What exactly do they want?
You could understand if they were doing it for money. It’s easy to maintain revolutionary integrity in the midst of poverty, but there are few who wouldn’t be seduced by the promise of lifelong luxury and comfort. But they don’t really get that.
You could understand if it was for social status. The fabled “cocktail parties” and pomp of the elite are even more tempting than a fat bank account. But they don’t really get that either, and they are despised by the actual leaders of the culture.
You could understand if it was for power, or even the chance of power. Men will sacrifice almost anything for power, even family, love, or the most cherished ideals. But they don’t get that. They never actually get what they want. If anything, they aren’t even able to defend their own self-interest competently.
I understand the how. I don’t understand the why.
What makes your average movement conservative tick?
The mystery of the American conservative movement is critical to understanding the barriers to White Nationalism or Radical Traditionalism in the United States. Regardless of whatever ideological absurdities, theological blasphemies, or simple intellectual cowardice plagues the American Right, the objective reality is that the American conservative movement is the most well funded, active, and coordinated Right-of-center movement in the Western world. Furthermore, regardless of the actual principles it espouses, the hard reality is that the American Right has increasingly become the political movement of American whites, and so there is bound to be overlap between the conservatives of the past and whatever movement arises to represent white Americans in the future.
I take as a premise that most people reading this site are already predisposed to scorn American conservatives. They are right – conservatives should be scorned. That said, they should not be underestimated.
The average activist or functionary in the Beltway conservative movement is competent, somewhat intelligent, focused, dedicated, and of course, white. Let us be brutally clear – the average conservative is more capable of political activism than the average White Nationalist. More importantly, they can organize, fund, and perpetuate institutions that at least nominally move their cause forward, even as white advocates are forced to the fringe.
At the same time, conservatives never seem to actually get anywhere. The America of 2012, with its vast entitlements, massive government spending, and crumbling “Judeo-Christian” culture is much worse by their own standards even after the “Conservative Revolution” of Ronald Reagan and the Revolution of 1994. Some of the more farsighted among them, like Pat Buchanan and Mark Steyn, even know this explicitly. Nonetheless, the only thing they can think of to do is vote for Mitt Romney, who shows no signs of halting the decay and may even accelerate it. Even the most incompetent and cartoonish White Nationalist who somehow converts one other person to the cause has accomplished more than all of these million dollar foundations put together. The quest for a white ethnostate at least has the theoretical potential for victory. Conservatism doesn’t.
So why do they do it? Generally speaking, people join movements for one of three primary motivations – financial, ideological, or social. One of the most common criticisms of movement conservatives is that they are “in it for the money.” It’s true that many movement conservatives will actively restrain themselves from speaking certain truths or addressing certain topics for fear of losing their job. However, this isn’t really the same thing as “selling out.” Websites like this don’t require commenters to post their names and phone numbers. Under the glorious democratic regime, normal people have to lie in order to protect their livelihood.
The truth is that conservatism as a profession doesn’t pay very well. Sure, if someone is elected to Congress or runs a successful campaign, they might eventually make a great deal of money as a lobbyist or a consultant. However, most political activists lead terrible lives. The hours are long, the money is small or nonexistent, the food is terrible, and influence is limited. You could run a brilliant campaign, only to lose at the last minute because of a gaffe or another person’s mistake, and you are always the one who is expendable.
Jobs with nonprofits aren’t much better, as they combine the work hours of a high-powered law firm with the average salary of a greeter at Wal-Mart. Even for those who have the ambition, intelligence, drive, and luck to reach the heights, the salaries are nothing to those obtained by even young employees in investment banking or finance. To paraphrase what P.J. O’Rourke and many others have observed, the best minds on the Left go into politics while the best on the Right go into business. A conservative who pursues politics as a career for financial reasons is either absurdly confident, misinformed, or a complete idiot.
