Daniel Larison notes that “the West” is a poor substitute for “Christendom.” In the context of post-World War II conservatism, it’s also a substitute for “America.” When the Right stopped talking about America first and started talking about defending the West — from the heathen East, of course, be it Communist or Islamic — you knew the Rubicon had been crossed.
Archive for April 2008
My article on the Ron Paul campaign and the independent organizations and efforts springing up in its wake — including Young Americans for Liberty, Jonathan Bydlak’s Discover Scholars project, and a cadre of Ron Paul Republican candidates — is now on-line here.
I’m happy to report that one development since I wrote the piece is that Ron Paul has endorsed North Carolina congressional candidate B.J. Lawson, who certainly seems like a worthy contender to me. Here’s Dr. Paul’s statement:
Thanks for your tireless efforts to advance the cause of freedom. As the Revolution shifts into high gear, we’re beginning to identify strong candidates for federal office who can help us take back Washington in 2008. I am pleased to introduce a worthy challenger to the status quo, Dr. William (B.J.) Lawson, who is seeking the Fourth District’s Congressional seat in North Carolina.
B.J. is, like me, a graduate of Duke University Medical School. Also like me, his passion for public service stems from a deep concern for the economic imbalances facing our nation. While I spent most of my life as a practicing physician, B.J. left his neurosurgery residency at Duke to start a hospital software company in 2001, and experienced firsthand the challenges of entrepreneurship as well as the importance of succeeding by putting customers first. He shares my commitment to a constitutional federal government, individual liberty, private property rights, a foreign policy we can afford, and economic growth driven by successful businesses working to satisfy their customers.
I wish I could say B.J. is going to have an easy journey to Washington in November. We certainly need him here. But there is a vocal minority in the Republican party that has other plans. B.J. is battling a neoconservative establishment candidate right up to the primary next Tuesday. While he is leading based upon this weekend’s polling, there remain many undecided voters and he needs funds to finish his media and GOTV plan. As this recent debate footage shows, they are very different candidates indeed:
After you support B.J. in the May 6th Republican primary, he will then take on Rep. David Price. Rep. Price is an 11-term incumbent who defines business as usual. With your help, B.J. can build the bridges necessary to take the freedom message across the Fourth District.
Please make a donation to help B.J.’s campaign today — fundraising is the MOST important thing we can do to help spread the message. Freedom isn’t free, but liberty is priceless!
The May June issue of Reason includes my review of Pure Goldwater, the John Dean and Barry Goldwater Jr.-edited collection of the late senator’s journals. The May 5 issue of The American Conservative, meanwhile, features my piece on Bill Kauffman’s Ain’t My America. Both books, coincidentally enough, are published by Palgrave-Macmillan, which is also home to James Bovard.
The magazine’s probably won’t be hitting bookstores and subscribers’ mailboxes for about 10 days or a little more — print has its advantages, but alacrity isn’t one of them. In the meantime, here’s a link to Dean and Goldwater Jr. discussing their book at the Huffington Post.
Clueless GOP consultants Tony Fabrizio and Dave Carney tell Politico (referring to Ron Paul’s 16 percent showing in Pennsylvania’s Republican primary):
“A large portion of those Ron Paul supporters are anti-Bush, anti-war Republicans,” he said. “They’ll wind up back with McCain because, while they may disagree on the war or be mad at Bush, the prospect of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is more frightening.”
And, as Carney notes, there is no Paul-like third-party candidate around whom they can rally and vent their frustrations.
Politco’s Jonathan Martin notes that that might not be true if Bob Barr gets the Libertarian Party’s nomination. But it won’t be true even if Barr doesn’t get the LP nod, because Chuck Baldwin, who endorsed Paul in the Republican primaries, has now won the Constitution Party’s nomination. Baldwin, who is socially conservative, antiwar, for drastically smaller government (asked at the Constitution Party convention what his first executive order as president would be, he said he would first repeal almost all the executive orders going back to Reagan), and against federal snooping on American citizens. The rightist part of the Ron Paul movement might find him a very attractive candidate indeed.
