Eldridge Cleaver: From Violent Anti-Americanism to Christian Conservativism

Eldridge Cleaver (1935-1998) is a name not well known to many Americans today, not even to today’s disaffected youth in our universities and the culture at large. This is a surprise, although there are also reasons for it, because Eldridge was, at various times, an admitted criminal and “insurrectionary” rapist (rape as a way of striking back at “white” society), a member of the Black Panther Party, a “Black Muslim,” and one of the leading socialist, communist and Marxist revolutionaries of his time.

His book, Soul on Ice became the Bible, so to speak, of the Black Power movement. It also led Cleaver to become, for a time, the favorite black radical of American intellectuals. Eldridge was obviously highly intelligent. He was, in fact, a truly remarkable man. He did, it is true, have his demons right up to the end; not surprising, given his brutal start in life. But his life, taken as a whole, is a testament to the ability of a person to learn from his experiences. Indeed, that is precisely why he is out of favor today, when conformity to the script is the most prized quality.

Eldridge Cleaver was born on August 31, 1935 in the tiny town of Wabbaseka, Arkansas. His father, Leroy Cleaver was a nightclub entertainer and a waiter, and his mother an elementary school teacher. His father was reported to be a violent man who beat his wife. Eldridge stated that he wanted to grow up to be tall and strong like his father, but “bigger and stronger,” so that he could “beat him to the ground the way he beat my mother.”

His father was offered a job in the dining car of a train that ran from Chicago to Los Angeles. During this time Eldridge’s family moved to Phoenix Arizona and later, in 1946, to the Watts area in Los Angeles. While a teenager Eldridge got into petty crime and was sent to reform school for stealing a bicycle and selling marijuana. In 1954 he was convicted for marijuana possession, which was a felony at the time, and incarcerated at the California State Prison at Soledad for 2 ½ years. It was at this time he began reading widely and earned his high school diploma.

Despite this promising turn around, a year after his release, he was arrested for rapes, convicted of assault with intent to murder and sent to San Quentin prison first, and later to Folsom for a term of 2 to 14 years. In these years, Cleaver voraciously read the works of Karl Marx, Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Vladimir Lenin and W.E.B. Du Bois. For the record, Du Bois (1868-1963) was an American sociologist, historian, author, editor and activist and probably the most important black activist in the United States during the first half of the 20th century. Cleaver also began to engage in serious self-reflection and criticism. In Soul on Ice, the product of these self-reflections, Cleaver describes himself at his most depraved:

“I became a rapist. To refine my technique and modus operandi, I started out by practicing on black girls in… the black ghetto where dark and vicious deeds appear not as aberrations or deviations from the norm, but as part of the sufficiency of the Evil of the day – and when I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey. I did this consciously, deliberately, willfully, methodically — though looking back I see that I was in a frantic, wild and completely abandoned frame of mind.
Rape was an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women — and this point, I believe, was the most satisfying to me… I felt I was getting revenge.

“There was little doubt… that if I had not been apprehended, I would have slit some white throats.

I took a long look at myself and, for the first time in my life, admitted that I was wrong, that I had gone astray – astray, not so much from the white man’s law as from being human, civilized — for I could not approve the act of rape… I lost my self-respect. My pride as a man dissolved and my whole fragile moral structure seemed to collapse, completely shattered.”

After his release from prison, seeking a more moral and disciplined life, Cleaver joined the Black Muslim movement and became friends with Malcolm X. But after the assassination of Malcolm X, he denounced the Muslim faith. He did, however, retain a determination to realize Malcolm X’s dream of African Unity.

In 1966 he began writing for the Ramparts magazine, a glossy expensively produced and illustrated magazine associated with the New Left, and met the leaders of the young Black Panther Party, including Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. Eldridge joined the Panthers believing that Newton would carry on Malcolm X’s dream of African Unity and became the party’s Minister of Information and leader of the “Free Huey” movement.

While a member of the Panthers, he called for an armed insurrection to overthrow the United States government and its replacement by a black socialist government.

On April 6th of 1968 Cleaver, with 14 other Black Panthers armed with M16 rifles and shotguns, was involved in a shootout with police, which the Panthers blamed on the police, and in which the seventeen-year-old Panther, Bobby Hutton was killed.

Cleaver was charged with attempted murder and ordered back to prison. However, a judge ordered him released from prison two months later, and Cleaver gave a series of lectures at the University of California at Berkeley. The Governor of California at the time, Ronald Reagan, attempted to prevent Cleaver from speaking at Berkeley. In addition to calling Reagan “Mickey Mouse,” Cleaver once challenged Reagan to a duel:

“I challenged Ronald Reagan to a duel and I reiterate that challenge tonight. . . . And I give him his choice of weapons. He can use a gun, a knife, a baseball bat or a marshmallow. And I’ll beat him to death with a marshmallow.”

In the Reason interview, Cleaver also admits to plotting to kill Reagan. Cleaver’s parole was revoked and he was ordered back to prison. But, on Nov. 24, 1968, three days before he was due to turn himself in to the authorities, Cleaver fled to Cuba. He then spent the next seven years travelling through various socialist and communist countries, including Algeria, North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union, before, finally, settling down for a period in France.

Although Cleaver was initially treated to a life of luxury in Cuba, relations with Castro soured and Cleaver left Cuba for Algeria. Elaine Klein got him an invitation to attend the Pan-African Cultural Festival, which temporarily rendered him safe from prosecution. His work in the Festival enabled him to meet revolutionaries from all over Africa to discuss the evils of white supremacy and colonialism.

Cleaver again called for violence against the United States and stated his mission to “position the Panthers within the revolutionary nationalist camp inside the United States, and as disciples of Fanon on the world stage”.

Fritz Omar Fanon (1925–1961), born on the island of Martinique under French colonial rule, is difficult to classify. Fanon had an eclectic range of influences, including French Marxist and “Existentialist” Jean-Paul Sartre and French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty. But it is fair to say that he combined Marxism, black existentialism and critical theory in his struggle against “Atlantic colonialism.”

During his travels through various socialist and communist countries, Cleaver even developed a curious alliance with the communist government in North Korea, and his Black Panther Party began publishing excerpts from its strange reclusive leader, Kim Il Sung.

Although Americans were forbidden to visit North Korea at the time, Cleaver and several other Panthers made two visits to the country in 1969-1970 to determine whether North Korea’s “juche model” could be adapted to the cause of black liberation in the United States.

Juche deserves a longer discussion but this is the basics: It was described as a program of national self-reliance, as a means of getting rid of Soviet domination of North Korea, which sounds positive enough, but it was actually used as a justification for the creation of the bizarre North Korean closed-door policy to the outside world and, internally, to justify getting rid of Kim Il Sung’s political rivals and achieve total dictatorial control of the country. After being taken on an official tour of North Korea, Cleaver expressed his admiration for North Korea’s “stable crime free society which provided guaranteed food, employment, and housing for all, and… had no economic or social inequalities.”

By 1975, however, after experiencing the joys of socialism and communism first hand in multiple countries around the world, as opposed to celebrating them in the comfy confines of a Berkeley sociology lecture, or while sitting cross-legged in a circle passing around the “peace pipe,” Cleaver had reversed his opinions.

In the interview with Reason magazine, he explained that in the United States he had sought to “fight against what I saw as the evils of our system.” But when he went “to a country like Cuba or Algeria or the Soviet Union and [saw] the nature of control that those state apparatuses had over the people – it was shocking to me. I didn’t want to believe it, because it meant that the politics that I was espousing was wrong.”

In that same interview, Cleaver also addresses Marx’s idea that after the glorious socialist revolution a “dictatorship of the proletariat” will be necessary for some temporary period until the state “withers away” and everyone achieves complete freedom. After his actual, real-world experience of these regimes, Cleaver begged to differ:

“The communists teach you that the dictatorship is a transient phase—that once capitalism is eliminated, then the state will wither away and you will have freedom. Well, when you look at those governments up close and see how they treat their own people, you can’t believe in that. You see that people are using that preachment of the withering away of the state as their excuse to justify their own dictatorial power.”

When asked in the Reason interview why so many American “intellectuals,” like Barbara Walters or George McGovern, visit these socialist and communist regimes and come away impressed, Cleaver stated that this was because they just “scurry” right though quickly, while getting the red-carpet treatment. That is, they are enormously gullible. By contrast, Cleaver said, “I lived in those kinds of places and I got to know people and made friends. I got to know the governments, the people in the military, people in the Communist Party or whatever they called it. That gives you a different perspective.” Indeed, this one-time communist told Reason magazine that he now thought stopping communism is “a noble cause.”

Since leftist accusations against the police are once again the most useful cause du jour to manipulate the public and get their way, it is significant that in the interview with Reason magazine, Cleaver also addressed the gunfight with the police in which Bobby Hutton was killed – but describes those events entirely differently than he had during his days as a Panther:

“We went after the cops that night, but when we got caught, we said they came after us. We always did that. When you talk about the legacy of the ’60’s that’s one legacy… [I]t helped to distort the image of the police, but I’ve come to the point where I realize that our police department is necessary.”

Whereas in his days as a Black Panther, Cleaver had accused the police for the gunfight that killed Bobby Hutton, he now admitted that it was his group that provoked the violence so that they could blame it on the police: “We always did that.”

This duplicitous strategy continues to the present day. “Protestors” still chant the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” slogan from the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri even though the Obama-Holder Justice Department, after a thorough investigation and testimony from six black witnesses, cleared the police Officer. Truth is not of major concern to leftists when dictatorial control of a whole country is the goal.

In the Reason interview Cleaver also returned to the night while living in France when he had his political and spiritual turnaround. He describes how, sitting with a gun in his hand, he was contemplating suicide, when he suddenly had a vision, in which his former Marxist heroes disappear in smoke and a blinding light led him to Christianity.

Disillusioned with the socialist and communist worlds, indeed, “shocked” by the way they treated their people, and homesick for the United States, Cleaver returned to America, even though a murder charge and a charge for skipping bail were still hanging over his head.

In 1977 he surrendered to the FBI under a deal in which the he pled guilty to the assault charge and was sentenced to 1,200 hours of community service in exchange for dropping the attempted murder charge. Facing a murder charge in the United States is, apparently, preferable, and not by a small margin, to being given the red-carpet treatment in the various socialist and communist paradises around the world.

In a 1998 article in the New York Times titled, “Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther Who Became a G.O.P. Conservative, Is Dead at 62,” John Kifner describes how Cleaver continued his evolution, after returning to the United States. Having witnessed the devastation wreaked by socialism and communism with his own eyes, he became an entrepreneur (apparently realizing that capitalism, far from being evil, gives individuals the freedom to turn an idea and some hard work into a good, even a great, way of life, creating jobs for others along the way), and marketed a new type of men’s trousers called the “Cleaver Sleeve” featuring a codpiece.

Cleaver became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) for a time, before becoming a Christian conservative, a member of the Republican Party and a supporter of Ronald Reagan, the man he had once plotted to kill. What a difference growing up makes! He even ran for public office as a Republican but lost. Cleaver had come full circle.

As a result of his real education living in socialist and communist countries, he went from being a Marxist revolutionary who called for the assassination of Ronald Reagan to being a Christian conservative Republican Reagan supporter.

At the time of his interview with Reason magazine, Cleaver lived in a modest apartment in Berkeley California where he was working on a book on the history of the 1960s. A large American flag, testimony to the fact that some people are actually willing to learn from their experience, flew from his front porch. With his prominently displayed large American flag, the former Marxist was clearly trying to send a message.