The second rationale, ideological, doesn’t have much more to offer most conservatives. True, there are a small number of conservatives are willing to make sacrifices and work for their beliefs even when there is no reward. Take a young activist like James O’Keefe, who used video journalism to bring down ACORN and recently exposed voter fraud by the son of a sitting Congressman (one of the few, it should be noted, critical of America’s ties with Israel). O’Keefe is occasionally hailed as a hero by the conservative Right, but is also condemned by them when his stunts don’t quite work out. According to some reports, he is heavily in debt and fighting continuous legal battles – but, mysteriously, all those rich conservative donors haven’t helped him out even as he takes on such eminently kosher causes as proving abortion providers are racist or that Democrats enjoy breaking election laws.
The vast majority of conservative activists seem to have a deep disquiet with actually seeking victory, with the possible exception of the pro-lifers and the libertarians. Pro-lifers are the one group of conservatives that are actually willing to be arrested for their cause. While the American pro-life movement will receive a fuller treatment in a few weeks, suffice to say that the movement holds to an even more radical egalitarian critique of American society than the liberals. Radical Traditionalists have nothing to look for here.
Many of the grassroots libertarians are highly ideological and deeply dedicated. They have successfully developed a thriving subculture, complete with an internal economy. They operate both inside and outside of the system. They participate within the Republican Party and the conservative movement, but remain an independent force. They have their own overall Weltanschauung and institutions to meet activists at every level, from college students to serious academics. Most of all, they have a serious critique of the system and have something to say – if it doesn’t get them in trouble with the wrong people. No matter how radical they are, most libertarians are cautious to apply their rigid beliefs only to those issues that fit with Left-wing talking points. If confronted by cultural Leftists, they will switch positions, run away, or actively join the other side. They may oppose the System, but like the pro-lifers, they oppose it because it is not egalitarian enough on issue like immigration, race, homosexuality, or national identity.
Conservative Christians of all denominations may believe they are acting out God’s will on earth, but it is not a political version of holy war. Instead, the most militant evangelical Christians think God Himself will come down to sort out our affairs and so our efforts will come to nothing. Insofar as they are passionately interested in the demographic situation of a nation, it is that of Israel, and a serious case can be made that evangelicals have evolved from worshiping a savior of Jewish blood to quite literally worshiping Jewish blood.
Many of the more hierarchical Christians such as Catholics or some of the Orthodox believe in their denominations, but in the bloodless modern way so as not to cause offense. Christianity is justified on the grounds that it led to modern liberalism. The actual tactics that were used to establish these churches go without defense. Insofar as there are movements seeking to re-establish Christian majorities, they are swiftly condemned. It’s telling that the legendary National Review columnist and fierce Catholic Joe Sobran was unceremoniously expelled from the movement for questioning Jewish domination, while anti-God crusader, enthusiastic blasphemer, and self-described man of the Left Christopher Hitchens was warmly welcomed even until his last days. While there might be the occasional joke of the Crusades or the Rapture, the God of the conservative Christians is either an invisible Republican Martin Luther King Jr. who lives in the sky, a Pope issuing a bull on the need for more democratic elections, or a dutiful bureaucrat in the Ramatkal.
Russell Kirk, the brilliant reactionary who compiled The Conservative Mind, famously defined conservatism as “the negation of ideology.” Instead, conservatism theoretically was an intellectual temperament with a mild partisan fixation. However, as “conservatism” became “Conservatism Inc.,” conservatism became simply a word, a party line imposed by a series of interlocking institutions from the top down, designed to create talking points to elect preferred candidates.
Insofar as there is an intellectual justification for conservatism, it accepts the American founding as part of a gradual progression towards egalitarianism after the so-called Enlightenment. The idea that the Enlightenment itself was problematic is outside the consensus. Conservatives see their mission as defending the existing system, with their dissent simply functioning as a way to make it more efficient. The difference between American Right and Left seems to be that the former is willing to dragoon pre-modern institutions to better defend modernity, whereas the latter wants to extirpate traces of the traditional West altogether.
As Jonah Goldberg of National Review and Liberal Fascism writes, “[W]hatever our differences with American liberals may be, conservatives understand that our argument with them is still within the family. The fighting is intense, but we’re all trying to figure out what it means to live in this country bequeathed to us by the American Revolution and the Enlightenment.” It should be noted that for Goldberg, even Buchananism was too fascistic, because it hinted at the vision of an organic society.
