In his latest column Pat Buchanan writes eloquently about a “civil war on the right.” According to Pat, “conservatives” are now locked in mortal combat over the future of the American Right, and the sides are divided between the fans and despisers of populist presidential candidate Donald Trump. From this narrative it seems that while some “conservatives” are rooting for the Donald, others are ready to bolt the Republican Party if he picks up the Republican presidential nomination.
Although the events Pat describes are indeed unfolding, his label is misleading. Whatever political term one may decide to confer on Trump, most of those who are now railing against him, led by Rich Lowry and his band at National Review, are hardly “conservative.” They are essentially leftists, who are slightly less leftist than their friends at the Washington Post and at other national papers, whose editorial pages are graced by such “conservatives” as Jennifer Rubin, Charles Krauthammer, George Will, and Michael Barone. Much of what looks like the Right has been forced to live in the shadows since the neoconservatives in conjunction with the establishment Left helped to marginalize a truer Right in the 1980s. Real “conservative wars” did take place in the 1980s; and the paleoconservatives and paleolibertarians were overrun by the other side’s superior resources. The winning side was led by the neoconservatives who were helped significantly by the journalistic Left.
What happened in those years resulted in having “conservative” and “liberal” labels assigned to factions that had once belonged on the Left. By now of course the “conservative” label means whatever the media and our two official parties wish it to mean. Thus we encounter advocates of gay marriage, David Boas and John Podhoretz featured among National Review‘s “conservatives,” in a battle against the supposed interloper from the left, Donald Trump? It is certainly hard, and perhaps even impossible, to locate the “conservative” substance or worldview uniting the critics of Trump in National Review. Why should we think, for example, that National Review expresses “conservatism” when it protests Vladimir Putin’s critiques of “Western social decadence” and when a National Review-regular contributor wishes to intervene in Ukraine on behalf of the transgendered? Does the magazine represent the “conservative” side in international relations, as opposed to, say, self-described leftist Steven Cohen, who has urged greater moderation in dealing with the conservative nationalist Russian government?
Why are Republican presidential candidates who yearn to call Bibi and pledge him our unconditional support as soon as they’re elected taking the “conservative” side in anything? And is being in good standing with Rupert Murdoch and Sheldon Adelson the current operative definition of being a “conservative”? Perhaps Richard Lowry and Marco Rubio could answer this question for us. But it’s unlikely they would, since I’m considered to be the sworn enemy of “conservativism,” whatever that term has now come to mean. Not surprisingly, National Review and most of its anti-Trump critics ran to affix the label “conservative” to Mitt Romney, John McCain and to other centrist, leaning-left Republicans when they were nominated for president. The term “conservative” for these Trump-critics is synonymous with being acceptable to the Republican establishment.
It was also tiresome listening to Megyn Kelly on Fox news explain that “conservative luminaries” have denounced Trump as a leftist. Most of those who did the denouncing would have been viewed as social radicals by the American standards of the 1950s, that is, before the feminist and gay movements took over and before the government became an agency of accelerating Political Correctness. Further, the word “luminary” is one that I would reserve for figures of the stature of Shakespeare, Newton, Mozart, Goethe, and George Washington. Lesser but also significant luminaries in my time were Murray Rothbard, M.E. Bradford, Sam Francis and other brilliant thinkers whom Rich Lowry’s movement of yuppie journalists and pretentious cultural illiterates helped turn into non-persons.
Talking about the mislabeling of what Trump called a “dying” publication (which unfortunately is still not dead enough), the most unconvincing defense of NR’s tear against Trump was from those who wish to remind us that Bill Buckley set up a publication that would “stand athwart the time.” Since NR in 1955 was meant to be a “conservative” fortnightly, we are therefore supposed to believe that it has remained such. The problem with this evidence is that it proves nothing at all, except that in 1955 the founder of a particular enterprise had a certain intention which he may or may not have realized. One may doubt whether Buckley’s brain child ever realized its proposed goal (certainly those on the right whom he expelled would have questioned that).
But even if we do concede arguendo that the magazine was properly established to present conservative positions, why would I have to believe that sixty years later it is still doing the same thing? In the 1950s the New York Times was a pro-Eisenhower Republican newspaper; in 1940 the French daily Le Figaro was a right-wing nationalist one; and as late as fifteen years ago, Hans-Hermann Hoppe described the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quite accurately to me as “eine bürgerliche Zeitung (a bourgeois newspaper).” All these publications are now integral parts of the propaganda apparatus of the multicultural Left, although Le Figaro and the FAZ may be more sympathetic to corporate capitalism than the spasmodically socialist NYT.
Newspapers and news magazines change their politics over the decades, and most of them that have survived into our now perfected “liberal democracies” have moved decidedly to the left on a wide range of social and political issues. Despite the fact that its advertising still features, with ample support from leftist friends, the “conservative” name brand, National Review has undergone the kind of fundamental change that has characterized other publications that once belonged recognizably to the Right. Evidence of how far to the left this fortnightly has moved became apparent to me when I chanced upon a long tribute on National Review-Online to the Communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky. Particularly noteworthy about this fulsome tribute, by Steve Schwarz, was that it was prominently published in a “conservative” magazine.
The same publication had actively participated in purging and marginalizing those right-wing contributors (like me), who had failed to meet the PC criteria of the magazine’s control people. As I read NR’s tribute to a failed Communist global revolutionary, it dawned on me that what the editorial board understood as “conservative” was something far closer to Trotskyism than it was to what had passed for “conservatism” among NR’s founders in 1955. Needless to say, the term in question had signified something different to interwar opponents of the American welfare state than it did to Bill Buckley. Still, the two sides spoke to each other in a meaningful fashion. Although strife broke out on the right when Buckley espoused his own form of liberal interventionism, the anti-welfare state isolationists of the 1930s and the original editors of NR shared enough of the same universe of discourse to engage in communication. Moreover, by the present standards of ideological conformity that prevail at Lowry’s operation, the post-World War Two debates on what still looked like some kind of Right were models of free exchange. But today NR‘s editors and those whom they’ve helped flush down a memory hole could not even begin to hold a civil conversation. This may be attributed to the not insignificant fact that NR’s “conservatives” have taken over so much of the leftist spirit of the age that there is nothing conservative that they represent any longer.
See this quotation from NR; it’s unforgettable: “To my last breath, I will defend Trotsky who alone and pursued from country to country and finally laid low in his own blood in a hideously hot house in Mexico City, said no to Soviet coddling to Hitlerism, to the Moscow purges, and to the betrayal of the Spanish Republic, and who had the capacity to admit that he had been wrong about the imposition of a single-party state as well as about the fate of the Jewish people. To my last breath, and without apology. Let the neofascists and Stalinists in their second childhood make of it what they will.” [see Paul Gottfried’s commentary on Takimag.com, April 17, 2007]