February 25, 2010


Carl Oglesby Was Right (Daniel McCarthy, 2/24/10, American Conservative)

I’m skeptical of what under-funded advocacy groups can achieve in politics, but there are at least a few steps a Left-Right coalition can take toward cracking the ideological ice of contemporary politics. There are significant differences of principle among the journalists, intellectuals, and activists who attended the meeting, but that doesn’t mean cooperation has to be unprincipled. As my headline suggests, I think Carl Oglesby was on to something when he suggested that the Old Right and New Left have (some) common ground. Oglesby’s 1967 thoughts on the topic (from Containment and Change) were included in the conference’s reading packet, and they’re worth quoting at length:

It would be a piece of great good fortune for America and the world if the libertarian right could be reminded that besides the debased Republicanism of the Knowlands and the Judds there is another tradition available to them—their own: the tradition of Congressman Howard Buffett, Senator Taft’s midwestern campaign manager in 1952, who attacked the Truman Doctrine with the words: “Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to other lands by dollars and guns…We cannot practice might and force abroad and retain freedom at home. We cannot talk world cooperation and practice power politics.” There is the right of Frank Chodorov, whose response to the domestic Red Menace was abruptly to the point: “The way to get rid of communists in government jobs is to abolish the jobs.” And of Dean Russell, who wrote in 1955: “Those who advocate the ‘temporary loss’ of our freedom in order to preserve it permanently are advocating only one thing: the abolition of liberty…We are rapidly becoming a caricature of the thing we profess to hate.” Most engaging, there is the right of the tough-minded Garet Garrett, who produced in 1952 a short analysis of the totalitarian impulse of imperialism which the events of the intervening years have reverified over and again. Beginning with the words, “We have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire,” Garrett’s pamphlet unerringly names the features of the imperial pathology: dominance of the national executive over Congress, court, and Constitution; subordination of domestic policy to foreign policy; ascendency of the military influence; the creation of political and military satellites; a complex of arrogance and fearfulness toward the “barbarian”; and, most insidiously, casting off the national identity—the republic is free; the empire is history’s hostage.

This style of political thought, rootedly American, is carried forward today by the Negro freedom movement and the student movement against Great Society-Free World imperialism. That these movements are called leftist means nothing. They are of the grain of American humanist individualism and voluntaristic associational action; and it is only through them that the libertarian tradition is activated and kept alive. In a strong sense, the Old Right and the New Left are morally and politically coordinate.

Just because they take different routes doesn't mean they can't arrive in the same place.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 25, 2010 6:51 AM
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