June 24, 2015

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

David M. SwindleRebel Blogger
 

Apparently with Canadians it’s “ask and you shall receive.” I concluded my previous post with a challenge: “If ‘Conservatism’ has a fixed, key meaning defining what it is and should be, then what is it and how did you discover it?”

And then Brent McFadden responded in the comments with a summary I endorse and will use as the foundation for the rest of this series to explain which of the 15 variations of “Conservatism” I still defend:

“True conservatism is the 10 commandments, anything less is the seven deadly sins, some of us strive for the former while living amongst the easier government/special interests Marxist 7 deadly sins!”

I don’t support some secular political ideology called “conservatism” whose meaning changes every couple decades. Now I am a Biblical Conservative. I believe that the Bible is the most important book in shaping the values of Western Civilization, and that “Conservatism” should submit itself to following the wisdom laid out between its covers.

The 10 Commandments is a fine foundation to start with in understanding what distinguishes Western and Biblical values as distinct from Eastern, Pagan, Koranic, or Materialist values - think of it as an executive summary of the Torah. Dennis Prager’s recent book and accompanying Prager University video series explicating the commandments provided a valuable public service in explaining many of the most common misunderstandings of these vital moral values.

That understood, we can now begin mapping out the intertwined history of 20th century media and conservative ideology. We choose to start the story in the 1930s because the previous 40 years of American political history were manipulated by another movement: the Progressives. This ideology took hold in both Democrat and Republican variations, allowing for it to rise so high that it saw its Icarus moment with the passage of alcohol prohibition via the 18th Amendment, which went into effect in January of 1920. The movement died with prohibition’s repeal in December of 1933 through the 21st amendment.

To fill the ensuing political power vacuum and respond to the Great Depression, two movements emerged in discernable form by the mid 1930s: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” and what would later be known as the “Old Right,” the wide variety of individuals and movements who opposed this new dramatic expansion of government, taxation, and presidential power. In Part II of this series I explained my passion on the subject:

Few have a hard time understanding my years of zealous opposition to this faction of the Right. I’ve made myself more than clear that the core of my conservatism is a “hawkish,” “Peace Through Strength,” General George S. Patton-style foreign policy. The modern day revivers of the Old Right are uniformly “doves” who preach a new version of Isolationism they try and make more palatable by re-christening “non-interventionism.” The whole thing can only sustain itself by refusing to learn anything about Islam or the Middle East and imagining we’re still living in the 19th century when big oceans could protect us from the barbarians.

Jump forward twenty years to the 1950s and FDR’s New Deal Liberalism had taken over the Democratic Party and become the cultural consensus for a generation. The Old Right lost and the Herbert Hoover-style, quasi-progressive, Big Business corporatist establishment wing returned, reinvented for the Cold War era, to begin its dominance of the GOP for the next 30 years.

Why? I offer three reasons which we can learn from today for why the Old Right failed then and why its revivers today get everything so wrong:

1. The Bible was not guiding the movement.

2. The coalition was too ideologically diverse, unified only by opposition to FDR, not a core set of moral values. That means that racists, antisemites, conspiracists, anarchists, and secessionists could participate too.

The Old Right ranged from those who wanted to go back to the Articles of Confederation, those who wanted a pre-Civil War South, those who wanted an 1890s-style America, and those who were just more moderate New Dealers who thought FDR went too far.

3. The movement may have been right about the New Deal and not as terrible economically as FDR, but it was very naive about evil and thus wrong about tyrannical, imperial slave states.

Perhaps the best way to understand the Old Right today is to observe the loud, often obnoxious, simple-minded activists who trumpet its values today. The only reason conservatives still have to talk about the Old Right is because of the serial presidential candidacies of Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul in the past twenty-five years and their watered-down heir today, Kentucky Senator and aspiring 2016 GOP candidate Rand Paul. All of these politicians were mentored and befriended by economist/historian/and ad-hominem polemical troll Murray Rothbard. (See video below at 1 minute, 48 seconds.)

