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Conservatives sometimes like to console themselves with the notion that the massive Republican dominance of state governments shows the enduring popularity of conservative principles, even though national elections have been more up and down.  The consolation is minimal at best.

The theory of federalism is fairly straightforward.  At the most practical level, the notion that government should be local, responsive to different conditions, and reflect regionally diverse values makes sense and accords with common sense and justice.  Local government is closer to the people and more easily influenced. People can “vote with their feet,” states can experiment, and the relative impact of any bad policy is limited to a particular state.

At a level of greater abstraction, federalism reflects the founders’ notion of the United States being a federation of real states with real sovereignty, which was only partially and jealously given over to the federal government.  As pleasant as that all sounds, it is about as relevant today as it was in 1865, when federal armies had piled up a half a million American bodies and encamped large armies of occupation to remind states where they fit in this scheme of things.

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We’re from the federal government, and we’re here to help you.

Federalism is of even less relevance today. The most important reason is that the federal government has become so expansive and intrusive, no state can do anything at all without a federal imprimatur.  School policy, prison policy, environmental policy, labor and employment policy, the creation of state legislative districts, whether and how to provide services to aliens, and gun control policy are all directed from the federal government, which creates ever more constrictive boundaries in which states can act, if they’re permitted at all.  Decisions contrary to the will of the federal government are undone, whether through lawsuits under federal laws like Title VII and Title IX, or through direct federal action, as when federal prosecutors routinely threaten double jeopardy on folks like George Zimmerman.  What began as a narrow campaign to undo the vestiges of slavery and discrimination today threatens intrusion into the most quintessentially local matter:  the bathroom.  In the name of a distinctly uniform and sometimes judicially defined notion of equality, no state’s policy on any of its traditional prerogatives is safe.  Anti-slavery and anti-racism were the camel’s nose peering under the tent; states can literally do nothing today without federal permission.

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You Southerners Never Learn

In addition, the federal government simply takes so much money from the people directly, that the relative impact of their state and local taxes (and state and local spending) is comparatively small.  States build some roads, fund and operate local schools under federal supervision, and engage in a number of other workaday tasks like funding libraries and parks, but everything they might otherwise want to regulate, from abortion and gay marriage to housing policy and criminal punishment, all face a series of hurdles, court challenges, and direct federal intervention reminding the states who’s boss.

One would think this would be less popular than it is, but abstract questions of state sovereignty matter less to people in a time of great mobility. A mobile people likes a certain amount of uniformity, just as they are conditioned by chain restaurants and national advertising campaigns to eat at the same places whether in Iowa or Idaho or Indiana.  Robert E. Lee may have been a Virginian first, but today Virginia looks like the Tyson’s Corner Mall.

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George Washington once slept here, I think.

More so than ordinary people, large businesses both demand uniformity and, with their armies of human resources drones and make-work “C level” diversity officers, now presume to strong-arm states and their backwards people to follow the mores of Wall Street and California on matters like rights for gays.  Less intrusively, without prodding by the federal government, states have enacted uniform laws on contracts, secured transactions, corporate organizations, and much else.  Multistate–indeed, multinational–businesses prefer not to have to navigate the complexities of 50 widely varying legal regimes.

In addition to the desire for uniformity, states as entities command less allegiance precisely because there is so little they can now do.  Anything states may decide to do that is popular locally (but less popular with national elites) quickly becomes undone, such as the various states’ constitutional amendments banning gay marriage or attempts to mollify the federal government’s manifest failure to police the border.

One should thus not get too exciting by Republican triumph at the state level.  Whatever conservative leaders make it through the party’s filters find that there is little they can do that cannot be quickly undone by the clique at the DOJ or the one that sits on the federal appellate courts.

