August 05, 2015

A guide to the 17 GOP candidates at Thursday’s Fox News debate: A primer for Canadians, part V

David M. SwindleRebel Blogger

Dear Josh Lieblein,

I hope all is well in your world, my new friend. I’m very sorry that we haven’t been able to get going as soon as I’d hoped with our American-Canadian cross-cultural discussion. This month my wife and I are moving to be closer to her new job and the Los Angeles housing market is just as challenging and over-competitive as one would expect given how it’s been distorted by years of progressive Democrat over-regulating!

I enjoyed the back-and-forth in the comments we had about your Megaphone Post, “Shame and shamelessness: How the Right makes itself useful to the Left.” This point you made jumped out as especially useful in diagnosing one of the pathologies of your country’s political culture - it’s one I can relate to a lot down here in LA:

But of course Americans take their politics far more seriously, spend far more money, and- most importantly- being passionate about politics doesn’t make you weird in the States the way it does up here. OK, you think the Democrats are post-American, but at least they believe passionately in the awful values they are trying corrupt America with. Canadians are “non-ideological”. Belief in anything is weird and scary. That’s why we have a Liberal Party that makes a virtue out of having no principles. Discarding his principles when it suited him is the most politically successful thing Harper has ever done!

When our discussion expanded to email to escape the trolls in the comments and engage issues more broadly, you concluded one of our correspondences with an apt question that juxtaposes well with your earlier comment: 

“My main question for you is: How the hell do we get Canadians to care about their politics??”

Josh, this may be a counterintuitive way to frame it, but why would you want more of these indifferent Canadians to start caring about participating in politics? Isn’t it better to just focus on getting the people to care about politics who share your moral values and want to accomplish the same things you do?

In America there are a whole lot of people who I would encourage the exact opposite: don’t care about politics! Don’t participate! Just stay home and focus on something else with your life that’s more pleasant! (Donald Trump should go back to being an obnoxious reality tv star!) And the reason for that is that America is deeply divided ideologically and culturally and always has been going back to before and during its founding.

We began with 13 colonies made up of settlers who came to this continent for very different reasons. Some fled persecution and sought to build new Israels, religious utopias that would take the Bible seriously. Others just wanted the liberty to be left alone to raise their families and run their businesses without onerous taxation. Others further South thought this would make for a great land to start building their slave-and-sugar empires. Even among the founding fathers we see bitter rivalries. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had fierce ideological and religious differences. (I fall on the Adams side.)

Some of our founders hated each other so much that they actually committed murder and got away with it! The most important pamphlet you should read to understand the history of America’s internal enemies is Michael Walsh’s The People Vs. The Democratic Party, which correctly places the party’s origins first in the murderer Aaron Burr and then in the corrupt city machine politics in New York built around him. Also check out Walsh’s superb new book The Devil's Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West which comes out next week and I’ll write on more soon.

Today CNN noted that one of the candidates I like the most was sidelined to the second-tier Fox News debate:

The wait is over to find out who will grace Fox News' prime-time debate stage on Thursday -- but for former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the outcome wasn't what he'd hoped.

Fox News said Tuesday that Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and John Kasich will all appear on the dais Thursday for the premiere event.

That leaves Perry and the six other major declared candidates -- Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, and Jim Gilmore -- to appear together during a debate earlier Thursday evening.

So Republicans have 17 supposedly “conservative” candidates with wildly different experiences, beliefs and agendas. How to make sense of this?

There are lessons to be learned from the history of American conservatism that are very applicable to the political situation today and you might find of use too as you formulate your Canadian political goals. Marvin Liebman (1923-1997) was an anti-communist activist, conservative organizer/strategist, and close friend/colleague of William F. Buckley Jr. Here’s an excerpt from page 153 of his memoir Coming Out Conservative, describing how some of these differences arose in the early ‘60s at one of the early conservative organizations that would help nominate Barry Goldwater in ‘64 and then Reagan in ‘80:

As the organization [Young Americans for Freedom, YAF] grew, it developed cliques and become the battleground for power struggles. In the early summer of 1961, these divided into three camps: the John Birch crowd, the Rockefeller crowd, and the National Review crowd. It was during this struggle that I began to see again the latent bigotry in the American Right and once again became its target.

Scott Stanley, Jr., a YAF director, was close to Robert Welch of the John Birch Society and was later to edit the society’s American Opinion for a number of years. Stanley wanted to bring YAF into the Birch orbit. On the other side was Doug Caddy, the executive secretary, who had indirect ties to Nelson Rockefeller (through New York’s lieutenant governor, Malcolm Wilson), and wanted to move YAF into the more liberal Rockefeller camp. In the center were me and the forces closest to National Review. Stanley and Caddy joined forces and tried to take control of the national board of YAF from the National Review supporters. It was a strange cabal -- the right-wing Welch and the liberal Rockefeller -- rather like the right-wing America First Committee twenty years earlier, which, ironically, enjoyed clandestine communist support.

These three groups Liebman describe align with the next three ideologies in my ongoing series breaking down the 15 varieties of American Conservatism:

However, I’ll go a step further, these three groupings aren’t just historical curiosities. They are directly applicable in America today and may be useful for you too in analyzing Canadian politics. Each of those 3 categories have their heirs today and the 17 Republican candidates roughly fall into each of them:

East Coast Establishment Corporatists

  1. Chris Christie
  2. John Kasich
  3. Lindsey Graham
  4. Jeb Bush
  5. George Pataki
  6. Marco Rubio
  7. Jim Gilmore

Western and Southern Crusader Conservatives - Potential Reagans (The only four right now I’m actually weighing supporting. This is the ideological camp I defend)

  1. Scott Walker
  2. Rick Perry
  3. Carly Fiorina
  4. Bobby Jindal

Ridiculous/Crazy/Annoying Conspiracists Who Appeal to Segments of the Fringe

  1. Rand Paul
  2. Mike Huckabee
  3. Rick Santorum
  4. Donald Trump
  5. Ben Carson
  6. Ted Cruz

I’ll explain each of these 3 categories’ history and why these candidates most align with them in my next 3 posts in this series. Perhaps you might already see some parallels in your political experiences? That among those of us on “the Right” there’s often a three-part, wobbly breakdown of those who are too cold (the squishy, calculating “center-right”,) those who are too hot (the emotionally-driven “hard-right”), and then stuck between the two of them a more balanced, “prudent Right”?

What do you think? Any questions about any of the specific candidates that I should focus on when I talk about their ideologies next?

Thanks and best wishes,

David Swindle


See the Previous Parts of this series continuing through the summer and into the fall:

Part I: 15 Kinds of American Conservatives

Part II: 80 Influential American Conservative Websites

Part III: Who Gets To Say What's True Conservatism in America?

Part IV: Three reasons why I hate the Old Right (and all decent people should, too)


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commented 2015-08-22 16:26:45 -0400
The category, “Ridiculous/Crazy/Annoying Conspiracists Who Appeal to Segments of the Fringe” is ridiculous, crazy and annoying not to mention disrespectful and insular.
Rename it “Specialized interests who attract fringe support” and I’d be on board.
commented 2015-08-22 16:20:46 -0400
I see you’ve numbered the candidates in each category. Is that an ordered list? Does each number reflect how well the candidate fits the category?
commented 2015-08-06 17:51:07 -0400
Senator Cruz is the most intelligent and sincere candidate among them. He also does not compromise or waver on his beliefs. He has stood up to the phonies like McConnell who basically opposes everything conservative.
commented 2015-08-06 13:07:29 -0400
You do realize that Rick Perry is a political punchline right?