MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

What’s Paleo, and What’s Not – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on November 12, 2022

Paleoconservatives also believe the U.S. was founded as a “constitutional republic,” not as a “liberal democracy.” Perhaps most controversially, they stress lines of continuity extending from the civil rights and immigration legislation of the 1960s to the cultural and political transformation of our country that is now going on.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2019/12/paul-gottfried/whats-paleo-and-whats-not/

By Paul Gottfried

Chronicles Magazine

In a recent Townhall commentary, the young author Michael Malarkey marvels over “the resurgence of refined paleoconservatism.” Supposedly Donald Trump has absorbed quintessential paleoconservative positions and is now putting them into practice. This now triumphant creed is “a political stance that posits the importance of strong borders, economic protectionism, and vehement anti-interventionism.” According to Malarkey, “[Trump’s] political orientation resembles that of Patrick J. Buchanan, a wildly influential former Nixon aide…and lifelong ‘Paleocon.’”

As the person who invented or co-invented the term under consideration, it seems to me that Malarkey doesn’t know much about the “stance” or movement that he claims is now surging. Exactly how many self-described paleocons are serving in Trump’s administration? Except for the editorial board of this magazine, how many conservative or Republican publications have identifiably paleoconservative names on their mastheads? How many paleos are on the executive boards of foundations, or even invited to participate in conservative movement events? I can’t think of a single name—certainly not mine.

In 2016, I teamed up with another paleoconservative, Boyd Cathey, and a paleo-libertarian, Walter Block, in collecting the names of academics for a declaration of support for then-candidate Trump. Our list was taken over by the West Coast Straussian website American Greatness, whose editorial board proceeded to delete our names before posting the document. The vanished names were hardly an oversight, any more than when the anti-clericalist French command after the Dreyfus Affair removed from consideration for promotion the name of every officer seen walking into a church on Sunday. The West Coast Straussians undoubtedly remembered which side we took when Southern conservative literary scholar M.E. Bradford tangled with their mentor Harry V. Jaffa. They, not we, were in a position to make their displeasure known.

Malarkey speaks of a “refined” paleoconservatism that has taken the place of the older kind and which now seems to be ascendant. Paleoconservatism, we are told, has captured the mind and imagination of the president partly because it “lacks the religious sanctimony and fundamentalist undertones of prior decades.” Curiously enough, I have no recollection of these qualities being present in the movement in question when I was part of it in the 1980s. But then I’m not sure that Malarkey understands the paleocon movement, the return of which he’s celebrating. I bet he couldn’t name a single paleoconservative other than Pat Buchanan, who, by the way, was not yet a paleoconservative, when he was Richard Nixon’s speechwriter.

Malarkey is correct that paleoconservatism is, or was—among other things—a “political stance.” Its representatives resisted neoconservatism and assumed positions that were in opposition to those of its influential opponents. But they also drew on older conservative thought, going back into the interwar period, which incorporated both European and American traditions of thought. Paleoconservatism was the last recognizably rightist form of the conservative movement, if we exclude some Alt-Right bloggers who, although occasionally worth reading, hardly form a coherent movement. It was precisely this rightist gestalt that has made the paleoconservatives and their efforts to represent the Old Right so profoundly distasteful to Conservatism, Inc.

These holdouts have never accepted equality as a “conservative” principle; they continue to believe in traditional gender distinctions and are not especially bothered by the hierarchies that existed in pre-modern communities. They also make faces when they hear the vague platitude “human rights”—what Richard Weaver called a “god term”—thrown into a conversation. Although paleos believe in universally applicable moral standards, they insist that rights are historic and attached to particular societies with their own histories. Paleoconservatives also believe the U.S. was founded as a “constitutional republic,” not as a “liberal democracy.” Perhaps most controversially, they stress lines of continuity extending from the civil rights and immigration legislation of the 1960s to the cultural and political transformation of our country that is now going on. Often attacked as racists or xenophobes, the Cassandra-like paleos are neither. They have boldly pointed out developmental connections that others choose to ignore.

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