Is conservatism finished?

The deeply discouraging events of the past six weeks—including the sweeping victories of the left on several political and cultural fronts and the retreat, surrender, and silence of most neo-, mainstream, and Christian conservatives—have convinced many people of the truth of what is said in the article quoted here. There is a consensus arising that the conservative movement has been decisively routed and defeated, that conservatism as we have known it is finished.

While this is a staggering development in the modern history of our nation, it is also hopeful. Why? Because “conservatism” has always been fundamentally inadequate to its own true task. As we have said in many discussions in these pages, conservatism has never really opposed liberalism, it has only opposed liberalism on this or that issue, even as it agreed with the fundamentals of liberalism. As long as such a weak conservatism, or rather right-liberalism, was dominant within conservative circles, it prevented the arising of a genuine conservatism, as I noted in my 1994 letter to Irving Kristol.

In effect, then, the current rout and discrediting of conservatism are what paleoconservatives and traditionalists have wished for all along. The ground is cleared for a new politics. But are we of the right prepared to take advantage of this opportunity? A number of problems present themselves. For one thing, if a significant number of figures on the right remain obsessively focused on neoconservative Jews, leftist Jews, and Israel as the supposed instigating source of all our political and cultural ills, they will be unable to offer an effective critique of and alternative to liberalism, because their energies will keep going into complaints about the Jews instead of into resistance to liberalism. Such a fixation on the Jews—all-too-common in certain right-wing circles today, even among some highly intelligent people—will kill any traditionalist movement in the womb. Of course, it is evident that secular Jews of various stripes have played a leading role in the triumph of liberalism over our society. But the problem is not the Jews. The problem is liberalism. And liberalism is a belief system in which all of us have been complicit.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 10, 2003 10:03 PM | Send


A clear and comprehensive delineation of the principles we espouse as traditionalists needs to be put together as a kind of ‘manifesto.’ The summary that Mr. Raymond provided in a previous thread was helpful:

A specific section should be devoted to the question of our policy on Israel, and stand on the Anti-Semitism of the left and the right. An honest critique of the Jewish role in society would short-circuit the extremist anti-Jewish locos, and an accompanying elaboration on the contributions of Jews in Western society, fairly obvious to everyone else, would round out the score nicely.

In this context, and considering the presence of peoples of other faiths here, the primary role of Christianity and the Bible as the foundation of our values and morals should be clarified. (It should be noted that, as Patrick Henry pointed out, it is because this country was founded by Christians on the Gospel of Jesus Christ that peoples of other religions have found properity, asylum, and freedom of worship here.)

And to the extent possible, a vision should be articulated as to how a political movement such as this might take shape and expand.

Dr. Francis Schaeffer was one man who articulated much of this so thoroughly and convincingly. But Dr. Schaeffer has long since gone to be with the Lord. Someone else is needed to give substance to a new (actually old) political standard relevant “for such a time as this.”

I nominate Mr. Auster for the job. :-)

Posted by: Joel on August 10, 2003 10:23 PM

Well, no offense to Joel, with whom I am still enjoying a discussion in another thread, but I’ve talked enough about Jews in the last week to last me a lifetime. The Middle-East has not really been a side issue for the past couple of years, but Israel is to some degree, and there is an unhealthy fixation on it on this side of the political spectrum. My own suggestion for a simply practical political alliance is to co-opt pro-Israel sentiment into an alliance on immigration reform. Islamic immigration to the U.S. and Europe isn’t going to help Jews in Israel or anywhere else. That effectively short-circuits MacDonald’s argument that Jews are trying to destroy Western societies through multiculturalism, and it cuts off voices on the Left who would be quite willing tie immigration reform to Nazism. In fact, the Left would probably do a fine job of driving anyone pro-Israel into our hands by tying both Israel and immigration reform together for us, as Israel is already an example of a monocultural state and means to stay that way. At the same time as the Left would love to conflate the immigration issue with Israel, the Neocons would naturally recoil. Anti-Semites who are quite critical of Neocons and multiculturalism will be left with few places to hang their hats. Hopefully, anti-Semitism will be suppressed in those people who are more traditionalist than anti-Semite, and the rest will be driven into the waiting arms of the Left. Compromises will probably have to be made with isolationists (I fly my colors here) and protectionists, but the message of Israel’s future lying with immigration reform might still carry the day.

Even the issue of Christianity in the new traditionalism could be spun with the message that a resurgence of Christianity is the only effective weapon against a resurgence of Islam.

And I think that I’ll stop playing Dick Morris right now.

Posted by: Thrasymachus on August 10, 2003 11:17 PM

Thrasymachus wrote:

“My own suggestion for a simply practical political alliance is to co-opt pro-Israel sentiment into an alliance on immigration reform…. That effectively short-circuits MacDonald’s argument that Jews are trying to destroy Western societies through multiculturalism, and it cuts off voices on the Left who would be quite willing to tie immigration reform to Nazism.”

Exactly. That’s a creative, positive, viable approach to these problems, not the reactive negativism one sees on the anti-Israel right.

