May 30, 2009
The first time I heard of Robert Stacy McCain I was in my early 20?s, as an active member of the Southern secessionist organization the League of the South. McCain had been targeted by the SPLC as a ?neo-Confederate,? something Morris Dees and co. found especially dreadful considering McCain?s position as an assistant editor for The Washington Times. There and then, McCain stuck out in my mind, and still does, as one of the good guys.
The first time I met Tom Woods was at a League of the South conference in Birmingham, Alabama in 1997, as I plopped down on a couch in the hotel bar, where Woods and Chronicles editor Thomas Fleming were discussing the pros and cons of Russell Kirk, with Woods being slightly more critical. I was 23 at the time and asked Fleming if he agreed with Kirk, that one day the mid 20th century might be considered the ?Age of Eliot,? as the Sage of Mecosta titled his book on the famous poet. ?I don?t read Eliot for pleasure? said Fleming flatly, describing him as boring and dreary. Fleming recommended I pick up G.K. Chesterton instead.
At the time, I was impressed with Woods because he seemed so damn smart and we were so close in age, and I was always nervous talking to Fleming because I admired him so. Both remain in my mind, unquestionably, men on the ?Right? side of things.
I mention my neo-Confederate background, as well as McCain, Woods, Fleming, Kirk, Eliot and Chesterton, because this is how I think about politics. As a paleoconservative, post-paleo, libertarian, Alternative Rightist ? whatever-the-hell someone like myself might be called these days ? there are organizations and figures that I consider allies, and those I consider enemies. Such black and white thinking, admittedly, comes from working in talk radio where such elementary categorization is often necessary to communicate with that audience. But the problem with anyone working in talk radio who identifies with the Alternative Right, is that they don?t have the luxury of simply glorifying Republicans and demonizing Democrats, as their peers do, because an Old Right-leaning conservative?s greatest obstacle is often the GOP itself.
And along that dividing line of good guys vs. bad guys, if McCain, Woods, Kirk, Eliot and Chesterton are on the side of the angels, never have I considered Mark Levin anything less than part of the problem.
In the League of the South, many members were sympathetic to the Wendell Berry, Kirkian and Chestertonian conservatism of kith and kin, blood and soil, home and heritage. ?Abjure the realm? I believe League president Michael Hill would say (and similarly Paul Weyrich), which meant seceding from popular culture, buying local, homeschooling and tending to one?s own garden. These ?crunchy cons? were by no means liberals. Just ask the SPLC.
McCain was identified with the League crowd (at least in my mind) in the late 90?s, and this week as I read the disagreements between McCain and Rod Dreher, along with Richard Spencer and Daniel Larison?s reactions, the most surprising aspect of the conversation is that any of these guys would consider Mark Levin an ally, or worth defending on any level.
Like Richard, I have perused Levin?s book and found it less dreadful than I expected. I also work at a radio station that broadcasts Levin from 6 ? 9 PM EST and listen fairly regularly along with Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz and the rest of our line-up.
Unless McCain or Spencer were to pretend to be something they?re not ? Levin would consider both ?liberal scum? because of their lack of support for Wilsonian globalism and American empire. Calling for a return to ?Goldwater conservatism? during the campaign of 2008, Levin said ?even Goldwater?s kids are too stupid to understand what he stood for.? Levin said this about the time Barry Goldwater, Jr. endorsed Ron Paul for president. Levin supported that staunch conservative Mitt Romney, instead.
To his credit, Levin attacked John McCain relentlessly, even a day or two after he received the GOP nomination ? then proceeded to spend three hours a day corralling his audience to support the Arizona Senator. Levin always despised Paul, has called Pat Buchanan an anti-Semite and would never even consider mentioning a Chuck Baldwin, or even Bob Barr.
An Alternative Right in which the libertarian factions and ?crunchy con? factions ? both of whom have claims to authentic, American conservative traditions – bicker back and forth is something I can understand.
But an Alternative Right that defends someone like Mark Levin in the name of populism ? a man who constantly and consistently redirects genuine, conservative populist anger toward supporting establishment Republicans ? is something I cannot understand.
Unlike Dreher, I?m not offended by Levin?s tone or language ? I?m offended by how he perverts and hurts the American Right. But unlike McCain and Richard, I will not disparage an admittedly more literary conservative tradition, of which men like Berry, Kirk, and to a much lesser degree, even Dreher, represent ? to defend the likes of a cretinous, conservative imposter like Levin.
Mark Levin is not one of the good guys.
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