Liberalism 5.0?

Walter Russell Mead has two fascinating long posts on liberalism that I encourage you to read, one on the decline and fall of what he calls the Blue Social Model and the other, Can The L-word Be Saved?, giving a succinct and perceptive history of what he regards as the four stages of liberalism, with hints of his coming call for a Version 5.0.

His last post begins:

Politically speaking, America may be the most confused country in the world. Millions of people in this country are conservatives and even reactionaries who think they are liberals; we have millions more liberals and radicals who call themselves conservative.

It is an unholy mess and it needs to be cleared up. It’s time for a language intervention.

Both posts are heady reading, and I recommend them, but so far I remain at least tentatively skeptical, since as I read Mead he seems to be arguing that virtually no current liberals are “really” liberal, and he says nothing at all about conservatism or conservatism, which prompted me to post the following comment:

I too look forward to future installments setting out liberalism’s future, but the dog that has not barked here, at least so far, is conservatism. Does WRM believe, following Hartz, that sort of by definition we’re all liberals all the time? If so, what are conservatives — failed liberals? liberals who fail to understand liberalism? backward-looking reactionaries too wedded to the past to “move on” to the next stage?

Also, I can’t quite wrap my mind around Liberalism 4.0, our current version that in this telling nobly advanced the causes of free speech and racial equality … even though today most “liberals” support (and most “conservatives” oppose) speech codes on campus, limits on political speech that no doubt have Alexander Meiklejohn and Hugo Black spinning in their graves, and are so committed to racial preferences that they regard those of us who support colorblind racial neutrality as either closet or overt racists.

Can a liberalism that does not take conservatism seriously be taken seriously?

Say What?