(However, I began to lose the thread of Thrasy’s thought in the second half of his post.)

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 11, 2003 12:26 AM

I’m still giving your last post on Israel (in the other thread) some thought.

You have some interesting ideas here about how political alliances could be forged.

Another thread on VFR dealt with this phenomenon of Jewish support for Mohammedan immigration: ) Of course, one need only look to French Jewry to see how the increased Mohammedan population bodes very poorly.

But this is also true of the Mexican Reconquistas, which is very signficant. See for instance to get a feel for the latent Anti-Semitism of this group.

One thing I’ll note is that in my heart I am an isolationist. I’ve always sort of defaulted to the view expressed in the Farewell Address. But my head tells me that in a world of nukes, a complete isolationism is impossible. And Israel will continue to be the epicenter of world turmoil no matter what we do. It will affect us whether we have a presence there or not, in which case I still believe that involvement is advised, provided it’s more judicious. But if we continue to apply a liberal double standard in how we deal with Israel, then I can’t argue that we would probably be better off just staying at home.

The fact is, we can never fully ‘pull out’ as you suggest so long as we continue our insane dependence on oil. That’s the other problem with your suggestion to gradually move away from the region. We really can’t.

But to switch over to methanol, the only option that seems to actually have a chance of working, would require leadership this country doesn’t have. Not to mention the best resource for its production is currently ‘unavailable.’

Posted by: Joel on August 11, 2003 12:46 AM

I just want to add that Thrasy’s suggested paleocon/Jewish entente cordiale—with the paleos and Buchananites supporting Israel, and the Jews supporting immigration restrictions—would be my fantasy, my political dream come true. That’s a vision of a moral and sensible politics.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 11, 2003 1:58 AM

The second half of my comment wasn’t the clearest prose that I’ve ever written, as Mr. Auster kindly points out.

I’ve cleaned it up a bit here:

Posted by: Thrasymachus on August 11, 2003 5:10 PM

Lawrence Auster wrote,

“Thrasyís suggested paleocon/Jewish entente cordiale ó with the paleos and Buchananites supporting Israel, and the Jews supporting immigration restrictions ó would be my fantasy, my political dream come true. Thatís a vision of a moral and sensible politics.”

It would be quite nice (as seeing others “see the light” always is), but such an entente would neither alleviate Israel’s more or less permanent state of imminent mortal peril nor reverse the undoing of this country’s traditional ethno-culture by the establishment’s strategy of excessive incompatible immigration combined with the state-imposed double-whammy of “diversity” together with a totalitarian “war against discrimination.”

To accomplish those two things would require, respectively: 1) Israel’s physical expansion, and 2) the defeat of the Wall Streeters and Establishment GOPers (largely Protestants) who place dollars too high in importance in the overall scheme of things partly because of an extreme ethno-cultural philistinism so deeply-rooted that this class, I fear, will have to be actually overthown before progress can be made: there seems no chance of converting them.

Who can conceive of converting either of the Bush presidents, or any Rockefeller, or a Warren Buffet, or a Ross Perot, or a Ted Turner, or a Bill Gates, or a Pat Stryker, or an Al Gore, or a Howard Dean, or a Hillary Clinton to anything remotely resembling the values of VFR?

Here’s Professor Paul Gottfried ( ):

” … [I]n the US and other Anglophone societies, liberal Protestantism provides the ‘precondition’ for politically enforced multiculturalism. … Like the psychological precondition for capitalism posited by Weber [i.e., an acceptance of delayed gratification in order to have wherewith to make financial investments], liberal Christian guilt seems to be essential for the self-mortification that accompanies the misnamed celebration of diversity. … [I don’t deny] that Protestantism produced an admirably conservative culture in the past … . [It is ironic] that while mainline [Protestant] denominations are [at present] losing members, their [current] multicultural ideas have spread to other churches, including Evangelicals and Catholics, … [in a spreading] process of deploring oneís ancestral way of life, while seeking ‘enrichment’ by importing Third World proletariat and by glorifying strange lifestyles … . I question … MacDonaldís sweeping ascription of blame for the contemporary politics of guilt to Jewish troublemakers. … I cannot make sense of what seems the civilizational self-loathing of Euro-American Christians exclusively or primarily by looking to Jewish minorities. The blame-the-Jews hypothesis remains an insufficient cause … . Iím always running into gentiles who do not have the pleasure of associating with Jews but believe, as self-mortifying Christians, all the platitudes about white Christian guilt preached by the Anti-Defamation League. From all accounts, Christian churches are full of such types, as witnessed by my … Protestant college in which theologians and chaplains agonize over the historic Christian responsibility for the Holocaust and sexism. … It is … questionable whether any sane elite would choose multicultural ideology on which to base its power. … [T]he identification of democracy with state administration and state indoctrination [of the political religion of state-imposed diversity] is necessary for the multicultural ‘war against discrimination’ … [and] [c]ertain cultural-religious preconditions are essential for this to happen.”

Posted by: Unadorned on August 11, 2003 6:43 PM
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