Moreover, even in the best of times, their job is simply less ideological.  State and local government are like a large homeowners’ association dealing with practical issues of health and welfare.  Much of these officials’ mandate has less to do with traditional conservative politics, because states, even in conservative theory, have a greater scope of authorized action than the federal governments.  That is, a Tea Partier that stands up for a rigorous constitutionalism at the federal level, where the federal government is one of strictly defined powers, recognizes that states have a general “police power.” While all that is not permitted to the federal government is supposed to be prohibited, it is supposed to be the exact opposite at the state level.

Speaking as someone of a conservative bent, it’s not so clear why conservatives at the state level would not favor strict environmental laws, for example, to prevent every ounce of open space to be paved over by greedy developers and to resist dread homogenization.  Nor is it clear at the local level why one would oppose as a matter of principal more spending for police, roads, teachers, prisons, parks, subsidized universities, and much else that makes life more pleasant.

Outside of the culture wars’ fights that define much of national politics, the politics at the state level is pragmatic and less ideological on the whole.  One should not assume because the citizens of a place like Florida or Michigan want a “tough on crime” governor, that they may not also want civil union for gays or a higher minimum wage, or that the Republican may not want more spending to make the state more livable and competitive.

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We would lose our values if we started deporting people.  

State politics is also overshadowed by the biggest threats to our well being from without:  international terrorists and the third world immigrant invasion.  All the zoning variances on earth do not equal the impact of  a 9/11 attack or a mass invasion of tubercular Salvadorans in one’s hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods.

States theoretically should have much more power, but they do not.  And they do not and cannot because of actions taken at the federal level. These national decisions have an enormous impact, because they constrain states and even their people acting directly in plebiscites, directly impose on our lives by changing the character of our people and neighborhoods, and aim to change us, because the lion’s share of federal policies reflect an elite view that reflects certain regions of the country–the coasts mostly–that is directly hostile  to the way of life sought by and increasingly hard-to-find in the country’s interior.

Rather than tinkering with the minutia of government among the federal government’s de facto administrative units, the only real hope for a conservative revival is to secure the border, kick out the people we are being replaced by, and push back against the aggressive and single minded agenda of Washington DC and its ruling class.

Obama is getting emboldened late in his administration, pushing now to force boys and girls together under the rubric of rights for transsexuals.  His motive seems pretty obvious:  he’s always been a leftist, he moved his stated policies further and further as their propaganda campaigns wore down resistance, he has allowed his underlings to be entrepreneurial in pushing one or another pet concern, and this is the latest front.  He essentially has no philosophical tools and no convictions with which to question the entire leftist project.   He is committed to a social and economic revolution, as well as a demographic one.  He appeared a cool, technocratic man of reason at first, but it’s clear that was an act, a marketing gimmick, and that he is the same former Hyde Park socialist he was known as in the 1990s when I attended the University of Chicago, the same guy who went to Rev. Wright’s Church, the same guy who hung out with Weather Underground Terrorists, the same guy who wants to ban white people’s guns and offend their religion.

The only difference this time is that rights are now in conflict with rights, or more accurately, one area of left wing concern is in conflict with another. (This incidentally was also a feature of the black rights and women’s rights movements in the 60s, where black on women violence was not uncommon among Black Panthers, and this led to a certain amount of internal friction).  The last few causes, such as gay rights, did little to affect the rights of women, for example.  But parents of all kinds are protective of their children, and the idea of your little girl taking a shower or going to the bathroom where men or boys have access to her is frightening and off-putting too most.

Of course, I keep thinking the left has gone a bridge too far, but they always seem to know what they’re doing.  They practice the “dialectic” and while they sometimes beat a tactical retreat–as with regard to their formerly explicit soft-on-crime stance–they usually make some kind of progress, i.e., corrosion of the existing, healthy society.

But what’s happening and why is really not that complicated. The left aims to destroy traditional society, the traditional family, and replace them with the state as an apparatus to advance preferred groups at the expense of traditional elites.  That Obama is part of it is the least surprising thing of all.

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I believe a swath of GOP will find itself with a viewpoint that finds no expression in either of the major political parties when this election is all over.

