A Union of Ice and Fire?: On the Prospects for an Emerging Libertarian-Neoconservative Alliance?
The Age of Trump has brought with it some very odd things. Recently Reason’s Nick Gillespie posed the question, “Is Jonah Goldberg Turning Into a Libertarian?” Before addressing Gillespie’s tentative answer to that question, I think it is best to first take a look at the current landscape of conservatism and libertarianism. I think this question actually raises an entire series of other questions and for those reasons the Gillespie-Goldberg interview offers a good proxy for analysis.
Conservatism has long been internally fractured. Some would even contend that philosophically it is largely incoherent. Conservatism is a loose alliance among interest groups that range far and wide. Of course one would not know that from imbibing upon the leftwing-dominated mainstream media. Conservatives have long had trouble formalizing a clear set of principles which define them. Russell Kirk (1918–1994) attempted to construct a historical tradition in The Conservative Mind (1953) by harkening back not just to Edmund Burke (1730–1797) but to ancient thinkers as well. This model of Burkean conservatism has been very influential. Kirk took a host of values and virtues to rest at the center of any serious conservative worldview: charity, duty, freedom, justice, temperance, and so on.
Kirk’s approach can be referred to as a sort of classical conservatism (some would prefer the term paleoconservatism or traditional conservatism) which has also been influenced by German philosopher Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel (1770–1831). Some would balk at this because they do not like to admit that the Hegel’s approach to the State has been central not only to nationalist movements but all collectivist ideologies which imbue the State with positive connotations. Hegel has left behind a number of disturbing philosophical influences traceable both among political leftists and those on the right. His notions about the supremacy of the State, the State as communal product of the spirit of the people, the State as a people’s highest realization of self-organization, the bizarre notion of a “World Spirit”, and his lamentable dismissal of the power of logic through his theory of the dialectic.
Hegel’s influence may be found both among rightwing authoritarian movements and totalitarian leftwing movements. His influence upon Marxism has been thoroughly documented but is not relevant in this context. Hegel’s philosophy was, at root, both collectivist and Statist. Collectivist ideologies tend to dismiss the individual and individualism except in “Great Man” (no longer PC, so Great Person?) theories of history wherein the prime movers become a Napoleon or Hitler or Lincoln or Roosevelt and so on. This tendency towards collectivism is readily apparent among leftists and, although it is sometimes obscured, on the right as well.
Kirk was correct to note that, in general, conservatives and libertarians share an opposition to collectivism. However, for conservatives their problems with collectivism are essentially a matter a of taste. They have never been able to kick the collectivism of Statism. For libertarians the opposition to collectivism is a matter of principle. Or, at least, it should be. This was a point that was central to Kirk’s critique of most libertarians: they lack principles because they are often utilitarians. Recent psychological studies have shown this to be true and I have covered all of this on my show Apollo’s Artifacts in great detail. In fact, the utilitarian branch of libertarianism frequently decries libertarians who take their views to be a matter of principle. As will be shown, this is crucial to the tentative links between certain versions of conservatism and libertarianism.
Kirk’s critique of libertarianism was correct in many other ways. He pointed to the fact that libertarians often carry arguments to absurd points, have obsessive tendencies that cause them to ignore preexisting arrangements of social institutions, and even tend toward utopianism rather than the practical or pragmatic. He offered a whole list of other criticisms, many of which I think my fellow libertarians would be well-served to read and try to understand and resolve. He was, however, wildly wrong on a number of other points such as tracing much of libertarianism to the work of J.S. Mill (1806–1873) which to most libertarians is laughable at best and a contrived smear at worst.
Kirk and William F. Buckley Jr’s (1925–2008) “movement conservatism” as it was to develop over time had much to commend it. For example, in Buckley’s God and Man at Yale (1951) he detected a clear pattern of secularist assumptions being smuggled into many of the courses. This was not simply a creeping atheism among science professors because he witnessed it in the department dedicated to the study of religion as well. The good book was to be read as if it were merely another piece of interesting literature rather than as a holy text. Buckley’s faith was always central to his vision for an American conservatism. Kirk’s was too, but later since his beliefs changed over time. Buckley was concerned with both the atheism and socialism that were creeping their way across the Yale campus and, similarly, other esteemed academic institutions across the West. These concerns were well-founded.
