Thoughtful Southerners of a conservative and traditional bent have known since the 1980s that the old Conservative Movement which began back in the 1950s with the publication of Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, and then with the inauguration of William F. Buckley’s National Review, has no room for them, no room for their writers (unless those authors pass a rigorous test as to their opposition to “racism” and “sexism”).
At one time significant Southern eminences like Mel Bradford, Andrew Lytle, and others were welcomed to the pages of NR, to Kirk’s Modern Age and to other conservative journals, but those venues saw their doors close to Southern traditionalists in the later 1980s and early 1990s. Indeed, that process had begun years before with the migration of various non-Communist Leftists and Trotskyites into the Movement, with those interlopers—the Neoconservatives—assuming authoritative power in the establishment Conservative Movement. At first welcomed, the newcomers soon gained near complete control…of magazines, foundations, think tanks, and more. [There are two excellent articles in the February 2020 issue of Chronicles magazine, by Scott Trask and Paul Gottfried, exploring the disgraceful treatment of Bradford by the Neoconservatives.]
While Kirk praised the constitutional philosophy of Calhoun and explosive brilliance of John Randolph of Roanoke (he had done his MA degree at Duke on Randolph), and early Buckley featured sympathetic essays about the South during the turbulent civil rights years, that is no longer permissible in the ranks of the Movement. Malefactors are expelled, labeled as “racists,” and forbidden a national platform.
In contrast to an older conservative sensibility, the zealous globalism of the Neoconservatives, in some ways a carry-over from their Marxist internationalist days, now largely infects conservatism. Kirk’s praise of Robert Taft and Patrick Buchanan (he chaired Buchanan’s 1992 presidential run in Michigan), and his endorsement of an “America First” foreign policy are now considered en dehors de debat. Such “small America” views are now seen by Conservatism Inc. as suspiciously nativist and unacceptably populist.
Of course, any defense of Confederacy and its symbols is seen by the anti-Southern Neocons as suspect. For the Neocons defending Confederate monuments is an unforgivable sin, probably “racist.” From Victor Davis Hanson to NR editor Rich Lowry (“Mothball the Confederate Monuments,” National Review, August 15, 2017), the verdict is the same: “[Lee] betrayed the U.S. government and fought on the side devoted to preserving chattel slavery.”
In 2016 many traditional Southerners, long situated in “the back of the bus,” gave their support to Donald Trump, for “the Donald” represented a chance, albeit a slim one, to begin the overthrow of the dominance and stranglehold of the powerful Neocons and gain once again a tenuous seat at the table. Many of those hopes, once so high, have been dashed, have not materialized. Indeed, the president, despite generally admirable instincts, has not been a “second Grover Cleveland”—a kind of respite from post-War Between the States Republican policies that Southerners welcomed in 1885.
Yet even the small steps toward a renewed “no-longer-silent majority” of traditionalist Southerners and populist Midwesterners have been met with furious opposition from the elite Conservative gate keepers.
Various “big name” establishment “conservative” leaders have never reconciled themselves to the election of Donald Trump, nor to the anti-Deep State symbolism that he represents (even if not justified by the president’s actions). For these folks, mainly clustered “inside-the-DC-Beltway” or closeted off behind walled estates in northern Virginia or in posh apartments in New York’s upper east side, the Southern and conservative base out in what the late leftist novelist Phillip Roth called “fly-over country” are “deplorables,” just as Hillary Clinton disrespectively described them. In fact a few weeks ago former John McCain Republican consultant Rick Wilson yucked it up on CNN with his extreme Left buddies in tones of dripping condescension—and scarcely concealed hate—about those mostly “rural boobs.”
Good for a disdainful laugh.
Lest you thought that 2016 signaled the decline of these Republican ersatz-conservative plutocrats, think again. Yes, it is true that their most important journalistic mouthpiece, The Weekly Standard, went under in a richly deserved death. But the Standard’s most prominent scribblers did not go away. Steve Hayes and Jonah Goldberg almost immediately founded an online journal of “conservatism,” The Dispatch, where they could continue to spew forth their continued disdain for Trump and, even more, for the hoi polloi, we poor unfortunate rubes who have been misled by the “racism” and hatred engendered, let loose, and normalized by the present administration.
And former Standard editor, Bill Kristol—the son of the Neoconservative journalist Irving Kristol—has his own online mouthpiece, The Bulwark, where he continues to spout an unrestrained message of irreconcilable Never Trumpism.
Since 2016 some of the zealous anti-Trumpers have attempted to glom onto Trumpism and, as Neoconservatives have done in the past, turn it and shape it in their own direction—a continued globalism internationally and a continued retreat into moral degeneracy domestically. Thus the praxis of such Fox luminaries as Goldberg, Hayes, along with Ben Shapiro, Guy Benson, and that “big boy” wannabe, Charlie Kirk—yes, the self-same, transvestite-hugging Turning Point USA honcho who shows up increasingly on Fox News as a pundit. (Charlie comes across as someone desperate for attention and anxious for fame; he preaches to collegians when he can, but loves to party up-tight with transgenders and others who make a total mockery of traditional moral beliefs: this tragically is what has become of much of the “conservative youth movement.”)
And, of course, just as with the fanatical Left, these elitist conservatives are quick to condemn and excommunicate anyone who in any way transgresses their shared, constantly advancing benchmarks for deciding just who has now become a “racist.” Thus, once welcomed conservative columnist and lecturer Michelle Malkin has become, in this new dispensation, “persona non grata.” Malkin has attacked what she calls “Conservatism Inc.”—conservative establishmentarians who, according to Amanda Carpenter on Kristol’s Web site, “are insufficiently observant of ‘traditional values.’ One of those values is severely restrictionist immigration policy, which at some point, began to tickle Malkin’s ears. So, too, has she adopted the anti-‘Conservative Inc.’ language, even though her entire career had been—if we are being honest—a product of the actual Conservative Inc. Which is to say, CPAC, Regnery, YAF, Fox, and all the rest.”
Now the Never Trump Republicans have something called “The Lincoln Project,” with a goal of defeating the president at the next election, and nothing is exempt as a weapon in that campaign. Most recently they have bitterly attacked Donald Trump over his handling of the COVID-19 epidemic—if it will bring down the hated “man with the golden hair,” it’s just fine as a tactic. The headline on a Huffington Post (!) article March 21 reads: “GOP group uses Donald Trump’s coronavirus lies against him in new attack ad,” and the list of organizers reads like a list of John McCain and George Bush policy advisors and political consultants: Rick Wilson (again!), Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, Jennifer Horn, et al. The New York Times—never missing a beat to attack the despicable Donald—featured their joint opinion piece, “We Are Republicans, and We Want Trump Defeated,” prominently in its December 17, 2019, issue. Bill Kristol states it even more clearly: “if you’re inclined toward American constitutional democracy, the rule of law, and a free economic order–as well as a liberal [Italics mine] world order anchored by the United States–it’s Joe Biden.” You see, Biden is the “moderate candidate.” He’s who Kristol calls “The Simple Answer.”
Can you believe this? Biden is the man, the brain-dead candidate who has adopted almost all of Bernie Sanders’ socialist positions. And yet Kristol and company push him as THEIR candidate. Tells you something, does it not, about THESE so-called “conservatives.” And it should impel us to go back and re-examine the history of how these vaunted Neoconservatives—the Irving Kristols, Norman Podhoretzes, and their offspring—infiltrated and seized control of the old conservative movement, denatured it almost beyond recognition, and exiled prominent Southern personalities back in the 1970s and 1980s.