This is how I felt myself vis a vis both parties for most of my adult life, even though I was undoubtedly closer to Republicans.  But while it’s fashionable to say one is economically conservative and socially liberal, I’m socially conservative and economically nationalist, with a strong admixture of sympathy and willingness to engage in public policy to prop up the dignity and wages of the working class. I distinguish the working poor from the parasite class, whether that is the group that does not want to work or the group that wants to get rich by speculation and usury.  In this sense, as I say in my bio, I’m heavily influenced by the traditions of Catholic Social Thought, and the ways these ideas were expressed in early 20th Century Europe by various organizations that sprang up in the wake of the Rerum Novarum encyclical.

A dozen or more things I have long cared about where there is a significant number of people in favor, such as restrictions on trade or immigration, had little expression in national politics until now. The official GOP ideology put out out by Conservatism Inc. may soon find itself like one of those morbund Latin American militaries, with dozens of colonels, but few foot soldiers and fighting ability. In other words, it will be an irrelevant anarchorism unless it learns the right things from Trump, who is not merely some sui generis phenomenon because of his personality.

A set of political views must be attached to a coalition, and that coalition must be able to cobble together the assent of the majority, more or less, to obtain political power. A serious realignment is underway regardless of what the GOP’s “intellectuals” do this election.  Some sort of revamping of the GOP message and the coalition it aims to put together will be required in order to reflect the changing concerns and demographics of the American people, as well as to express their long suppressed desires for security and stability.

Paul Ryan is a good example of the old guard GOP, as young and energetic as he is. And on everything from immigration to foreign policy, he represents not merely a minority view but one that cannot be attached to a sustainable political coalition going forward.  Since 1988, the GOP gladly took the votes of working class white voters, who mistakenly believed their interests were aligned with those of large corporations or who mistakenly believed the GOP would ever advance their pet causes like abortion or gay marriage.  The GOP failed miserably in this regard, even though some undoubtedly tried, and now that the voters have been freed from this ideological straight jacket and seen what a nationalist politics looks like in the person of Donald Trump, they like what they see and are not going back to the reservation.

Men and women are different.  These differences are inborn, exist on a continuum, but there are some pretty hard stops, not least with our sexual organs.

Trangenders have been fighting to get the same positive treatment gays have obtained, namely, the right to do was they will and to be accommodated in their beliefs by the broader society.  But something is peculiar.  What does it mean to be transgendered, if all the trappings of femaleness–femininity, attraction to men, psychological and physical characteristics–are all debatable.  Meaning, what does it mean to “feel” female, in a world where femaleness has no intrinsic content.  In other words, transgenders purport to feel the opposite of their sexual identity, but what does this feeling mean outside of a reference to universal and preexisting notion of what it means to be a man or woman. This too is under attack by the same sexual revolutionary thinking that brought us the transgender and gay rights movements.  The “define yourself as you will” concept has no intrinsic meaning; one could be a transexual and a lesbian, at the same time.  Or a heterosexual transsexual.  And a million other permutations.

There are other characteristics that also appear immutable–racial background, age, physical appearance, nationality, and intellectual endowment–that seems also in the crosshairs. And an education system founded on the aggressive assertion of one’s individual will that is indifferent to some notion of “objective reality” has few weapons to resist. At its heart, the whole concept behind transgenderism is a denial of basic reality, which will swallow transgenderism whole eventually, because transgenderism depends on the same philosophical error–nominalism–that does not allow one to say what male and female is, and thus what anyone means if he says, “I am transgendered.”

Normal people, until recently, understood good sense and psychological health both as an adaptation of one’s beliefs to the objective reality of what is around him, which they took as a given.  You called a horse a horse, and a tree a tree, and you understand, as you matured, finer gradations, such as that zebras are like horses in some ways and different in others.  Whether digital, mechanical, or otherwise, you knew all watches had something in common, and that the class of watches included both, both excluded Big Ben for example.