One component of this phenomenon is known as secularization was covered in-depth in a fantastic book titled The Secular Revolution (2003). What Buckley noted those many years ago was already the result of a slow and steady process which had been in the works for more than 500 years. I’m not making any arguments regarding the validity of religion. What I am doing is drawing into focus the fact that a key pillar of the growth of modern leftist ideology is directly linked to this more than five century process of secularization. This is not to say that no modern conservatives are atheists or agnostics, Andrew Breitbart was one and David Horowitz is another, but far more progressives are deeply committed atheists.
This process of secularization has been woven seamlessly into the broader leftist takeover of culture and worked hand-in-glove in the long march through the institutions as documented by Roger Kimball in his books Tenured Radicals and The Long March. It is important to remember the culture wars were lost by conservatives because conservatives abandoned social sphere almost entirely. Conservatives during the Cold War (many of whom ended up following Buckley and National Review’s lead) went all in for the economic, political, and military defeat of the communist Soviet Union. They completely neglected culture and the left quickly took over that domain. Buckley became increasingly hawkish in terms of foreign policy over the years. The hawkish legacy remains even today in the movement that he helped create.
Reagan’s peace through strength won, but in some ways the victory has proven to be pyrrhic due to incessant attacks and critiques of the West emanating from the universities. The culture wars were formally noted in Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind in 1987 (and an earlier, and quite brilliant, article published in National Review of all places in 1982), by which time the hour had already grown late for those on the right. In fact, there was a fascinating exchange between Buckley and Bloom on Firing Line that revealed Buckley understood what was going on, but did not seem to understand the long-term threat posed by the internal corruption of the universities.
Turnabout Is Fairplay
A large component in the culture victory for the left was the elevation of celebrities to cult-like status. The left had long relied upon young, dim, well-meaning but misguided celebrities to repeat the socialist and post-modernist nonsense oozing from university professors. Skipping ahead many years, it was precisely this situation that gave Trump the mimetic opportunity he needed. No one has been more adept at capturing the mood of the political right and whipping it up into a rhetorical storm the likes of which the left has never seen. And, as one commentator has said, Trump is the first person to ever be memed into the presidency. He was dismissed by the professional pundits and talking heads who “know better”. The same pundits and talking heads, mind you, who claimed John McCain had a prayer of beating Obama in an obvious change election following 8 disastrous years of the Bush II administration. The same pundits and talking heads who said that Romney had a chance against Obama after that when it was obvious to everyone I spoke with that Romney was too bland, too boring, too stodgy to draw out voters. Anyone with common sense knew neither had a chance and neither inspired a base to turn out and vote. When it came to the 2016 election cycle, Jeb Bush was being presented to the public as the anointed one so that the elites could foist upon the nation the two most despicable political dynasties imaginable. This would have left many, many millions of people with no palatable choice at all. Bush did not excite anyone and Hillary made lots of people literally turn the channel.
Trump was given a chance because it was time once more for a change election. Obama had broken dozens of campaign promises and voters who did not like Bush, Clinton, or Obama were very glad to have a complete political outsider ready to run around like a bull in a China shop (is this idiom PC or not? I no longer know). Whereas the political class is continually shocked by Trump’s brash, crass, uncouth, and over the top vulgarian style, the forgotten people of America love seeing the intelligentsia finally getting their due comeuppance. After decades of lying the nation into wars, running up debts to such unimaginable levels that the voting public has tuned that issue out and doesn’t even care anymore, engaging in every kind of graft and corruption possible…a huge portion of the voters cheer Trump’s bulldozer-style of ignoring every suggestion the know-it-all chattering class puts out in their precious white papers and position statements. This may serve him well in the short run but do him in in the long run. I’m not here to say which I suspect will be the case.
The Atlanticist Mentality
A problem that has been emerging since the rise to power of President Trump is that there seem to be a number of ideological similarities between the claims made by Beltway neoconservatives and Beltway libertarians. When I say Beltway, I intend to designate much more. By this, I mean an Atlanticist worldview. This worldview is not simply that of The Atlantic nor those who are primarily concerned with U.S. support for NATO and Western Europe. The Atlanticist mentality is one that links a perspective held among leftists, certain neoconservatives, and certain libertarians which is propagated first in universities, various institutes, and think tanks. As those notions emerge first there, they are later spread by The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and the rest of the mainstream media. It is not only a mindset that does not understand the common person or forgotten people of America, it is a mindset that does not want to understand, or mistakenly thinks it already understands people with whom they have no connections whatsoever. This Atlanticist mindset has been termed by others the perspective of a bi-coastal elite since it unites the views of Silicon Valley, LA, NYC, and DC.
