I’ve just been reading on Breitbart a tirade against Bill Kristol, which features a comparison between this supposedly falling neocon star and the author’s friend Tony, who landed in jail after stabbing his ex-wife’s lover. Just like Tony, who unsuccessfully tried to attract his divorced wife’s attention, Bill, we are told, is going nuts in expressing his contempt for Donald Trump. But like Tony, who in a fit of frustration destroyed his own life, Bill may be self-destructing as he disses a transformed conservative establishment.
I’m not sure that this labored comparison works since I’ve no idea what the equivalent is in Bill’s case to Tony “being sent to jail.” Anyhow I’ve seen other more forceful recent attacks on Kristol from Trump-supporters and even vanilla conservatives, and while I fully share their distaste for their target, I doubt that any of them is entirely correct. If my own understanding of the conservative movement is accurate, then Kristol’s critics assume a degree of flexibility in their movement that’s not really there. The current conservative movement came to be what it is because of those interests that shaped it. Its donor base is made up noticeably of supporters of weapon procurement and foreign policy hawks. These benefactors are very much in line with Kristol’s Weekly Standard and the Washington Free Beacon, run by Bill’s son-in-law, Matthew Continetti. Paul Singer, Rupert Murdoch, Sheldon Adelson, and other backers of neoconservative enterprises and Washington “conservative” think-tanks are unlikely to abandon Bill Kristol simply because he’s taken whacks at The Donald, whom most of these donors also hate – or barely tolerate. Nor has Kristol broken all ties to his old associates. He never followed George Will’s lead in dissociating himself from the Republican Party. Indeed, he remains a registered Republican and is still something of a “#NeverTrump conservative.”
Moreover, the conservative movement, at least since the end of the Cold War, has excommunicated right-wing dissenters but never to my knowledge those who have leaned too far toward the left. During the Cold War, expulsions took place because of insufficient belligerence toward the Soviet Union, as in the case of my deceased friend Murray Rothbard, but only rarely because conservative publicists were deemed too far to the right. But since the 1980s, expulsions have occurred because the excommunicated were considered right-wing nuisances. As Jonah Goldberg points out, it was necessary for the movement to “throw friends and allies off the bus from time to time.” Those who stressed racial disparities, criticized civil rights legislation, or were viewed as “isolationists” in foreign policy, and therefore accused of fascist sympathies, have been the recent targets of conservative movement purges. Equally suspect have been those deemed insufficiently pro-Israel, which is not surprising, given the movement’s donor base and its desire to attract Christian Zionist support.