So what of transgender?  It reduces one’s male or femaleness to a preference, an opinion. But an opinion about what exactly, since it presupposed male and femaleness as objective categories in some sense, but not in others.  Namely they mean something, but the transgender advocates says you can adopt them at will and take some parts and discard others.  But why not take this approach to other socially relevant characteristics, hitherto assumed to be imparted by an objective reality which one aimed to understand and conform oneself to.

Why could one not say, for example, that a grown man is not a child? Or that a child is not a grown man? Much of our law is built on the adult and child distinction, for example.  Like gender, it also has aspects of a continuum, but is highly relevant for distinctions of legal consent for both contracts and sexual relations, as well as other concerns, rights, and obligations.

Proponents of the rights of transgenders would say those cases are obviously different. And, while they are different, they are not obviously so, and may not be for much longer. Because in both cases opponents of the new trend can only point in protest to an objective reality and social necessity as important checks on the right of an individual to “define himself.”  That is, nature defines in some measure childhood, race, nation, family origin, and much else.  Indeed, gender seems the easier case.  It’s variable where childhood begins and ends in different cultures and historical epochs, but men and women are quite different, and it’s rather obviously so; a man in a dress is not a woman, not matter how much he wishes it so.  His genetic code says otherwise for starters, as does his anatomy, which can only superficially resemble the female if it is mutilated.

At the heart of the transgender movement is a fundamental philosophical error pointed out by Richard Weaver, namely, the nominalism first espoused by William of Ockham.  Ockham, well known for his razor, basically denied the possibility of universals, which he considered philosophically unnecessary.  The problem with this viewpoint is that it in a sense denies the possibility of either reality or knowledge; without some ability to abstract and categorize and recognize the way things are the same or different in reference to some universals–male and female, self and other, father and child, reality and opinion about reality–every datum is just one damn thing after another, an incoherent mess, a plaything for the will and preference of the observer.

Liberalism with its ipse dixit notions of rights and its purported universal rights is on a shaky foundation philosophically.  In addition to its troubles with men and women, it cannot reliably say what is man (as in human), and how he is distinct from animals.  And it cannot say why rights are not mere preferences and persuasive ways of saying, “I want something,” because its non-universal notions of mankind do not include an appraisal of an immutable nature, which transgenderism denies in one of its important particulars. Some liberals of the Enlightenment traditions will posit man has reason and freedom, but these too are contingent notions, and are under attack by animal rights  activists and certain voices in the realm of psychology, who argue that free will itself is an illusion.

Far from being a sign of enlightenment and progress, the transgenderism view is just one more waypoint in the devolution of a healthy society.  That devolution is precipitated by liberalism and philosophical nominalism.  Both disavow man’s place in the universe in reference to a Transcendent God, whose existence colors our view of man’s nature, obligations, and range of choice.

The transgender movement is part of a broader unraveling of reality under the relentless logic of liberalism’s nondiscrimination principle, a principle that says distinctions itself are a  type of wrong and violence, and everything must instead be a product of the liberated “free will” of individuals to “define themselves.  But just as your right to swing your arm ends at your neighbor’s nose, your right to define yourself should end at objective reality.  If not, why could I not define you as an insect or rat and exterminate you if you become inconvenient.  Or, for that matter, and more likely in the near future, define child rape of the type promoted by NAMBLA as a fully consensual and beautiful expression of desires, which should be unmoored by any objective reality or limits.  It’s coming, and, having rolled over on the transgender atrocity–extended now to young kids, whose desires, as interpreted by their parents are paramount–such a society would be able to do little more than shrug.  After all, who is to say?  

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Trump’s foreign policy speech this week was a tour de force, which included uncommon common sense.  It is also a sign that he’s listening to and understands the nature of his nationalist conservative supporters, which in this instance is also popular, good policy, and a formula for peace.

One thing in particular stood out.  His olive branch to Russia, a policy I’ve long advocated. This makes sense in more ways than one.  The US has tried to maintain a unipolar world, but it has been a fair weather friend to those it has supported.  We’re not really going to go to bat for Syrian rebels if they get crushed, and they’re being crushed by the Assad regime, but also doing little for us in the fight against ISIS (which is made up partly of rebels we used to support, fund, train, etc.).

