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