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.

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The Revolution Reviewed

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.

Two Takes on Bill Buckley and a Look at the Future of the Right

WFB’s memorial service was yesterday. Matthew Richer and Austin Bramwell offer some reflections on the man they knew — lightly in Richer’s case, somewhat better in Bramwell’s. As you might anticipate from the venue, Richer’s VDARE commentary is rather scathing. Bramwell is affectionate but also judicious; this bit from his article is particularly revealing:

The net result of his divesting himself of control of National Review was to turn over ownership of the magazine to its employees. Today, Rich Lowry is the editor-owner of National Review to nearly the same extent that Buckley himself was. Lowry is by no means an untalented journalist. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that anybody would have chosen him as the man to control NR for the next fifty years. This result could have been avoided, if Buckley had cared enough to prevent it. As far as I could tell, however, he did know enough about NR even to begin to have any influence. His ignorance of the affairs of his own magazine at times astonished me. Although Bill congratulated me on my criticisms of movement conservatism and spoke candidly of its failings, its future simply did not concern him.

Meanwhile, the American Spectator blog has several items up — by Christopher Orlet, J.P. Freire, and Jim Antle — on Jeff Hart’s recent Buckley reminiscence in TAC and what it indicates about the future of the conservative movement. Daniel Larison comments as well.

Orlet asks whether a movement with as much young talent as conservatism has can really be doomed. Of course it can. Young journalists are one thing, but there’s no young Willmoore Kendall or young James Burnham or young Frank Meyer on the scene. No, I wouldn’t expect a 20-year-old or a 30-year-old to have the gravity of any of those thinkers — but even looking at our 40-year-olds and 50-year-olds, I can’t think of too many who are of much significance as theorists or academics. Some of the “Catholic Straussians” fit into that age cohort and are notable, but the best of them, Patrick Deneen, is at his best when he’s furthest from movement conservatism. There are some keen minds among the generation of conservatives ages 25 to 60, but few of them seem as keen as the minds of the conservatives who are in their 60s or older. (Maybe that’s not quite right: you could get another Stephen Tonsor or another Jeffrey Hart. But you won’t get another Robert Nisbet, I suspect.)

Part of the problem on the theoretical side is that too many of the best young minds in conservatism have followed Buckley’s example by shunning grad school and embracing journalism or the movement instead. That’s what I’ve done. (Daniel Larison is one of the few who hasn’t — he’s somehow writing more than anyone else and getting a Ph.D. too.)

In politics, the situation is even more embarrassing for conservatives. The failure to produce a single conservative leader of a caliber even close to Goldwater or Reagan (as flawed as both of them were) over the course of some five decades — for that’s how long the movement has been around — is conspicuous. Nobody who came out of Young Americans for Freedom went on to become a leading politician. Former College Republicans heads turn into backroom strategists like Ralph Reed and Karl Rove, advisers to awful politicians rather than awful politicians themselves. It’s ironic that a movement that become increasingly political over time has never become any better at cultivating young statesmen. Mostly, it just creates hacks and para-politicians; campaign managers rather than candidates.

There’s a silver lining to all of this. The conservative movement has gone so far off the rails over the last half-century that a wholesale reconstruction is in order, if not a replacement of the movement by something else. There’s some real intellectual fermentation going on in the exile quarters of the Right — among reactionary radicals and some of the more daring libertarians. This fermentation actually looks a lot like the Old Right, in the sense that it’s producing journalists who are more than just journalists (I’m thinking of people like Mencken or Bill Kauffman) and may yet produce some theorists. With the Ron Paul movement, it may have created some statesmen, too, though it will take some time to find out who they might be. For now, this alternative Right is more hoped-for than apparent, but it has the right ideas, and that’s more than can be said for the Bush-McCain movement.

Scattershot Notes

Contrary to my stated intention, @TAC actually has cut into Tory Anarchist blogging, at least a little bit. But then, this blog is more of a place for stray thoughts, so I don’t feel too shabby if I let it go for a few days. I don’t plan to let it go as long as I have sometimes done in the past, though. (Especially since I was a little intimidated — flattered, but intimidated — to see the Tory Anarchist quoted, at some length, in Bill Kauffman’s new book, Ain’t My America.)

