Saturday, April 16, 2016

Can We Learn Something From Russell Kirk?

Fusionist "movement" Conservatism is pretty much an outdated and useless way of looking at the world. Its primary focus is on America's problems circa 1960's to the 1970's. The Traditionist/Libertarian fusion is a disaster. Are there some conservative figures of the post-WW2 generation, however, that alt-right folks might find congenial to their views? One possibility might be Russell Kirk, the author of "The Conservative Mind, From Burke to Eliot" the great 1950's conservative classic. The Conservatism of  Kirk was one of a deep respect for tradition, proscription and capital "C" ultramontaine Catholicism. Kirk believed that any healthy society must be what he called "a democracy of the dead" that consults its ancestors when making decisions about the present.

    I had the pleasure of meeting the "Wizard of Mecosta" at a meeting of the West-Side Conservative Club at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan back in the late eighties or early 90's. It is interesting to note that Donald Trump had some financial interest in the venerable Plaza Hotel at the time and let the club use the facilities for free. A little later, an old high-school friend, who would later become a renowned Physicist, introduced me to a young student who he was sharing expenses with in renting a house. The man's last name was Kirk and I asked if he was to the great thinker and he said "yeah, that's my uncle Russell."  The young fellow related to me how esteemed Kirk was in the family councils.  A few weeks later during another visit to my friend's house the Kirk nephew introduced me to his sister as "one of Uncle Russell's people".

  Kirk remains worth reading. Even his fiction was pretty good as I remember. Very late in life Kirk supported mild nationalist Pat Buchanan for president and in so doing forged connections between the Traditionalist thinkers of the past and the antecedents of the alt-right. He heartily disliked the Neo-cons and wrote what was probably the best description of the breed: "Often clever, never wise."

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Can Trumpism Survive Trump?

If Mr. Donald Trump has founded or midwifed a political movement, it would behoove observers of the political scene to consider the issue of whether this movement has legs, so to speak. Can Trumpism survive Trump? It seems rather likely at this point that the combined forces of Moderate Republicanism and Beltway conservatism will find some devious way of denying Trump the Republican nomination for president. Will other players in the political field seek to inherit the mantle of "The Donald" and make  mild populist Nationalism a regular faction in or out of the Republican Party? Pat Buchanan, the Paleo-Conservative journalist and ex-Nixon aide thinks so. In a recent column, Pat expressed confidence that Trump has begun a new political movement.  Back in the 90's Pat gave the establishment a little scare, hitting upon  themes such as the need for tariffs to protect industry, America Firstism, and opposition to the brown-wave from Mexico. These themes were taken up by Trump twenty years later. Of course, there are some differences between the two movements. Buchanan is a conservative Catholic culture warrior and Trump, a very nominal twice-divorced Presbyterian who has mostly stayed away from religious issues.

  I think it likely that from now on, there will be a Republican running in the presidential primary every four years who will repeat the Trump themes. It will be just too tempting for an ambitious up-and-coming politician to ignore the solid 30% to 40% of the Republican electorate who are attracted to the new populist-nationalist paradigm. What may be less likely, in my opinion, is that there will be large numbers of people who will want to run for senator, congressman or state legislator on a Trump-ite basis. Still, its too early to tell and we may end up with a Republican party with three factions rather than the two we have had since Goldwater.