Cleaver’s turnabout was not, predictably, appreciated on the Left. The same New York Times article describes a case in the 1980s when Cleaver demanded that the Berkeley City Council begin its meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, a practice that they had once followed but had abandoned several years earlier. The Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport responded: “Shut up Eldridge. Shut up or we’ll have you removed!”

Cleaver might be forgiven if he thought he was back in one of his other former socialist or communist paradises. Further, at the time of the writing of this article, Wikipedia, which is sometimes, perhaps in a poor attempt at humour, described as an “encyclopedia,” has a reasonably sized article of about 630 words, not counting the footnotes, for Cleaver’s youthful angry anti-American book, Soul on Ice.

Since, however, Cleaver’s later book, Soul on Fire, which describes his conversion to being a Christian conservative, pro-American Republican is much more positive and hopeful, and most unforgivably, his conversion to support Ronald Reagan, it does not merit a Wikipedia article at all, not even a brief one, and is not even mentioned in the Wikipedia article about Soul on Ice.

Despite Cleaver’s remarkable evolution, it must be admitted that some of his demons remained with him in later life. In 1990 and 1994, he had police issues over the use of crack cocaine. But that is not why he is criticized and rejected by the Left where self-destructive drug use is just a part of life.

Cleaver’s mistake, for the Left, is that he had actually allowed himself to learn from his experiences over the years and see though his youthful leftist follies – for the ability to learn from experience is precisely what the Left cannot abide.

Richard McDonough is the author of two books, numerous articles, encyclopedia and dictionary entries, and book reviews. He has taught previously at Bates College, the National University of Singpaore, the University of Tulsa, the University Putra Malaysia, the Overseas Family College, the PSB Academy, the University of Maryland, the Arium Academy, and James Cook University. In addition to philosophy, he has taught psychology, physics, humanities and writing courses.

The featured image shows, “Unite,” a color screenprint, by Barbara Jones-Hogu, printed 1969.

Open Letter To Fellow Jews About The November Election: You Should Have Supported Donald Trump

How did Jews vote in the 2020 presidential election? It is still too early to determine this, fully accurately, but early evidence indicates that we supported Biden to the tune of about 72% and Trump the remaining 28%. To add insult to injury, of the 34 members of Congress who are Jewish, fully 32 of them are Democrats.

What more did poor Donald Trump have to do to earn an overwhelming majority of the Jewish vote? He moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something promised on numerous occasions by his predecessors. Several members of his family converted to Judaism; did he break with them, sit shiva? Of course not. Compare his relationship with Bibi with that of Barack Obama; night and day: no comparison.

He pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal. An executive order of his targeted anti-Semitism – primarily in the form of Israel boycotts – on college campuses. At the annual White House Hanukkah Party, Trump ordered the US Department of Education to effectively interpret Judaism as a race or nationality in addition to a religion. As a result, those universities which fail to take steps to quell discrimination against Jewish students may have their funding cut off. He withdrew the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council, which has unfairly been on the Israeli case for years, ignoring numerous serious human rights violations elsewhere.

In the summer of 2019, Trump even outdid Israel. That country was in the process of making an exception to their rule barring entry of all BDS supporters for Congressmen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Trump intervened, and they were disinvited. What else did he do that Jews ought to appreciate?

  • He initiated the Trump Plan, Peace to Prosperity
  • He stopped financial support for the UNWRA
  • He supported Israel sovereignty over the Golan
  • He kicked the Palestinian Authority out of Washington and defunded them

Most recently, the only president we presently have waved his magic wand and helped make peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. Normalized relationships are now being implemented. And, too, it looks as if this will be repeated with Oman and several others. Trump is a mensch. OK, OK, he doesn’t bake bagels or manufacture gefilte fish. C’mon, give this man a break!

How many more mitzvot does Trump need to perform in order to get Jews to appreciate him? In fact, it would be difficult to mention a more philo-Semitic president than the Donald. Has any other US president come within a million miles of these deeds, with the possible exception of Harry Truman who recognized Israel? To ask this is to answer it.

And, yet, according to that old aphorism, “Jews have the wealth of Presbyterians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” Most recently, more than six hundred Jewish groups went on record in support of Black Lives Matter, not the idea, which all men of good will can support, but the Marxist “peaceful” marchers.

What did things look like for the People of the Book on the other side of the aisle? Oy vey. Bernie (“Bibi is a racist”) Sanders did not win the Democratic nomination for president, but his negative viewpoints on Israel have left an indelible impression upon the foreign policy platform of that party. OK, you say, platform schplatsform; no one has to abide by it, no one ever does. But, still, it indicates where the hearts and minds of the Democrats are located. It is indicative of the types of advisors who will be surrounding the very possible President Biden, come 2021.

Then there is the high-flying very powerful “Squad” (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar). These young women are the leading indicators of the Democratic Party. Their views indicate where this organization is likely headed for the next few years.

Sayeth Omar: “Israel has hypnotized the world.” She called upon Allah to “awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” She supports BDS and has likened Israel to Nazi Germany. She has castigated Congressmen who support Israel, but not any other nation, “for allegiance to a foreign country.” And she maintains that favoring Israel is “all about the Benjamins” (gelt, for the unwary). She apologized for the latter, but not the former.

In the view of Tlaib: “We cannot be honest brokers for peace if we refuse to use the words ‘illegal occupation by Israel…’” Also: “I spoke today as the proud granddaughter of a strong, loving Palestinian woman in opposition to #HRes326. We must take bolder actions to ensure human rights are upheld in Israel and that Palestinians and Black Israelis are treated with the equality every human being deserves.” The clear fact is that Arabs in Israel are treated far better than in any other country in the Middle East, as indicated by “voting with the feet.” Arabs are not emigrating from Israel; they are trying to immigrate into that country.

Here is Pressley’s reaction to Bibi Netanyahu’s plan to annex Judea and Samaria: “Let me be clear, unilateral annexation is a threat to democracy and would create apartheid like conditions and entrench human rights violations against the Palestinian people…”

And AOC’s view of this matter? “Should the Israeli government continue down this path, we will work to ensure non-recognition of annexed territories as well as pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel to ensure that U.S. taxpayers are not supporting annexation in any way.” In case some of you were busy davening, OK, Rip van Winkling it, these four congressmen are members of the Democratic Party’s “progressive” wing, and bitter enemies of President Trump. We’re going to vote for the Presidential candidate who supports them? Maazel Tov.

OK, we Yidden account for only some 2% of the electorate. Our vote, therefore, doesn’t count for too much, some might say. But we are more involved in politics than many, have larger megaphones than some, and are usually more than willing to put our money where our mouths are. We thus had a disproportionate effect on the 2020 election compared to our raw numbers. It is imperative, then, that we rethink our typical 90%-10% support of the Democratic Party. A shonda.

Every other demographic cohort casts ballots in the direction of their perceived interests. Why should we be any different? If we value a good U.S. relationship with the only civilized country in the Middle East, the only nation that treats gays, women and minorities decently, we should have rethought our knee-jerk aversion to Mr. Trump, and wish him another four years. We should have also gotten off our tuchases and worked for this eventuality.

I have no problem, none whatsoever, with the usual roughly 90-10 split in the Jewish vote between the two major parties. I just wish it were in the other direction. What are we, to bite the hand offered us in friendship over and over and over again? Meshugenahs? Moishe Pippicks? Schlemeeles? Schmendrecks? Schlemaazls? Luft-menschen? It was beshert that Trump be reelected. Don’t be a nudnick. Don’t be a putz. Yes, his schtick is a bit off-putting to some; but it shouldn’t be to most of us, who are also from the Big Apple. It goes with the territory.

I hate to be repetitive, but, oy vey.

On the other hand, thank God for Orthodox Jewry, may their numbers increase. At least those people have Yiddishe cups and more than just a bissle of ethics; maybe from the study of the Talmud? Most recently, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky encouraged his haredi followers to vote for Donald Trump. Why? In one word: gratitude.

All this, of course, is now in the past. But there will be elections, again, in two, four, six years from now, God willing. It is time, it is past time, for us Jews to seriously question, and then reject our aversion to the Republican Party. Are they perfect? Fully aligned with the Talmud. Of course not. But, compared to the alternative, it is an easy call in their behalf.

Walter E. Block is Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute.

The image shows a socialist Yiddish poster from 1917, which reads, “Vote for the United Jewish Socialist Workers Party.” [Thanks to Rafi Farber for the translation].

A Post-Election Encomium For Trump

For many years, both political parties shared the same American Dream but differed on which policies best served that purpose. Since WWII, the Republican Party increasingly became the party of the self-absorbed successful (Country Club Republicans) basking in the glory of a global empire with an unlimited supply of underpaid illegal servants and workers. The only problem was that this empire, unlike previous ones that had collected tribute, now hemorrhaged treasure both literally and figuratively. At the same time, the Democratic Party increasingly became the party of ideological technocrats and a mindless grievance industry constantly multiplying victimized groups. Lost in all this were blue-collar citizens of all colors who found their American dreams turning into a nightmare. Enter Donald J. Trump.

President Trump can be best and easily understood as someone who retrieved a traditional conception of America. That conception embraced “the English language; Christianity; religious commitment; English concepts of the rule of law, the responsibility of rulers, and the rights of individuals; and dissenting Protestant values of individualism, the work ethic, and the belief that humans have the ability and the duty to try to create a heaven on earth, a ‘city on a hill’.” (Huntington, Who Are We?).

This is what “Make America Great Again” means. It is open to everyone regardless of race, national origin, etc. That is why one always sees signs at Trump rallies saying: “Blacks for Trump,” “Latinos for Trump,” “Women for Trump,” and so forth. It is the celebration of the underdog, a mobile and classless society, and the embodiment of the “Rocky” films. Immigration contributes to this message, but only works when the new citizens understand and embrace the culture to which they are moving, when they understand what makes the new community better than the dysfunctional one they worked so hard to leave.

The traditional conception of America is what makes it great; it’s not magic. A leader needs to provide a positive narrative. Trump’s 2016 narrative (“Make America Great Again”) and his 2020 narrative (“Keep America Great”) are not only positive but also inclusive and intended to bring people together. In severe contrast, “1619,” “Black Lives Matter,” and ‘identity politics’ are negative and divisive.

Many “Republican voters knew that our K-12 schools and immigration laws badly need reforming [especially inner city schools where reform is blocked by the Teachers’ Unions], and liked Trump’s plans for them. They wanted Trump to cut the administrative state and all its wasteful, job-destroying regulations as well as the crony capitalism that hampers small business. Most jobs and creativity emerge from small businesses – not the big corporations with lawyers and lobbyists who have enough money to sway regulations in their direction.

Mostly, they knew that we had become a class society where rich parents raised rich kids and poor parents raised poor kids, and that this was a betrayal of the American Dream, a betrayal of the traditional immigrant’s expectation that whoever you are and wherever you come from, your children will have it better than you did.

They knew that that promise had been broken, that Trump had pledged to fix it, and that is why they elected him president.” (F.H. Buckley). Traditional Republican leadership [Bush, Romney, Koch] had drifted to control by big international corporate Globalists who found it easy to disguise their greed and indifference behind a thin veil of libertarianism. Trump dismantled the New Class and “created a Republican Workers Party” by finding the sweet spot that was socially conservative and economically middle of the road.

Another element in this traditional conception of America is what I call autonomy (often mislabeled by interventionists as ‘isolationism’ or described by its advocates as ‘exceptionalism’). From the time of George Washington’s farewell address warning us about entangling alliances, many Americans saw America as a separate place to better instantiate Anglo-Protestant culture and uniquely positioned to pursue the American Dream.

