The world’s press seems to have discovered the neocons and fingered them as the villains in America’s great leap into imperial decadence by its pre-emptive war against Iraq. This belated revelation brings only a wry and sad satisfaction to some of us. Professor Claes Ryn, Professor Paul Gottfried, Yours Truly, and others have been warning the commonwealth about this nasty little cabal for well over twenty years now. (There is nothing less rewarding than being right too soon. Look what happened to Cassandra.)
Nevertheless, I wonder if the "Blame the Neocons" chorus hasn’t become as excessive as it is belated and repetitive — a diversion from more fundamental problems. These people have never received a single vote in any election. They are courtiers who owe all their power to manipulation of people who have been voted for. The neocons are opportunists of power. Opportunists go where there is opportunity. Who gave them the opportunity to pursue an agenda that has never been presented honestly to the people?
While their power seems to have become particularly apparent lately in foreign affairs, there is nothing new about it. It has been there since Reagan took office, when neocon gophers like Bill Bennett took over all the cultural and educational functions of the federal government. It was startlingly evident when Vice President Dan Quayle was appointed gopher to neocon Bill Kristol. (I liked him much better on "Saturday Night Live" than in politics.)
Could it be that the neocons are not the problem, but merely a symptom of the problem? Would they even exist in their present form if they had not seen the chance presented by the vast gaping vacuum of ideas and principles that is the Republican Party, and particularly its current leader?
Think back to 2000, when "conservative" spokesmen, some of whom were honest people who should have known better, exhorted us that we must vote for Bush, even if we had to hold our nose. The alternative was unthinkable! The Democrats might get in! Then we would have abortion, gay rights, affirmative action, judicial tyranny, socialized medicine, needless foreign war, massive spending, deficits, and debt! Save what is left of America! Vote Republican! Yeah, right.
I often raised objections in conversation to this exhortation. What reason did we have to think that George W. Bush would avert all those disasters? Exactly none. The evidence was all the other way — massively and conclusively. The best response I ever got from the reluctant Bush warriors (which I still hear all the time) was "at least Bush is a good Christian man" who would cleanse the White House of the sewage left behind by the long incumbency of Clinton. As if Bush were running against Clinton rather than Gore. This about a man who professed a shallow, carnival-tent version of Christianity. A Christian who has subsequently altered the American creed of "Protestant, Catholic, and Jew" to "Protestant, Catholic, Jew, and Muslim." And given his stand on immigration, we will soon have Santeria and Hinduism added.
It seems to come down to this: Bush was elected (sort of) because of name recognition (son of a former, if failed, President) and because he seemed less depraved than Clinton.
What did we know for certain about George W. Bush in 2000?
We knew that he was not very bright, guaranteeing that as President he would be managed by others more intelligent. He seldom spoke coherently and had never expressed a thought that was other than a slogan or showed even a normal, every-day moral and intellectual maturity.
Intellect is not everything. Character is vital. Who knew it and when did they know it, as repentant Communists used to ask? What did we know about Bush’s character in 2000? An under-achieving rich boy who, as far as one could tell, had never done a day’s work in the real world or dealt with a real-world hardship in his life. An alcoholic who had shirked his military duties. A moral adolescent who smirked and snickered over the grave matter of capital punishment.
But, after all, he was a successful "conservative" governor, wasn’t he? Knowledgeable conservatives in Texas told us that as governor he had shunned conservatives at every turn and collaborated with the left on every spending and social issue. He was enthusiastic for affirmative action and the Mexification of the country. Whatever the Republican platform might say, and he repudiated that even before his formal nomination. There was not the tiniest reason to hope that the son of "Read My Lips" would do anything other than betray conservatives on every social issue. It was blatantly plain to all but liars and the willfully blind that his campaign statements were not expressions of belief or intent but merely stunts to gull a segment of the voters. Looking carefully, you could find no principle and only one large-scope policy proposal in his campaign for the seat of George Washington — that great conservative desideratum: nationalization of education!
No one in American history can more truly be said to have bought the office of President. His campaign chest, not his popularity, bought a quick nomination. The Republican convention of 2000 was not a convention — it was an infomercial. Not a single unpackaged idea appeared. Not a single real issue was debated or even mentioned. In fact, any member of the party who threatened to utter an unapproved thought was literally barred from the platform in favor of endless boilerplate from media-approved celebrities. A travesty on the very essence of government of the people and a relay station on the road to emperor worship.
Then there was the election, which the Democrats tried to steal by a transparent fraud over a few votes in Florida. The conservative (i.e., honest) response to this would be to point out that the Democrats got as close as they did only because they had voted felons and aliens, bribed black preachers to get out the vote (something they learned from Reconstruction Republicans), and committed all their other usual felonies. That would have been a healthy dose of realism, but far too honest and forthright for Republicans. The proper authority, the state legislature, should have settled the disputed election. Instead, the Bushies ran to the most arbitrary and centralized power they could find, the Supreme Court, providing new validation for judicial activism and leaving the charge of a stolen Presidency hanging in the air. All that counted was grabbing the office. The democratic integrity of the process was of no interest even when it was on their side.
Bush voters are now complaining about his appointments — the evils perpetrated by Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Ashcroft, Perle, etc. But why should they be surprised? There has been no unexpected coup. Neocons like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have impeccable credentials as Republican appointees going back to Reagan. As for Ashcroft and his zealous pursuit of a police state, why he is just a standard-issue Republican politico, interchangeable with several dozen other governors and congressmen. Substitute any of them for Ashcroft and they would still be supporting "my President" in all. For that matter, why should anyone who has ever heard of Edwin M. Stanton, William H. Seward, Earl Warren, or Thaddeus Stevens be surprised at Republican indifference to individual liberty?