No one has been better at describing this (although he does not use the term Atlanticist) divide than Victor Davis Hanson. Hanson is another conservative who libertarians need to listen to, read, and try to understand. Hanson is not only an expert in classical and military history, he is also a farmer who lives in the second poorest area of the United States. Raised in a rural area by a farming family and still maintaining a working farm today, Hanson is also an esteemed emeritus professor who understands the gigantic divide that exists between those who “get” Trump and those that cannot. Hanson literally crosses two different economic and educational realms. Many times Hanson has given speeches and been interviewed wherein he has explained the difference between where he wakes up and buys things locally is a world away from the rarified air of the Ivory Towers (indeed that is even what he terms them) that he has successfully navigated for many decades. When I listen to Hanson, I hear a man who gets the forgotten person, the little guy who is ignored or placated by the Bush-Clinton nexus of elites.
Hanson has also suggested that Mueller exhibits the Atlanticist mindset as well and is drawn from the self-same milieu as the Bush-Obama approach to political power. While many leftists are fond of pointing out that Mueller, Comey, and Rosenstein are Republicans, they are of the RINO/GOPe variety (more on that later) oft-criticized in the comment sections at Breitbart.com. They are not Trump-style conservatives orRepublicans by any measure. They broadly agree with the Jonah Goldberg’s and Nick Gillespie’s of the world: Trump disrupts the established ways too much to be tolerated even one second longer. However, this is precisely why so many millions of Americans love Trump. Those locked into the Atlanticist bubble cannot imagine how anyone disagrees with them. They just cannot conceive of it. But evidence continues to pile up that ordinary Americans reject the Atlanticist/bi-coastal elite worldview despite all of their monumental efforts to convince people of the contrary.
Hanson gave a presentation in November of 2016 at the David Horowitz Freedom Center about the myths of the 2016 election. He pointed out that much of what the mainstream media is still trying to push even now in late 2018 has long since been shown to be shaky. And still the beat goes on. Every week a new “bombshell” story is dropped and the left and NeverTrumpers go wild hoping for…President Pence? Pence, in some ways, might be even worse from a leftist perspective so it is strange to see them cheer on this idea of impeachment.
The ideological similarities in the Atlanticist mindset are today probably best represented by views propagated by the conservative/neoconservative National Review, those from the libertarian Cato Institute, and the libertarian magazine and website Reason. These groups think they are vastly different than their counterparts at The New York Times and CNN, and that is true in some ways, but important similarities still exist nonetheless. Trump seems to bring this out a convergence in perspective more than any other topic. Beltway libertarians often fancy themselves as outsiders: hip, cool, pro-weed, appealing to the young, socially liberal, but still elite educated intellectuals all rolled into one. However when it comes to Trump, they often offer the same droll message one would hear from the lips of former head of the CIA John Brennan or former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Peculiar bedfellows indeed.
Beltway neoconservatives do not like being accurately referred to as neoconservatives. They prefer to assume that since they now have attained the dominant position politically, that they now simply represent the one true conservatism. Like their libertarian counterparts, when it comes to Trump they often issue forth the same kinds of complaints one hears from the screaming narcissist Jim Acosta or Brian Stelter (who enjoys trying to get alternative media sources banned from YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter). These comparisons surely make their skin crawl, but I think they are both accurate and unfortunate.
In fact, I’ve seen other leading conservatives and neoconservatives take them to task over these issues. The eloquent and mellifluous conservative author Michael Walsh disagrees with the Beltway Atlanticists vehemently. David Horowitz also has recently clashed with Jonah Goldberg (whom he has helped promote in the past and offered a prominent platform to sell his books) and other neoconservatives regarding Trump’s “character”. This is because the antics seem to concern the Beltway types more than policies or results and Mr. Horowitz looks at the bigger picture. It is as if the Atlanticists do not understand that the left is in this to win and to win at any and all costs. They simply do not get it that the left does not look at this as mere political disagreement, they see this as war. And, as Horowitz has pointed out in the past, every day the left gets up ready to go to war. David has said and written that when he awakened from the left to the right, he was asking others on the right, “Where’s your ground game?” And there was nothing. The left, he knew from firsthand experience, went to bed every night and woke up every morning ready to go to war. All the while, the right gets up thinking about all kinds of things other than the constant fight that is required just to slow down the left’s radical revolutionary drive. Beltway conservatives think the right cannot operate this way and must not operate this way. In other words, according to the approach the establishment NeverTrumper George Will’s and John Kasich’s of the world recommend, the right should consign itself to losing forever so long as they never do or say anything that offends anyone anywhere ever.