In addition to supporting its traditional ally, Russia has been sending a message to the Baltics, Ukraine, and Georgia that unipolarity is not the way of the future and that the US lacks the will and resources to go head to head with Russia (or China).This is all true incidentally. Such a war would be too costly and the returns on such an investment are too poor.  We simply cannot afford to maintain a unipolar world, which was always a utopian enterprise, and we must adjust to this fact.It is a needlessly provocative enterprise that gets us involved on the side of Iran, more or less, in Iraq and Syria, while opposing them in Yemen.  It means we’re selling naval vessels to communist Vietnam.  It means we’re provoking separatist movements in Serbia and opposing them in Georgia.  In other words, it is a formula for perpetual and expensive war, meddling, and the creation of enemies, and it has dubious benefits to the US and the people we’re supposedly helping.

We should respect other powerful, nuclear-armed countries and not needlessly provoke them.  We should have a foreign policy of restraint and limited objectives, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere.  We should oppose ISIS sincerely, and not merely as part of this complicated Iran-Saudi proxy war for power in the Middle East. We should ally with Russia and China against Islamic militants and not cynically empower them as we have in Syria and Libya and Egypt.

We sometimes behave as if Russia lacks nuclear weapons and offensive capability. This was de facto true in the 1990s, but their intervention in Syria is a reminder they too have aircraft carriers, cruise missiles, stand off and expeditionary capability, old friends, and a perception of the right and wrong of foreign policy.  Most Americans have likely forgotten of our support for Kosovo separatism, Ukrainian coups, Georgia’s offensive against Russia-supporting Ossetia, and the ways we have offended Russia’s traditional friends and gotten in their face in their traditional area of concern and influence.

For the sake of peace, US power, and common sense, we need to stop the reflexive anti-Russia instinct in foreign policy, because it is a dead end, it won’t end well for us, and it does not serve our people’s interests.  Thank God someone running for President finally recognizes that.

 

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And I don’t mean that in a bad way.

Nixon represented self-consciously the “silent majority.”  He was from a modest background, was a self-made man, much more so than Trump, and carried with him resentments against “blue bloods” all his life, owing to his experiences of exclusion from various social organizations in college. He ran for student government at that time when he realized there were a whole bunch of people who felt just like him.

As crime ticked upwards in the latter part of Vietnam War and race riots and hippy disorder of various kinds reared its head, Nixon ran on a Law and Order platform, made up of Greatest Generation types and older who were fed up with all these social changes that displaced and worried them. This included the crime wave that was associated with the civil rights movement, as well as other social changes.  He won massively against McGovern in ’72, but was hated by elites, who truly did not understand him and his appeal.

He governed from the center, angering free market types with his price controls during the inflation episodes of the early 70s and angering movement conservatives with his pragmatic approach to the Cold War.  He enlisted he help of China for realpolitik reasons against the Soviet Union and rammed through a “peace treaty” to allow a swift withdrawal from the failing Vietnam War.  He was something of a foreign policy minimalist, in contrast to the more grandiose fantasies of hardcore “movement conservative” Cold Warriors who wanted to risk nuclear war to roll back Soviet communism.

Nixon stood for a basic, somewhat authoritarian cultural conservatism, but was economically pragmatic and centrist, and made largely symbolic gestures against the growing disorder of the times.

His “Southern Strategy” has longer roots than were observed at the time.  I would argue that there was a natural alliance of Yankee Catholics and Southern (White) Democrats against old money WASPs since the 1850.  That is, both groups were not totally on board with the typical “socially liberal and economically conservative” position as represented by John Lindsey in NY (in the 60) and George (Sr.) and Jeb Bush on a national level. They’re more Andrew Jackson, Al Smith, and Jim Webb.

