July 17, 2007
In the last few months I”ve been stumbling across statements in Orbis, The American Conservative, and in other magazines for which I”m still allowed to write to the effect that the neoconservatives are falling from power. Although this group is no longer as prominently represented in W’s collapsing administration as they once were, there is no indication that they are shrinking as an ideological presence. To whatever extent there is an establishment conservative voice in the United States and in much of Western Europe, it sounds unmistakably neoconservative. Whether the topic is spreading “human rights,” favoring a “democratic capitalist welfare state,” opposing xenophobia and anti-immigrationists from the standpoint of “universal democratic values,” the side represented by the media that is not officially leftist can be characterized as “neoconservative.” Those on the right of this allowable opposition are targeted as “extremists.”
Does anyone doubt that the references in the media to “Islamofascism” or the equation of criticism of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism come from neoconservative sources? Or is anyone silly enough to believe that all of the neoconservative celebrities on FOX NEWS, writing for the national press, and dominating foundations like AEI and Heritage will suddenly (God willing!) go away and never be heard from again? If such developments are not now happening and are unlikely to occur in the near future, then in what sense are the neocons vanishing? Certainly the ten of millions of prospective voters who have lined up behind Rudolph Giuliani, the neocons” most adored presidential candidate, prove that their politics and endorsements still have traction. Nor is there any reason to think that the tens of millions of Democrats who support Hillary, Obama, or Edwards are really closet right-wingers, who would be on our side, if only we could get the conservative establishment to dump the neocon “intruders.” What this overlooks is the growth of what I have elsewhere called the post-Marxist cultural Left, a force that is now thriving in the hollow shell of what used to be the Christian West. I never cease to be amazed by the unfounded optimism exhibited by people who should know better but who persist in telling us that some imaginary historical pendulum is swinging back. Where and how this is taking place are questions that, to my knowledge, have not been adequately addressed.
There is also what I styled in a speech last March at the National Press Club the “infantile hope” that occasionally surfaces on the remnants of the Old Right that nice leftists will rally to our side, because they are appalled by the neocons” bad manners and bellicosity. This view is so counterfactual that it would take at least a hundred pages to cite all of the counter-evidence. Suffice it to say that the neocons owe their position at least partly to their well-wishers on the left, who have taken the “moderate” conservatives as their talking partners. Put most simply, the establishment Left would prefer Charles Krauthammer, David Brook, Bill Kristol and George Will to a harder and less liberal Right, one that from their culturally leftist perspective, they regard as more alien (and far less urban Jewish).
There is no reason to think that because the New York Times has used the neocon-incited Iraqi War to embarrass the Republican Party, it will now proceed to replace David Brook with a brainy young paleo as its token “conservative.” Nor do I believe that having supposedly changed its views about the American Right, network TV will invite me or Jim Kurth on to its programs as a replacement for George Will. I also don”t think that establishment conservative foundations will open their door to the Old Right because the neocons pursued a disastrous course in the Middle East. These foundations depend entirely on neocon-mediated funding; and those who now run them served their neocon masters by purging the Old Right from their ranks and by helping to marginalize its members. Given their predictably servile relations to their benefactors, these foundations in all likelihood will continue to do what the neocons tell them.
It might be objected that because of my sour nature I am inclined to counsels of despair. To this I would respond that one can only engage a problem by first understanding it. This is of course different from making people think they are winning, when in fact they are getting clobbered. As an enthusiastic boxing fan, I have noticed that the managers who tell their fighters they are going to have to fight harder to come from behind usually get more out of them. The managers who sound like the learning-therapy advisor at our college do their fighters no good at all. Also a distinction has to be drawn between what one tells a potential benefactor in order to shake loose a bit of funding and what one knows to be true. The problem is that those on the right who should know better sometimes mistake happy talk for truth.
Among the instructions I would give the real Right is the following well-considered advice. Prepare for a fight that will last generations and don”t expect your liberal or neocon enemies to give you any quarter. They won”t for they dislike your side far more than they dislike each other. And, for Heaven’s sake, don”t fight with each other. For years I”ve been watching the leadership of the Old Right bickering and splitting into ever smaller sects. The silliest of these fights has pertained to religious differences between Catholics and Protestants. The attendant displays of animosity help us to relive, albeit the second time as mere noise-making, the confessional wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Unfortunately neither side has any reason to be pleased with their coreligionists in the US, whether it is the Protestants who mistake neocon notions of global democracy for Christianity or the white Catholic voters who provide the electoral backbone of the socially leftist (mostly nominally Catholic) politicians in our Congress. This blame-game can have no place in the coalition-building that the Right will have to carry out in order to survive and prevail. The Right must imitate its enemies in the pursuit of unity within its ranks, but without requiring the zombie-like traits that the neocons have imposed on their paid or intimidated followers.
