Canada has notoriously invented many modern political diseases. But it may also be inventing the cures. A young Canadian neoconservative, Michael Taube, has just published an essay on North American conservative factions (Calgary Herald, August 26) that is notable both for its strengths and for its weakness. Taube has to explain the conservative scene to ideologically-deprived Canadian readers, so the clarity of his analysis blazes a useful trail for Americans. Some details are debatable, of course. But more interesting are the glaring omissions, which are indicative of areas of crisis - and opportunity - in American conservative discourse.
Four points to note:
1. Taube refers repeatedly to Stockwell Day, leader of the new Canadian Alliance party, now the Official Opposition [largest opposition party] in Canada's Federal Parliament. Moral for Americans: Third Parties can succeed, with patience, in the right conditions. The Alliance's predecessor, the Reform Party, first appeared in the 1988 federal election amid even more ridicule than its U.S. namesake today. It got only single-digit percentages of the vote. But in the next (1993) election, it completely displaced its rival, the Progressive Conservative Party. The PCs were one of the longest-established democratic parties in the world, arguably older than the GOP. But they had spurned their base and gone whoring after alien voters from another language bloc. Sound familiar?
2. Taube identifies and approves of: neoconservatives (using the classic definition, liberals mugged by reality, a useful distinction in Canada where the term is often used to describe any conservative not actually dead); social conservatives (a hot phenomenon in Canada, where the secular media elite in Toronto is alarmed by Day's Prairie bible-belt type Protestantism, as Taube to his credit is not). He identifies and disapproves of: paleoconservatives, the group associated with Thomas Fleming's Chronicles Magazine which has revived the isolationist, nationalist, small-government tradition of the Old Right. Taube argues that this group is protectionist and anti-free market, although he acknowledges the existence of paleolibertarians, led by Lew Rockwell and the Von Mises Institute. In all this, Taube is precisely reflecting the Beltway Right consensus and indeed the Bush campaign, with its parade of caged conservatives.
3. Taube, who is Jewish himself, mentions but does not really emphasize that the neoconservatives are, anomalously given the overwhelming attachment of American Jews to the political Left, a predominantly Jewish faction. American journalists are extremely reluctant to discuss this obvious fact. Yet it has played an undeniable role in the crack-up [™ R. Emmett Tyrrell] of the American conservative movement. Neoconservative leaders have invested enormous energy in accusing conservatives like Joe Sobran and Pat Buchanan of anti-Semitism and in attempting to anathematize them. And, although less widely remarked, some neoconservatives are themselves plainly motivated by intense anti-WASP ethnic animus in their approach to immigration policy: see here.
4. Taube essentially ignores immigration, the elephant in the living room of contemporary North American conservatism. In both the U.S. and Canada, mass immigration from non-traditional sources is a government policy enacted in the 1960s. Immigration is a new political issue, coming to the fore after the end of the Cold War that shaped the previous generation's thinking. Yet its impact is fundamental. In effect, Washington and Ottawa are dissolving their old Peoples and electing new ones.
Current mass immigration policy has raised what we at VDARE call The National Question: whether the U.S. (and Canada, and the great nations of the West) can survive as nation-states, the political expression of specific peoples. The issue is creating a new conservative faction: national conservatives, who are aware of the threats posed by immigration, multiculturalism, "bilingualism" (i.e. foreign language maintenance) to the fabric of the American nation. Maybe this faction should just be called "nationalists." Or maybe "patriots."
Neoconservatives show some signs of genuine division on the immigration issue. Some (David Frum) have been distinctly sensible. Others (John Podhoretz) have displayed a hostility to the concept of a specific national community indistinguishable from that of Jewish liberals.
On balance, though, the neoconservative influence on the immigration debate must be judged negative. They have not merely recoiled from rational arguments for reform; they have also too often reacted with uncollegial violence. Neocon agitation was a major reason the Republican leadership flubbed its most recent chance for immigration reform, the 1995-6 Smith-Simpson bill, with the result that it now finds itself even further down the demographic hole. The disaster of Pickett's Charge has been described as the price the South paid for Robert E. Lee. The disaster of post-1965 immigration may the price the American conservative movement has paid for the neoconservatives.
I'm worried about Michael Taube's attitude to immigration, based on fragmentary evidence. (e.g. "Modern social conservatives believe in an inclusive society based on Judeo-Christian values." Say what? Sez who?) But you have to know the appalling condition of Canadian debate to realize how far he has come.
September 3, 2000