In institutional terms, Americans embraced what I have elsewhere described as the “Lockean Narrative,” namely: The Technological Project (control of nature for human benefit), best carried out in a market economy, serviced by a limited government, kept under control by the rule of law, and sustained by an Anglo-Protestant culture of personal autonomy). That narrative and its institutions were progressively undermined by Woodrow Wilson’s promotion of U.S. involvement in the First World War [you remember ‘the war to end all wars’], FDR’s New Deal response to the Great Depression [which he managed to make even ‘greater’], the U.S.’s filling of the post- World War II power vacuum to counter the growth of the USSR, Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ [affirmative action, activist judges], the expansion of higher education [without the ‘higher’] which promoted the idea of an elite who somehow ‘knew’ better than the rest of us. T

he clearest expression of this elite was the rise of neo-conservatism [who ultimately paved the way for universities to fall into the hands of undereducated Frankfort Marxists]. Neo-con intellectuals presumed that the Lockean Narrative could be exported [U.N, World Bank] from the top down. This led to the creation of a military caste who never saw a foreign intervention they did not like and the extremely costly and ultimate failure of the Iraq War.

Trump saw a way to retrieve national autonomy. First, enforce immigration laws (“Build the Wall”) and close down failed programs and endless wars. Second, make America independent both militarily (no entangling alliances or substitute alliances on our terms) and economically (Fracking). Fracking had the added advantage of bringing the Middle East under control without the presence of U.S. troops, and indirectly let to his being nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize as Arabic nations finally recognized Israel’s right to exist. Trump’s solution meant that neither the National Review crowd nor Bill Kristol nor George Will were relevant to this revitalized movement that recognized and celebrated traditional American values.

What was Trump able to accomplish in his first term?

  1. Initiated an economic tsunami by lowering taxes leading to record levels in the stock market and positively impacting the retirements of millions of citizens.
  2. Lowered unemployment among the Black and Latino population more than any other president, and he did so without patronizing and condescending virtue signaling.
  3. First President to reverse successfully our relationship with China bringing businesses and manufacturing jobs back to the US.
  4. The defense of fossil fuels and the promotion of fracking made America economically, militarily, and diplomatically independent of the rest of the world – while lowering dangerous emissions to record levels without signing the ineffective and hypocritical Paris Accord.
  5. Rebuilt a military crippled by Obama.
  6. He is the first president not to engage the U.S. in a foreign war since Eisenhower.
  7. Forced NATO members to pay their dues. If the EU hand to defend itself it would require the dismantling of its bloated welfare states – advocates of the Europeanization of the U.S. are clueless about the extent to which this requires the US. to be the host for a parasitical Europe. Europeans are not our ‘friends’ but our allies and competitors. The present generation of Europeans have no living or meaningful memory of the Second World War, and the massive American military cemeteries there are as meaningful to them as the Battle of Waterloo or a crumbling Roman Arch – except that they are not as lucrative a tourist attraction.
  8. Neutralized the North Korean capacity to develop the nuclear capability of threatening Japan and the U.S. West Coast.
  9. Brokered Middle East Peace that some 71 years of political intervention and endless war had failed to produce.
  10. Appointed three ‘originalist’ Supreme Court Justices and 300 non-activist Federal Judges
  11. Fast-tracked the development of multiple COVID-19 vaccines and treatments in contrast to previous administrations which failed to develop vaccines for SARS, Bird Flu, Ebola, and a host of other diseases. COVID — a serious foreign invasion in many senses of the term — will only disappear in the presence of a viable vaccine. Operation ‘Warp Speed’ is intended to do that, and there is every reason to believe that a safe and effective vaccine will be generally available (except in New York) in the next few months.
    In times of crisis, a leader must be positive, exude confidence and inspire people to be optimistic – think Roosevelt’s fireside chats even as the great depression deepened. Trump has done his very best to fill that role. In time, people will come to admit his entrepreneurial genius that marshalled the pharmaceutical world to this achievement; it will be akin to the belated recognition of Reagan’s role in bringing down communism. What should not be overlooked is the need in the meantime to make courageous cost-benefit analyses of alternative temporary policies as in recognizing that lockdowns are ultimately counter-productive.
  12. MOST IMPORTANT of all, Trump exposed the depth and breadth of corruption in all the major institutions of American society, including the CIA, FBI, NSA, both major political parties, the media, higher education, big tech, etc., etc., etc.

Who could possibly argue with these achievements? First, all of the major institutions mentioned in (12) above, of course.

In addition to those major institutions who regard Trump as their enemy, he has earned the enmity of a host of others for his celebration of and support for traditional American values. They include:

  • All of the enemies of the traditional conception of America and the American dream: Marxists, socialists, identity politics advocates, doctrinaire libertarians -classical liberals – and modern liberals; and advocates of the therapeutic state.
  • (With the exception of the U.K. and the Eastern Europeans), all of the other member states of NATO, most especially German hegemons.
  • Globalists (the Davos crowd).
  • China. the Chinese are not grateful because they were admitted into the club. Rather, they mask their lust for domination under the guise of a “century of humiliation.”
  • George Soros.
  • Neo-cons.
  • Wall Street crony capitalists.
  • Mexico, Canada, and other parasitic states.
  • Radical Islamists.

The pseudo-intellectual snobs in our society despise Trump. He is a standing refutation of all that they believe. He does what they cannot do and achieves it in a manner incomprehensible to them.

A very serious set of problems arises when universities become regarded as commanding heights housing intellectual elites and experts on all subjects.

First, all other institutions (e.g. family, churches, etc.) are stripped of any authority because all professionals including researchers even in the hard sciences, doctors, lawyers, teachers at all levels, therapists, clergy and journalists are now credentialed exclusively by the university.

Second, accreditation is centrally controlled, and it is under government control (the Department of Education).

Third, as I have argued elsewhere, the university is itself the victim of a misguided and self-serving intellectual fashion. The success of modern physical science and technology suggested the notion to eighteenth-century French philosophes (confirming my suspicion that all bad ideas come from France) of there being both a social science and a social technology. Thus was born the idea of a social utopia, the abiding faith of libertarians, classical liberals, modern liberals, socialists and Marxists.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a social science that can explain, predict, and control the social world or overcome the human predicament. The Ivory Tower is now the Tower of Babel. Worse yet, you cannot claim expertise if academics disagree, hence the necessity for the imposition of censorship, uniformity, and the loss of academic freedom.

This practice of censorship extends to journalists (who seek to create or engineer a social consensus) and social media (who somehow know the secret definition of ‘hate speech’ and have never read J.S. Mill’s essay On Liberty and its discussion of why censorship is bad – Mill must be wrong because he is, after all, a dead white male).

The younger journalists have all the depth and breadth of understanding that comes with an undergraduate degree in communications. Social media people don’t even need a degree because they understand coding. The latter being superior in one respect believe they are superior in all respects.

Besides starting with a fallacious utopian mentality, the intellectual elite suffer from another misunderstanding. If there were a social science/technology then all discussion would begin with the ‘correct’ theory and then seek to impose it on practice. If the resulting practice is not a success (widespread social dysfunction) then instead of jettisoning the theory or even the idea of expertise, the ‘experts’ refine the theory or add an epicycle (like defending Ptolemaic astronomy instead of moving to Copernicus). An example is the invention of the ridiculous concept of “systemic racism.” The mindset at issue is the fallacious assumption that theory should precede practice. This mindset presumes that theoretical understanding can explain everything including practical understanding or the relation between practice and theory. On the contrary, practical knowledge cannot be encapsulated by theoretical knowledge.

It is not that whoever can does and whoever cannot teaches. It is rather that whoever embraces the aforementioned intellectual errors ought not to be teaching! Please note that in identifying these intellectual errors I am not claiming a greater or superior expertise. Most of the time I know my limits. I am merely pointing out the dangers inherent in many of my colleagues’ B.S. Worse yet is the presumption that only people who speak or write like academics and are adept at giving lectures are the really smart people. It’s not what you do or have done that’s important for them. Style obliterates substance (e.g., Obama).

Trump’s style of communication is authentic (hence the importance of calling out other people on occasion) and makes the average American feel included in the conversation. It may be fashionable to belittle Trump rallies, but those rallies are the clearest manifestation of a leader who connects with those whom he leads. Instead of a lecture designed for Sunday talk shows, Trump offers a sermon on American Greatness. He does so for those who seek to be part of a choir. It echoes what goes on in another moral community, namely houses of worship. No doubt, it offends the sensibility of those who aspire to be our social technologists. A successful sermon does not end with polite applause; it ends with “Amen!”

History will show that Trump’s most lasting contribution is remaining steadfast in the face of a treasonous coup by the leaders of the Democratic Party, a seditious inherited bureaucracy, an intelligence community that spies on its own citizens and tries to rig the outcome of elections, a sham impeachment, the most corrupt election (2020) in American history, a media that denies the distinction between fact and editorializing and believes that its job is to manufacture public opinion, an educational system that has abandoned the search for truth and excellence in favor of indoctrination, a military establishment that has succumbed to political correctness, a powerful business community that thinks its corporate social obligation is control of thinking, a Wall Street which does not know how to tell the difference between social democrats and democratic socialists, religious leaders who have chosen social work over serving God, a legal culture that cannot tell the difference between legislating and adjudicating, celebrities who think that excellence in one respect is excellence in everything.

In short, a totally politicized society whose depth and breadth of corruption is staggering. None of these issues will be fully resolved even when Trump finally steps down, hopefully after four more years!

Nicholas Capaldi, a Legendre-Soule Distinguished professor at Loyola University, New Orleans, USA, is the author of two books on David Hume, The Enlightenment Project in Analytic Conversation, biography of John Stuart Mill, Liberty and Equality in Political Economy: From Locke versus Rosseau to the Present, and, most recently, The Anglo-American Conception of the Rule of Law.

The image shows, “American Progress,” by John Gast, painted in 1872.

Crisis Of The Spanish Monarchy And The Need For A Republican Right

Twilight Of The Myth Of The Wonder King

In the history of ideas, a monarch, who rules a State, always appears as an analogy to God, who rules the world. During the Middle Ages and well into the Modern era, kings had, for large masses of the people, a supernatural, character, even physically. Part of the vital force of the monarchy was that the king could perform miracles and, above all, heal with the imposition of hands, as the great French historian Marc Bloch explained, with numerous examples, in his famous book, The Royal Touch. According to Bloch, the last attempt to make the monarchy practical and serious with such religious representations took place in 1825, when Charles X of France wanted to heal by laying on of hands, an attempt that was nothing more than a painful romantic imitation.

The myth of the thaumaturge king lacked tradition in Spain. However, one hundred and fifty years after its end in France, there were attempts in Spain to fabricate a kind of wonder-king, not, of course, on religious grounds, but on political grounds. And it was thus in Spain, in the twentieth century, that the last establishment, not restoration, of a monarchy in Western Europe took place.

In November 1975, by sovereign decision of Francisco Franco, the monarchy returned, in the person of Juan Carlos I de Borbón y Borbón. Regarding the figure of the previous Head of State, any historian would, in my opinion, have to follow the message of Karl Marx to the letter in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, the least Marxist of all his works, when he stated that it was necessary to analyze “the circumstances and conditions that allow a mediocre and grotesque character to play the role of hero.”