What Have Conservatives Conserved?
Beltway conservatism has become increasingly socially liberal over the last couple of decades. Conservative critics often refer to this brand of conservatism derogatorily as: Conservativism, Inc., the GOPe (as in Establishment), RINO Republicanism (as in Republican In Name Only), and so on. Although leftists are constitutionally incapable of realizing these nuances, it is easy to see why this is the case. It is virtually impossible for intellectual elites who were either born, raised, educated in, or have become long-term residents of the well-heeled corners of DC, NYC (specifically the upper crust areas of Manhattan and sections of Boston), and the East Coast blue blood elite regions to understand the views of conservatives in the Deep South and ‘flyover country’. Consider it this way: what could a tech whiz educated at Cal Tech or MIT and working for one of the Tech Left giants of Silicon Valley have in common with a bass-fishing or deer-hunting factory worker in Mississippi? You answer that question.
There are lots of sociological reasons for this. In order to function and operate in those areas, which are and have long been dominated by leftwing ideologues, the Beltway neoconservatives and libertarians (Beltwaytarians?) have to adhere to a particular set of closely-circumscribed worldviews or socio-cultural assumptions about what can be said and what cannot be said. In other words, they are highly constrained by variants of political correctness that they dare not violate for fear of being excluded by their self-perceived social betters. They have a desire to be seen as outsiders but with insider connections. They have even been known to brag about their proximity to the locus of power and to cast aspersions on other institutes and publications operating outside of the power centers occupied by the elite. And all the while they preserve little if anything at all. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to be able to identify what issue they would be willing to go to the mat with left in order to stave off leftist destruction. So, although the right was the primary driver in winning the Cold War, they sacrificed possible irreparable losses in the Culture War.
Of Deplorables and Kings
It is this deep-seated desire for social acceptance that drives their condemnations of those they see as rightwing vulgarians. The vulgarians are the same group that Hillary Clinton infamously condemned as deplorables. These deplorables and vulgarians were, more or less, the same groups who fell victim to Buckley’s infamous purges many decades ago. He wanted an urbane and genteel version of conservatism that could still find some way to fit in at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton despite the faculty increasingly heading leftward. This is the version of conservatism that could win in the past, but today is satisfied with simply losing in style. A sort of white gloves and coattails variety that will happily lose with their brand of conservatism so long as they are still invited to swanky parties where they may not be too out of place with their Monopoly monocles and top hats.
They will not even countenance a principled anti-war position which they, along with many leftists today, condemn as “isolationism”. Nor will they consider reducing the steady flow of immigration since many of their benefactors are dependent upon an abundance of cheap labor that they can exploit to the maximum. But the thing that has really brought these disparate groups together has been their collective hysterical Trump Derangement Syndrome. They cannot fathom that Trump, the uber-vulgarian, now controls the fate of the political right, or at least the GOP. Not only has Trump increased his power and influence over the GOP itself, the Republican party machine, but he is also becoming a king-maker. Trump-endorsed candidates are winning and those who have railed against him are either stepping down or losing outright.
What really irritates those who drink deeply from the waters of the Potomac, is that they think that because they are the thinking class, they should be able to decide who is acceptable and who is not. Who has “character” and who does not. Who shows the necessary levels of deference, genuflection, and respect. Never mind the massive piles of dead bodies stacked up behind the neoconservative warmongers from the two disastrous Bush terms (not that Gore or Kerry would have been an ounce better). However, the days of the Buckleyite purges are possibly coming to a close. The National Review has virtually no influence whatsoever on voters and their writers are frequently taken to task in their own comment sections by conservatives who are disgusted with the NR model of effete conservatism. Movement conservatism, as Michael Walsh recently wrote in American Greatness, is dead. Even if it isn’t quite dead yet, it does seem to be suffering a terminal decline. The reason for this is that they are afraid to win. They are, however, willing to break their own arms patting themselves on the back for refusing to take off their white gloves and get their hands dirty to do what it takes to win. What this means is that they are perfectly happy with the eventual destruction of America so long as they are not seen as deplorables or vulgarians by Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren.