Right now the stray thought on my mind is a theme: movement making. I have a post up at @TAC talking about the Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee movements, taking a few cues from Doug Wead. (And as an aside: while I identify Wead as an influential evangelical and former Bush I staffer, he also happens to have been the Arizona Republican congressional candidate whom Barry Goldwater famouly refused to endorse in 1992, was when BG was vociferously dissenting form the religious right’s influence on the Arizona party. BG endorsed Democrat Karan English instead.) I’m also at work on an article for the print magazine on post-campaign developments with the Ron Paul movement.

In my spare moments, I’ve been reading Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72. The Thompson cult is too hip for my tastes — and many a young writer has been ruined trying to emulate the godfather of gonzo — but I’m enjoying the book a great deal. George McGovern is the hero of the book, and since McGovern is also one of the good guys in Kauffman’s book (which I’ll eventually be reviewing, the fact that I’m quoted therein notwithstanding) means that I suppose Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail counts as research. My Ron Paul campaign colleague Jonathan Bydlak was the one who recommended the book to me — a good call.

Missouri GOP Cheats Ron Paul

I’m a native of Missouri and went to college at Washington University in St. Louis, where I was involved in the College Republicans. For a time, I was secretary of the Missouri Federation of College Republicans, too. So I know how things work in the Missouri GOP, and I know that there are some utterly corrupt people in it. I wasn’t surprised when Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, decided he wouldn’t be running for re-election. He’s a rotten egg.

Needless to say, the establishment in the Missouri Republican Party doesn’t like the idea of Ron Paul Republicans coming in and getting elected as delegates to the state convention. Ron Paul supporters won fair and square in the Show Me state’s recent caucuses, but the crooks infesting the party don’t want to accept the result, and they’re trying to disqualify the Ron Paul delegates. Here’s the Paul campaign’s press release on what’s going on:

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA – The Ron Paul campaign has been receiving reports that Missouri GOP rules have been violated in the set-up and execution of several county Republican caucuses. Ron Paul supporters in Missouri have been attending their county caucuses and electing Ron Paul delegates to be seated at the Missouri Republican State Convention. However, there are concerns that many Ron Paul delegates to the Missouri Republican State Convention were disenfranchised and not properly seated.

On Thursday, March 20, campaign field director Debbie Hopper visited the Missouri state GOP headquarters to request a copy of the records needed to obtain the information to file challenges. She was told in front of witnesses that she could not view the report. To obtain the needed information, Ms. Hopper then used the contact information of county chairs listed on the state GOP website. On Saturday, March 22, the webpage containing their contact information had been removed.

The Paul campaign believes that a handful of GOP officials are playing machine politics and breaking their own rules to disenfranchise Paul supporters.

“The Republican party is in trouble and needs more participants in 2008, not less,” said campaign manger Lew Moore. “It makes no sense for Missouri party leaders to exclude and marginalize the new activists they badly need to work at every level this fall.”

Republican presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s supporters have been highly successful in several Missouri counties. In St. Charles County (suburb of St. Louis), Paul supporters filled 241 of the 274 country Republican delegate slots. In Jackson County (Kansas City), Paul supporters filled 162 of 187 delegate slots. And in Greene County (Springfield), Paul supporters filled 72 of 112 delegate slots.

The Neocons’ Bid for the Pro-Life Movement

I have a new piece up at Taki’s Magazine in which I take a look at the efforts of neocons Ramesh Ponnuru, Joseph Bottum, and James Hitchcock to win over the antiabortion movement — and why pro-lifers should reject them and follow the lead of Ron Paul and Benedict XVI instead. Check it out.

Ron Paul Roundup

John McCain has the delegates he needs, but Ron Paul is still working to call the GOP back to the noninterventionist, small-government principles it had in the days of Howard Buffet and Robert A. Taft. Here’s Newsweek‘s Sarah Elkins’s interview with Dr. Paul from last Friday, in which he shares his thoughts about party unity (never at the expense of principle), Ralph Nader, and more. And here’s a report on some funny business going on in my native state, Missouri, where Ron Paul supporters showed up in force for the Republican caucuses. Jared Craighead, executive director of the MO GOP, doesn’t want to let Debbie Hopper, national field director for Ron Paul 2008, have a look at the reports from the caucuses — even though the deadline for challenging the reports is coming up on Tuesday. It reminds me of the kind of dirty tricks the Louisiana Party played.

