A correspondent asks:
What should the mainstream conservative movement be doing (that it’s currently not) that would help society? How might Buchanan and paleocons become formidable?
I don’t have any magical solutions. It seems to me the most important battle the paleocons and people like Buchanan should carry on is at the level of principle and concept.
As things stand they’re not really allowed to be part of the public discussion. The basic reason is that if you think it’s good to have social authorities other than transnational bureaucracies and world markets then by definition you’re a “hater”—a nativist, xenophobe, racist, sexist, homophobe, theocrat, etc. As such you’re a public menace to be crushed by all available means.
So it seems to me the job of someone like Buchanan is to pick the relevant issues that are concrete enough and ripe enough to take into practical politics. He should talk about immigration and international trade agreements and their effects, which he does, and about the costs of empire. I think at this stage it’s best in national politics to talk about social and cultural issues mostly from the standpoint of why they’re legitimate issues, why reasonable men might agree with conservative positions, and why states and localities should be allowed more say in deciding how they will live. My impression is that he does that as well.
Of course, he hasn’t been all that successful in any obvious way. I don’t have a better suggestion than to keep pushing the issues. Preach the word in season and out of season. They’re all necessary issues, and at some point they’re likely to find traction. If they don’t it’s still better to say what should be said than maneuver in hopes of gaining a purely personal victory.
Whether practical politics ever gets anywhere depends on what all the paleocons and sympathizers do, and which way mainstream conservatives go. Paleocon issues aren’t practical winners right now. A basic problem is that left/liberals absolutely dominate public discussion, so the issues can’t even be discussed in decent company. As long as that’s the case the right can’t win.
So it seems to me what’s most important is for the right to understand its own positions and why it holds them, to find the clearest language to put them in, and to make their pitch on all issues and not stop making it until their views are at least acknowledged in public discussion as a possibility and their basis understood.
There are lots of fronts and styles of combat and it’s hard to pick out any one that’s the key. A few things that particularly come to mind, though:
- People need to take the issues into their own lives. What’s life about? How do they want to live? What kind of education do they want for their children? What do they have to do to get something better than what’s on offer? Shouldn’t they be doing that?
- It’s important to reject vigorously the assumption—mainstream conservatives always seem to go along with it—that liberal goals and standards are basically right. We need more Ann Coulters who are willing to contest the fundamental righteousness of liberalism and turn the discussion around.
- In particular, it’s crucial to confront notions like “inclusiveness” and “tolerance.” What those ideas mean is that every social institution other than bureaucracies and markets has to be done away with, at least as anything that matters. No social institution is an undifferentiated blob. Every one of them has to make distinctions among people, so if you say that all distinctions that have anything to do with the relations between the sexes, family life, religion, nationality and particular culture have to be abolished in the interests of inclusiveness then what you’re really saying is that all those things have to be made socially non-functional. That’s intolerable from any conservative or for that matter human standpoint, and it has to be contested categorically and in detail.
Any comments or other answers?