The elites of the regime, as well as the opposition, did not have excessive illusions about the monarchical sentiment of the Spanish. Only José María Pemán or Luis María Ansón – the inventor of “Juan III” – could believe, at that point, in something as esoteric as “the magic of royalty.” For the majority of the right, Franco’s will was enough. And in reality, no one was too shocked when Franco chose Juan Carlos as his successor and not his father Juan de Borbón y Battemberg.

Juan Carlos himself did not hesitate to accept that decision, betraying not only his father, but the laws of dynastic succession. The truth is that he had no other alternative either. Based on this experience, the media, and later some court historians, began to manufacture the figure of the thaumaturge king, a process not only risky, but very complicated given the characteristics of the person in question.

Physically, Juan Carlos was handsome enough, dashing, young, even with a good face. However, his character could not bear a close-up. He was shy; and as a speaker, a disaster – as eloquent as a no-trespassing sign. Nor did the man stand out for his intellectual or scientific curiosity, although, yes, he was very athletic. His great obsessions were, as we have had the opportunity to see, money and sex.

With such meager strands, the image of a hearty, regenerating, sincerely democratic monarch was going to be woven, although, incidentally, it was never heard-said that the institution of the monarchy or its magistracy be submitted to a referendum. He would be the healer of all our social and political ailments – he was to be the author of the new “Spanish miracle.” As the always timely and opportunistic José María de Areilza pointed out, the young king was going to be the “engine of change;” that is, the promoter of the transition to liberal democracy.

In essence, there was no other possibility. The process of change to liberal democracy has often been, and continues to be, mythologized, almost in providential terms. As a historian I am not a determinist, but I believe that, in certain cases, such as the one that concerns us, it is necessary to accept, as the always lucid Raymond Aron pointed out, the validity of a certain “probabilistic determinism,” since the freedom of human choice always works within certain environments or restrictions received from the past.

Like it or not, Spain’s destiny was liberal democracy; or, if you like, the party state. The economic development of the 1960s, the expansion of the middle classes and the qualified working classes, the political consequences of the Second Vatican Council, the context of a liberal and social-democratic Europe, the emergence of the Common Market, the diplomatic and military influence of the United States – everything headed in that direction.

Of course, change can be made better or worse, depending on the context; but the path was laid out, in its general lines, beforehand. Franco knew it, as he told US General Vernon Walters in a conversation. Therefore, Juan Carlos I was impelled, whatever his inner convictions, if he had any, to the acceptance of liberal democracy, for lack of alternatives.

Given the contexts to which we have referred, the strange thing would have been the survival of the political regime born of the Spanish Civil War. The historical frame of reference for the new political system was, without a doubt, the Canovasist Restoration of 1874, Soldier King and bipartisanship included. And not only did Manuel Fraga want to play the role of Cánovas – his goal was the progressive integration of the left and peripheral nationalists into the new political system. The exception was the Republican parties.

As in the case of the Restoration, the fundamental dogma was the monarchy, as a guarantee of social continuity. The behavior of the whole of the real left, PSOE and PCE, and that of the nationalists – except for the ETA terrorists – consisted in taking advantage of the opportunities of the new situation. In reality, they were all advantages, since they achieved legality and great promises of social influence and political power.

In this sense, the young monarch’s relations with the old communist leader Santiago Carrillo were especially unctuous, almost pornographic. Of course, one and the other were needed. The 1978 Constitution was the consecration of that pact. Significantly, no monarchical institution underwent a referendum – which, as Professor Dalmacio Negro Pavón has pointed out, did not resolve the monarchical question; it simply postponed it. And there are pasts that do not pass, as Ernst Nolte said.

The new party regime was configured, in daily political practice, as a poorly representative political system, a mere partitocracy – the so-called State of the autonomies was established, which, as some denounced and later it would be seen, was and is a clear instrument of Spanish denationalization and economic waste. The left monopolized the sphere of cultural creation; and a kind of uncritical and superficial Eurofundamentalism hegemonized the social imaginary of the Spanish.

However, the figure of the monarch did not acquire authentic stability until his performance, or supposed performance, in the sad events of February 1981. And it is that when these lines are written we still do not really know what was the true role of the monarch in the gestation and the subsequent failure of the coup attempts that occurred on 23-F. As Gonzalo Fernández de la Mora said, the truth would perhaps be known on the day of the trial. At the Final Judgment, it will be finally understood.

Unsurprisingly, the blame fell on the so-called “extreme right,” which did not learn anything. In any case, the monarch, in the interest of the political, economic and media classes, consolidated his image and his role in the new situation. He was the defender of democracy; or, as Herrero de Miñón said, the defender of the Constitution. The idea, by the way, was Carl Schmitt’s. As a soldier-king he had managed to control the Armed Forces.

Of course, it must also be said, in case there were any doubts, that what was consolidated then was the charisma of Juan Carlos I, not the monarchical institution. Since then, reference has always been made to “Juancarlismo,” not to the monarchism of the Spanish in general and the left in particular.

In reality, Juan Carlos himself knew that his permanence on the throne depended on the acquiescence of the left. If they, at a given moment, questioned his legitimacy, and from his perspective it was very easy for them to do so, he was lost. For this reason, he sympathized much more with the astute and folksy Felipe González than with the hirsute and unpleasant José María Aznar; or, with the sinuous and elusive Rodríguez Zapatero who was with the rough and slow Rajoy Brey.

To top it all, a sector of historiography did not hesitate to fall very low when it came to legitimizing its status. Such was the case, above all, of Javier Tusell Gómez, and more tangentially of the mediocre and opportunist Paul Preston. They both tried, and partly succeeded, in becoming court historians. Although, truth be told, more than historians, their image was more like that of Hola tabloid journlaists. Next to them, Jaime Peñafiel looked like Ranke. Both Tusell and the plump Britisher made an effort to show that, in reality, Juan Carlos was never heir to Franco, but to his father Juan de Borbón; and that the restoration – beware of the concept, nothing neutral – of the monarchy was done against the General Franco and following his own dynastic logic.

Nobody believed it, of course, but both pseudo-historians gained notoriety, influence, and money. The press and all the mass media were complicit, not only in the mythologizing of the character, but in the concealment of Juan Carlos’s stormy private life and, above all, of his businesses and his relationships with characters of dubious morality. Looking for an antithesis to such a character, we have the ascetic Baldwin of Belgium.

Despite his Catholic status, Juan Carlos never made the slightest gesture against abortion laws; and he did not hesitate to sign the Historical Memory Law, which actually delegitimized his historical rank and that of the institution he embodied. And it is that in essence it supposed a mythification of the Second Republic. Apparently, nobody found out about it.

On the other hand, his role as constitutional king has been completely inoperative. It has neither stopped local separatisms, nor mediated between the parties, nor has it been a guarantor of the division of powers. After the entry of Spain into NATO, the figure of the king-soldier has lost much of its functionality. As Juan Vázquez de Mella would have said, he was “el Augusto Cero” (“Augusto Zero”) or “el Rey-Poste” (“the Post-King”).

However, the monarch has been very effective when it comes to living the high life and increasing his personal fortune, as we learn from some media. Little by little, his figure has been destroyed. It had become a broken toy. The real taboo was gradually diluted. Juancarlismo stopped being operative. His perceptible physical decline, his continuous and ostentatious conjugal infidelities, his little transparent businesses, and his lack of interest in public affairs, contributed to making him a character in the Valleinclanesque Ruedo Ibérico [The Iberian Bullring, a series of novels wriiten by Ramón María del Valle-Inclán, in which distortion – esperento – is used. Trans.].

All of this culminated in the pathetic photo from Botswana. Juan Carlos had killed Dumbo; quite the symbol. His forced and necessary abdication was in character – a capricious, disloyal, impulsive, incompetent man when trying to control the economic corruption of his family; a frivolous man. His legacy is a hindrance to his current heir, Felipe VI, and for the dynasty itself. As Louis XV said, “After me, the flood.” We are in it.

What Spain did Juan Carlos I leave us? Perhaps the best thing would be to leave the answer to that question to a poet; and the exalted Luis Alberto de Cuenca said it best: Spain has become “a very sad place that has forbidden heroes, has allowed the roses of scandal to rot… a poor place that has lost its soul without gaining anything in return, a place without a future, a fistful of disunited and sterile land.”

Unlike his father, Felipe VI has nothing to offer to the left and the nationalists. Separatism no longer hides its unattractive face; it wants an independent Republic. And one part of the left, especially in the new generations, rejects the monarchy, whose meaning they do not understand and who prefer the Republic, which is not difficult to understand because, as we have already pointed out, the stability of the institution rested on the charisma of Juan Carlos I and in the myth of the Wonder King, which the King himself has been in charge of destroying. And charisma is not inherited. Nobody has taught young people what the monarchy consists of, its functionality or its advantages; perhaps because in the 21st century all this is already anachronistic. Instead, the benefits of the Second Republic have been sung to them.

We already know where the left will go. And the right? So far, they have supported the young monarch. However, it is not hidden from us that a sector of the right does not forgive Juan Carlos for his marriage with the left and his support for the state of autonomies. And Felipe VI has not had the opportunity to build his own charisma. And he probably never will.

Stance Of A Heterodox Conservative

In March 2014, I was invited to a lunch at La Gran Peña, in which, after the meal, the guest gave his opinion on a current issue, which was then discussed. The issue was whether Juan Carlos, after the Botswana crisis, should abdicate as a show of exemplariness. Among those attending the event were Leandro de Borbón, Fernando Suárez, General Armando Marchante, Ángel Maestro, Enrique de Aguinaga and some others that I do not remember.

In the background, a statue of Alfonso XIII. A monarchical, conservative and Francoist auditorium. Now, I not only defended the abdication of the monarch, but the need to raise debate on the viability of a presidential republic. They jumped on me. “Without the monarchy we will go to civil war,” Leandro de Borbón shouted. Others discussed my ideas vehemently. The most eloquent was Fernando Suárez, who defended Juan Carlos I and the monarchy. Most left without speaking to me.

A few months later the monarch abdicated. Yesterday we learned of his departure from Spain. Serious historical error. A convinced monarchist like Tom Burns Marañón predicts, in Expansión, the next advent of the Third Republic. All of this demonstrates the great fragility of the institution. In any case, it is more than evident that the right wing, for the most part, has a real fear of the Republic.

Lately it has been tried to manufacture a charisma for Felipe VI. His speech of October 3 could be, without a doubt, the foundation of that charisma, but it lacked real support and continuity over time. Soon they clipped his wings. And the speech was badly received by a sector of the left. The chubby Paul Preston, a lousy historian, but an influential actor paid for by Catalan separatism, claimed that it could have been written by Mariano Rajoy.

The subsequent speeches of Felipe VI have already been diffuse, accommodating, paternalistic, without precise content. The fact is that the institution lacks autonomy and cannot become a “party.” In his travels and appearances, he is seen isolated, without support.

The Pedro Sánchez government follows a path diametrically opposed to the content of the actual speech of October 3, 2017. The flight of his father does not favor Felipe in the medium term either. And we must not forget that their fate depends on the opinion of the left. A García Ferreras campaign in La Sexta could ruin the institution in weeks.

In February 2014, a manifesto of leftist intellectuals calling for the Third Republic was made public. Among the signatories were spoiled brats of the current regime, such as, José Caballero Bonald, José Luis Abellán, Ángel Viñas, Josep Fontana, Juan Genovés or Nicolás Sánchez Albornoz.

Is A Republican Right Possible?