Meanwhile, former campaign staffers are at work on some very intriguing post-campaign projects. But mum’s the word on all of that for now…

A Libertarian Syllabus

A friend of mine who is involved in youth politics asked me to put together a curriculum for Ron Paul libertarians, a four-year course of study that will take students from the basics of free-market economics and the Constitution into the deeper waters where theory, history, and policy meet. Here’s the tentative curriculum I’ve come up with:

Year 1

Ron Paul – The Revolution: A Manifesto
Barry Goldwater – The Conscience of a Conservative
Tom Paine – “Common Sense,” “The Crisis”
The Federalist (selections)
The Anti-Federalist Papers (selections)
The Constitution of the United States of America
Douglas Hyde – Dedication and Leadership
Henry Hazlitt – Economics in One Lesson
Murray Rothbard – What Has Government Done to Our Money?

I’m fairly confident in this first-year syllabus. Arguably I ought to add Thomas Woods’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and Kevin R.C. Gutzman’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution, but I wanted to restrict myself mostly to primary sources. The Federalist, Anti-Federalist, and Paine selections, plus the Constitution itself, will give students a basic feel for what was at stake in the Revolutionary War and the struggle over ratification. Hazlitt’s book is a terrific economic primer. Hyde’s very short book is an activist’s handbook. The Paul and Goldwater books both establish the essential character of the movement. And Rothbard’s brief book is a good introduction to Dr. Paul’s thinking on monetary policy.

This isn’t as much reading as it might look like, since most of these texts aren’t long.

Year 2

Gene Callahan – Economics for Real People
Frederic Bastiat – The Law
Israel Kirzner – Ludwig von Mises
Andrew Bacevich – American Empire
Ron Paul – A Foreign Policy of Freedom
Justin Raimondo – Reclaiming the American Right

The Law is basic enough that it could be included in Year 1, but I actually think it’s better to have some grounding in economics before reading The Law. The Callahan and Kirzner books will serve as the student’s introduction to specifically Austrian economics. Bacevich’s book is still, to my mind, the best general introduction to what’s wrong with American foreign policy that’s on the market. And since Bacevich is a conservative Catholic and former Army colonel, it’s not easy to dismiss him as an anti-American leftist. His book provides scholarly support for the views expressed in Ron Paul’s collection. Justin Raimondo’s book, meanwhile, ties things together, showing how the Right was drawn into supporting an interventionist foreign policy and the beginnings of the Old Right’s comeback in the early 1990s.

Year 3

Friedrich Hayek – The Road to Serfdom
Murray Rothbard – America’s Great Depression
Albert Jay Nock – Our Enemy, the State
Chalmers Johnson – Blowback
Ludwig von Mises – Liberalism

Now we’re getting into deceptively deep waters. Hayek and Rothbard make a good unit, since both show the relationship economic crisis and the growth of state power. Rothbard’s book provides answers to the usual Keynesian and left-liberal arguments that we need the Federal Reserve to stave off another depression, while Hayek spells out where state economic interventionism leads. Liberalism is a relatively easy-going introduction to Mises and sets out the positive case for classical liberalism. Johnson’s Blowback picks up the foreign-policy thread from the last year’s syllabus, showing how foreign-policy interventionism gives rise to terrorism, or “blowback” in the CIA’s term. Nock’s short but deceptively dense book presents a general case against state action. On reflection, this course fits together better than I originally thought it did.

Year 4

Murray Rothbard – Man, Economy, and State
Hans-Hermann Hoppe – Democracy: The God That Failed
Michael Scheuer – Imperial Hubris
Robert Pape – Dying to Win

Now we’re into some very long texts. I originally had Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action listed in place of Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State, but I decided that the latter would be somewhat easier going on the students, and it’s a fine summation of Austrian economics in its own right. Hoppe’s book builds upon Rothbard and applies his thoughts to controversial policy questions such as immigration. Scheuer and Pape complete the student’s basic training in foreign policy, presenting some hard realities about war, nation-building, occupation, and terrorism.

I welcome everyone’s feedback on this list. As I say, it’s a rough draft, and I’d like to fine-tune it. There are many other libertarian and conservative books that I’d like to include, but these seem like the best fit for what my friend has in mind. I may have overlooked something important, however, so feel free to make other suggestions.