NeverTrumper Bill Kristol, a staunch Republican neoconservative who self-styled as a conservative for decades, particularly during the Bush II years, now calls for his fellow NeverTrumpers to “rebrand” as “liberals.”
The significance of this can’t be overstated, for Kristol, a figure whose ideology is of a piece with that of the Republican Party of which his was an especially audible voice for much of this young century, has vindicated what some of us have been saying for quite some:
The GOP is not, as it insists, “conservative.”
It is neoconservative.
And between neoconservatism and classical or traditional conservatism, there is a difference not merely in degree, but in kind.
Bill’s own father, Irving, was explicit on this score. In contrast to traditional conservatives, he wrote, neoconservatives embrace “the welfare state.” They enthusiastically endorse “social security, unemployment insurance, some form of national health insurance [i.e. “universal healthcare” or “socialized medicine”], some kind of family assistance plan, etc.”
Nor, Irving Kristol continued, will neoconservatives hesitate “to interfere with the market for overriding social purposes.”
Neocons do not want to “destroy the welfare-state [.]” Quite the contrary, they seek to “reconstruct” the welfare-state “along more economical and humane lines.”
Neoconservative Nathan Glazer goes so far as to suggest that neocons are essentially socialists. “It’s very hard for us,” for neocons and socialists, “to define what it is that divides us, in any centrally principled way.” While they may disagree over policies, there doesn’t appear to be any “principles that separate us [.]”
In his book on this subject, neoconservative Douglas Murray underscores the immensity of the divide between traditional conservatism and his ideology of choice. He explains, rightly, that “socially, economically, and philosophically,” neoconservatism differs in kind from conservatism. The former, Murray says, is “revolutionary.”
The Bill Kristols of the world decided to rebrand once before when they immigrated from the Democrat Party, their original home. In the late 1960’s, the Party of the Jack Ass began drifting too far to the left for their taste. The fortunes of “conservatism” as a label were rising just as those of “liberalism” were beginning to experience a reversal.
It was time to cash in.
As if overnight, these anti-communist liberal Democrats became “conservatives.”
Those of their critics who objected to this attempt to hijack conservatism as a concept and burgeoning post-World War II political movement would be dismissed, purged. Critics would be demonized as “racists,” “anti-Semites,” and, in short, “extremists.”
However successful these smear campaigns against their enemies proved to be—and they were indeed successful much more often than not—they could not alter the reality that neoconservatives were and remain soft (and not always so soft) leftist liberals. In light of this thesis, the last couple of decades begin to make more sense, putting the lie to the notion that the neocons’ home, the Republican Party, was ever a vehicle for true conservatism.
That, scandalously, Republicans have failed to keep their pledge to repeal Obamacare may have something to do with their animosity toward President Trump. There is, though, another reason to account for their infidelity:
Republicans don’t mind Obamacare.
As Irving Kristol’s remarks make clear, neoconservatives—i.e. those who have held the lion’s share of the power within the GOP—have long desired a universal or national healthcare system of some sort.
More to the point, their deceptive rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding, neoconservative Republicans are as opposed to Big Government as are Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama.
In 2008, “some of Congress’s staunchest conservatives,” as Newsmax put it, “voted…to prop up the nation’s banking industry.” The “conservative” president, George W. Bush, against the opposition of such Senate liberal Democrats as Charles Schumer and Chris Dodd, granted $700 million via the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
Not long after that, President Bush, along with his “conservative” Congress, extended billions in bailout subsidies to the auto industry.
The party dedicated to “limited government” and “freedom” not only favors public education; neoconservatives have sought measures to strengthen the federal government’s hold over public education.
From the Republicans’ passage of “No Child Left Behind” under George W. Bush to the embrace of Common Core by such “conservative” governors and presidential candidates as Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, neoconservatives have aggressively undermined the privileges and rights of school communities at the local and state levels to supply to their children the kind of education that would benefit them most.
Yet public education is far from the only socialist phenomenon that neoconservatives have labored to further entrench. They have also worked to “save” or “reform” Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Even the Affordable Health Care Act—i.e. “Obamacare”—against which neoconservatives rail is a socialist monstrosity that they want to repeal and replace.
Jeb Bush’s proposal for national healthcare is instructive. Bush’s plan would have, among many other things, “encourage” states to see to it that insurers offer “affordable” plans that cover those with “pre-existing conditions.” It would also “promote innovation” by “modernizing the Food and Drug Administration, investing in the National Institutes of Health, and facilitating big data solutions in health care.”
Since Hillary Clinton popularized the moniker “alt-right,” some Trump supporters have begun using “alt-left” to label their leftist opponents. This, however, is a mistake. As I argued before this became a practice, just as “alt-right” was meant to refer to a right-wing that is an alternative to the “official” right, i.e. the neoconservative GOP, so too must “alt-left” refer to a stealth or unofficial left.
It makes no sense to refer to CNN anchors or NY Times writers or Barack Obama as members of the alt-left, for neither they nor anyone else is in danger of mistaking these figures for anything other than leftists.
I submitted then that the alt-left consists of…neoconservatives. And this is the thesis that I believe I proved here.
If Bill Kristol was interested in truthful advertising, he would encourage his fellow travelers to rebrand as “alt-leftists.”