Another source of dissension on the right is the violent objection expressed by some traditionalists to any attempt to explore genetic endowment in the forming of character or intelligence. Although this attitude is at least partly prompted by the fear of being called a racist, the obscurantist behavior I have observed has another basis as well. It reflects a non-corporeal, angelic notion of human existence, in which any attention given to physical factors in explaining virtue or cognitive superiority is treated dismissively as “naturalistic.” Having encountered with some regularity this view among traditionalist colleagues, its persistence may signal trouble if paleos wish to be taken seriously as truth-seekers. Twenty years ago when asked by Policy Review to present the leading ideas of the new generation of Old Right thinkers, I stressed the openness of such people to the social and biological sciences. Now under the banner of “culture” and “religious orthodoxy,” many of the same partisans seem to be retreating into intellectual irrelevance.
Equally problematic is the excessive enthusiasm that the paleos have shown in beating up on the Israeli side in Middle Eastern affairs and in sometimes imitating the far Left as rabid critics of the war in Iraq. Both of these positions began as defensible protests; and at least originally they were an admirable effort to break from the neocon-controlled movement conservative consensus on foreign policy questions. But belaboring the sins of the Israeli government or treating the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein as victims of American imperialism has resulted in distortions of their own, and ones that seem every bit as glaring as what we justly criticize in the neocon press. Even more serious is the danger that the paleos will expend so much energy exculpating Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists and the tyranny that the US overthrew in Iraq that they will become permanently identified with these positions. And for those who are foolish enough to believe that the lefties should like our side because we stand with them on foreign policy issues, I”ll have to ask for the evidence of these good feelings. Outside of some friendly pats courtesy of Alexander Cockburn, I see no indication that a rapprochement between our guys and The Nation is coming to pass. My advice here to paleoconservatives is to play down Middle Eastern politics and to throw their moral capital into fighting the immigration invasion and the use of PC as a tool of government control. Above all, thunder night and day against the unitary managerial regime that has taken over this country and has invaded the family and workplace. Down with all laws that purport to fight discrimination or to teach us sensitivity!
Providing that the paleos can get their house in order, they will have to hope for some lucky breaks. One, they will have to scare up some funding (and plenty of it) in order to keep their now impoverished side going. And this will be especially necessary since neither the neocons nor the liberals (with whom they share the media) will cut the Right a break. Both studiously pretend that we don”t exist or simply equate us with the shenanigans of David Duke or with less than well-frequented websites designed for loners. To break out of this isolation we need money, which can buy us big-time media resources. Two, we”ll have to hope for a miracle; in this case that enough of the public can be turned around to permit us to rise out of our current marginalization. This can only happen if, first of all, we prevent another crisis from getting any worse, that is, if we can succeed in halting the tidal wave of immigration from Latin America. This invasion across our southern borders is a world historical event, like the Muslim invasion of Europe, and one that works overwhelmingly in favor of the political Left. (If this is not the case, I have yet to be shown why it is not.)
Sea changes like this do occur. At the present time the populist Right is doing splendidly in Belgium and Switzerland, and it is also coming up in England and Scandinavia. Of course there are countersigns, which El Pais, La Reppublica, the Guardian, and the rest of the European establishment press are treating quite positively as a victory of a European brand of American neoconservatism. In France the neocon-sounding recently elected president, Nicolas Sarkozy, crushed the rightwing, anti-immigrationist Front National in both the presidential and legislative elections. But Sarkozy only did so by sounding like a French nationalist and by making tough noises about the immigration and welfare problems in his country. If the new president reverts to form and starts talking once again about giving Muslim immigrants “positive discrimination,” he will likely face a renewed rightwing opposition, one that could command as much as 20% in a national election. The Right in the US should look to Europe for an example of how to build a usable infrastructure, if and when they acquire the funds to expand their struggle. In Europe, the populist Right has created its own alternative media and electoral bloc. But in the meantime paleoconservatives should not run around proclaiming that the neoconservatives are going down, when to all appearances they are not. The Right has nothing to learn from the klutzy manager who tells his badly bruised boxer that he is well ahead on the score card. Such a manager rarely brings his fighters to the top.