Read some of Rothbard’s books (most of them can be downloaded for free from his acolytes’ think tank) and his biography then connect the dots between how Buchanan and Paul built political movements based on his ideas and tactics. Then look down into the comments section any time a website of some prominence publishes anything negative about the ideas promoted by the Paul family.

The Old Right was wrong about Hitler, Rothbard was wrong about the Soviet Union, and today Buchanan and the Pauls are all very wrong about America’s imperial enemies in the Middle East and Russia.

But that’s OK. Fear not my hawkish Canadian friends, the Old Right champion amidst the 2016 GOP presidential contenders runs on clumsy feet of clay. Three years ago I worried a lot about Rand and whether he might be able to dupe more conservative activists into thinking he was less radical than he actually is. Now, though, I’m not concerned.

Paul has more than outed himself as his father’s son ideologically, just smart enough to spin himself Obama-style to try and appear more moderate. And he’s just not politically skilled, charismatic, or smart enough to build and sustain a mass movement that can take over the GOP and lead him to the White House. And the rise of ISIS and the terrorism of the Tsarnaev brothers has refuted his Old Right revivalism just as the ascent of Hitler and the attack on Pearl Harbor killed its original incarnation.

See the previous installments in this series:

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?

 

Follow The Megaphone on Twitter.

JOIN TheRebel.media for more news and commentary you won’t find anywhere else.

Comments
You must be logged in to comment. Click here to log in.
commented 2015-07-02 10:37:04 -0400
To Anonymous:
1. The God I worship is not “a mystical being.” My ethics are based on a collection of books. The books that make up the Bible are much better than the books that Ayn Rand wrote.

2. “I do accept your rejection of Objective Ethics, but I hope you spare me the “reasons” for it.”

By all means, I invite you to ignore all my articles and not comment on them. If you aren’t willing to dialogue with me as an equal then I’m not interested in trying to communicate with you. I’ve known many, many arrogant, close-minded Objectivists like you and I’ve learned to not even try having a discussion with them. Some atheists and secularists are as bigoted as some religious people. Fundamentalists of all stripes are annoying as hell.

3. “I see happiness as the result of the enlightenment, not the religious values of the dark ages; the triumph of Galileo over the Church, reason over mysticism, and the recognition of the individual as more than a cog in the collective.”

Of course you do. You’re still hung up on Ayn Rand style black/white duality. Life isn’t a True/False test and the world isn’t in black and white, it’s in many colors.

4. " The commandment “don’t steal” is useful, but knowing WHY is what a reasoned ethics will explain."

All 10 of the Commandments are useful and there’s a big reason why Thou Shalt Not Steal comes after the other ones. By you choosing to just pick and choose what you like and what makes you feel good you end up misunderstanding everything. http://www.prageruniversity.com/Ten-Commandments/#.VZVLY_nBzGc If you want to actually understand The Torah you’d be much better off with Dennis Prager, Joseph Telushkin, Douglas Rushkoff, Joseph Soloveitchik, and Maimonides as your guides rather than Ayn Rand.
commented 2015-06-30 21:05:39 -0400
Quote:
“My ethics are not based on “mysticism.” My ethics are based on holistically interpreting the texts that make up The Bible only a small portion of which could be accurately characterized as mystical. I am a mystic and engage in mystical practices, but “mysticism” is no more the source of my ethics than “swimming” or “surfing” or “meditating” would be for people who engage in those activities. Mystical practices are activities one does, not a coherent source of ethics. "

It is rather remarkable that you you don’t consider your ethics mystical, when they are based an the supposed commandments of a mystical being.
Quote:
“I really didn’t dismiss Objectivism. I gave Ayn Rand a fair chance and wrestled with her ideas, life, and books for years. My rejection of her philosophy is informed. Her arbitrary opinions are as subjective as everyone else’s. I’ll have an installment about her segment of the Right later in the series.”