The fact of the matter is that the Irving Kristol-David Frum-Bill Kristol model of conservatism is on its last leg and will probably not survive another two years of Trumpism. That is why their “movement” desperately wants Trump to be impeached. Ben Shapiro said as much in an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher (who the last time I saw him was a minor co-star in 1987's House II: The Second Story) wherein Shapiro praised Trump’s conservative accomplishments, appointments of judges, and negotiations with North Korea, but essentially said if or when Trump is impeached, he will be just as happy as any leftist. This is the Atlanticist/bi-coastal mindset. But at least Maher showed the guts to speak out on behalf of Alex Jones and against censorious deplatforming.
Trump vs the Atlanticists
Trump, probably more out of a personal animus rather than any clearly-defined philosophical disagreement, detests the Bush I and Bush II neoconservative brand of Republicanism. Despite the fact that his administration does have a few of their neocon confreres (but, contrary to many of my fellow libertarians, I think this is a classic example of realpolitik where Trump has brought John Bolton on board to scare the heck out of Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia rather than because he plans to launch World War III), they desperately want and need Trump gone. He threatens everything they have worked so hard to establish from the days of Buckley until their ultimate culmination in power with the Bush II regime. An “achievement” that Russell Kirk likely would have been ashamed of. Indeed, prior to his demise, Kirk expressed his disappointment with Bush I’s invasion of Iraq. There is no chance he would have gone along with the second rendition of something he already had said was lamentable. The transition from classical conservatism to neoconservativism was fully realized with Iraq I and II. And this, much to the chagrin of paleoconservatives, delivered Obama the presidency on a silver platter.
When Trump said, “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo!”, it was not just the far left that howled in pain and terror, a shudder swept through both Beltway conservatives and libertarians alike. This is because the Atlanticist mentality deigns at the thought of someone who is actually a red-blooded patriot or nationalist. They think, “Didn’t Buckley toss nutters like this out of polite company long ago? I thought rubes like this were barred?” The very notion literally causes a wince and puts a grimace on their faces.
Any political leader who explicitly puts America first is considered to be a stark danger to the bi-coastal elites. From the Tech Left giants of Silicon Valley to LA to NYC to DC, it is unconscionable that anyone would think God, guns, and the flag can represent America. As James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas undercover investigations revealed about Twitter employees, one of them said on video regarding how to determine who is a “bot” and not a real person, “You look for Trump, or America, or any of, like, five thousand, like, keywords to describe a redneck.” This is just one of the ways that the Tech Left is able to program machine-learning algorithms to ban Trumpian, nationalistic, or patriotic ways of speaking on social media platforms. Only a vulgarian could ever speak or think in such a way. But no matter how extreme the far left identity politics has gotten, there is always a Beltway neoconservative and libertarian there to agree with them in order to prove they are not like those flag-waving, Bible-thumping, gun-toting, ‘Merica-loving Trump supporters.
These are literally two different worlds or two different worldviews. Precisely as Victor Davis Hanson said. The Beltway vision is drastically different than what one may find in the Deep South or in Texas and so on. More than this, Trump supporters realize that they are seen this way and they resent it. They resent it so much that every single time Trump goes off on some Twitter rant, they love it. But the Atlanticist sees these same tweets and thinks, “Oh no! Oh my goodness, there he goes again! When can we finally get rid of this miserable wretch!? He makes us look so bad in Berlin! He makes us look so bad in Belgium and Paris!” Meanwhile no one in the Deep South or Midwest gives a hoot what political elites in Berlin, Belgium, or Paris thinks.
Censorship, Deplatforming, and Tribalism
Even Buckley, who had led the transition from Kirk’s Burkean classical conservatism to neoconservatism, would not recognize the landscape we see unfolding before us as the far left takes more and more control over the entire cultural landscape from comedy to film to television to music and so on. The electronic speech bans that are taking place across social media are all part of the left’s hysteria following the presidential loss that they had expected to be a coronation party for their favorite elite Wall Street-backed political dynasty. Never mind what the Clinton syndicate did to Bernie Sanders. According to the timetable of the far left, we are supposed to be in a clean-up phase as they process everything through for a consolidation of power. Although they lost the presidency, the elite left are still moving ahead with many other parts of the agenda all of which tie back directly into dominating the cultural narrative. This is made all the worse since the Beltway types are marching right along with them lockstep in the woefully mistaken belief that they will be spared, that they will not be next.
