Throughout his book, Hawley feels the need to signal his disapproval of some views he discusses. This may simply be the price of publication. If I were young enough to be considered for tenure in the average political science department at an American university, I too would spray my books with PC bromides in order to keep the Leftist lunatics off my back. Given the imbalance of forces, we should thank Hawley for daring to treat our side with even a modicum of respect.
We are that part of the American Right which both the Republican Establishment and neoconservative journalists have succeeded in “throwing off the bus,” as Jonah Goldberg characterized this salvific (for him) process. [The Logic of the Conservative Purges, by Paul Gottfried, Radix, September 9, 2015]
But Hawley accurately notes the never-ending purge has left political discourse in the United States “calcified.” So he seeks to rescue these “right wing critics” by comprehensively profiling the wide variety of thought his subjects represent. We encounter paleoconservatives, paleolibertarians, market anarchists, neopagan followers of the European New Right, white nationalists, and racial realists. There’s even a cameo appearance by the Dark Enlightenment.
VDARE.com readers may be bothered to find David Duke and Pat Buchanan being juxtaposed in Hawley’s narrative. But Hawley is correct to do so. From the standpoint of their neoconservative critics, Duke and Buchanan are equally reprehensible—and so is the far less rightist but even more bothersome Donald Trump, who has dared to run for president against the wishes of something that still calls itself, however deceptively, “the conservative movement.” Note the continuing ludicrous efforts to link Trump to David Duke.
The only thing uniting these “right wing critics” is their total marginalization by the same Beltway Right that is so eager to shadowbox profitably with the radical Left. Thus Hawley chronicles some of the most shameful campaigns of persecution waged by Conservatism Inc. against dissenters such as M.E. Bradford, Sam Francis, John Derbyshire, Jason Richwine, Joe Sobran and others.
Where does this intense hatred against the Dissident Right come from? The commissars conducting the purges obviously see something in their enemies that’s not just off-putting but evil. Thus we get the Leftist slurs “fascist,” “anti-Semite,” and “racist” adopted by the Respectable Right.
One possibility Hawley proposes is simply the conventional mainstream (Leftist-neoconservative) explanation: he writes “The negative assessment of marginalized ideologies may be correct in many cases.” Indeed, Hawley tells us intermittently some of subjects may be xenophobic, and men like Sam Francis and Jared Taylor have made no secret of their “racialist” tendencies. Hawley even scolds the GOP for its “immigration restrictionism” that has “driven” minorities into the Democratic Party.
But the only example of this tendency that Hawley cites is the passage of Proposition 187 in California in 1994, under (let’s stress) the generally liberal Republican governor Pete Wilson. Omitted from consideration are Republican support for the Immigration Reform Act of 1965, the Amnesty legislation supported by Reagan and congressional Republicans in 1986, and finally the repeated strenuous efforts of George W. Bush, Marco Rubio, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and other leading Republicans to Amnesty at least 11 million more illegals residing in the country.
Besides, as Hawley himself admits, these illegal residents wouldn’t vote Republican anyway, for economic reasons if nothing else.
More convincing than the ritualistic clichés in Hawley’s work are his assessments of the stale thinking and simplistic GOP talking points that haven’t changed since the 1980s. In contrast to the tiresome PR agents associated with the “movement,” (including the assortment of real and bleached blondes on FoxNews), the paleoconservatives and paleolibertarians Hawley profiles ooze with original insight and vast learning. But even though many of the scholars and writers on the Dissident Right are far more well-read and erudite than the minicons of the official “movement,” Conservatism Inc. simply falls back on calling them stupid.
Hawley in contrast devotes respectful attention to his subjects’ scholarship, which leaves the impression that he is truly struck by the force of their ideas. He even explores my sometimes (alas) abstruse tracts on German political thought and devotes considerable space to Carl Schmitt, Martin Heidegger and other mentors of the European New Right and its American disciples. In short, he suggests the hatred directed towards the Dissident Right is motivated by fear of the intellectual threat we represent.
Hawley investigates in depth an in-house discussion about the paleoconservatism that had emerged in the 1980s and 1990s held between long-time Chronicles Editor Tom Fleming and myself. Fleming “argued that paleoconservatism is a continuation of the interwar old right, whereas Paul Gottfried viewed paleoconservatism as the true heir of the 1950s conservative movement before it was hijacked by neoconservatism.”
My views have changed since then. I now think the paleos were largely a new movement of the Right born of a lost cause, trying to counter the rise of neoconservatives to a position of control over the Conservative Movement. But though the paleos gave it their best shot, they went nowhere as a counterforce after the defeat of Pat Buchanan’s briefly successful presidential runs in 1992, 1996, and 2000.
Hawley ascribes the view that “paleoconservatism is no longer a meaningful force in the United States’’ to me, and I won’t deny it. He says there are two reasons for paleoconservatism’s eclipse: first, the passing of the generation that identified with it and its defeat in trying to take back the movement; and second, the changing social and cultural face of America, which would be even less receptive to paleoconservatives than were the 1980s.
But that doesn’t mean the fight against Conservatism Inc. (and its neoconservative masters) is over. Both Hawley and I have discerned a new populist Right emerging, which focuses on the high costs of mass immigration and capitalizes on growing popular resentment against Leftist elites.
VDARE.com is obviously a part of this emerging political force. Peter Brimelow and VDARE.com are cited and Peter is singled out (not unfavorably) for his "scathing attacks on American immigration policy." As a result, we are told, Peter “is no longer published in mainstream venues."
Three other contributors to VDARE.com who have at least four pages lavished on them in Hawley’s study are: Steve Sailer, for his daring commentaries on sociobiology; John Derbyshire for his examinations of IQ differences and their effect on human behavior and professional achievements; and, well, me, for my studies on European political thought and for being a long-lived nuisance to the neocons. To his credit, Hawley reviews the purge of John Derbyshire by the shameful National Review with sympathy.
Donald Trump in the United States and the National Front in France are two examples of the emerging populist political force—sometimes called “National Conservatism.” In the present historical circumstances, a coalition of the dispossessed, built on the white working class is probably the best the Right can hope for. Hawley is already at work on a sequel dealing with this alternative, populist Right. From having seen his prospectus, I expect it to be entirely on target.
Needless to say, I don’t expect the particular paleoconservatism with which Buchanan and I were associated to make a comeback even if the political climate changes. As one of my favorite thinkers (yes, Carl Schmitt) famously observed: “an historical truth is true only once.” And this aphorism is particularly relevant for the history of failed political movements. After all, the overthrow of Soviet Communism eventually brought to power in Russia the conservative nationalist government of Vladimir Putin. But it hasn’t resulted in restoring the Romanoff dynasty in Russia.
At least, not yet.
Paul Gottfried [ email him ] is a retired Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of After Liberalism, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt and The Strange Death of Marxism His most recent book is Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America.