Nixon won in a massive landslide in 1972 against McGovern. Times and demographics were different then, of course, but his appeal was similar to Trump’s.  Trump understands ethnic politics well, including the anxieties of middle class whites, because of the very ethnic politics of New York City since the 1960s.  Trump made a ton of money in NY in the 70s and 80s, but never quite fit in the “club scene” of Park Avenue and the like, and instead acted like any outer borough guy who won the lottery probably would.  And that’s why working and middle class people don’t mind his wealth; he made it, and he doesn’t act much differently than they would in the same situation.  That NYC outer borough crowd is not so different in its basic vibe as the blue collar South or Midwest, though not so much the more stoic and restrained German center of the country, nor the less anxious and more modern Western states.

Just as whites had a great deal of anxiety over racial and other social changes in the early 70s, they do again today, exacerbated by their stagnant wages and the threats posed by immigration.  Trump channels the fears of this silent majority and, like Nixon, will likely surprise our out-of-touch elites with a stunning victory in November.

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Conservatism in America has always been both distinct from the Republican Party and comprised of several different constituencies and strands of thought.  There are the libertarians, of course, whose intellectual output is not matched by an equal number of voters.  There is the Religious Right, which gained steam in the 1970s after the impact of abortion liberalization, the sexual revolution, and other disconcerting trends.  There are the Rockefeller Republicans, who are not conservative per se, but who represented a socially liberal and fiscally conservative message that sold well in the Northeast, but which was largely displaced.  And then there is the New Right of William F. Buckley, which tended to be socially conservative, economically free market oriented, and a proponent of a strong and aggressive defense posture against the Soviet Union. It began as an insurgent movement, but under Reagan became the dominant strain of conservative thinking.

The New Right movement had something of an intellectual core of sacred texts, including Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, Nash’s The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, and Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences. The ideas in these books filtered down to conservative activists through publications like National Review, Modern Age, and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, as well as television shows like Crossfire and Buckley’s Firing Line.

This movement culminated in Reagan’s presidential win, and it had broad support from voters with different concerns:  national security oriented intellectuals impressed by his foreign and military policy, Reagan Democrats who appreciated his cultural conservatism, and the aspiring college-educated middle class, who did well under his economic policies. Many apolitical people of a conservative bent also appreciated his confidence and pride in an America that was in a dejected state during the Carter administration.

After the End of the Cold War, much of the consensus that defined the Republican Party’s mainstream conservatism began to fall apart.  The party itself staying together in large part by inertia. More important, its intellectual basis became increasingly forgotten by the young activists who now ran its flagship publications, supplemented by a new strain of thought, neoconservatism, that was little different from the muscular liberal views of FDR.

The dissensus was expressed in both Pat Buchanan’s 1992 presidential run, as well as Ross Perot’s. Buchanan stood for the basic nationalist position, which was for immigration restriction, limitations on free trade, and a less activist foreign policy. Perot had a strange syncretist populism, coupled with faith in technology-enhanced direct democracy, further supplemented by free trade skepticism. These feels were, however, a minority position among Republicans.  Most people had done reasonably well through 1992, and the rot to America’s culture, demographics, and economy, mostly appeared as storm clouds on the horizon at that point.  Reagan style conservatism had not been rejected.  57% of people voted for either Bush or Perot, who split off a portion of the Republican coalition, and Clinton won.  Clinton himself won as a moderate and abandoned the Democrat’s traditional albatross of being soft on crime and welfare, favoring both the death penalty and welfare to work laws. Because of the peculiar impact of the Perot phenomenon, most Republicans stuck to their traditional views for the most part.  These were given new life following the spectacular success of the First Gulf War, after which most Republicans were not ready to turn away from an aggressive foreign policy, although the Somalia debacle in the early years of the Clinton administration began to make this shift more palatable.

George W. Bush also deviated from conservative orthodoxy, pushing his relatively big government “compassionate conservatism,” which aimed to use government to raise up the poor by expanding access to home loans, for example, and, prior to 9/11, he expressed his common-sense opposition to nation-building abroad.  Nonetheless, most Republicans supported the Kosovo Campaign under Bill Clinton and, out of Cold War habit, continued to support a muscular foreign policy.  Russia was weak, so most of these adventures were confined to the Middle East, and this instinct gained force after 9/11.

