservatism, it is inapposite to any meaningful understanding of Souter’s jurisprudence–in addition to joining novel activist interpretations of the constitution on issues of first impression, he was happy to do so even when it meant overruling precedent, most notably in Lawrence v. Texas.

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