John Fonte’s call for a “fusionist,” patriotic conservatism

John Fonte
Hudson Institute
Washington, D.C.

Dear John,

Your article “Homeland Politics” (National Review, June 2), in which you make the case for a renewed conservative “fusionism,” is a very good, very skillfully done piece of work that touched all my bases!

Your thesis, that patriotic conservatism is the force that binds together the otherwise disparate strands of economic conservatism and social conservatism, is absolutely correct in my opinion. This is the missing link that, on a political level, joins us into a functional unity. Without it, we are, politically speaking, little more than a collection of abstract ideas or moral beliefs. With it, we are also a body, we have a concrete identity as a people, and thus the will and ability to defend our threatened culture and sovereignty. The sense of concrete nationhood is something that Americans historically possessed and took for granted, but largely gave up in the half-century following World War II. Several years ago I was discussing with a friend what it is that conservatives have in common, that makes them, despite their differences, conservatives. He said it was “an instinctive love of Western man and Western civilization.” The moment he said that, it hit me with the force of truth. And you are saying a similar thing here, when you describe patriotic conservatism as an instinctive love of America.

You have artfully sidestepped the question of whether neoconservatives would actually share your patriotic conservatism. Their America is, after all, less the substantial country and people that traditional patriots care for, than a mission to bring universal democracy to the world. The same goes for the libertarians, who for the most part do not believe in country per se, or in any whole larger than the individual, but only in freedom. But—and this is an example of the admirable adeptness with which your article has been crafted—you have expressed your fusionism in such positive, attractive, and familiarly American terms, while remaining silent on controversial areas such as immigration and the “propositional nation” idea, that neoconservatives and libertarians may feel drawn to what you’re saying despite themselves. This is no small accomplishment.

Your analysis of the 1990s is spot on. 1995 was indeed the year that conservatism fell apart, when, among other things, the Republicans gave up any attempt to combat the national threats of mass immigration, group rights, multiculturalism, and so on.

The themes in your essay are similar to those in an unpublished article I wrote in February 1996, the day after Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary. In that piece (I was a Buchanan supporter at the time, but later turned away from him because of his attacks on Israel), I hopefully presented Buchanan’s campaign as the harbinger of a new conservative synthesis that is very much like your fusionism. The mainstream conservative movement, I said, consisted of the economic conservatives, the religious conservatives, and the moral neo-conservatives. Each of these factions had a part of the truth, but each of them missed the key, which was nationhood. My idea was that a new politics was needed to supply that key. Like you, I saw national culture and patriotism as the glue that would join the incomplete fragments of conservatism into a viable whole.

There’s really too much in your article to discuss in a letter like this. A panel discussion or perhaps a half-day conference is called for.

In the meantime, here is my unpublished 1996 article, which, though dated in some respects, may serve as a modest contribution to the important debate that I hope your article will inspire.

Larry Auster

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 30, 2003 02:44 PM | Send


I have not read Mr Fonte’s article yet, but it sounds brilliant. Lets hope that more and more conservatives can recognise that love of country is the one thing that can unite us, and the most important mission calling us at this time in our history. With Islamic enemies on one side, European internationalists trying to enslave us to the U.N on the other, and mass immigration and multiculturalism fraying our national unity, there is no more important task facing us today than the salvation of America. The time for name calling and wall building between palecons and neocons, and between libertarians and Christians is over. Our country needs us all.

Posted by: Shawn on May 30, 2003 11:17 PM

I also haven’t yet seen Fonte’s article but I just finished reading Mr. Auster’s letter, and it’s absolutely brilliant — just the quality we’ve learned to expect consistently from him and from Jim Kalb, without ever a single solitary disappointment! And I think a conference on this topic, as Mr. Auster suggests, would be a wonderful thing!

Incidentally, on the subject of Buchanan, Mr. Auster’s letter points this out: “While Buchanan is committed to defending our borders, our culture and our national identity, his religious beliefs have led him to reject the arguments of The Bell Curve. A man who insists, as Buchanan has done, that moral character is more important than inherited IQ is no racialist.” To me, this very true clarification about Buchanan is a bit peripheral, since what Buchanan does accept are realities and moral principles which lead him to sound views of the controversies of immigration, low Western birth rates (which are largely government-controlled in my opinion and easily reversible, given enough political will), and the desirableness and complete moral legitimateness of preserving the West’s historic nations and ethno-cultures. However it’s necessary to point this out now and again to some of Buchanan’s critics on the left, who accuse him in effect of being a supporter of Herrnstein and Murray’s “The Bell Curve.” He pooh-poohed the book and its main thesis on exactly the gounds Mr. Auster cites: moral character is more important than inherited IQ.

Posted by: Unadorned on June 1, 2003 1:21 AM

Thanks much to Shawn and Unadorned. Just to clarify the peripheral matter of Buchanan and race mentioned in my unpublished article: I was aiming that piece at mainstream publications (unsuccessfully—it was rejected at about six magazines and newspapers) and so I wanted to bring out that Buchanan discounted IQ. Of course I don’t agree with Buchanan’s dismissal of The Bell Curve. But I was trying to show mainstream readers that Buchanan himself was not race-conscious.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on June 1, 2003 1:45 AM

Good points as usual. Moral character and high IQ indeed don’t always go together. People with high IQ’s sometimes favor radical feminism and open borders among other things. People like this can usually insulate themselves from the consequences of policies they favor.

Posted by: David on June 1, 2003 1:53 AM

The evident truth that high IQ and good moral character often don’t go together, which was the argument Buchanan made against The Bell Curve, is irrelevant to the question of the correlation of IQ to life outcomes. All the Sergeant Yorks and Forrest Gumps in the world will not change the fact that a low IQ person is not going to be a dentist or a software engineer—or the the fact that the percentage of blacks with IQ above 115 is one-sixth that of whites. Buchanan’s argument had an important moral truth to it, but did not at all refute the thesis of The Bell Curve.

Also, let us not fall into the anti-elitist fallacy that IQ is entirely irrelevant to moral behaviors. Murray and Herrnstein’s examination of the data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth showed over and over that the incidence of behaviors associated with a good life—such as marital stability, job stability, and even honesty on the job—is on average lower among people with very low IQs.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on June 1, 2003 2:33 AM
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