Patriots like me have been wryly amused watching the much-touted debates, in writing and on stage, between Sohrab Ahmari, an Iranian immigrant and opinion editor at the New York Post, and David French, Cuckservative in Chief at National Review. Their bone of contention: Should the state intervene in matters of public morality, such as those repellent drag-queen story hours at public libraries. Ahmari says yes; French says no. But their argument ignores the most important facing America: demographics, immigration, and the future of the Historic American Nation.
Ahmari might attract core Dissident Right sympathy due to his stands on tech censorship and borders, and French might invite just as much contempt. But immigration patriots really don’t have a dog in the fight. However good Ahmari looks on paper, deeper probe of his beliefs and gang of associates, who promote something called “integralism,” suggests that he really isn’t one of us.
The debate opened with Ahmari’s attack in a Twitter thread, which he expanded it for First Things. “Though culturally conservative, French is a political liberal, which means that individual autonomy is his lodestar: He sees ‘protecting individual liberty’ as the main, if not sole, purpose of government,” Ahmari wrote [Against David French-ism, May 29, 2019]. (He’s since deleted his Twitter account, apparently because of attacks on his family from trolls.)
Ahmari justifiably claimed that “Frenchism” surrenders to the Left in the Culture War, and overemphasizes atomistic individual rights. Forget French’s call for “civility and decency.” Ahmari wants ideological war. In Against David French-ism, he even defended Donald Trump:
His instinct has been to shift the cultural and political mix, ever so slightly, away from autonomy-above-all toward order, continuity, and social cohesion. He believes that the political community—and not just the church, family, and individual—has its own legitimate scope for action. He believes it can help protect the citizen from transnational forces beyond his control.
French’s laughable reply included this ringing claim:
[I]n the last 40 years, cultural conservatives have worked within classical liberalism to save lives, change the law, empower a new generation of young Christians, and create enduring institutions designed to protect liberty.
[Against Conservative Cultural Defeatism, by David French, National Review, June 4, 2019]
Like Conservatism, Inc., French is delusional. Ahmari rightly says “respectable conservatism” has failed. Abortion is still legal. Gay “marriage” became legal, and now Christian businessmen face rack and ruin for refusing to bake cakes for those nuptials. Common sense on race can cost anyone his livelihood. Something new is needed.
Problem is, Ahmari doesn’t offer a real or clear alternative, as was evident during his debates with French at the Catholic University and Notre Dame. French knew what he was arguing for: classical liberal principles such as freedom of speech and association that would, he said, protect conservatives. But Ahmari didn’t articulate how statist conservatism would stop drag queen story hours. He only hopes GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri hosts a hearing on it.
That might be because Ahmari hasn’t figured out what he’s for. Granted, he has said some good things about borders and national sovereignty, but he doesn’t seem to care about the preservation of the historic American Nation.
One might even think he’s hostile to it: “Part of our work is recovering the Hispano-Catholic Founding of America, which, as a priest friend reminded me tonight, enjoyed a much wider geographic sphere and cultural span than did the second, Anglo Founding,” Ahmari tweeted in June. (Archive.is link.)
That tweet has been deleted, this reply from Claremont President Ryan P. Williams hasn’t:
Whatever its intent, that kind of statement might lead the average immigration patriot to wonder whether Ahmari thinks this country’s Anglo founders were a little too white (and Protestant).
And at the Notre Dame debate, Ahmari agreed with French that the American government and conservatism must declare “total war on the Alt-Right.” After the mass shooting in El Paso, he tweeted that America has “a serious white-nationalist problem.” (Archive.is link.)
No, it doesn’t, and Ahmari’s too smart not to know it.
That said, again, Ahmari isn’t terrible on immigration—but only now, since he became a “post-liberal” conservative. Just two years ago, he was bemoaning the “nativism” and illiberalism of Tucker Carlson and others.
[T]he new illiberalism nevertheless has certain core planks. Chief among these are a conspiratorial account of world events; hostility to free trade and finance capital; opposition to immigration that goes beyond reasonable restrictions and bleeds into virulent nativism; impatience with norms and procedural niceties; a tendency toward populist leader-worship; and skepticism toward international treaties and institutions, such as NATO, that provide the scaffolding for the U.S.-led postwar order.
[The Terrible American Turn Toward Illiberalism, by Sohrab Ahmari, Commentary, September 2017]
Weirdly, Ahmari now appears to hold most of the opinions he attacked in Commentary. Yet he still flaunts his immigrant background: “I’m an immigrant, my wife’s an immigrant—I would never want the U.S. to absolutely pull up the drawbridge,” he told the New Yorker. [David French, Sohrab Ahmari, and the Battle for the Future of Conservatism, by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, September 11, 2019]. Trump’s tweets, he is quoted as saying, make his “skin crawl.”
He also supports gun control, another alarm bell. [NY Post opinion editor defends 'ban weapons of war' cover: 'Reasonable' regulation can prevent future tragedy, by Charles Creitz, Fox News, August 5, 2019]
But it is Ahmari’s “integralism” that is the main concern. “Integralists” are conservative Catholic intellectuals who have soured on movement conservatism. They criticize the free market, no longer fear big government, and admire the nationalist governments of Poland and Hungary. They want the Church, preferably the Catholic Church, to be more integrated into state affairs.
