What’s Right With the Right

Posted May 25, 2008 by Daniel McCarthy
Categories: Conservatism, magazines

Tags: , ,

One of the things I found dissatisfying about George Packer’s recent “fall of conservatism” piece was its establishment bias. He can’t be accused of talking only to neocons and movement thralls — Pat Buchanan was in the mix alongside Rich Lowry and David Brooks — but Packer only spoke to established names, when the most interesting developments on the Right are taking place on the margins. Most of the conservatives he interviewed (Mr. Buchanan excepted) are ready for embalming.

The Ron Paul movement is one obvious sign of new life on the Right. Just consider this recent New York Times piece on the Paul movement. (And take note: the NYT banishes Ron Paul to the Style section, while Brooks and Bill Kristol occupy the op-ed pages.) What’s important is not just the number and energy of the Paul converts, but their youth and radicalism. Not all of these young people will remain politically — and more important, philosophically — engaged, but those who do will, I suspect, count for a heck of a lot more than the yuppies who descend on Washington to take jobs in the conservative establishment. The latter have access to much greater resources. But they serve a dead and discredited orthodoxy.

What’s also impressive about the Paulists is that theirs is a confident and positive movement. As corny as it may be, the “rEVOLution” slogan tells us something important about the movement: it’s not fueled by resentment. For good or ill, angry white men were indispensable to the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 and to the Buchanan campaigns in 1992 and 1996. But that style of politics has long since burnt out, as the fate of Tom Tancredo’s mock presidential campaign shows. The Paul movement is hopeful.

The other encouraging development on the Right is similarly forward-looking. It’s harder to give this trend a name, because it’s not centered around one person or book, but Rod Dreher and his “crunchy cons” idea are a touchstone. It’s a new direction in traditionalism, away from post-industrial angst and toward a post-industrial way of life. It includes raw-milk enthusiasts and conservatives against animal cruelty; there’s also a real effort — or so it seems to me, anyway — among these conservatives to think locally and act locally. There’s a religious element to it, but it’s very different from the tired cant of the Falwells and Dobsons. And it’s brightest lights, unlike many traditionalists of old, are not anti-market.

I don’t know how big this second movement is; my sense of it comes from bloggers like John Schwenkler and Lee McCracken. You might call it the Wendell Berry-Michael Pollan Right. Like the Ron Paul movement, it’s antiwar, decentralist, and relatively hopeful. The Paulists and crunchies alike are “Hippies of the Right” — or Franciscans of the Right? — in that sense.

An article focusing on these trends would have been a lot more interesting than Packer’s survey of the usual suspects droning on about the usual Republican politics.

In Print and Coming Your Way

Posted May 22, 2008 by Daniel McCarthy
Categories: Politics

Tags: , , , , ,

Keep an eye out for the June 2 issue of The American Conservative, which went to press today. It includes my article on the battle for Virginia’s Eighth Congressional District, which pits Ron Paul-inspired Republican Amit Singh against Mark Ellmore, a candidate sometimes compared to Mike Huckabee. In Singh’s case, the race puts to the test the ability of a new generation of limited-government conservative to appeal to voters in a difficult (read: Democratic-leaning) district. After its recent special election losses in Mississippi, Illinois, and Louisiana, the GOP is in desperate need of a new brand. The Eighth District candidates offer two possibilities.

What If…?

Posted May 19, 2008 by Daniel McCarthy
Categories: War

Tags: , , ,

If Al Gore had become president in place of George W. Bush, we would have wound up with Joe Lieberman in Dick Cheney’s stead. Plus ca change

Don’t say the neocons don’t keep their bases covered.

“The Eternal Struggle Between Paralytics and Epileptics”

Posted May 17, 2008 by Daniel McCarthy
Categories: Uncategorized

That’s Ortega y Gasset’s definition of history, according to Albert Camus’s 1951-1959 notebooks.

A Conservative History of the American Left

Posted May 14, 2008 by Daniel McCarthy
Categories: Books, Conservatism, The Left

Tags: , ,

One more review to plug today: my take on Daniel Flynn’s A Conservative History of the American Left, which is now up (and going on the main page tomorrow, I think) at the American Spectator‘s website.

A Conservative History of the American Left

The New Buchanan Book

Posted May 14, 2008 by Daniel McCarthy
Categories: Books, Uncategorized, War

Tags: , , , ,

With a title like Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, Pat Buchanan’s new book might seem designed to court controversy. But that’s not the case, at least not as far as I have been able to tell from the first 100 pages. For one thing, “Unnecessary War” is not Buchanan’s phrase, it’s Churchill’s. Buchanan was spurred to write the book by a letter he received from George Kennan after he sent Kennan a copy of A Republic, Not an Empire. Kennan agreed with Buchanan’s view in the earlier book that the British guarantee of Poland’s security “was neither necessary nor wise” (in Kennan’s words). The new book expands on that idea, among many others.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft reviews Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, alongside volumes by John Lukacs, Nicholson Baker, and Lynne Olson, here. Wheatcroft is critical of Buchanan (“Although Buchanan’s argument isn’t stupid, it requires something like a historiographical sleight of hand, and is conducted backward, as it were”), but he isn’t romantic about Churchill:

Churchill led the way in cruel, brutish, and exterminatory war-making against women and children partly thanks to his uncompromising personality, partly thanks to what was seen as the logic of the situation. Three years after he hoped for “devastating, exterminating” attacks on civilians, he was shown blazing German towns filmed from the air, and exclaimed, “Are we beasts? Have we taken this too far?” And two years after that he tried (not very creditably) to dissociate himself from the destruction of Dresden by Bomber Command.

There’s much more of a Churchill cult in America than in his (and Wheatcroft’s) home country. A reconsideration of him is long overdue.

The Revolution Reviewed

Posted May 14, 2008 by Daniel McCarthy
Categories: Books, Conservatism, Liberty, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

The season of Kauffmaniana continues, as Bill takes a look at Ron Paul’s book over at Taki’s Magazine. Here’s a taste:

As for the word “isolationist,” which I’ve always thought had a nice pacific ring to it, Rep. Paul gives taxonomic reversal the old college try. He tags the unilateral bullies of the Bush administration “isolationists” and avers, “I favor the very opposite of isolation: diplomacy, free trade, and freedom of travel.” And ‘tis true that the “isolationist” Paul was the only GOP presidential hopeful to support lifting sanctions against Cuba.

He fires off this nice line: “Mine is an ‘isolationist’ position only to those who believe that the world’s peoples can interact with each other only through their governments, or only through the intermediary of a supranational bureaucracy.”

Update: Dave Weigel offers a Reason-ed review of The Revolution here, while Stacy McCain reviews Bill’s book over at The American Spectator on-line.


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