I have never read an attack on Objectivism that did not first misrepresent it. I hope I will not once again have to wade through straw man arguments. I have seen enough of those over the last half century. I do accept your rejection of Objective Ethics, but I hope you spare me the “reasons” for it.
Quote:
" All cultures and all ethical systems are not equal in the results they produce. Science can demonstrate which ones are more likely to produce happiness and prosperity in those who believe them.

Yes, but looking at the ideas involved in current ideologies, one sees a huge mixture of beliefs and values, many contradictory. I see happiness as the result of the enlightenment, not the religious values of the dark ages; the triumph of Galileo over the Church, reason over mysticism, and the recognition of the individual as more than a cog in the collective. This is not to say that certain out of context values from religious teachings are not currently useful though. The commandment “don’t steal” is useful, but knowing WHY is what a reasoned ethics will explain.
commented 2015-06-29 18:17:41 -0400
Hi Jason, yes, that’s one aspect of the Old Right’s ideologies. In the particular movement that I’m focusing on here the variety it tends to take is kind of a nostalgia for the pre-Civil War South and the untamed frontier. Understand that when I’m talking about the Old Right here I’m specifically talking about the American Old Right of the 1930s-early 1950s.

I’d challenge you to go deeper on the Democratic Party. I don’t think there ever was a time historically where they were initially good and then they suddenly went bad. See Michael Walsh’s Encounter broadside on the subject — http://www.amazon.ca/People-v-Democratic-Party/dp/1594036616/ — the roots of the Democrats lie in Aaron Burr and his political machine and his imperial, criminal ambitions. And the Democratic Party was the party of slavery and the South. The Republicans were formed as an Abolitionist party.
commented 2015-06-29 12:03:15 -0400
David, I think I have a handle on what you mean “Old Right”. This likely describes what we use to call Tories here in Canada and in Britain. All King and Country and official church, and very anti-Whig. They hold tight to tradition and are skeptical of anyone challenging the status quo. They likely would have regarded the revolutionaries in the US as ungrateful curs. Eventually new conservative took up the mantle as what use to be the domain of liberals and whigs, and became free traders and pro-capitalist. We see the sea change in the US under Harding and Coolidge. The Democrat Party took a leftward turn with Wilson, but likely before that with Jennings Bryant.

As far as Rand, although I don’t hold with Objectivism, I think she contributed something important to the dialogue. Before her conservatives were on the defensive, trying to argue that capitalism was not the best system but better than the rest. She taught conservatives to never apologize as they held the moral highground.
commented 2015-06-29 10:26:45 -0400
Joan: “Look at “thou shalt not kill”. Lots of leftist Christians rely on that law to preach absolute pacifism. They will sacrifice all goodness to the devil to keep that law. But Jesus told his disciples to arm themselves with swords, to self defend. I choose to follow Jesus.”

Joan, the Hebrew scribes did not get the Torah wrong. Some Christians who translated it into English got their translation wrong. The Commandment is “Thou Shalt not MURDER” not “KILL.” See Dennis Prager’s video explaining this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RENPaY043o

“Hatred hurts. Love heals. If we need to kill an enemy, we must do it with love, with compassion, with empathy. We must pray for our enemies and make reparation to their survivors. That is the Christian ethic that made the west great and the only ethic that can win today. "

The Bible says that God hates evil. We too should hate evil. I am not saying we should ever hate PEOPLE. But we most definitely should hate IDEAS and ACTIONS. Proverbs 8:13

All who fear the Lord will hate evil.
Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance,
corruption and perverse speech.
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+8

I’m sorry but your idea that when we need to kill an enemy “we must do it with love, with compassion, with empathy” is logically incoherent. A warrior defending his country in a war from barbarians trying to conquer him cannot kill “with love” or “with compassion.” This is the error that comes with making Jesus alone the source of one’s moral/ethical values. I believe we need to have Judeo-Christian values. We need to read the New Testament and Jesus through an understanding of the Old Testament. We need to read the Old as much as the New. Christians who spend all their time just wandering in the Gospels, obsessing over Jesus, but who never take the time to really understand the Old Testament, will just be left in a fog of confusion.