Of course, I do not pretend that the whole of the right will convert to republicanism. It would be petulant on my part, since I have no influence in those sectors. I have always been a heterodox conservative. Another thing is that the political, social and mental tendencies of Spanish society go against the monarchy. We are a country of deep social and economic inequalities, but very egalitarian in mentality. “Nobody is more than nobody,” they say. Nobody has taught the youth to be monarchist, or, at least, to respect the institution. And the most rebellious express their dissent by waving a flag of the tacky Second Republic.

In this context, I believe that a sector of the right, necessarily a minority, should defend, in the face of the gale that is coming upon us, the alternative of a presidential republic, compared to the federal or plurinational republic of the left. A presidential model, in which the supreme magistracy of the State comes from the popular election. Its source of democratic legitimacy is relatively direct. For this reason, even if he is a candidate nominated by the parties, once a president comes to power, he is freed from party discipline and a certain independence can be expected from him. Furthermore, by having a full territorial base, it could annul local separatisms and maintain national unity.

This presidentialism can ensure the independence between the legislature and the executive; and, in addition, it has historically been shown capable of limiting the interference of both in the judiciary. It also eliminates government instability and weak coalition cabinets, sometimes subordinate to a tiny minority. In a presidential Republic, the Head of State can actually perform an arbitration function between the parties, and has the advantage that, at the end of his term, the arbitration returns to the electoral roll – what cannot happen with the monarchy.

The negative management of the republican Head of State does not generally affect the institution itself, since at the end of his mandate the same condition that united him to the Head of State also disappears. The same does not happen under the monarchical regime, where any disputed action, and not only public, of the King or his family negatively affects the institution.

Moderation is, in short, a way of committing oneself, albeit slightly, and that entails a wear-and-tear that, in general, constitutional monarchs tend to avoid. In this sense, the Spanish case is archetypal. The King does not rule. Your legal actions are not valid, if they are not endorsed by one of your ministers; and you are not even subject to liability.

Only the moderator function remains. But make no mistake: the Monarch neither intervenes nor moderates. When has a Monarch mediated a conflict between the three powers? He has never done it; he cannot do it; and the Monarch himself knows that he never will do it. This is the message that, in my opinion, should be transmitted to the most critical, active and right-wing sectors. As the great Charles de Gaulle said, a project that would open “the horizon of a great undertaking.” And I will not say more – otherwise they will incinerate me.

Pedro Carlos González Cuevas is a Spanish historian and professor at Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia. He is the author of several books, including, Historia del Pensamiento Político Español (Historical of Spanish Political Thought), La Razon Conservadora (Conservative Reason), and Stanley G. Payne. Perfiles de un hispanista (Stanley G. Payne: Profile of a Hispanicist).

The image shows a portrait of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, by Ricardo Sanz.

The Failure Of Conservatism

Michael Anton is the man who today best communicates the fractures among the Right. He identifies, and exemplifies, growing incompatibilities among conservatives, both on the issues of the day and in beliefs about desirable political structures. Anton first came to public notice under a pseudonym, Publius Decius Mus, writing in 2016 during the brief life of a pro-Trump blog, the Journal of American Greatness.

In September of that year, Anton published a famous essay, “The Flight 93 Election.” His first point was that, like the passengers of Flight 93, Americans opposed to the permanent boot-stamping dominance of the Left had an existential choice. They could, as it were, charge the cockpit by taking a chance on Trump. Or they could passively accept Hillary, and face certain political death. His second point was that their behavior when faced with this choice showed that the conservative movement, as it exists now, was wholly worthless. These claims were, no surprise, controversial.

Within a few weeks Anton revealed his identity; after the election he worked for several months in the Trump White House, in the national security apparatus, until the swamp creatures managed to come to dominate the West Wing and the populism of Trump’s early months evaporated. So he departed for Hillsdale College in Michigan, and, for now, the life of a public intellectual. I hope he doesn’t spend the rest of his days in that role; he would probably agree that we have enough public intellectuals and not enough doers. My guess is that soon enough, in the unsettled times ahead, he will find a new role.

This 2018 pamphlet reprints the original “Flight 93” essay, a follow-up “Restatement” also published prior to the election, and a new essay, “Pre-Statement on Flight 93.” This last tells us what, exactly, it is that Anton wants our politics to be, to meet the criticism that he had earlier offered only a negative vision. In all these essays, Anton’s basic point is the same one as I am always hammering—we are in a new thing in American history, an existential struggle between the forces of Right and Left, respectively good and evil, and there can be only one. The Left has always known this and acted accordingly, with malice aforethought; the Right, or part of the Right, is coming to realize it. Between the modern Left and the principles of virtue there is no middle ground; there is no compromise; there is no universe in which the principles of the Left can continue to be allowed a seat at the public table. They must be defeated, and suppressed, root and branch. We must awake, and those Lotos-Eaters putatively on the Right who refuse to rouse from slumber must be thrown overboard. So says Anton, in essence, and I could not agree more.

Anton begins with a “Note,” a recap of the reception of his original essay. This primarily means its reception on the Right; the Left didn’t pay much attention then, deafened by their collective baying for Hillary’s imminent ascension, and has not paid much attention since, either, which is probably a mistake. Within the Right, because the sclerotic organized Right of think tanks and little-read journals was Anton’s main target, the backlash against Anton was fierce, though it was all of the pearl-clutching variety, free as a bird from all logic or reasoning.

Those same segments soon enough coalesced into the noisome #NeverTrumpers, rats following their diminutive, tubby Pied Piper, Bill Kristol, who has unfortunately not led them into the mountain to disappear forever. Here, and in the “Pre-Statement,” Anton in his usual pithy style refutes what few coherent objections to his claims have been made. I will note those later, but Anton is willing to admit one, and only one, failure in his earlier essays—that in his original essay, he was insufficiently generous to and appreciative of Donald Trump.

In his “Note,” Anton also explains his choice of pseudonym at more length, a name borne by two Roman men, father and son, who each sacrificed himself on the field of battle. He cites interpretations by both Leo Strauss and Harvey Mansfield to rebut his critics, using close readings of my favorite Machiavelli text, Discourses on Livy. Anton’s basic point is that Machiavelli “says that a republic may be led back to its beginnings ‘either through the virtue of a man or through the virtue of an order’ and goes on to say that ‘such orders have need of being brought to life by the virtue of a citizen who rushes spiritedly to execute them against the power of those who transgress them.’ In other words, orders and men are both necessary and neither is superior to the other; virtuous men are necessary to execute good orders.”

Anton here leaves some ambiguity as to his own goals. He says that “In 2016, I judged the modes and orders of my time—and especially of conservatism—to be exhausted and imprisoned within an inflexible institutional and intellectual authority. I believed that its conclusions on the most pressing matters were false and pernicious and that its orthodoxy therefore required smashing.” Despite Machiavelli’s warning that “nothing is more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage, than to put oneself at the head of introducing new orders,” Anton chose to do so. But to what end? He refers to being led back to beginnings, but he also speaks of new orders. Which is it? That is one of the things I will examine here, after first evaluating the three essays.

In the original Flight 93 essay, Anton notes that all American conservatives agree that things are very bad in America, have been for some time, and are getting worse. If conservatives truly believe the critical importance to society of all the problems we face, from family breakdown to out-of-control government to an inability to win wars, they must conclude “we are headed off a cliff.” But—they don’t really believe it, as Anton illustrates with an article from the Weekly Standard (ironically, in retrospect, given that journal’s fate), recommending for all problems the usual tired litany of conservative solutions, such as decentralization, federalism, and civil renewal. “Which is to say, conservatism’s typical combination of the useless and inapt with the utopian and unrealizable. . . . ‘Civic renewal’ would do a lot of course, but that’s like saying health will save a cancer patient. A step has been skipped in there somewhere. How are we going to achieve ‘civic renewal’? Wishing for a tautology to enact itself is not a strategy.”

This is the gravamen of Anton’s complaint—conservatives keep offering the same solutions that have solved nothing, to solve problems that only get worse, as their power gets less and the Left grows ever more dominant. You can’t believe that things are awful and getting worse, but also that they can continue on their current path indefinitely; it is a contradiction. And that’s what today’s conservatives, that is, those in the public eye, believe. (In fact, since Anton wrote, “leading” conservatives such as Jonah Goldberg have come right out and admitted that they are happy to lose and for the Left to win completely, just a little slower, please).

Even those few conservative solutions that have been tried have failed or been quickly erased by the Left. “The whole enterprise of Conservatism, Inc., reeks of failure. Its sole and ongoing success is its own self-preservation.” Such claims have made Anton a prime target of the happy losers whom he attacks, ranging from Goldberg (who specifically targeted Anton in his terrible 2017 book, Suicide of the West) to Michael Gerson. For reasons I will discuss below, Anton’s only organized allies appear to be the Claremont Institute, and perhaps The American Conservative magazine—both powers on the Right, to be sure, but isolated from the invitations to cocktail parties and pats on the head from the cultural elite of the Left that are so important to Goldberg, Gerson, and the other similar indistinguishable nonentities who cluster together.

So what passes for today’s American conservatism is of little or no value. I can get behind that. That doesn’t mean all alternatives are virtuous, or desirable. Anton makes a point I am often found making, that Trump’s mere existence is a sign of the times, not of good times, but as of an angel breaking a numbered seal. “Only in a corrupt republic, in corrupt times, could a Trump rise. It is therefore puzzling that those most horrified by Trump are the least willing to consider the possibility that the republic is dying.” Sure, if you’re part of the professional-managerial elite, the past two decades have been pretty good to you.

For everybody else, and for the fabric of society, the opposite is true, and if you can’t see it, you’re too embedded in the ruling class, or too dependent on their tolerance and largesse for your daily bread. Others have expanded on this point, from Tucker Carlson to Richard Reeves to Kurt Schlichter, though few have made the focus of their ire the conservatives who are supposed to care about such things.

The non-Trump Republican presidential candidates, had any of them won, wouldn’t have done anything to stop or turn back the tide of the Left, since “their ‘opposition’ is in all cases ineffectual and often indistinguishable from support.” But a Hillary win would be a fatal disaster for America, cementing its destruction. It “will be pedal-to-the-metal on the entire progressive-Left agenda, plus items few of us have yet imagined in our darkest moments. Nor is even that the worst. It will be coupled by a level of vindictive persecution against resistance and dissent hitherto seen in the supposedly liberal West only in the most ‘advanced’ Scandinavian countries and the most leftist corners of Germany and England.

We see this already in the censorship practiced by the Davoisie’s social media enablers; in the shameless propaganda tidal wave of the mainstream media; and in the personal destruction campaigns—operated through the former and aided by the latter—of the social justice warriors. We see it in Obama’s flagrant use of the IRS to torment political opponents, the gaslighting denial by the media, and the collective shrug by everyone else.”

That all this would have come true is proven by the Left’s behavior since the election. They do what they would have done under Hillary, but lacking the power of the executive branch, the damage they can do is somewhat limited. On the other hand, their rage at losing to Trump has fueled the fire. Not having executive power, for now, doesn’t stop, among other evils, endless violence against any public display of support for Trump; aggressive campaigns on the state level to legalize infanticide and push the latest in sexual fluidity as the moral equivalent of abolitionism; mass censorship of conservatives on all social media platforms; and the personal destruction of anyone within their reach, or within the reach of their allies in all large corporations, the media, or the universities. And, most of all, we see it in their two years of whipping up hate in the media and using bogus “investigations” to cripple Trump and persecute anyone associated with him.

