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Conservatism against the Radical Right

By Scott Shore
web posted April 7, 2003

At a time when conservatives should be developing an agenda for domestic and foreign policy while the nominally more conservative Republicans control government, some extremists have chosen to declare a “civil war” within the conservative movement. The principal occasion for this war is President Bush’s policy with respect to Iraq.

Often conservative writers describe this as a battle between paleoconservatives and neoconservatives. This is a great disservice to the conservative cause. The real battle is between traditional legitimate conservatives and the insinuation into respectable conservative circles of the Radical Right.

The Radical Right is precisely that -- radical. Conservatives believe in among other things, respect for liberty, property, institutions, customs, wholesome heterogeneity of interests, people and regions, limited constitutional government and the belief in a strong national defense. In the spirit of Edmund Burke, prudent reforms are required from time to time to ensure the vitality of those policies or institutions guarding our values. The principal values of America are freedom and liberty.

When we lived in an isolated world, this may have meant isolationism or disengagement from the world. In the 20th and 21st century it means a thoughtful activism in global affairs to ensure a global rule of law in which America and free countries can ultimately survive. In an era of terrorism, it means having superior intelligence capabilities and striking preemptively if that is likely to save American lives. This seems to be the view whether one reads Buckley since the Cold War, or most major conservative columnists or listens to most major conservative TV or radio personalities. It’s been almost twenty years since the dean of modern American conservatism, William F. Buckley, sadly noted Pat Buchanan’s drift into the delusional world of anti-Semitism. Whether it's Cal Thomas or Pat Robertson or the National Review or the Weekly Standard, conservative thought is a fairly coherent body of assumptions and ideas.

The Radical Right is something entirely different. Largely animated by disreputable emotions seeking respectability, the radicals wish to turn back the clock to a time when there was unquestioned white rule and Jews were kept out of the better clubs, especially “conservative” clubs. According to their view this is a white, Nordic or Aryan country whose social fiber is endangered not so much by leftism but by those orchestrating leftism for their own advantage -- the Jews, the Masons, the UN and Israel. The fact that trilateralism or the UN has been generally hostile to Israel is explained by some even more nefarious plot. To get into the mind of these people is to go to a dark place where every contradiction is a proof of a greater conspiracy.

The same Radical Right which wishes to rid our country of foreign blacks, Mid-Easterners, Asians…etc. suddenly become like Amnesty International or the ACLU when Israel fights Palestinian terrorists. While no other national struggle seems to move these radicals, the Palestinians do have a special place in their heart. The answer is simple. These folks are the political descendants of Tom Watson and his anti-Semitic prairie populism. They are in the footsteps of William Jennings Bryan in finding conspiracies of Jewish bankers, Wall Street and London. They are also creeping up from under the rocks of the KKK, White Aryan Party under the cover of men like Buchanan or labels like “paleo.” These people use the term “neocon” as a code word for Jews. Amusingly they must think that gentiles are so stupid that Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle have hoodwinked the entire Administration.

To call this a fight between neocons and paleos is to give the opponents of true conservatism too much credit. There are straight-thinking conservatives who often have legitimate differences of policy amongst themselves on one side and then there are the ugly faces of the Radical Right that reappears under different flags at different times.

The time has come for conservatives to refuse to give credence to the forces which, in their most extreme variety, blow up federal buildings like those in Oklahoma City. The Radical Right should be marginalized and labeled for what they are -- the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was founded and the nemesis of those conservatives who wish to preserve this country.

This is Scott Shore's first contribution to Enter Stage Right.

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