What’s Right With the Right

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.


11 thoughts on “What’s Right With the Right

  1. dylan waco May 25, 2008 / 7:09 pm


    I have been trying to make this point for a while. The folks looking for a the Middle American Radical uprising advocated by Donald Warren and Sam Francis can forget it. Most of those folks have either dropped out of the political arena or have dutifully reported to the polls year in and year out to vote for talk radio approved warmongers like Mitt Romney. This is not going to change.

    The youth vote is where it is at for a decentralist politics.


  2. Nathan P Origer May 26, 2008 / 2:19 am


    Thanks for this post. I find myself with one foot in each of the Hippie/Franciscan of the Right camps (maybe one deeper into the Berry-Pollan camp than the other reaches into the Paulist camp, but in both, nonetheless). Though I doubt I’m the only one in this position, I wonder how many of us exist, and, more important, if a serious new Rightist decentralist coalition can emerge between these groups (and, of course, welcoming various other paleo/decentralist cohorts, although I fear that the more we welcome, the more we risk spreading ourselves too thinly, devolving into a state of persistent in-fighting, and doing little to fight off the Leviathan).

  3. Evan McLaren May 26, 2008 / 9:55 pm

    As we started to leave, Frum smiled. “One of Buckley’s great gifts was the gift of timing,” he said. “To be twenty-five at the beginning and eighty-two at the end! But I’m forty-seven at the end.”

    I feel quite timely.

  4. David J May 27, 2008 / 2:47 am

    Nicely done. I am a recovering neo-con myself, and am absolutely disgusted with the hijacking of the Republican party by neo-cons. It happened almost without noticing on my part (and probably Limbaugh’s, Medved’s, Hannity’s, etc. – only they still defend it). I’m anxiously awaiting the release of Justin Raimondo’s new book on reclaiming the Old Right. I hope we can win back the party, because as of now, I almost don’t even recognize it. Thanks a lot, PNAC!

  5. Pingback: Law For Food
  6. Fault June 18, 2008 / 7:01 pm

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Fault

  7. elliotauden May 9, 2011 / 1:57 am

    I can see the support of bloggers and activists behind these movements and hope for the equivalent of Hayek, Nozick, Freedmam caliber thinkers to emerge soon. Dan’s analysis is top notch but in terms of the two camps, who do they look to? Or am I correct in thinking we still lack in that department?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s