In small ways, the 2008 election is starting to look up. There’s the prospect that my ballot in Virginia might have at least two candidates I can support: Baldwin and Barr. Neither is perfect. And between them, I’m not sure which is better: Baldwin is more radically conservative and anti-statist, as far as I can tell, which commends him. In Barr’s favor, I’d rather vote for a Libertarian Party candidate than a Constitution Party candidate. I attended the CP’s 2000 convention in St. Louis and wasn’t very impressed by the proceedings. A brawl almost broke out at one session between Catholics and Protestants baiting one another about who had persecuted whom more violently throughout history. (Catholics attributed anti-clerical violence in the Mexican Revolution to Protestantism — improbably enough — while Protestants shot back with equally poorly informed accusations about the Inquisition. A gathering of professional historians this was not.) Convention sessions juxtaposed a speaker who wanted to stone homosexuals next to a speaker who had survived being aborted. Disgust and sympathy don’t make a pleasant emotional cocktail. The party didn’t exactly win any points with me in 2004 either, when it nominated for president a man who had given his wife’s children away to be raised by the state of Maryland. (His wife insists that turning her daughters into wards of the state was her idea. Either way, the story belongs on Jerry Springer — or Phil Donahue, where in fact it did appear — not on the resume of a “family values” candidate.)
On the other hand, LP presidential contender and mooted vice presidential prospect Mary Ruwart is a defender of consensual kiddie porn. If she’s on the ticket, I won’t be voting for the Libertarians. I’m fairly sure neither Barr nor Wayne Allan Root, the other top LP presidential candidate, would have someone with those views on their ticket. I hope.
And of course, Obama is better than McCain by far. I’d like to see him clobber McCain in November. So assuming these third parties qualify for the ballot in Virginia, I’ll have several choices in this presidential election. That’s an unaccustomed circumstance for me, and it feels kind of good. Now if only a third party will nominate someone decent for the Virginia Senate race…
Peter Hitchens has recently read Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke and Patrick Buchanan’s forthcoming Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War. The two books, particularly Buchanan’s, have compelled him to reconsider some of his assumptions about the Good War. Be sure to read the whole thing, but here’s a sample:
On a recent visit to the USA I picked up two new books that are going to make a lot of people in Britain very angry.
I read them, unable to look away, much as it is hard to look away from a scene of disaster, in a sort of cloud of dispirited darkness.
They are a reaction to the use – in my view, abuse – of the Second World War to justify the Iraq War.
We were told that the 1939-45 war was a good war, fought to overthrow a wicked tyrant, that the war in Iraq would be the same, and that those who opposed it were like the discredited appeasers of 1938.
Well, I didn’t feel much like Neville Chamberlain (a man I still despise) when I argued against the Iraq War. And I still don’t.
Some of those who opposed the Iraq War ask a very disturbing question.
The people who sold us Iraq did so as if they were today’s Churchills. They were wrong.
In that case, how can we be sure that Churchill’s war was a good war?
What if the Men of Glory didn’t need to die or risk their lives? What if the whole thing was a miscalculated waste of life and wealth that destroyed Britain as a major power and turned her into a bankrupt pensioner of the USA?
Funnily enough, these questions echo equally uncomfortable ones I’m often asked by readers here.
The milder version is: “Who really won the war, since Britain is now subject to a German-run European Union?”
The other is one I hear from an ever-growing number of war veterans contemplating modern Britain’s landscape of loutishness and disorder and recalling the sacrifices they made for it: “Why did we bother?”
Don’t read on if these questions rock your universe.
“It makes me feel like a traitor to write this,” Hitchens says, “The Second World War was my religion for most of my life.” See the rest of his thoughtful post here. Hitchens will have a full review of both books in a forthcoming edition of the Mail on Sunday. I’ll post a link when the review is up.
And if you’d like to see some more of the Good Hitchens, here’s footage of him recently debating his brother, Christopher:
Patrick Ruffini is alarmed to see that Ron Paul Republicans are the only conservatives dedicated enough to turn out at state county conventions – and as a result, Paul is picking up state-level and national delegates. It’s going to be a very interesting Republican Convention in (appropriately enough) St. Paul this year. Read Ruffini’s article to see the good news from the grassroots.
Mark your calendars: on May 8, Bill Kauffman will be debating Michael Tomasky (editor of the U.S. edition of the lefty Brit newspaper The Guardian) at the Cato Institute. Tomasky reviewed Kauffman’s book here. Orange Line liberventionist Tyler Cowen discusses the book here.
There actually are a number of anti-interventionist libertarians in the D.C. area, and I dare say they’ll be out in force to watch Bill lower the boom on the warmongers. It should be a fun event.
The 4/21 issue of The American Conservative, which should be showing up in bookstores and subscribers’ mailboxes right about now, contains my article “The Ron Paul Evolution,” on the future of the Ron Paul movement — already there are candidates, a youth organization, and nonprofit ventures rising out of the Paul phenomenon, and there’s much more to come. I relate a few of my own experiences with the campaign in the piece, too. Hunt down a copy.