The 9/11 attacks made foreign policy the dominant issue of the 2000s.  After they occurred, only two groups had a coherent explanation and proposed strategy: paleoconservatives, who suggested a limited punitive campaign coupled with immigration restriction, and the neoconservatives, who supported an ambitious and “idealist” campaign deliberately designed to destabilize the Middle East and usher in democratic change.  The latter won out, but the Iraq War’s results proved lacklaster at first and eventually turned into an undeniable quagmire.  Similar results transpired in Afghanistan.  The disaster of Arab Democracy appeared in full flower during Obama’s administration in the Arab Spring, where relatively stable and friendly (or at least manageable) regimes became increasingly hostile, such as Egypt and Libya. Terrorist attacks in Boston, Fort Hood, San Bernardino, and Chattanooga were reminders of the importance of immigration restrictions, particularly of Muslims, to any effective containment of the Islamic extremist threat.

The failed campaigns of McCain and Romney also suggested something out of kilter about the Republican message.  The prior emphasis on free market capitalism appeared increasingly tone death to the realities of globalization, where immigration and off-shoring rendered a great swath of the economy net losers, especially among the working class. The 2008 economic crisis rendered many once middle class people impoverished, and their own struggles were easily contrasted with the continuing big bonus culture of Wall Street, who obtained massive government assistance to keep their speculation going. Further, there are cultural factors:  the decline of marriage and the increasingly Darwinian dating scene, the harsh suffocating effects of political correctness, perennial racial tensions exacerbated by Obama’s leftist message, and the realization among Baby Boomers, who did so well in the 80s and 90s, of their fragile economic position, coupled with the change in the texture of everyday life wrought by immigration and cultural leftism.  These changes to the country have all conspired to bring about a strong feeling of dissatisfaction.  The Republican Party’s continued embrace of neoconservative foreign policy also fell on increasingly deaf ears, made wise by the unfulfilled promise of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns.  Finally, the occasional pushes of the GOP’s establishment wing for immigration amnesty, first by Bush in 2005, and then later during the Obama years, added alienation to this dissatisfaction, and amnesty was for many the last straw.

The Alt Right emerged from a combination of these structural and intellectual factors.  All of the changes above made core Republican voters–middle class whites–more nationalist in tone and orientation.  At the same time, the declining intellectual integrity and influence of the Right’s flagship publications have left lacunae that have been filled from a combination of samizdat sources, ranging in quality, but all of which have been magnified in influence by the weakening power of gatekeepers.  On Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and numerous blogs, wide-ranging “forbidden” ideas have gained currency, including the Mens’s Rights Movement, the nationalist views set forth in Richard Spencer’s Radix publication, the race realism of American Renaissance magazine, Steve Sailer, and Vdare,  foreign policy skepticism, and anti-feminism.  These heterodox ideas have been further amplified by internet-savvy, alienated, and undeniably mischievous young activists, who are also energetic and sharp, and have been behind such diverse phenomena as the “chalkening,” #gamergate, and #NROrevolt.

Ironically, the increasingly ideological and unrigorous laundry list of official “conservatism” propagated by National Review and the mainstream Republican Party, is less intellectual than ever.  The often Catholic intellectual forbears of Reagan’s New Right views are now unread and forgotten for the most part, including by the Alt Right.  Instead, we have ended up with the shrill John Podhoretz and unserious Jonah Goldberg, whose main influences appear to be pop culture, in which both are immersed. The new leadership, often Jewish, is frequently reflexively hostile to the ethno-nationalist strains of conservatism that existed even in the very recent past.  Further, the devolution of National Review–which has purged such stalwarts as John Derbyshire and Peter Brimelow for their “politically incorrect” musings on race–is engaged in purges on explicitly liberal grounds.