You seem confused about the Old Testament and thus end up confused about the New too. I used to hold similar confused Jesus-centric religious beliefs and was ignorant of Jewish history and the Old Testament too and that also confused my politics when I was younger.
commented 2015-06-29 10:06:50 -0400
Anonymous: “A pity you dismissed the Objectivist Ethics as just another arbitrary set of opinions, when it is firmly grounded in reality and hence not just an opinion.”

I really didn’t dismiss Objectivism. I gave Ayn Rand a fair chance and wrestled with her ideas, life, and books for years. My rejection of her philosophy is informed. Her arbitrary opinions are as subjective as everyone else’s. I’ll have an installment about her segment of the Right later in the series. That doesn’t mean all Objectivists are bad or wrong. Objectivists tend to vary as widely as Jews, Christians, atheists, or any other religion. Some of them are my friends and allies and I agree with much of the time, others I disagree with strongly. Not all Objectivsts are the same or interpret Ayn Rand identically.

“There is no point putting forward an ethics based on mysticism, if for no other reason than one cannot prove it.”

My ethics are not based on “mysticism.” My ethics are based on holistically interpreting the texts that make up The Bible only a small portion of which could be accurately characterized as mystical. I am a mystic and engage in mystical practices, but “mysticism” is no more the source of my ethics than “swimming” or “surfing” or “meditating” would be for people who engage in those activities. Mystical practices are activities one does, not a coherent source of ethics.

And yes, one can “prove” the superiority of one ethical system over another. It’s done through social science surveys of the people who claim to embrace one belief system over another (the data about atheists vs devout believers is very clear) and looking at the histories of different cultures. All cultures and all ethical systems are not equal in the results they produce. Science can demonstrate which ones are more likely to produce happiness and prosperity in those who believe them. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/opinion/sunday/conservatives-are-happier-and-extremists-are-happiest-of-all.html?_r=0
commented 2015-06-28 19:10:39 -0400
" The Bible provides a better moral system than the Koran. The history of Western Civilization demonstrates that. Do you disagree? "
Ah yes, by your standards. However, do you think that a suicide bomber doubts the rightness of his actions anymore than you do? After all, he bets his life on it.
You see, there is no final arbitrator in matters of faith. That is why we need a reason based ethics which can be evaluated against objective standards. A pity you dismissed the Objectivist Ethics as just another arbitrary set of opinions, when it is firmly grounded in reality and hence not just an opinion.
commented 2015-06-28 10:51:21 -0400
As to Swindle’s prescription of hated – why he hates and why we should also hate – I reject that ethic.

We should love, as Jesus taught us. That doesn’t mean we should not kill, if necessary. But we lose advantage, especially when killing to self defend, when we do it with hate in our hearts.

Hatred hurts. Love heals. If we need to kill an enemy, we must do it with love, with compassion, with empathy. We must pray for our enemies and make reparation to their survivors. That is the Christian ethic that made the west great and the only ethic that can win today.

“When it all comes down to dust,
I will kill you if I must;
I will love you if I can”

(Leonard Cohen, “Story of Isaac”)
commented 2015-06-28 10:42:35 -0400
I follow Jesus and his fulfillment of the old law. I will not practice any of the bigotries described in the Old Testament whose scribes got God’s law wrong.

Look at “thou shalt not kill”. Lots of leftist Christians rely on that law to preach absolute pacifism. They will sacrifice all goodness to the devil to keep that law. But Jesus told his disciples to arm themselves with swords, to self defend. I choose to follow Jesus.

Any Conservative movement based on exclusion of other faiths and cultures, including atheism, cannot hope to win and lead politically in a democracy.