American conservatism can’t win because it is enlisted in the defense of a System openly hostile to the traditional loyalties of its followers. Regardless of how degenerate, egalitarian, and fundamentally Leftist American society becomes, conservatism will shift to interpret it as the new normal. American conservatives lack a core coherent ideology to motivate them and somehow, at the same time, they deny the concrete realities of race, place, religion, and real nationhood in the name of an abstract proposition nation. It is the worst of all possible political movements. At a core level, it’s not just that conservatives don’t want to win – they don’t even know what victory would mean.
This leaves the final factor as the real secret of conservative identity – social. As with all movements, the conservative movement provides its participants with the experience of being part of a shared experience, a common subculture, and a social network of friends and colleagues. This alone has a great deal of seductive power – once a person joins the conservative movement, for whatever reason, they will be hesitant to do anything which will lead to expulsion from respectable gatherings. This has less to do with honest fear of the Left than it does with losing the respect of conservative colleagues.
While this is a necessary part of the explanation, it’s not sufficient. Modern conservatism, if it lacks a core system of beliefs, does contain certain vague feelings that are universally shared throughout the American Right. Chief among them is a sense of superiority among conservatives. This does not contract the egalitarian ideology anymore than status seeking SWPL’s indulging in expensive sandwiches believe anything is awry with their behavior. Status seeking is universal among humans – it simply functions in perverted ways in ostensibly egalitarian societies.
Among Republicans, the devotion to capitalism and limited government operates not just as an economic platform, but as a social outlook. Even though the movement has manifestly failed to limit government in any substantive way, the insistence on seeing America as a meritocratic society gives Republicans a way to associate themselves with the successful. The fetish on “job creators,” Mitt Romney’s dismissal of the “47%,” and the vulgar, simplistic interpretation of Ayn Rand as the prophet of capitalistic superman reflect this self image.
The problem of course is that Republican functionaries don’t function in the business world. Teenagers with business cards, college students drinking scotch, and hacks making 20K a year wearing three-piece suits to the bar are an attempt to substitute the illusion of wealth and power for the thing itself. At the core of the Republican identity is the idea that “we still run this thing.” The liberal rage against the rich and the privileged actually feeds Republican glee. As long as they do not jeopardize their position, liberal hatred helps bind conservatives together and distinguish the elite from the rabble. Even in Obama’s America, conservatives are forever the landed elites, pitying the vulgar mobs below.
Thus, conservatives accept the institutionalization of every new left wing victory. While they may complain about voter fraud, judicial activism, or mass immigration, the idea of championing a restricted franchise, nullifying laws, or recognizing identity based on ethnicity and culture is obviously unthinkable. After all, conservatives believe it’s their system.
Working hard and engaging in revolutionary political action implies that you don’t already control everything. As Saul Alinsky observed, “One’s concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one’s personal interest in the issue, and one’s distance from the scene of conflict.” By considering themselves “above” smashmouth politics because of the illusion of control, Republicans can avoid keeping their hands dirty. The more pessimistic can console themselves that the world will not see their like again but still maintain the casual air of the upper class. To be a Republican is to simultaneously believe that the country is going to hell but that it is the greatest country that ever existed, and somehow, we will always be in charge.
It’s not that many Republicans aren’t politically incorrect behind closed doors – after all, even the castrati of the College Republicans were singing “Stomping Out the Reds” not long ago. It’s that being controversial implies that you have to get your hands dirty, rather than having an air of amused mastery towards your political opponents. Thus, Radical Traditionalists who look to conservatives as possible allies are sure to be disappointed. They will fight even more fanatically than leftists to protect their American illusions, as after all, most conservatives think revolution is by its very nature Left wing. It’s therefore not surprising, but entirely logical that Glenn Beck is opposed to Leftists because they could potentially lead to “Nazis like the Golden Dawn in Greece.”