The early National Review did not represent nearly as dramatic a break with the Old Right of H.L. Mencken, Robert Taft, and the American Mercury magazine.  Just as the Cold War created a new phenomenon–Soviet sponsored aggressive international socialism– that supported abandoning the traditional isolationism of the Old Right, the new phenomena of globalization, mass immigration, and crony-capitalism collectively demand the revival of the national unit, as well as a privileged position for its core historical demographic (white people), as an adaptation to new circumstances.

Like the occasional New Right thinker such as Erik von Kuehnelt Leddihn, the Alt Right has a more continental and authoritarian view than the classically liberal free market views of the New Right.  But even this distinction can be overstated.  Reagan embraced the Chrysler bailout and pushed for increasing exports to Japan.  Further, Reagan continued the Nixon realpolitik rapprochement with China to weaken our number one foreign policy threat, the Soviet Union. Reagan had the good sense to withdraw from Lebanon after the Beirut Barracks Bombing. No one thought, as many Republican leaders do today, that we were honor bound to stick around the Middle East for 15 years pursuing the impossible, as we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan. Further, our ties to Israel made sense when the Soviet Union went “all in” for Arab Nationalism after 1967, but have become less useful, and positively dangerous in certain cases, after the end of the Cold War.

The modern Republican Party’s “True Conservatism” is an ideologically rigid series of positions on taxes, trade, and foreign relations that proponents imagine, but do little to prove, is coextensive with the interests and flourishing of the American people. Indeed, in characters ranging from Rubio to Jeb to the annoying Kevin Williamson at National Review, we see passionate support for jobs-destroying trade policy and fomenting unnecessary conflict with Russia and Assad’s Syria.  We also see a fever pitch of opposition to Trump, who has not signed on to this ossified political ideology, but whose patriotism and right-leanings are undeniable.

The New Right that led to Reagan was an adaption of the Old Right of Robert Taft, H.L. Mencken, and Robert McCormick.  The post-war right had embraced different positions on specific issues than their forbears because circumstances had changed.  Similarly, the Alt Right, or something like it, must replace the 35 year old views of Reagan, enshrined in the Republican platform, because circumstances have changed markedly.  But the fundamental and practical concerns with our collective existence, flourishing, and safety remain the same.  Whereas in 1992 these were developing threats, today they are in full flower, and have coupled with continuing mass immigration and anti-family policies to render the natural constituency for conservative views smaller than ever.  The Old Reagan coalition is simply too small to elect Presidents and will become increasingly weakened at the local level.  It must change its policies, tone, and focus to address the new threats and concerns of today.

Donald Trump has been a symbolic  source of energy for the Alt Right because, unlike his opponents, he is running on an explicitly nationalist message. His hostility to political correctness has been bracing.  And his expressed solidarity with the middle and wage-earning class is somewhat new for a GOP that historically appealed to the now-shrinking entrepreneur class.  This preservation of the nation is the chief concern for the Alt Right; it is now a prerequisite for any viable conservative movement, because otherwise it is simply a laundry list of stale positions, created in a different time, not designed to conserve anything in particular, which collectively do not even allow for the winning elections, as demonstrated by the twin failures of McCain and Romney.

Russell Kirk straddled the Old Right and New Right, providing an intellectual biography of conservatism that stretched from Burke and John Adams to Irving Babbitt and T.S. Eliot.  He also reminded us that “politics is the art of the possible.”  A conservatism rooted in nationalism is both possible and necessary when the integrity of the nation itself is under attack by the combined forces of globalization, mass immigration, and multicultural ideology.  Just as the GOP of Reagan had to make peace with the New Deal, any surviving conservative party, Republican or otherwise, must make peace with the legitimate anxieties of “legacy Americans,” who are being squeezed by the culturally and economically hostile upper classes and the parasitical lower classes.  As demonstrated by Trump’s successes and the enthusiasm he inspires, nationalism is both good politics and good policy under these circumstances, and the Alt Right is, broadly speaking, the heart of that movement.

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