June 22, 2023


Revanchist Revolutionaries (Michael Lucchese, 6/21/23, Law & Liberty)

[T]here is nothing conservative about today's paleoconservatism. With its emphasis on class warfare, racial grievance, and power politics, it is an ideology better understood as a right-wing form of Marxism. As Gottfried's Anthology shows, this toxic mix is a recipe for electoral disaster and moral bankruptcy.

Twentieth-century conservatives such as Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley built their movement on the idea of the American Founding. For them, conservative politics needed to be rooted in a reverential devotion to the Constitution, a healthy appreciation of the free market, and a vigorous anti-communism. And as Ronald Reagan's stunning electoral successes proved, these ideas were immensely popular.

Paleoconservatives sneered at this approach, however, and desired something more radical. "The main thrust of Kirk's conservatism was to assure Americans that everything was really OK," paleoconservative ideologue Samuel Francis wrote in one essay, "that the society in which they lived and the government and dominant social and political forces that prevailed in the United States were healthy." Protecting the Constitution and defeating the Soviet Union were not enough for Francis--he wanted to upend the entire basis for American politics and adopt new foundational principles.

The latter-day paleoconservatives who contributed to the Anthology agree with Francis. "The ideas of Kirk and Hayek, appealing as they were to Bill Buckley, were always too disconnected from the concerns of the base," David Azerrad writes in the second essay of the collection. "Conservatism was, and largely remains, an ideology in search of a mass constituency." He believes that mass appeal can be found in the Buchananite three-legged stool of economic protectionism, immigration restrictionism, and isolationism.

This is all there ever was to Paleoconservatism, which is why they turned on Reagan no later than his immigration amnesty and hated the Bushes.
Posted by at June 22, 2023 6:28 AM