They will be next. Eventually even they will step out of line and say some little something or have some unthinkable thought that they express and the left will come for them too. It is inevitable. This is because, as Michael Walsh and many others have been pointing out recently, conservatism has been able to conserve absolutely nothing. I am a libertarian, not exactly of the Beltway variety, and do not share all of the same concerns as Walsh or Horowitz, but what Walsh says seems obvious to me. This is also why what Buckley did in the past could work in the past, but cannot work today.
Farewell to the 'Conservative Movement'
The #NeverTrumpumpkins define themselves by their visceral distaste for the president. He offends their fastidious…
With all due apologies, here I finally return to the original question regarding Goldberg. Gillespie/Reason suggest Goldberg is indeed tacking in a more libertarian direction. An interesting segment of the interview (which I will link below) has them agreeing on the following points: the founding of America was grievously flawed but incomparably better than anything that preceded it, capitalism has been the greatest engine for improving the lives of the poor than any other system, tremendous damage has been wrought in America following the return of Ph.D. students from their studies during the 19th century at German universities where they were indoctrinated with a toxic milieu of relativistic ideologies (yes, those awful ideas that every conservative seems to think came from France originated in Germany first), FDR’s New Deal was a culmination of the progressive era policies and trends, and that the dramatic increase in material goods and concomitant growth in consumer culture following World War II unleashed a hell-storm of social disruptions that we are still reaping today. I agree with much of this portion and some of it is covered in the Secular Revolution that I mentioned previously.
However, every time Trump’s name comes up, both interviewer and interviewee reveal their utter contempt and disgust. This is exactly the sort of behavior one observes in far-left ideologues. So one must ask what unites the belief structure that causes such visceral reactions? This is especially baffling when both immediately agree that some things Trump has done are good but à la Shapiro, that “F — Trump” (Goldberg/Gillespie’s take in the video not Ben’s term) has to be the correct position to take. Then, in what has to be a clear example of what psychologists refer to as cognitive dissonance, they agree that the elite classes (Goldberg air quotes “globalists” as that is a controversial or unspeakable concept) do not understand the people who take care of their lawns for them nor the people who work in factories. This is stunning to witness since, to me anyway, it is obvious neither Gillespie nor Goldberg understand those people either. Those are the people who wait in line 8 hours to see Trump at a rally with thousands of them not even able to get into the buildings which are literally packed to the rafters. Trump is a rock-star among the very people they claim global elites do not understand.
Goldberg then goes on to condemn “tribalism”. Which he relates as an “us” v “them” mentality. What he does not realize is that there is no escaping tribalism. Tribalism is an inherent trait for all H. sapiens sapiens. Certainly tribalism manifests in all sorts of different ways for different people and different groups, but it is absurd to think there is any way out of that. Remember, tribalism is not just about an actual “tribe”, rather it is about in-group vs out-group loyalties. In fact, during that very segment of the interview, he and Gillespie are the “us” (in-group: the calm, cool, rational, genteel types) opposing Trump, Steve Bannon, and their hordes of deplorable, bitter-clinger, vulgarian supporters (out-group). This is all so typical of the Atlanticist/bi-coastal pundit class that it is exactly like watching MSNBC or CNN trying to analyze Trump as they grasp at straws to try to figure out the phenomenon and how or why anyone could or ever would like him.
At no point in the interview do they ever appear to grasp what the facts about immigration and demographic changes very plainly prove: in about a decade, maybe a little more or less, no Republican will ever be able to win national office again. As states that are slightly holding on to Red status become Purple, the switch to Blue becomes inevitable as immigration rates remain steady. This is because all historical voting records and trends prove that those populations overwhelmingly vote to the political left. Like it or not, whether one wants to disparage facts as “nativist” or “tribalist” or whatever, that is what the Democratic party already knows and the GOP/Republican party has absolutely no plan or strategy to even begin to deal with these facts.
I have no particular interest in the Republican party or how it will strategize long-term. I am a libertarian in no way tied into the political power apparatus and simply offer these observations on all of this in order that others develop a clear understanding that sometimes can only come from an outsider. Although some of my characterizations of the Atlanticist mentality may be a bit coarse, it is really only intended to be a wake-up call. For my entire lifetime and even before, the right has continually been on defense, on their heels, backing up constantly and responding as the left dictates the pace of the culture wars. This is why the left often disparages them as “reactionaries”.
