What is American conservatism?
The American Conservative is holding a symposium on this question. Naturally, the question is being answered by the same group of people who are currently in charge of defining conservatism.
What does American conservatism look like from the outside or the Far Right? How would we define American conservatism? What does it look like from our perspective?
First, I would describe them as the least successful conservatives in world history. In the annals of history, it is hard to recall a time when more sweeping social social change has occurred in a shorter period of time than has occurred under American conservatism since 1955. Tucker Carlson announced on his show last night that equality under the law and free speech and middle class jobs should be defining issues of our times. In the twilight of the MAGA era, American conservatism has been reduced to this.
Second, I would say they are the loyal opposition. The primary difference between American conservatism and the Far Right is that the former is considered mainstream and respectable in our society. The personalities who participate in mainstream conservatism are considered legitimate in a way that is not true of White Nationalists. What is the source of their legitimacy and respectability? It is the mainstream media which is controlled by the American Left. These people are invited by the American Left to be their loyal opposition on the American Right. They agree to play by a set of rules which are defined and constantly being updated by the American Left like any Terms of Service agreement. This is why they are constantly purging their own ranks whenever “journalists” like Jared Holt of RightWingWatch patrol them and blow their whistles. This phenomenon is virtually unknown on the American Left.
Third, I would have to agree with Robert Lewis Dabney that American conservatism is “merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader.” Progressive liberalism is the front of the train and sets its course and direction. Conservative liberalism is the rear of the train that legitimizes and stabilizes each new social revolution. It has done this with civil rights, feminism, gay rights, gay marriage, DACA and most recently when Neil Gorsuch put his rubber stamp on transgenderism. The Trump era has digested and assimilated the previous social revolutions of the Barack Obama presidency.
Fourth, I would describe the philosophy of American conservatism as “conservative liberalism.” This is the values, beliefs, worldview and overall intellectual horizon of the American conservative movement. It exists to celebrate classical liberalism and free-market capitalism which is usually dressed up as “the American Founding.” American conservatism is opposed to progressive liberalism which stands for Big Government and socialism. Granted, it combines this with lip service and nods to non-liberal institutions like the “family” and “Christianity” and “virtue” and “patriotism” and the like.
The structure of the American conservative pyramid looks something like this:
The base of the pyramid is a sea of White Christians who are natural conservatives which is not the same thing as the ideology of conservative liberalism. These people are natural conservatives primarily due to their psychology and sociology. They are overwhelmingly concentrated in rural areas and small towns because these places are more settled. The people who live there are closer to nature and more attached to their communities. In contrast, the cities and suburbs are more unsettled and the people who live there are less attached to their communities, which makes them more inclined toward progressive liberalism. As recently as the 1940s, the South was a sea of natural Christian conservatives because it was rural, agricultural and highly settled. The same is true of other parts of the country like the Midwest.
Conservatism, Inc. is the professional class that sits atop the base of natural conservatives. The base of natural conservatives is stirred up by living in a state of perpetual social revolution. The job of Conservatism, Inc. is to harness the energy and resentments of backlash politics and manage discontent and channel it into electing more Republicans who always promise to do something about it. They exist to craft the mainstream rightwing narrative and to stabilize the system. These professionals tend to be more urban and educated than the base and far more sensitive to upper middle class trends. It is largely a lavishly funded jobs program for grifters and mediocre people who aspire to leap into more mainstream positions whenever jobs become available. As I previously noted, institutional conservatism is policed by leftwing journalists who work for institutions like the ADL and SPLC.
Ted Cruz is a great example of the sort of politician who has been vetted and elevated into office by professional conservatism. He is a performance artist who has spent his entire Senate career engaged in blowhard grandstanding. He doesn’t have a single natural conservative accomplishment of note to show for occupying his office. He is mainly there as a vote for the real conservative agenda which can be briefly summed up as tax cuts, deregulation, military pork, Israel and nominating pro-business judges. In spite of all the Sturm und Drang of the 2016 Republican primary, President Donald Trump and Lyin’ Ted (the Zodiac killer) have amazingly almost always been on the same page on policy questions.
Finally, the donor class and their institutions are at the apex of the conservative pyramid. These people purchase the Republican legislative agenda which always predictably reflects their interests. This is why the political capital of the 2016 election was spent on tax cuts, deregulation, Israel’s wish list, military spending and pet projects like criminal justice reform and police reform. The Republican donor class is disproportionately composed of Jewish billionaires who are socially liberal Zionists who tend to be private equity titans and hedge fund managers. This is why the GOP is so obsessed with Israel.