Swinging around again to his punching bag, the weak betas of Conservatism, Inc., Anton notes that they certainly aren’t going to lead resistance to the horrors of a Hillary administration. Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t, since all opinion-making is controlled by the Left. But they don’t want to; they “self-handicap and self-censor to an absurd degree. Our ‘leaders’ and ‘dissenters’ bend over backward to play by the self-sabotaging rules the Left sets for them.” (I have complained before, for example, of the conservative lust for pre-emptive apologies, a perfect example of what Anton complains of).

What we need instead is a leader who will fight, who will punch back. He will stop importing millions of Third World migrants, who erode our economy’s strength and vote in lockstep for the Left. He will adopt trade and antiglobalization policies that benefit all Americans. “Who cares if productivity numbers tick down, or if our already somnambulant GDP sinks a bit further into its pillow. Nearly all the gains of the last twenty years have accrued to the junta anyway.”

What we can’t have is Hillary. Conservatism, Inc., is “objectively pro-Hillary.” Anton concludes that if we do get Hillary, in the longer term, “the possibilities will seem to be: Caesarism, secession/crack-up, collapse, or managerial Davoisie as far as the eye can see . . . which, since nothing lasts forever, at some point will give way to one of the other three. Oh, and I suppose, for those who like to pour a tall one and dream big, a second American Revolution that restores constitutionalism, limited government, and a 28 percent top marginal rate.” We will return to these options, and whether any are desirable, below.

Anton’s initial piece got just about the warmth of reception one would expect. Actually, it got no reception at all, until Rush Limbaugh read the entire thing on his radio program. (That conservatives dominate talk radio is intolerable to the Left, and censoring it a prime goal of theirs. The ability of new thoughts like Anton’s to gain traction through that medium is why, even though talk radio can never set what the news is or what polite public opinion is allowed to be.) But then a wave of hatred and bile from those conservatives attacked (that is, nearly all of them) crashed into Anton, along with some tut-tutting from a few conservatives who saw that their rage was merely proving Anton’s point. Anton responded a few days later with “Restatement on Flight 93.”

Here he briefly addressed the most cogent attacks on him. Using the passengers of Flight 93 as a metaphor was simply standard drawing of inspiration from heroes. It wasn’t “disgusting.” “It’s quite obvious that’s what really is disgusting to these objectors is Trump.” Trump isn’t too immoderate to be President; he may be a “buffoon,” but “one must wonder how buffoonish the alleged buffoon really is when he is right on the most important issues while so many others who are esteemed wise are wrong.”

Trump is not too radical; in fact, on the surface he’s more progressive than other recent Republican presidential candidates. He’s actually quite moderate in his policies of “secure borders, economic nationalism, and America-first foreign policy.” The problem is that he is a threat to what is now called the Deep State, as outlined by John Marini: he might win, and he threatens “the current governing arrangement of the United Sates, [which] is rule by a transnational managerial class in conjunction with the administrative state.” Trump is not “authoritarian,” which is a meaningless term as used here (and as I have shown at length by analyzing post-election writings, merely means in practice “erosion of the power of the Left”). Trump does not want to “trash the Constitution,” which anyway is laughable, given that the Left’s entire, open and acknowledged, program of the past hundred years is to trash the Constitution.

No, reiterates Anton, he was right the first time. Conservatism is a miserable failure. Doom is at the door, and if you choose to let it in, your fate will be upon your own head.

We all know what happened next. Trump won. The Left lost its mind, and unleashed fresh helpings of savage hatred upon the land. (I did not predict this; I predicted a new era of optimism and limited comity. More fool me.) They marshaled all their resources, from that disgusting hate group the SPLC to Rod Rosenstein to Facebook to the FBI to Jonah Goldberg, in order to stop Donald Trump from fulfilling any of his promises. And we are still living through these days of rage, which are, probably, merely the foothills of our own coming hot civil war.

Anton, however, appears to have been stung by the claim that he only offered a negative vision, although on its face that claim is untrue. He therefore wrote a new piece, “Pre-Statement on Flight 93.” Anton seems grudging about writing it; noting that since the Left’s project is destruction, of all opposition and of all non-Left “people, institutions, mores and traditions,” “It’s a bit rich to be accused by nihilists of lacking a positive vision.” This piece is, I think, the least successful. It’s not that it’s bad; it’s excellent. The problem is that while it rejects what Conservatism, Inc. has to offer, it repeats an equally unrealistic prescription, namely a turn back to the Constitutional and political framework of 1787 and 1865.

A combination of political philosophy, political argument, and history, in the Pre-Statement Anton cites Aristotle for the basic claim that all human activity aims at some good. Beyond food, shelter, and security, “mere life,” the good life is happiness or felicity, which is achieved by developing our capabilities to reach the telos of man, “the completion or perfection of those traits which are uniquely characteristic of man.” “Radical individualism and private hedonism,” the goals of (though Anton does not say so) the Enlightenment, undermine human flourishing.

This much has been known, in the West at least, since the Greeks, but the American Founders brought political order in the service of these goals to near perfection (which was perfected by the post-Civil War amendments). Federalism, limited government, and representative republicanism created the best system ever. But it is not one that can be exported to all peoples in all times, nor can it work if there is inadequate “commonality in customs, habits, and opinions.” As everyone with any sense knows, diversity is the opposite of our strength.

This near-perfect system has been attacked repeatedly since 1787, Anton tells us. First, by the followers of John Calhoun, unsuccessfully. Second, by the early-twentieth-century Progressives, successfully and causing great damage. And third, fatally, by the acolytes of John Rawls, purveyors of so-called social justice and of forced equality, and the New Left, advocates of the tearing down of America, group rights, and oppression theory. All these attacks are incoherent and destructive, but they have collectively succeeded in destroying the Founders’ vision, and erecting in its place a system that maintains many of its outward forms but within is crawling with decay and worms.

As the Left’s power grows ever greater, they must either “compound the lies, or suppress and punish dissent.” They choose both, following the dictates of Herbert Marcuse and his heinous “repressive tolerance.” We need to “return to life and the conditions of life: the rule of law, responsible freedom, confidence in our civilization, patriotism, and concern for the common good instead of only the particular good of groups claiming oppression or disadvantage.”

I agree with nearly all of this as an analytical matter. As a prescriptive matter, though, it is sorely lacking, other than that Trump is somewhat better than Hillary in these regards. If I have a core political organizing principle, it is that you cannot go back; the way is shut. Truly insightful modern conservatives realize this and make it the starting point of their thought. But Anton seems to shrink from this conclusion, unwilling to realize, or recognize, that the vision of the Founders is dead. There is no path to return to it, and if we did, the massive changes in the world and in America would make their system a failure if re-implemented today. It was good, in a unique time and place, for a small and homogeneous country built on a politics of virtue.

The modern world is so very, very different from that; what the modern world needs is indeed a return to the principles of Aristotle, but not just those relating to the purposes of man, rather also those of varieties of political structure other than democracy, which Aristotle, and everyone else who matters, has always recognized as the worst form of government, for proof of which today we need only look around.

Anton is, therefore, a reactionary. I divide reactionaries into various camps, but the two relevant ones here are Straussians, followers of the German philosopher Leo Strauss, and what I call Augustans. Straussians, although they have various internal divisions, believe that the desired end of political history arrived already—and was left behind. Therefore, today’s Cthulhu State, a multi-tentacled horror of unlimited and unaccountable power, exemplified by the monstrous administrative state that finds no warrant in the Constitution, should be destroyed and the Republic restored by the simple expedient of turning back the political clock.

Augustans, on the other hand, focus on power and its uses. A more common term for this is Caesarism, but that is a misnomer, since Caesar merely toppled a tottering system. It was Augustus who created a new one, in which the forms of republican government remained, and even some of its application, but the real power shifted, toward a mixed government with heavy monarchical and aristocratic elements. Rollback is not the goal; the goal is seizing the levers of power as they exist now, and overthrowing the great as the opportunity presents itself, creating a new thing entirely. Thus, the focus is power guided by virtue, but always power.

In his original Flight 93 essay, Anton came across as Augustan. But he blurred this with his Pre-Statement, which is Straussian. Straussianism, while internally coherent, offers nothing, because there is no path to reach its goals. It is Reaction in the sense of turning the clock back, when what is called for is Reaction in the sense of building a new thing guided by the wisdom of the past. Anton is extremely intelligent, and I suspect he is deliberately hiding the ball. I think what he really wants to call for is either of two of his three stated alternatives to Trump winning: Caesarism (that is, an Augustan state), or secession/crack up.

This conclusion is strengthened by the sarcasm with which Anton refers in his original essay to “a second American Revolution that restores constitutionalism, limited government, and a 28 percent top marginal rate.” Other than tax rate, that’s basically the Straussian solution, and he laughs at it. And since Anton says managerial Davoisieism will end up in Caesarism too, that suggests that the only two options left are the ones he wants to pick from. Trump, though, is not a good Caesar; he is a holding pattern, a finger in the dike while other pieces are being moved on the board. We are just waiting for the Man of Destiny, to be named later.

I don’t know Anton, but my bet is that he realizes that he can’t marginalize himself further by calling for the formal destruction of the Republic, even if it has already been destroyed in practice. He has to make a living, of course, and I don’t think he’s rich (despite Jonah Goldberg’s sneering, yet bizarre, efforts to slur him as rich). But he clouds the air by failing to make a choice. I see why he can’t, and instead tries to have it both ways. Me, I don’t have to make a living as a public intellectual, and “marginal” grossly overstates my relevance, so I’ll happily get behind an Augustan state, or the crack-up of the United States, or both. We’re going to get there anyway, after all – the only questions are how fast, with how much unpleasantness, and whether the destination will be the Pax Romana or something less pleasant. I’m all in for a Pax Romana updated by Christianity, the other innumerable blessings of the West, and modern science. Whether we’ll get it, I don’t know.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The image shows, Solitary Figure in a Theater, by Edward Hopper, ca, 1092-1904.

Sir Roger Scruton And Conservative Views

The death of Roger Scruton, following swiftly on that of Norman Stone, provides an opportunity to reflect on the state of British Conservatism. Scruton did not greatly contribute to political philosophy in a conventional sense, but he did offer a powerful engagement with aesthetics as a means of assessing and advancing values. He was by no means the only conservative to do so and, in particular, David Watkin (1941-2018), a Cambridge architectural historian, offers a powerful critique of modernism, not least in Morality and Architecture Revisited (2001) and Radical Classicism: The Architecture of Quinlan Terry (2006). In practice, indeed, Scruton was significant in part because he tapped into, indeed helped articulate, a broader current of concern. So also with his interest in past lifestyles, notably hunting. If Scruton took this far further than most who held a commitment to continuity, nevertheless he was able to be more than merely an eccentric precisely because there was a wider concern.

Linking the two, and providing an ideological ballast, was the search for a vision of conservatism that was not simply that of the free market. Indeed, Scruton, like others, felt that the latter represented a form of Liberalism that he distinguished from a Conservatism of cultural weight which, he argued, derived from value and continuity, and not from advantage in the economic (or other) contingencies of the moment.

This approach appears stronger as a result of the growing salience of ‘culture wars’ in the 2010s, notably the late 2010s, and, indeed, Scruton can be seen as an early protagonist in defining an English conservative aspect in this struggle. In that respect, Scruton was different to Stone as the latter was more cosmopolitan in his conservatism, both in terms of his early engagement with Eastern Europe and later with his interest also in Turkey. Scruton also had a strong interest in Eastern Europe, but he was less grounded in its culture than Stone. Both, however, understood that the culture wars in England/Britain took on meaning not only with reference to the trans-Atlantic perspective and context that was so important during the 1980s, not least because of the Thatcher/Reagan relationship, but also against the background of a European culture that had been sundered by totalitarianism and compromised by Modernism and Socialism. Scruton, however, showed almost no interest in history, which was somewhat of a limitation for someone whose mindset was rooted in tradition and continuity.