We live in a fallen world and while we may look forward to God’s rule, it is Christian principles we must rely on to influence political ideology, not strict belief prescriptions. All people of good will love Jesus. But to assume we have some monopoly on God, that Jesus won’tears to non-Christians in other human form, is the greatest of folly and an Achilles heel.
commented 2015-06-28 03:16:00 -0400
There is no point putting forward an ethics based on mysticism, if for no other reason than one cannot prove it. Surely it is time to have a reason based morality, made by men, for men. A morality that allows us live among each other in peace on this earth, and not one that prepares us for a promised afterlife. I’m sure that you are aware such a morality exists; you just need to evaluate it against reality, not Deity.
commented 2015-06-27 10:56:18 -0400
Douglas: “Yes, but as you yourself stated, there is no ultimatum on the table to choose between the two.”
For those on the front lines of the war in the Middle East there is. Islamist states and armies are imposing an ultimatum on the people, forcing them to either flee or submit to Sharia. Westerners need to decide now if they are going to continue to live in a world indefinitely where states impose Shariah law on their citizens and fund Jihadist terrorists to wage guerrilla war and suicide bombings against Israel and the West. Are we going to continue to tolerate billions of people living under religious persecution and human rights horrorshows?

Depending on the moral value system one chooses one will analyze and respond to the Islamist threat very differently. My position is that the Bible provides an ethical and moral framework both to understand the Jihadist armies waging war against us and how to defeat them. Those who analyze the terrorist threats in current events through the lens of the broader history of Western Civilization (which is what the Bible provides) will come to very different conclusions than atheists who look at it in secular terms, solely in the context of today’s trendy ideologies.
commented 2015-06-27 10:48:44 -0400
“Hillary Clinton would the to the right of FDR.”
No, Jason, Hillary IS FDR. She and her husband have been consciously carrying on the tradition of FDR for their whole lives. If/when Hillary becomes president in 2016 (which is still an open question — she could screw it up or someone could beat her) she will be continuing to follow in the model that FDR institutionalized and that became the post-WWII Democratic Party’s Welfare State Agenda.
commented 2015-06-27 09:22:59 -0400
David M. SWINDLE asked: “The Bible provides a better moral system than the Koran. The history of Western Civilization demonstrates that. Do you disagree?” My answer: Yes, but as you yourself stated, there is no ultimatum on the table to choose between the two.
commented 2015-06-26 17:50:00 -0400
I am most definitely to the right of FDR on economic concerns. I mean the guy put in price and wage controls for goodness sakes. Hillary Clinton would the to the right of FDR.
commented 2015-06-26 12:22:49 -0400
DOUGLAS: “It is my position that one can have a moral compass without needing to have a “Bible”.”

Sure. One can get a “moral compass” aka “moral value system” from all kinds of places. What is the source of YOUR moral values since you believe you have found a source superior to the Bible? There are many different “moral compasses.” One can take a Karl Marx moral compass. One can take an Ayn Rand moral compass. One can take a Koranic moral compass. One can take a US Constitution moral compass. Or one can just take a “my moral compass is whatever I feel like at any given time.” Each of these compasses will lead the person who follows it to different places. I believe the Biblical moral compass is the one that will lead us to the greatest happiness and prosperity.

The phrase “staunch conservative” means NOTHING in an objective sense. So just saying “I have conservative values” tells me nothing. Every “conservative” fights to “conserve” something different for different reasons.

“One should not have to justify one’s moral faith in any particular belief just as I would not dream of demanding that you justify yours.”
We’re having a discussion on the internet. Of course if one wants to participate one should have to state what one actually believes and argues for. What do you believe? Are you an atheist? Which kind of atheist? I know atheists who have all kinds of different moral value systems, including atheists who share my Biblical values, while disagree with my mystical theology. I’m saying that Biblical moral and ethical values are the best. I’m not saying that one needs to practice Judaism or Christianity or have any specific theological belief system. The Bible provides a better moral system than the Koran. The history of Western Civilization demonstrates that. Do you disagree?
commented 2015-06-26 09:14:41 -0400
David, let me be clear. Most of us here at the REBEL.MEDIA are pretty staunch conservatives, so I’m pretty good with most of your piece, but if you are saying that one cannot have a moral compass without using the Bible then that’s where I draw the line. Remember that the American constitution not only guarantees freedom “of” religion but also freedom “from” religion. It is my position that one can have a moral compass without needing to have a “Bible”. And no, I’m not going to name a “better” book because your challenge is not legitimate, but rather a cheap debating ploy. One should not have to justify one’s moral faith in any particular belief just as I would not dream of demanding that you justify yours. Until, or unless of course, it affects others adversely.
commented 2015-06-25 15:02:05 -0400
Jamie: " If it means the swaggering Teddy Roosevelt type, I surely want none of it…but in any event, there’s been nothing like that for a hundred years. If it means the Joe Clark or Bill Davis (David Brooks in the US) pretend type of Conservatism, then I’ll stay home as well."

