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:
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