It is reasonable to ask how far this is helpful at present. To return to the insular, does the future of the British Conservatives depend on their success in handling Brexit (with similar economic issues for Continental states), or will elections at least in part register new political alignments arising from cultural concerns and issues? The Labour Party’s focus in its leadership election of 2020 on the transgender issue suggests the latter, which raises the possibility that Muslim voters, hitherto reluctant to vote Conservative, might do so for cultural reasons in 2024 when the next general election is due.

Certainly, the cultural agenda has an institutional ambit, notably in terms of the BBC and the universities. Although both can be seen as middle-class producer lobbies financed from regressive taxation (licence fee and general taxation respectively) as opposed to user fees, there are clearly politicised dimensions, as discussed, for example, in Robin Aitken’s The Noble Liar: How and Why the BBC Distorts the News to Promote a Liberal Agenda (2018). The BBC’s favourite minority is certainly the London progressive middle class and it is easily manipulated accordingly by vested interests that play well with it. In contrast, the majority who fund it are poorly represented, a point made abundantly clear in the treatment of Conservatives. Over 40% of the voters who voted in the last two general elections did so for them but you would find that hard to appreciate if following the BBC or university curricula. There is a loop back to Scruton with the limited commitment of the BBC to programming higher culture in primetime. The BBC has always had a liberal bias, but we are now in a ‘culture war’ and it quite visibly favours one side over the other, both in storylines and in tone.

Ironically, however, there is an approach that Scruton, with his concern about market mechanisms and ‘majoritarian’ views would have been cautious about adopting: the insulation from market discipline registered via consumer preferences that other media organisations must live or die by means that, as viewing habits have changed, the BBC looks outdated in terms of its output, claims, financing and delivery mechanism. A similar debate could be held about universities. If Johnson is unwilling to wage the culture war with vigour, especially within key institutions, and in pushing bac against those who wish to hunt for heretics, it may be too late ten years hence.

Clearly conservatism relates to more than consideration of rivals, but the nature and character the public debate is significant. On the personal level, I feel that there is a contrast between an English/British conservatism able and willing to engage with a changing society, and a more ‘ultra approach.’ The former ranges (and this is a far from complete list) from support for Catholic Emancipation in the early nineteenth, via ‘Villa Toryism’ later that century, to the ‘Bolt from Empire’ and the Thatcherite engagement with the ‘C2s’ in the twentieth, and the more recent determination in the 2010s variously to offer a Broad Church social vision, a Conservatism that can breach the ‘Red Wall,’ and an engagement with Patriotic continuities. These are not merely political expedients or rhetorical devices, but, instead, representations of the complex varieties of Conservative thought and politics. As a result, it is not particularly helpful to seek an ‘ur’ or fundamental conservatism, and that is even less pertinent if the diverse national and chronological context is to be considered. This makes it difficult to move beyond a national context.

In the case of Britain, the role of contingency is particularly apparent in the case of the changes arising from the Blair government. The ‘New Labour, New Britain’ theme was linked to an active hostility toward history. Kenneth Baker’s plan for a Museum for National History for which he had raised seed-corn money and for which I was a trustee, was killed stone-dead, as was Baker’s plan for a history section in the Millennium Dome. More serious was the constitutional revisionism pushed through with little thought of possible consequences and with scant attempt to ground it in any historical awareness. There was also an eagerness to apologise about the past.

Many of the consequences were to be seen in the 2010s, not least a curious ignorance about constitutionalism, and a lack on the part of many of any real interest in a concept of national interest, let alone a capacity to ground it in an historical perspective. In what passes for the educational work this had been related to a ‘decolonisation’ of the syllabus which in practice represents a faddish and rootless presentism that has made more History courses follow those of English Literature in being undeserving of serious attention. That, at the same time, there has been an interest in fluidity in all forms of categorisation, most controversially that of gender, is not axiomatically part of this politicised postmodernism but, in practice, overlaps with it.

Again, conservatism in part is active in this context in advancing concepts of humane scepticism against the determination of assert and enforce that in effect are new regulations on behaviour, speech, deportment, and, in addressing ‘bias,’ thought. This scepticism offers a way to advance a conservatism based, instead, on freedom, debate, pluralism, and an acceptance that the very concept of value should be ground in a relativist willingness to accept contrary views, interests and preferences. Both democracy and capitalism rest on those assumptions. So does a classic English/British conservatism. That this is different to other conservative traditions does not make it better or worse, but the difference underlines the problem with having any unitary concept of conservatism, its past or its future. Indeed, this pluralism is part of the very strength of conservatism, as it can more readily adapt to local circumstances.

Jeremy Black is a British historian, and a prolific author. His most recent books include, Military Strategy: A Global History, War and Its Causes, Introduction to Global Military History: 1775 to the Present Day, and Imperial Legacies. The British Empire Around the World.

The image shows a bust of Sir Roger Scruton by the Scottish sculptor, Alexander Stoddart.

Some of the articles that follow, on Sir Roger Scruton, were also published in the Polish magazine, Arcana, in an issue dedicated to him.

Conservatism And Conservation In The Dead-Ends Of Modernity

Roger Scruton drew attention to a fundamental truth when he argued that “conservatism and conservation are two aspects of a single long-term policy, which is that of husbanding resources and ensuring their renewal.” As a label for the distinctive social and cultural mood that Scruton represented, “conservation” may be preferable to the “conservatism” with which he is more often linked. As a label, it is certainly more useful. “Conservation” appeals to an instinct to protect and cherish, which quite properly transcends all political distinctions. But the label is particularly significant for conservatives. For “conservation” reminds us that “being conservative” is not primarily an identity, or a category, but a task. It shows that conservatives are people who find things to conserve.

Scruton understood that this task of conservation showed where modern conservativism have gone so badly wrong. In organising their agenda in subservience to the free market, the conservatives who dominate in present-day politics have too often allowed everything to be turned into a commodity. But in allowing everything to be for sale, they have admitted that nothing has any fixed value. And too often they have permitted this process of commodification to be applied to values in the electoral marketplace, so that the opportunities of the moment trump their obligations to the past and so also their protection of the future.

This explains why, in the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party barters with established norms and venerated institutions in the hope of short-term electoral gains, while pretending to anyone who will believe them that their hurriedly formed values are judgements to which right-thinking people have always been committed. And so on cultural issues, the Conservative Party, like some similar movements elsewhere, is not going in a different direction to its major political rivals. It is going in the same direction at a slightly slower pace.

We can begin to grasp the failure of modern conservative politics when we ask ourselves what that politics has actually conserved. Political conservatives have done a good job of protecting an open economy. But the free market conserves nothing. The task of creating an open economy is much less important than the task of conserving culture. This is why, in the United Kingdom, the task of cultural conservation is being advanced by communities that see the Conservative Party as the problem. Across the country, in home educating families, in small congregations, and at irregular conferences, cultural conservation continues despite and not because of conservative politics.

This is evident when we consider the element of our culture that seems most obviously under attack – the family. Conservative thinkers have always understood that the family is the most important social unit to protect. In fact, the significance of the family is built into the language that we use to describe our conservation task. Scruton understood that conservatism and conservation are both about the responsibility of “husbanding.” The assumptions that underlie his metaphor are enormously significant. For it is only as we conserve families – the social unit in which the work of husbanding finds its archetype – that we build the cultural capital by which those larger projects of cultural preservation may be pursued.

Of course, there are no political solutions to problems that are ultimately spiritual in character. But conservatives need to stand against – and outside – a culture in which everything is up for sale, protecting the things that matter most in the dead-ends of modernity.

Crawford Gribben is a professor of history at Queen’s University Belfast, and the author of several books on early modern and contemporary religion, including John Owen and English Puritanism: Experiences of Defeat (Oxford UP, 2016) and Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America: Christian Reconstruction in the Pacific Northwest (Oxford UP, 2020, forthcoming), and co-editor of books including Cultures of Calvinism in Early Modern Europe (Oxford UP, 2019).

The image shows, “The Peale Family,” by Charles Willson Peale, paonted ca. 1773-1809.

Why I Choose To Call Myself A “Conservative”

Labels can be misleading, they can, as Scruton pointed out, control speech, but they can also show our orientation or direction of thought.

The immediate inspiration for writing this short essay was the recent passing of Roger Scruton, the conservative’s conservative. I need not repeat all of the wonderful pieces that have been written about him. There are, however, two things I want to emphasize. Scruton and I were roughly contemporaries and we had our epiphany, unknown to each other, at the same time.

In 1968, Scruton was in Paris and witnessed the uprising. He has remarked that he suddenly realized the difference between himself and the rioters. The rioters, many of them intellectuals or inspired by French intellectuals, were interested primarily in tearing things down – believing, in romantic Marxist fashion, that the good will rise automatically from the conflagration of the old. Scruton suddenly realized that he was not interested in destroying things but in preserving what was most valuable.

From that moment one he became one of Britain’s most outspoken and courageous conservatives. At the same time, riots were occurring across America’s campuses, including my own university. Until that moment I had naively thought of myself as a liberal reformer, on the correct side of all of the major social issues. To see the destruction of higher education in America, although the corpse is still around, to see administrators unable and unwilling to defend the crucial importance of my beloved institution made me realize that I was also a conservator of our cultural institutions.

More recently I watched a U-tube presentation of Scruton trying to explain to a Dutch audience what was behind Brexit. He mentioned a number of things, including how his parents’ generation had successfully defended the UK from Nazi invasion, how Britons had no need to launder their recent history, how Britain was a bottom-up society and the home of the rule of law. It is the last point that inspired my recent publication of a book to substantiate that claim and to remind myself and others of the unique Anglo-American heritage.

Recognizing the confusion caused by labels, especially labels with a long history and multiple meanings, I nevertheless choose to call myself a ‘conservative’. This choice reflects the fact that the intellectual world is dominated by people who call themselves ‘progressive’, that progressivism seems to control the terms of discussion, and my instinctive desire to speak truth to power. Prudence has never been one of my virtues.

Before explaining my positive understanding of ‘conservatism’ I want to note what I disagree with in progressivism. To begin with, I object to bullying, to the silencing of dissent, the suppression of what used to be called free speech, and to coercing and penalizing people who oppose progressivism. Second, I am opposed to radical ‘social’ change instituted by the government and justified by appeal to abstractions designed to achieve a utopian goal. Third, I object to the invariable and inevitable distortion of the previous sentence by those who will attribute to me the position of opposing all social change.

What I mean by ‘conservatism’ is two things. First, it is impossible to think and speak about anything without employing an inherited background of norms and assumptions. We cannot explain or critique anything from a wholly external perspective. Our intellectual and social inheritance contain many norms, and there is no systematic way of organizing those norms without appeal to some extraneous perspective or without promoting one norm to a prominence it cannot rightfully claim. A good deal of what passes for philosophy is the elevation of one intellectual practice above all others. Our inheritance is too rich and complex to be so systematized. Progressivism is an example of the illicit claim of being ‘the’ uber framework. Rigidity is thus always on the side of Progressivism.

Our plurality of norms evolved over time (sorry, Moses) and reflected a particular set of circumstances. Inevitably and of necessity new sets of circumstances will lead us to recognize additional norms and conflicts and tensions within the norms we already have.

