Archive for the ‘Conservatism’ category

Support Phyllis Schlafly

May 8, 2008

Washington University — my alma mater, and also Phyllis Schlafly’s — is planning to award her an honorary doctorate. Predictably, the campus Left is outraged — and desperate to derail the accoldae.

I happen to think the practice of awarding honoring doctorates is ridiculous, but Schlafly is one of Wash U’s most famous alumnae and a woman who has accomplished a hell of a lot more than any of her critics. One doesn’t need to agree with her politics to acknowledge that she’s an historic, even iconic, figure. So far, most of the lefty malcontents have been expressing their hysteria by joining a Facebook group, while the university is standing firm.

There are pro-Schlafly Facebook groups too — at least two that I’ve joined. I hope other students, alumns, and supporters will sign-up and, more importantly, make sure that the university doesn’t capitulate. Abolish honorary doctorates if you don’t want to court controversy by awarding them, but if you’re going to have them, Phyllis Schlafly deserves one. It’s about time Wash U recognized her achievements — when I helped bring her to speak on campus way back when, she mentioned that it was the first time in decades that anyone at the university had extended an invitation. Frankly, it’s the university that will be doing itself the honor by giving Schlafly her due.

Against the West

April 28, 2008

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.

Antiwar Conservatism vs. Beltway Libertarianism

April 21, 2008

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.

In Print: Ron Paul, Bill Kauffman, and Ralph Adams Cram

April 20, 2008

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.)

Another Post Paleo Post

April 16, 2008

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.)

Notes on Nationalism

April 14, 2008

Here’s the link to my piece at Taki’s Magazine on nationalism and patriotism. There’s quite a bit of back-and-forth in the comments section.

In a nutshell, I say that patriotism has been taken to excess, particularly by conservatives, and nationalism (which is not simply excessive patriotism, but a distinct idea) is actually something that the United States could use a little more of. At least one commenter thinks my goal is to rehabilitate the word “nationalist,” but that’s not the case: I don’t like the word, and as I say in the piece, I’m not a nationalist. But nationalism, of the sort I describe and of the sort advocated by Samuel Huntington and Pat Buchanan, is much to be preferred over democratic imperialism (which is what patriotic sentiment has lately been annexed to) and anti-Western multiculturalism.

Most of all, though, I’m agitated by what I think is a dishonest use of language — the idea that patriotism can never be in error and that nationalism must always be a great evil. It seems to me that some truly nice, patriotic people can be driven by their patriotism to support folly. The Iraq War was not made possible just by the deceits of a handful of neocons. It was made possible because ordinary Americans thought that America could do no wrong from noble motives.

The Right Strategy

April 11, 2008

I have a rather discursive post up at Taki’s Magazine that draws together a few recent threads about Obamacons, Jim Webb, and the futures (such as they are) of conservatism and paleoconservatism.

Addendum: Memes relating to the subjects above have been making the rounds on several blogs. I’ll just link to three threads here: Ross Douthat, Stacy McCain, and Rod Dreher.