This is the structure, beliefs, role and purpose of the American conservative movement. In exchange for being treated as the legitimate and respectable champion of the American Right, it allows the American Left to set the Terms of Service for what is called the mainstream and the defining idea of the mainstream consensus as it has existed since World War II is “anti-racism.”
By anti-racism, I mean the repression of anything resembling White Nationalism down to even the most absurd past politically incorrect utterances. There is no other meaning of the term. Mainstream conservatives denounce identity politics and preach colorblindness and individualism to their audience of White Christians. In contrast, they make explicit appeals to blacks and other non-Whites on the basis of identity politics. Only Whites must be deracinated colorblind individualists. Jews can be full throated militant Zionists. Mainstream conservatives believe in the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a colorblind utopia which the progressive Left abandoned as far back the late 1960s. There is nothing new about cancel culture. It has always been practiced by conservatism since the days of William F. Buckley.
What has been the long term result or footprint of the American conservative movement as it has defined the American Right over the past two generations?
First, it has succeeded in deracinating Whites and completely delegitimizing its own social base, White Christian America. No one in the American Right was given a mainstream platform to defend White people for to do so violated the anti-racist consensus and led to leftwing callouts. As a result of this systemic imbalance, literal black supremacists like Nikole Hannah-Jones have been allowed to become completely mainstream and to redefine the meaning of America with the New York Times 1619 Project. Mainstream conservatives destroyed the ethnic and cultural identity of their own social base in the name of “anti-racism.” Now, the meaning of “anti-racism” is being redefined to simply mean anti-whiteness. LGBTQ means #Pride which means anti-Christianity is our established religion. It was mainstream conservatives who created the woke hordes of psychologically damaged upper middle class White Millennial radicals through their own cowardice on race and culture.
Second, the American conservative movement has used its political power to score considerable victories on everything but culture. It faces no opposition in foreign policy in upholding the American Empire abroad. Strangely enough, absurd levels of military spending are relatively uncontroversial. Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and West Bank isn’t nearly as controversial as Donald Trump building a wall on the Mexican border. The American conservative movement has been extremely successful in lowering taxes on the wealthy and corporations. It has largely succeeded in deregulating Wall Street and Corporate America. It has succeeded in expanding international free trade and creating a globalized world economy which has impoverished its own social base, White Christian America, while creating a bloated oligarchy and crazed upper middle class which is currently in the process of destabilizing the country.
Look at the chaos unfolding around you. There is a pattern to it. Whether it is statues of George Washington being lynched by Antifa or Minneapolis abolishing its police department or the New York Times redefining anti-racism as anti-whiteness or the governor of Mississippi betraying his voters and pulling down the state flag to appease Walmart, everything you see on display is the bitter fruit of the hopelessly compromised and chronically ineffective junior partner of the American establishment. Previous generations would have never dreamed this could happen in the United States of America.
The problems of our age were the solutions of previous ages which have become a decadent consensus. The long term effect of both progressive liberalism and conservative liberalism passing the baton to each other as the Democrats or Republicans have taken turns with power has been a steady expansion of social equality and economic liberty. The result has been the growth of oligarchy and a kind of repressive libertarianism that advances liberalism and hollows out our culture while perverting it into its opposite: intolerance in defense of tolerance, hierarchy in defense of equality, tyranny in defense of freedom, bigotry in defense of openness, conformity in defense of individualism and even racism in defense of anti-racism. This aggressive push comes from the Left while the Right is content to repose in luxury.
The spirit of liberalism is diabolical. It is always either engaged in its project of loosening up the bonds of society, which it calls “freedom,” or tearing down and leveling the social order, which it calls “equality.” It also betrays its own values by bullying its critics. Life has become a blur of social revolution. We need to reverse course. Instead of loosening everything up and tearing everything down, we need to be tightening things up and rebuilding our social order. We need to scale back the social equality and economic liberty. We need more social stability and economic equality. Liberty and equality must take a backseat to the restoration of order, cohesion, continuity, stability, decency and normalcy.
Regardless of whether Donald Trump wins or loses the 2020 election, the American conservative movement and the Republican Party it services is not going to change. We tried to change it in the 2016 election. It didn’t work. It continued pursuing its long established goals and soon it will be engulfed in a crisis of its own making due to its failure to tend to the needs of its own voters. Why did it suddenly go extinct like the dinosaurs after its storied and lucrative career of subservience to the progressive Left? What aside from greed and cowardice possessed it to guide the nation toward this calamity?
America will never be the same after this catastrophe. This period of destruction is as necessary as forest fires though to clear away the rubbish so that the seeds of renewal can finally sprout. Scales must fall from eyes and illusions must crumble before men will see the Serpent has succeeded in turning the world upside down and start organizing to turn it right side up again.