That isn’t the Old Right. That was the Progressive movement Republicans. And their heirs today are the Bush family and David Brooks-type corporate conservatives. (John McCain also regarded himself as in that tradition of big government, interventionist, “conservatives.”)
commented 2015-06-25 14:58:58 -0400
JASON BERTUCCI: “Not sure who you are meaning by Old Right.”
Here’s the most basic summary from my piece:
“The Old Right ranged from those who wanted to go back to the Articles of Confederation, those who wanted a pre-Civil War South, those who wanted an 1890s-style America, and those who were just more moderate New Dealers who thought FDR went too far.”

The “Old Right” was basically anyone to the Right of FDR on economics during the 1930s and 1940s. So it ranges very widely. When talking about “Right” and “Left” we need to be careful about whether we’re talking about economics or foreign policy or something else.
commented 2015-06-25 14:51:59 -0400
I’m seconding JASON and KIM’s thoughts: just what is the “Old Right”? If it means the swaggering Teddy Roosevelt type, I surely want none of it…but in any event, there’s been nothing like that for a hundred years. If it means the Joe Clark or Bill Davis (David Brooks in the US) pretend type of Conservatism, then I’ll stay home as well.
commented 2015-06-25 13:53:12 -0400
I would hate to see Rand Paul get in the White House. I don’t think you can paint him and his father with a different brush. Rand has done and said nothing for me to have a different opinion. Anyone who thinks its okay for Iran to have nuclear capabilities with the Ayatollahs running things, has got to be off their nut.

I always enjoy the Prager vids
commented 2015-06-25 13:37:02 -0400
Not sure who you are meaning by Old Right. There was indeed conservatives and moderates who opposed entry into WWII, such as Lingberg, and I think their motivation was the loss of contracts with their companies and Germany. As a side note, it is worth remembering that Hitler was also a favorite of the left, until Hitler turned on Stalin, and then progressives became psycho war mongers. There is a good reason that Americans were naturally isolationist. Wilson was a very evil progressive who oppressed the free press and put citizens in jail for opposing his entry into WW1. Americans did not want to participate in a European war of conquest where the Allies’ motivations were little better than the Central Powers. I agree that Paul and Buchanan have an unusual perspective, a Libertarian one, which I find rather myoptic and short sighted. I am as ideological as the next guy, but even Jefferson went to war, finally against the Barbary Pirates. Ron Paul thinks if we sell coca cola to the people of the middle east they will become peace loving republicans. He lacks a rational view of how the world really is. His isolationist stance strangely ends up amounting to “blame America first” point of view. That is not why the founders embraced sticking to themselves. They did it because they loved America and thought is superior to all other nations. Buchanan is completely off the reservation in my view, as his books strike me as apologies for the Nazis.
commented 2015-06-25 10:26:51 -0400
Douglas Mcewen: “Well, it’s all well and good until you get to the Bible following part. You lost me there. Sorry.”

Which book have you found to provide superior moral and ethical guidance? By all means, please name a better book that you think should act as a shared foundation for conservatives.
commented 2015-06-24 20:36:13 -0400
Old Right? Never heard of it. I guess I learned something new today.

Seems everyone must be pigeon-holed even if they have to do it themselves.
commented 2015-06-24 16:37:37 -0400
Well, it’s all well and good until you get to the Bible following part. You lost me there. Sorry.