The next issue of the mag, out in about two weeks, should contain my review of Bill Kauffman’s terrific new book Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Anti-War Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism. The book is every bit as good as you would expect from the Sage of Batavia–and even better. If you need any convincing, just check out my review.
Gerald Russello, the editor extraordinaire of the University Bookman tells me that my review of Douglass Shand-Tucci’s recent biography of Ralph Adams Cram is in the current issue of that venerable (and Russell Kirk-founded) quarterly. It’s on-line here, but I’d recommend tracking down a print copy as well — or better yet, subscribing. Under Russello’s able editorship, the Bookman has gone from being a neglected cousin of Modern Age to becoming essential reading.
(The revivified Bookman is hardly Russello’s only notable achievement in recent years: he’s also the author of The Postmodern Imagination of Russell Kirk, which I reviewed for Reason a while back.)
Paul Gottfried extends and revises his remarks on the “post paleo” generation of the Right here. Helen Rittelmeyer of the Cigarette Smoking Blog comments on Paul’s original thread and some of the reactions it elicited.
Both Gottfried and Rittelmeyer note the Nietzschean interests of the postpaleos. Paul suggests that these, along with fewer inhibitions about “discussing topics which for the paleos have been clearly off the table since the death of Sam Francis,” are a defining trait. Rittelmeyer agrees: “‘constitutionalism, decentralism, immigration restriction and rejection of democratist hegemony’ — remain the same,” she writes, “but the tone is more postmodern than pre-modern (or, if you prefer, more rock ‘n’ roll).”
I don’t know about “rock ‘n’ roll.” And I’m not sure whether the philosophical distinctions between paleos and postpaleos are as pronounced as they might seem at first blush. For one thing, the paleos of the 1980s were quite different philosophically from the paleos of today. Twenty years ago paleos took a much greater interest in sociolobiology and German philosophy — although Curtis Cate published an important volume on Nietzsche as recently as 2005. The philosophical complexion of paleoconservatism has changed over the past two decades as the ranks have thinned (with the deaths of Cate, Sam Francis, and others) and as many of the first generation paleocons have converted to Catholicism — this, by the way, is part of the background to Paul’s remarks about Catholic-Protestant tensions among the paleos.
Paleos have become more pre-modern and less postmodern over the years, and the postpaleos might follow a similar trajectory. Furthermore, it is not clear just how Nietzschean the postpaleos really are. Of the postpaleos I know — and since the paleo and postpaleo universes encompass only about a hundred people, I think I know most of them — just one is a serious student of Nietzsche. Others take a passing interest, as I do. That might not disprove Paul’s point, however, since he suggests that an interest in the pre-war Old Right is also characteristic of the postpaleos, and one can argue that there’s a broadly Nietzschean undertone to the libertarian Old Right. Certainly there is in Mencken, though Mencken has a peculiar take on Nietzsche.
I suspect there are many young rightists — budding postpaleos whom I don’t yet know — who like Nietzsche for the wrong reasons. I remember in high school attending conventions of the Junior Classical League — Latin geeks — and not infrequently encountering bookish types whose version of teenage rebellion was wearing Nietzsche t-shirts, typically with one or another of his more cliched aphorisms (“That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stronger,” “God Is Dead”) emblazoned upon them. Slightly older specimens of the same genus were much in evidence in my undergraduate days, only they added to their catchphrase Nietzsche a sophomoric veneer of sophistication. Nietzsche was death metal for nerds.
Nietzsche appeals to smart, cynical (or cynical-posing) young men, and even quite sound conservatives are not necessarily immune to the temptations of bastardized Nietzscheanism or clever-dick postmodernism. I wrote in an earlier post on a related topic that I had doubts about whether the postpaleo generation was applying itself seriously enough to education. Especially with the temptations of blogging, we’re in danger of becoming a generation of Bill Buckleys, spurning rigorous, long-form grappling with ideas and instead spouting off shallow quips and impressing ourselves with rhetoric. That can be a quick path to Internet fame, but it won’t produce work of lasting significance. The postpaleo generation doesn’t necessarily have to go back to graduate school — but even its brightest lights ought to apprentice themselves to older, wiser thinkers, and not get too intoxicated with potent but cheap ideas.
(I’m referring, of course, to cod Nietzscheanism, not the genuine, and more elusive, article.)