How then do we resolve these conflicts? The better or more accurate question, is what has our practice of conflict resolution or management been? Borrowing from Oakeshott, I would say our practice has been to engage in a conversation that begins by diagnosing our situation; we make proposals about what the response should be; we recommend this proposal by considering a large number of the consequences likely to follow from acting upon it; we balance the merits of any proposal against those of at least one other proposal; and we assume agreement about the general conditions of things to be preferred. Arguments constructed out of these materials cannot be ‘refuted’. They may be resisted by arguments of the same sort which, on balance, are found to be more convincing. The recommendation always involves a rhetorical appeal, an appeal to what we believe are the relevant overriding norms – the general conditions of things to be preferred.

The human condition can never in this life be utopian. Some good things can only be purchased by abstaining from other. We cannot choose everything. To open some doors is to know that others must remain closed.

What I seek to conserve is our practice. Progressives threaten our practices in the name of some abstraction. Armed with some such abstraction (e.g. ‘equality’) they will disrupt the conversation by claiming that the equal right to free speech means that any speaker they do not like can be shouted down. In vain do I remind them of what J.S. Mill said about censorship. In vain do I remind them that successful reformers like Martin Luther King prevailed because they reminded others into acknowledging what the inherited norms were.

For progressives, words (e.g. ‘racism’, ‘sexism’, etc.) mean only what they choose the words to mean. Any appeal to “the general conditions of things to be preferred” is illegitimate because what we thought were the relevant overriding norms (note the plural, please) is rejected as an appeal to something illegitimate. What are the legitimate norms? It is what they say it is and as they alone understand their holy abstraction.

On the contrary, I want to conserve the conversation, and the civility implied therein. It may very well be that there can no longer be a conversation. Communities do sometimes disintegrate, split into multiple communities, or find it necessary to destroy one another. Those who hold onto the illusion that the community can and must always be preserved (‘do-gooders’) are giving in to the belief in ‘the’ uber framework. Progressives, like Bolsheviks, always win in these situations because they will never concede anything. The ‘do-gooders’ will concede anything and embrace an Orwellian discourse. Progressives may control the commanding heights, but like all barbarians, in the end, they can only appeal to force.

As a “conservative” I want to preserve the inherited community, warts and all, not embrace an abstraction; I do embrace the need for periodic review; I vehemently oppose those who pretend to be conservatives but are merely intransigent about something or other; I patiently endure the process by which we engage in reform, however slow and painful. I am ready and willing to oust the disingenuous progressives (as opposed to the merely confused) who pretend to be inside the community in order to enjoy its benefits but reserve for themselves the exclusive privilege of not being bound by it when it suits their private agenda. I am prepared to let them go their way; but they cannot stay as is. The progressives will claim that I am the one who is leaving when in fact they are the ones who have abandoned the community long ago. To be a ‘conservative’ is to choose to stay and to be willing to pay the price; it is not to idolize any one institution.

Nicholas Capaldi, a Legendre-Soule Distinguished professor at Loyola University, New Orleans, USA, is the author of two books on David Hume, The Enlightenment Project in Analytic Conversation, biography of John Stuart Mill, Liberty and Equality in Political Economy: From Locke versus Rosseau to the Present, and, most recently, The Anglo-American Conception of the Rule of Law.

The image shows, “The Chess Players,” by Sir William Orpen,” panted before 1902.

What Is Conservatism?

How much did Sir Roger Scruton’s thought influence the current perception of Conservatism? This is hard to say. Had his mind widely reached the public opinion in depth, we could speak of an influence, but it was not so, for rarely a thinker’s mind has an influence on his own
contemporaries, and more rarely on his own generation; in case on the next. I’d say that he was a bright and cold interpreter of a commonly shared, and mutual way of thinking and perceiving the political situation in the West, and its contradiction; but it is really problematic to assess
if and how much he may have had an influence on the public political perception. For sure his work was carefully considered by specialists, and was often reported by the press, in and out of Britain, but how many people read such press and, among them, how many read this kind of news? No idea, but surely – no matter the country – they are not the majority of the
public.

It is not easy to define Conservatism, and we must keep in mind that not all the categories we can apply to the so-called Western mind can be applied to countries whose culture does not rely on the European root.

In theory one should define Conservatism “a contrario” due to what it is not. This could be easier. It is enough to look around, at the most shared behaviours and mentalities, and then say: This is not conservatism.

Once the list of the “this-is-not,” is arrived at, you’ll identify “a contrario” what Conservatism is. On the other hand, we must also beware those people who calll conservatism whatever can be used to blindly hold at any cost against social changes, just because they are changes, or just because they do not know how to argue or discuss. There is another way to define Conservatism. Basically, the difference between progressives and conservers is similar to that between children and parents. Children are attracted by everything new because it is new. Children want to do what they want, because they want it. Children have no experience;

Hence, they cause dramatic damage, which sometimes is impossible to solve. Children are egoistic, looking for, and caring for their own interest only; they despise rules, are arrogant, pretend to know everything and teach lessons to everybody. Children are not educated, and know nothing about their families’ history and roots, and are accustomed to have their meals ready-made, their clothes ready-made, their homes safe and comfortable, and to cry when things are not as they like. And that’s it.

Parents know what can happen, and which consequence a particular action will normally have. Parents have experience and have learned from it – unless they are post 1968s or progressives at any cost – thus parents know which kind of result the children may get. But whoever has children knows that you can shout as much as you want, and repeat the same things as much as you want, but your children will never listen at you, till it’s too late, perhaps much too late. Then, after many years, they will also be able – at least some of them – to realize that their parents were right; but they will hardly admit it, and continue behaving the same way, or worse.

It’s easy to be a progressive: Just shout “why not this?” There is no need to support the cry with ideas and reason, whilst a conserver needs a lot of culture and skill to explain and to defend his position. Since 1789 conservers are always old-fashioned, thus guilty, who must keep and defend their positions, whilst progressive are right by definition. In brief, Conservatism in the good sense is a blend of culture, tradition, broad mentality, and attention; Conservatism is good sense applied to daily life.

A corollary: Look at how many wars were caused by leftist governments and how big those wars were, and then look at how many were started by conservative governments. Then make a comparison between the casualties caused by the former and the latter. The result: Progressives caused much more death than the conservers. Hitler was a progressive, Stalin was a progressive, Mussolini was born and remained his whole life a socialist thus a progressive. Is that enough?

Ciro Paoletti, a prominent Italian historian of military history, is the Secretary General of the Italian Commission of Military History. He is the author of 25 books, and more than 400 other smaller works\, published in Italy and abroad, and mostly dealing with modern and contemporary Italian military history and policy.

The image shows, “The Chess Players,” by Thomas Eakins, painted in 1876.

Roger Scruton: A Scapegoat For Our Times

I briefly learnt of and met Roger Scruton some forty years ago when his colleague, the philosopher Ruby Meagre, invited me to sit in on a lecture and tutorial he gave on Kant. From then on Roger Scruton has been a constant presence in my life, due to the seemingly endless parade of his writings on all manner of subjects that appeared in the new books section of my university library, or were reviewed in literary magazines, or journals, and through the outpouring of his opinion pieces in British newspapers and magazines, and the stream of radio and television interviews, and more recently Youtube lectures. Almost as numerous were the denunciations and attacks that were regularly launched against him. And although Scruton had carved out an enviable reputation for himself as a philosopher, he is, I think, most likely to be remembered for his role as a public intellectual and public gadfly irritating the progressive cause.

While The Meaning of Conservativism, which had appeared shortly before I met him, and which my friend Ruby assured me was ‘reactionary tosh’, had already put him in great disfavour with the academic consensus very early in his career, it was an essay in the Salisbury Review about declining education standards in multi-cultural Britain that rocketed Scruton, along with its author, the headmaster of a Bradford school, Ray Honeyford, into the public eye as a ‘racist.’ When I read the essay, I thought Honeyford had expressed serious concerns about what was happening in British schools, and that the response to him, Scruton and the Salisbury Review was a disgrace. But given that the Review was one of the earliest forums drawing people’s attention to the institutional damage being done by the elite ideological consensuses in the Western world, there was nothing surprising in the hostile reactions it generated.

It was around the same time I also learnt of Scruton’s role in helping Czech and Polish dissidents. And the magazine that was commonly denounced as reactionary bile by Western academics who earned their living by ‘critiquing’ everything about their society that did not follow their leadership by conforming to their ideas of what a just society and economy should be like, was treated by Eastern dissidents as a blast of freedom. In the East where the tacit and trans-generational accumulated social knowledge of tradition had been replaced by the ideology of the ‘know-all’ (i.e. for the party leaders, knowing their Marx and Lenin, knew all that was necessary about the objective laws of economics, society, and history), Scruton’s Burkean insights about collective life and tradition were a reminder of a more spirited life than that being made by the party.

In the West, though, where tradition had been defined as the enemy, and every pumpkin head who had read a few books on Marx or feminism knew how to bring about peace on earth, Scruton was a scapegoat who took on all the crimes and sins of the ‘right’ for academics, journalists et. al. that could be sacrificed to the god of virtuous abstraction that they faithfully served. Ultimately it was this scapegoat status that accompanied a general defiance of the consensuses of the elites of our age, rather than any single philosophical contribution that made Scruton one of the most important public intellectuals of our time. (The role of favoured scape-goat, however, even during his life-time would be taken from Scruton and passed onto the less philosophically, and less conservatively inclined Jordan Peterson).

In his role as scapegoat (and ironically enough René Girard’s theory of mimetic desire and the scapegoat would be a frequent point of reference in Scruton’s later writing), Scruton reflected back everything that is appalling about his enemies and the kind of world they are making, as they attempted to block his career and smear his reputation, often in underhanded and secret ways, and just as often with a megaphone as they purported to speak on behalf of a public good, that they ostensibly represented. The last “hit job” on Scruton, not long before he died, was when George Eaton charmed his way into Scruton’s confidence and then twisted and decontextualized his position in an infamous essay in the April 2019 issue of the New Statesman, a magazine for which Scruton had often published. It was a cipher of the manner of behaviour that our ideas-brokering class now engages in.

The work by Scruton that I have most enjoyed is Fools, Frauds and Firebrands (originally published as Thinkers of the New Left.) For it goes back to what is probably the most defining event in Scruton’s intellectual life (apart from hunting, farming, and drinking wine), the Paris revolt of 1968. Scruton realized then that this discontented youth thought they knew so much more than they did, and the book sets about exposing just how little the great bastions of the New Left actually do know.

In many ways this Socratic twist, that we all know very little, is the essence of Scruton’s conservative political commitment. For he held that we need to factor in that we dwell in processes about which we understand far too little, and hence we should take seriously the accumulated stock of social knowledge of previous generations that is our heritage instead of puffing ourselves up as ‘judges’ of history, and replace it with our relatively paltry intellectual principles and abstractions.

In that book Scruton also made the salutary point that the New Left view of politics as power fails to understand the very nature of politics, as a means of mediating between different interests, to achieve peace. In spite of the New Left presenting itself as the representatives of the oppressed, they were bourgeois who have not only wanted their narratives about past, present and future to prevail, but have wanted to ensure their economic advancement in leading the rest of us.

Scruton was a significant obstacle to that interest because he urged us to think more rather than think we know everything. Now that he is dead there is one less major obstacle to the intellectual, spiritual, and social suicide of the West.

Wayne Cristaudo is a professor of Political Science at Charles Darwin University. His books include Power, Love and Evil: Contribution to a Philosophy of the Damaged, Religion, Redemption, and Revolution, and Idolizing the Idea: A Critical History of Modern Philosophy.

The image shows, “The Mockers,” by Hannah Höch, painted in 1935.