In May, First Things published an integralist manifesto signed by Ahmari, senior editor Matthew Schmitz, the ubiquitous Rod Dreher, and others [Against The Dead Consensus, March 21, 2019]. It accused conservatism of surrendering “to the pornographization of daily life, to the culture of death, to the cult of competitiveness. It too often bowed to a poisonous and censorious multiculturalism.”
The manifesto also appeared to stand with the American citizen against mass immigration:
In recent years, some have argued for immigration by saying that working-class Americans are less hard-working, less fertile, in some sense less worthy than potential immigrants. We oppose attempts to displace American citizens. Advancing the common good requires standing with, rather than abandoning, our countrymen. They are our fellow citizens, not interchangeable economic units. And as Americans we owe each other a distinct allegiance and must put each other first.
This sounds good and is right in many respects. But the signatories glaringly ducked demographics as a reason to impose sensible immigration controls.
This is no surprise, given the magazine’s history and recent offerings and commentary from editors.
First Things was reportedly founded to counter to oppose the alleged racism and anti-Semitism of the paleoconservative Chronicles. The magazine’s founder, the late Richard John Neuhaus, split from Chronicles and its parent non-profit, the Rockford Institute, over these alleged offenses—after a disagreement with the Rockford Institute Board, in which he was not only fired, but forced out into the street. [Magazine Dispute Reflects Rift on U.S. Right, by Richard Bernstein, The New York Times, May 16, 1989]. Neuhaus wanted a resolutely neo-conservative publication that would oppose the Buchananite conservatism the magazine now supposedly espouses. Neuhaus supported mass immigration, as did his renegade rag.
Additionally, First Things Editor Rusty Reno contributed to National Review’s epochally absurd “Against Trump” issue (which invited the “Against Ideology” issue of Chronicles, which featured an identical cover except the one-word change). Yet now, First Things positions itself as the chief defender of conservatism in the Trump era, despite its opposition to the race and immigration realism that undergirded Trump’s triumph.
Still obsessed with fighting the Paleo right, last week, First Things attacked Sam Francis. Francis “was right about many things,” Matthew Rose [Email him] (director of the Berkeley Institute) averred, including his analysis of power in America, the failures of conservatism, the managerial revolution, and his populist predictions. But Rose point-and-spluttered at Francis’ conclusion that whites should fight for their own interests [The Outsider, October 2019].
Similarly, Editor Schmitz argues for “a multi-racial, ecumenical, and philo-Semitic Christian nationalism.” He believes, incredibly, that “Catholic migrants from Central America now have more in common with our Puritan forebears than do most Europeans,” and that the immigration debate distracts from “our country’s most important divide:
The greatest cultural distance is not between natives and migrants but between a religious, patriotic, multi-racial working class and a secular, progressive, and largely white elite. Our country’s opinion-makers hate faith, revile patriotism and contemn family. People loyal to what is most noble in the American heritage have less in common with them than with almost any migrants.
[America’s most important divide, by Matthew Schmitz, Catholic Herald, July 24, 2019]
Superficially, that might sound plausible. A Christophobic, white progressive elite that hates the American people in general and Historic American Nation in particular now runs the country.
But the claim that Hispanic migrants have more in common with our “Puritan forbears” than the average American is flatly ridiculous, as is the claim that those migrants have a lot in common with average Americans. It’s fantasy masquerading as serious political analysis.
For one thing, not all those migrants are Catholics. Evangelical Protestantism has thoroughly penetrated the region. For another, blacks and Hispanics overwhelmingly vote for the Democrats’ progressive agenda—that is, they empower that white progressive elite. Nor do these “migrants” have any love for the Historic American Nation as embodied by the white middle- and working-class. So what would bring those groups together?
And remember something else. Almost all those so-called “family-values” Catholic Hispanics vote for the party of gay marriage and abortion on demand. So to the degree that the integralists at First Things would import more Hispanics, they would import a solid voting bloc against the very teachings of the Church the integralists claim to support.
In contrast, obviously French is just terrible. Forgetting his pre-Trump support for immigration restriction and the Confederate battle flag [Don’t Tear Down the Confederate Battle Flag, June 19, 2015], now he wants us to obsess about “white nationalism” and “racial equality” [It’s Time to Declare War on White-Nationalist Terrorism, August 5, 2019]. Leftists love him for hating Donald Trump and supporting Leftist heroes like Colin Kaepernick, and generally demonstrating that he’s harmless. French loudly opposes any solution to tech censorship [Josh Hawley’s Internet Censorship Bill Is an Unwise, Unconstitutional Mess, June 20, 2019].
Worse, French thinks conservatives should abandon the interests of white Christians to forge a multiracial coalition with black churchgoers—a group that has never voted Republican. The Great Replacement is no problem for French.
Yet neither do Ahmari or the integralists represent the Historic American Nation. They would replace it with Third Worlders whose “family values” and devout faith are as much a delusion as French’s mythical black Republican army.
Neither side in the Ahmari-French debate will grasp the nettle—demography is destiny vis-à-vis the survival of America.
Bad as drag queen story hour is, it’s only a symptom of the multicult reconstruction of America that Ahmari and French, for whatever reason, cannot bring themselves to oppose.
Washington Watcher II [Email him] is an anonymous DC insider.