January 08, 2009

In December we lost two great men, Paul Weyrich and Samuel Huntington. Both became l”€™enfant terribles in the establishments they were part of.

Paul Weyrich helped create, and remained at the center, of the modern conservative movement establishment. The dozens of obituaries and tributes to Weyrich noted his involvement in the founding of the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority. While these are his best known groups, Weyrich was instrumental in the creation of several other conservative organizations such as the Council on National Policy, the Free Congress Foundation, the American Legislation and Exchange Council, and Conservative Digest.

The off the record meetings, both at the Free Congress Foundation’s dingy basement every Wednesday and at five-star hotels every few months for the CNP, are seen as ultimate insider gatherings for conservatives. Both George Bush and John McCain felt obliged to address the groups (McCain, though, on the record) in hopes of getting conservative support.

This has led the insufferable Max Blumenthal to write,

By the time Weyrich died, the conservative movement he created had grown so vast his imprimatur on its agenda was no longer apparent. But his impact is undeniable. Thanks to his efforts and those of the thousands of cadres he recruited and cultivated, the Republican Party is more ideologically extreme, more disciplined “€” and more politically marginalized “€” than at any time since the Goldwater Era.

Yet the truth is the conservative movement that he helped create became an alien creature by the time he died. In a 2006 article in the American Conservative, he wrote

Conservatism has become so weak in ideas that during the presidency of George W. Bush, the word “€œconservative”€ could be and was applied with scant objection to policies that were starkly anti-conservative. Americans witnessed “€œconservative”€ Wilsonianism, if not Jacobinism, in foreign policy and an unnecessary foreign war;… major “€œconservative”€ expansions of the power of the federal government at the expense of traditional liberties; and nonchalant “€œconservative”€ de-industrialization and dispossession of the middle class in the name of free trade.

These “€œstarkly anti-conservative views”€ are seen at The Heritage Foundation and some of the other organizations he founded. At the American Conservative blog, Jon Utley fondly recollected how Weyrich would allow him to promote his antiwar views at the Wednesday Luncheons. Yet he also notes that Weyrich was so under pressure by other attendees to disinvite Utley that he was asked to reign them in.  Weyrich kept his own antiwar views to himself until after Bush was reelected.

Unlike Weyrich, Samuel Huntington was anything but a conservative movement populist. He spent his life in the establishment of the establishment. He taught political science at Harvard, was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Summered on Martha’s Vineyard where he died. He voted for John Kerry in 2004.

While not “€œone of us,”€ Professor Huntington gave us some of the most powerful intellectual ammunition for our cause. His seminal 1968 work, Political Order in Changing Societies countered the liberal view that liberal democracies would inevitably follow economic growth and modernization. Many neoconservatives are often said to advocate the “The Clash of Civilizations thesis,” named from his in his penultimate work. In reality, however, the book is largely a refutation of the neoconservative vision of an “€œEnd of History,”€ in which, it was said, liberal democracies under the guidance of American imperialism would flourish forever. Islam is one of the many clashing civilizations discussed in the book, but its main thesis is that the 21st century will see increased ethnic, cultural, and clash conflict now that the ideological battles of the 20th century are over.

His last major work, Who Are We? was published in 2004 and became the most serious intellectual assault on mass immigration in generations. Huntington argued , “high levels of Hispanic immigration threaten to disrupt the political and cultural integrity of the United States,” and “the United States faces the loss of its ‘core Anglo-Protestant culture’ and may soon be divided into ‘two peoples with two cultures (Anglo and Hispanic) and two languages (English and Spanish).’” 

The book both infuriated and baffled the establishment. When interviewing him for the New York Times, Deborah Solomon expressed her shock that “€œa man like yourself, a Harvard professor and an eminent political scientist, would see the trend toward bilingualism as such a threat.”

Those arguments were supposed to be made by people like, well, Pat Buchanan. Writing in Foreign Affairs, Alan Wolfe called the book “Patrick Buchanan with footnotes,”€ while Slate Magazine deemed Huntington him “€œThe thinking man’s Pat Buchanan.”€

Of course Pat does his fair share of thinking and his books are filled with footnotes”€”many from Hungtington’s works. But for better or worse, it is much harder to marginalize controversial arguments when they are made by a man by a Harvard don.

Though they operated in different worlds and they held different beliefs, both Samuel Huntington and Paul Weyrich made innumerable contributions to our cause and will both be missed.


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