The future of the past

Over at The American Conservative‘s blog, a number of contributors, spurred by Jim Antle’s initial musings, offer quite the engaging discussion of the past failings and possible future(s) of the paleoconservative movement. Something of a paleocon myself, I take great interest in the discussion and the situation it entails. This being the case, I’ll present the highlights herein, but I recommend reading the thread in toto.

Daniel McCarthy, the Tory Anarchist, remarks that “[w]e need to build up institutional infrastructure, so we can educate and reshape voters, and eventually produce candidates and other leaders. . . .This is hard work that will take years and more money than any of us has. There are a few other strategies that might be tried, but this is the only one in which I have any confidence.” (Jim notes aptly that the host magazine, and now it’s blog, offer incipient steps in this direction.) Daniel has informed me that he has an article about building up institutional infrastructure in the forthcoming print issue of TAC. I eagerly await its arrival at my house.

Here, Michael Brendan Dougherty offers some incredibly wonderful insight in response to the previous posts:

[P]aleo-conservatives did not pursue politics. (Many of them believed it was counter-productive to try.) They did not build sophisticated think-tanks to produce white papers on trade, or foreign policy. They didn’t have the resources, manpower, or personality to do so. They supported and shaped only one candidate (Patrick Buchanan in ‘96 and ‘00). They retreated from Francis’ developed concept of a new nationalism [the reformulation in a new myth of the nation as a distinctive cultural and political force that cannot be universalized for the rest of the planet] into a variety of interesting right-wing garden patches: Chester-Bellocian distributism, agrarianism, the Old Right, Nietzschean philosophy, romanticism. Eventually the populist anger on immigration that they anticipated was articulated and shaped by mainstream conservatives. This last development was inevitable — though paleos could have done a better job of claiming the credit.

And then:

The short version of my answer is that paleoconservatives could have retained their 90s influence (whatever it was) by sticking to their vision of nationalist conservatism. In the future they should think hard about what kind of things they’d like to achieve (I’m sure we all have some ideas) and work hard at building their own institutions on the one hand, and forming tactical alliances with the mainstream right on the other.

Gerald Russello then offers a refreshing bit of Kirkian input: ” Politics, Russell Kirk thought, was only a partial solution, and political programs or solutions or “positions” ultimately will fail unless they are connected to some actual cultural wellspring. I would argue that despite the Ron Paul revolution, paleoconservatism is a long way to tapping into that mainstream. Or, more likely, it must start the process of creating it.” Mr Dougherty follows Mr Russello with like-minded thoughts, tempered with a healthy dose of reality:

“Sure, I’d like to see a cultural revival along the lines Kirk and other traditionalists prefer: orthodox Christianity (a theological, moral, and liturgical revival in mainline churches and the Catholic Church), a return to widely distributed productive property (with a large agrarian component), a truly cosmopolitan elite that sustains high art, and a return to republican norms in American governance. Absent catastrophe (which I don’t welcome or hastily predict), this is just not in the cards for now.”

Enter Daniel Larison, hands down my favorite blogger:

“Again and again, I am brought back to that phrase from Max, when the title character asks, “What would you rather do? Change the way people see, or the way they pay their taxes?” Changing the former is much more difficult, but ultimately much more enduring and meaningful, and it is inculcating the right “vision of order” that will lead to both more desirable popular responses to paleo policies but more importantly will contribute to some important measure of renovatio.”

Continued here.


One Response

  1. […] Nathancontramundi Musing, rants, and commentary from an crunchy, educated hick inside the Beltway « The future of the past […]

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