Monday, November 21, 2016

Musings on the Old Old Right, the Old Right, the Old New Right, and the New New Right

Generally speaking, historians and other social scientists have delineated three broad forms of American conservatism in the post-WWII period. Type one: the intellectual variant of conservatism symbolised by Willam Buckley, National Review, and the various sects that came out of National Review. Type two: the "new" Christian right. Type three: libertarianism. Often forgotten in this polite typology is the paranoid right represented by the John Birch Society and the so-called alt right.

Are these four types of Ebenezer Scrooge liberalism really new? Nor really. National Review style neoliberalism has roots in the negative reaction to the French Revolution in the late 17th and 18th century, The new Christian Right with its authoritarianism, apocalypticism, anti-communism, god gave us capitalism, anti-Semitism, and beware of the big government mentality, has roots in the old Christian Right of the New Deal era. Libertarianism has roots in Hobbes and the Austrian libertarians. The paranoid right has roots that go back to the Book of Revelation.

Are their similarities between these four groups? I think there are. Bill Buckley, seems to be exemplary here. While presenting an intellectually sophisticated image to the public Gore Vidal showed in 1968 that beneath Buckley's calm and "intellectual" exterior lurked a paranoid Christian conservative with a host of phobias, homophobia and commiephobia amongst them. And let's not forget that Buckley was one of the key apologists for that most paranoid of post-WWII neoliberals, Joseph McCarthy. Needless to say, Donald Trump with his universalisation of capitalism, his paranoias about Muslims and Mexicans, his Norman Vincent Peale brand of Christianity, and his fifth grade bully mentality, seems to me to be a Bill Buckley for the 21st century. Trump just doesn't hide his bully boy, authoritarian, and phobic interior behind a pleasing public veneer. As the French say, the more things change the more they stay the same.

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