For that matter, there is nothing in Bush’s action and rhetoric of benevolent aggression that is radically incompatible with the tradition of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Nixon, Reagan, or Bush the Previous, who declared himself to be Prince of The New World Order.
Hard leftists understood the neocons from the beginning and dismissed them contemptuously as opportunists. Some of the leftists are intelligent and realistic about power. So the neocons had to go where there were "leaders" vacuous enough to regard them as brilliant thinkers and policy architects. Taking over the Republican "leaders" was child’s play. The Republicans have always had a liking for empty brains behind pretty faces. We are talking here about the party of such intellectual giants as William McKinley, Warren Harding, Nelson Rockefeller, Dan Quayle, and Jack Kemp. Sam Francis recently wrote that the left preferred the neocons as their official opposition because the neocons are not really conservative. True. They also prefer them because they are either mentally challenged or conspicuously unattractive, unlike, say, Ronald Reagan or Pat Buchanan.
The leftists have made some cogent criticisms of Bush imperialism, some of which have appeared on LewRockwell.com, but I wish they would stop attributing his sins to his being a Christian and a Texan. The Republican religious right has nothing to do with Christianity and Bush is no more a Texan than Hillary Clinton is from Arkansas, even if his fellow Yalies made him feel less than a true blue Yankee because his family had emigrated to the colonies. Thinking that God has chosen you to make war to purify the world is pure Connecticut, as is making a show of it. We are talking here about Connecticut’s two greatest contributions to American culture — John Brown and P.T. Barnum. Not that Texans don’t have their own faults to answer for. Lyndon Johnson probably did more irreparable damage to our country than even Lincoln or Roosevelt, or anybody before George W.
Why do people who should know better keep invoking the strange fallacy that to choose a Republican over a Democrat is to strike a blow for conservatism? The Republican Party came to power in a Jacobin revolution, implemented by the wholesale murder of dissenting Americans. Its "conservatism" has always consisted of support for one version of "capitalism" — not free markets and free enterprise but private ownership with government subsidy. The only government involvement in the economy it has ever opposed is that of which favored corporations disapproved.
And it has always covered up that real agenda with appeals to the respectable but not too bright part of the population, marketed in demagogic packaging that pointed to the alleged evils of its opponents: "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion," i.e., the perils presented by un-American Catholics and Southerners; or made claims to be the keeper of prosperity: "Vote Yourself a Farm" (Lincoln), or "A Chicken in Every Pot" (Hoover). Millions of people were apparently convinced that being against Clinton was the same thing as being in favor of something worthwhile.
There are, of course, some actual conservatives in the Republican Party, mainly in the House of Representatives where the officeholders have to make some connection with real, living constituents. During the 1930s and 1940s, some Republican conservatives, of a breed now nearly extinct, did heroic service opposing the government’s plunge into international mayhem. However, they never had sufficient strength to nominate a presidential candidate or prevent very many evils.
The 1960s saw an upsurge of real conservatism in response to the closely related phenomena of ongoing breakdown of civilization and unbridled expansion of federal greed and power. The consequence of that upsurge was the Goldwater nomination. As with Reagan later, the party tilted in a conservative direction mainly because of the influx of expelled Democrats, like Reagan himself, who had inherited ideas, however attenuated, of such un-Republican things as state’s rights and limited government.
But the Republican Establishment made short work of the rebellious canaille who had nominated Goldwater. He was killed off, even before he was nominated, by the "respectable" powers in his own party collaborating with the leftist media to brand him as extremist. The only states he carried were traditionally Democratic ones. The real Republicans never actually lost control of the party. The mantle then fell to Nixon, who, like the Bushes, was compelled to make dishonest and unwelcome conservative noises for one reason and one reason only: because the Democrat George Wallace had brought some genuine issues into the public discourse.
Nostalgists still hearken back to the Reagan Revolution, which never took place except in imagination. The Reagan Revolution was over before the nomination was formalized, when the bankers forced him to accept a "mainstream" Republican on the ticket. The crusade to restrain the federal government, to correct the fraud, incompetence, insolence, and extravagance of its departments, never even got out of port, much less sailed for the Holy Land. And whatever moral capital was left was picked up by the Establishment Republicans once more. Clearly Bush the Previous had no affinity for the social conservatives he had to pretend to care for. Like his son, his instincts on the social questions were pure northeastern Liberal Republican. Previous Bush’s Liberal Republican appointee to head the National Endowment of the Arts subsidized Mapplethorpe and the other abominations. Out in the provinces there were many very talented, under-recognized artists who might have been encouraged, some of whom had even voted Republican, but of course they were not Establishment.
The only hope for conservatism, that is, for preservation of some semblance of civilized order and liberty, is a populist party along the lines of the real Reagan coalition of 1980 — economic freedom and social conservatism. And the first essential objective of such a party must be to destroy and replace the Republican Party. All else is sound and fury.
I can already hear the Bush re-election bandwagon in the distance. "Get on Board! Vote Bush and Save America from Hillary Clinton!" Will the millions of our fellow citizens yet again clamber aboard and hosanna their way down the road to perdition? If so, I fear it will prove that we suffer not from bad leadership but from a fatal defect of national character.