Tuesday, August 16, 2022

'Conservatism' Is No Longer Enough

At the American Mind, "All hands on deck as we enter the counter-revolutionary moment":

Let’s be blunt. The United States has become two nations occupying the same country. When pressed, or in private, many would now agree. Fewer are willing to take the next step and accept that most people living in the United States today—certainly more than half—are not Americans in any meaningful sense of the term.

I don’t just mean the millions of illegal immigrants. Obviously, those foreigners who have bypassed the regular process for entering our country, and probably will never assimilate to our language and culture, are—politically as well as legally—aliens. I’m really referring to the many native-born people—some of whose families have been here since the Mayflower—who may technically be citizens of the United States but are no longer (if they ever were) Americans. They do not believe in, live by, or even like the principles, traditions, and ideals that until recently defined America as a nation and as a people. It is not obvious what we should call these citizen-aliens, these non-American Americans; but they are something else.

What about those who do consider themselves Americans? By and large, I am referring to the 75 million people who voted in the last election against the senile figurehead of a party that stands for mob violence, ruthless censorship, and racial grievances, not to mention bureaucratic despotism. Regardless of Trump’s obvious flaws, preferring his re-election was not a difficult choice for these voters. In fact—leaving aside the Republican never-Trumpers and some squeamish centrists—it was not a difficult choice for either side. Both Right and Left know where they stand today… and it is not together. Not anymore.

Those who wanted to Make America Great Again may refer to themselves as Republicans, though many realize that, apart from Trump, the party does not really care about them. Many may also, in some loose way, consider themselves conservatives. But among these plumbers, insurance salesmen, gym owners, and factory workers there’s one question you can pretty much guarantee they never discuss with their family and friends: “What kind of conservative are you?” This question has virtually no bearing on the problems that overshadow their lives.

It is still a question, however, that occupies intellectuals, journalists, and the world of think tanks. And this matters, unfortunately, because however sensible and down to earth the voters may be, an effective political movement needs intellectual leadership to organize and explain the movement’s purposes and goals. This leadership is still divided into—to name a few—neocons, paleocons (not to be confused with paleo-libertarians!) rad-trads, the dissident right, reformicons, etc. A lot of these labels are a distraction. But before I reject these disputes as mostly irrelevant, let me make a couple of points about why we can’t immediately leave this debate behind—and so why an essay like this is necessary.

“The conservative movement” still matters because if the defenders of America continue to squabble among themselves, the victory of progressive tyranny will be assured. See you in the gulag. On the off chance we can avoid that fate, it will only be if the shrinking number of Americans unite and work together. But we can’t simply mandate that conservatives “set aside” their differences, no matter how urgent it is that they do so. So my goal here is to show why we must all unite around the one, authentic America, the only one which transcends all the factional navel-gazing and pointless conservababble.

Practically speaking, there is almost nothing left to conserve. What is actually required now is a recovery, or even a refounding, of America as it was long and originally understood but which now exists only in the hearts and minds of a minority of citizens.

This recognition that the original America is more or less gone sets the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy apart from almost everyone else on the Right. Paradoxically, the organization that has been uniquely devoted to understanding and teaching the principles of the American founding now sees with special clarity why “conserving” that legacy is a dead end. Overturning the existing post-American order, and re-establishing America’s ancient principles in practice, is a sort of counter-revolution, and the only road forward...

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