This Age of Trump is the first time ever that the left wakes up everyday in a defensive mode, backing up, never knowing what might happen next. They have, however, been able to snipe away at the edges of Trump’s circle to take out a series of minor players. This may very well lead to Trump’s demise through impeachment or assassination from some far-left radical. Who is to say. But there is much to be learned from this for conservatives, neoconservatives, and libertarians. The Gillespie-Goldberg interview helps to put a fine point on some of this. Perhaps it is a generational issue and upcoming generations of conservatives and libertarians will learn to press the agenda harder and make things challenging for the aggressively revolutionary left.
For all of their good points, and I personally like a lot of what they say and would assuredly be able to get along with them, what we see on full display is the mentality of the LA-NYC-DC power nexus. I do not see these guys able to understand low or middle class people in the Deep South where I live at all. I do not see these guys understanding the people who work in factories in “flyover country” at all.
Gillespie and Goldberg both exhibit agreement at one point at the phrase, “City air makes you free” which would probably make most people who love living in rural and suburban areas have chills runs down their spine as they think about the debt, crime, rampant hard drug abuse, and other Democratic governor and mayor-created problems that exist in most of the biggest cities. Many people have been appalled over the last few years reading about and watching videos on the thousands of shootings and hundreds of homicides in Chicago every single year, BART stations in San Francisco being full of IV drug users vomiting all throughout the station in broad daylight, and again San Francisco experiencing a major problem with human feces in the streets where the city has had to implement an entirely new “profession” of street patrols who shovel up the numerous piles of fecal matter. Not the sort of air anyone would want to celebrate.
The interview is nearly 50 minutes long, I’m sure edited down from quite a bit more, and at no point do they contemplate Hillary’s America (which is also the title of a Dinesh D’Souza documentary in which Goldberg appeared, but even as bad as Hillary would have been, he still seems to insist Trump’s crass behavior is simply unconscionable no matter how many judges he gets appointed or taxes lowered or regulations cut). What would the prospects be for Goldberg’s version of conservatism or Gillespie’s libertarianism under Madam President? Surely they would probably be safe in the Atlanticist bubble, but woe be unto those outside of it. Instead of simply being deplatformed, some major conservatives and libertarians would also possibly be in prison as well. All of the massive corruption currently being revealed at the DOJ, FBI, and so on would never have been uncovered. In fact, all those we see getting fired for monumental misdeeds would probably be getting promotions, awards, and raises across the board. Is that a responsible outcome for conservatism or libertarianism? One wonders if the Goldberg-Gillespie interview was a melding of a syncretic worldview of conservatarianism or a neo-fusionism of the Beltway variety.
Harkening back to the start of this article, one notes a complete absence of the concerns raised by Kirk and Buckley. Sure, they make a few off-handed references to important institutions that are of value to societies…but they do not name any of them. What exactly are the “permanent things” that can weave together the fabric of our society since the U.S. is supposed to be a propositional nation based upon a specific set of ideals? These are ideals, mind you, that are not shared widely around the world. Not even close. But more than this, there is no vision offered during the interview related to religion the way that Buckley often wrote and spoke out about, no discussion of what constitutes traditional conservatism, no mention of Roger Scruton or G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936), no consideration of the sorts of things that bind together a community with common concerns or interests or backgrounds, and the like. Perhaps that smacks too much of “nativism” or populist nationalism or tribalism, which are currently on the rise across the West as a direct response to the secular globalist neoliberal policies that have dominated the last few decades.
This disconnect between the urban intellectual chattering classes is also notable in England. Many who voted for Brexit are keen to point out that those who tend to nest in London and pontificate about what is good for the world and judge Brexiteers negatively, simply do not understand the commoners. In many ways, that situation seems to replicate the urban vs suburban/rural divide that exists with Trump as well. Many of these and related issues have been covered by Justin Raimondo in his Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement and Paul Gottfried in his Conservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right. As to the prospects for a neoconservative-libertarian alliance, such an endeavor would never be anything other than limited and short-term. Finally, I think it is important to point out (as covered in Bradley Birzer’s Russell Kirk: American Conservative) that Russell Kirk near the end of his life came to condemn the warmongering disposition at National Review.
*(The title of this article is a reference to Kirk’s article “Libertarians: Chirping Sectaries” from 1981 which was woefully wrong on several aspects of libertarianism, but the phrase makes for a great title. Kirk wrote, “What else do conservatives and libertarians profess in common?” The answer to that question is simple: nothing. Nor will they ever have. To talk of forming a league or coalition between these two is like advocating a union of ice and fire.”)