Being a conservative Republican involves a very specific kind of self-glorification. The premises of the left (democracy, equality, anti-racism) aren’t systemically challenged, but Republican activists believe they still control the System. The rhetoric about individualism, capitalism, and meritocracy provide a justification to ignore “collectivist” appeals to race and nation while glorifying the self. A revealing episode at the Conservative Political Action Conference involved the author discussing the British National Party with a group of American GOP and British Conservative activists. The latter was horrified, not because the party was racist, but because “the BNP supports the working class!”
It should be noted that many conservatives really do believe that everyone can succeed if they “work hard,” like the educator who claims that he won’t stop until every student in the country is “above average.” For example, even as Jesse Jackson Jr. stumbles through rehab, his Republican opponent (being crushed in the polls) says his primary goal is to have everyone move into the 1%, presumably starting with black urban dwellers. Of course, if one accepts this premise, it means that Republicans who associate themselves with success get to glorify themselves even more, as they “earned it.”
Less hypocritically than urban hipsters, conservatives have developed a way to show they are better than everyone else without actually having to adopt a systematic defense of hierarchy. Those nationalist appeals that are accepted are couched in rhetoric about democracy, equality, and “freedom.” An appeal in the name of racial loyalty, traditional identity, or collective action can be safely ignored as all of these efforts imply subordination to a greater collective good.
The Right’s fixation on American Exceptionalism is another exercise in self-glorification and self-deception, as the impulse for self-glorification is used to fuel chest-beating pride that America can defeat fascists and theocrats in the name of global democracy. In the end, Americanism itself becomes the real religion.
Even if the Left totally controls the country, they can still never be comfortable with any kind of patriotism. Regardless of how far the Long March proceeds in the United States, Leftists know the United States of America was built by and for the white race. The Right remains deliberately ignorant of historical realities, simply pretending that race doesn’t exist and that there were black founding fathers. It’s arguably more dangerous because it twists the natural impulses of patriotism, loyalty, and the striving for greatness into an ever more irrational and conspiratorial ideology ever more remote from what was good about this country.
To be a Republican offers the appearance of status, power, and responsibility without the reality. Like an unemployed black puffed up with pride because “our people” run his city of Detroit, Republican activists are a giant cargo cult of primitives who put the symbols of status before status itself. As the real America retreats from the immigration inundated coasts, the culture collapses even in the Heartland, and the people demand an ever greater welfare state, the Republican Party will continue to pretend they are defending their America.
Even Pat Buchanan, who has written book after book proclaiming the “Death of the West,” thinks Mitt Romney can save us. As Garet Garrett wrote, “There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom.” It’s worth noting that Buchanan also endorsed George W. Bush in 2004 on the grounds that he would give us conservative justices and that he simply could not align himself with the Democratic “tribe.” George W. Bush gave us the conservative John Roberts, who then saved Obamacare.
The businessman who cuts the checks to his alma mater that pay Left-wing faculty, the Republican frat boy who glories in his status even as his house is abolished because it’s not “inclusive,” the faithful churchgoer who wants to defend “Christian America” as they build a mosque in Murfreesboro, the Beltway defense intellectual who plots to maintain the military superiority of Barack Hussein Obama’s Praetorians and bomb those evil tsarist Russians – all share the belief that this is still their country, and that rest of us just live here. While College Republicans can fantasize that being in the GOP will help them bag the Southern sorority girls, those girls are too busy sleeping with their black high school students, and there’s nothing that the supposed “white power structure” can do about it.
It’s tempting to say, “Power resides where men believe it does,” but that’s not entirely true. Power is concrete, not just an illusion, and sometimes the appearance of weakness is used to disguise the reality of the iron fist. The Left would have us believe that the United States of America is run by an ultra-conservative racist, sexist, patriarchal WASP ruling class that is constantly oppressing everyone. The American Right would have us believe that they are that class, but they are actually governing benevolently for the good of everyone. Both sides are getting psychologically what they need out of this farce. In the twisted status competition of a nominally egalitarian society, the grassroots activists of the Republican Party are one giant “Wooden Titan” so committed to their fantasy of power they don’t even realize they have been dispossessed. American conservatism is social proof masquerading as a political movement, and it won’t end until we end it.