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Death of the Conservative “Movement”

July 9, 2018

Part Two

The transformation of the “Movement” from being zealous in defense of principle to becoming Republican Party cheer leaders began when Ronald Reagan became President. The former conservative movement expanded from a small elite who stood by Ronald Reagan when he sought the GOP nomination three times into an immense cheering section of persons who, the day before Reagan’s election, had given not a thought to conservative ideas, had not read an important conservative book, nor ever thought they might work for a Reagan Presidential Administration. I stopped going to Reagan Alumni reunions when more faux conservatives showed up than had worked for President Reagan.

I’m afraid that during the thirty-six years between 1980 and 2017, the worst that could happen did happen: the “Movement” changed and became a “business.” Policy organizations hedged their criticism, even when the Reagan White House staff, National Security Council and Department of State were co-opted by Nixon/Ford Republicans. Though President Reagan read Human Events, the wise guys in the White House struggled to keep copies from reaching the President’s desk.

There were other anomalies in the President’s behavior: he defended SDI against Gorbachev, but not his own Party. Today, we have no space-based ballistic missile defense systems.

And, we ’60s era conservatives have aged.

Bill Buckley, inattentive to his own mortality, ignored choosing a conservative successor as editor of National Review. Irving Kristol is dead and politically astute Neocons are taking Neoconservatism Leftward. John Podhoretz is a panelist on MSNBC, a radical Leftist cable “news” television network controlled by Brian L. Roberts. One wonders why Podhoretz gives cover to MSNBC when the better approach is to rein in the fake news that is MSNBC’s regular fare?

For a time, Fox News under the assertive leadership of Roger Ailes, played an important role and introduced a refreshing form of Rightist advocacy journalism. But, the dynasty  of Rupert Murdoch is now in transition to his sons, James and Lachlan Murdoch, who instinctively bow to the claims of sexism by feminists and race discrimination by Black Lives Matter. While the mainline, Leftist, media is invigorated by opposition to Trump, Sinclair Broadcasting merely thinks about going toe to toe with MSNBC and CNN, while Newsmax plays around with Internet-based television and commentators like Mike Levin, Michelle Malkin and others have launched their own Web-based video service. The problem with that is that Americans watch television on TVs in their homes, not on computer monitors.

Too many policy organizations–given the ludicrous name of “Think Tanks,” as if there was any thinking conducted in their well-appointed HQs–fall over themselves to find ways not to jeopardize their income streams. Other organizations that movement conservatives depended on to hold the feet of the powerful to the flames of principle fall very short.

Even today, many conservative leaders act as if George W. Bush was a conservative President. Only Rand Paul and Donald Trump knew better.

“Successful” conservatives are now known for fundraising, not conservative ideas.

One of the most important and oldest organizations supporting students on liberal campuses–ISI–believed that President George W. Bush was “conservative,” ran into financial difficulties, cut programs, and abandoned or dumbed-down publication of intellectual journals (Intercollegiate Review, Continuity, Political Science Reviewer). As a long term supporter of ISI, I criticized them privately, but it did no good. As a result, efforts that started in the 1950s by a libertarian, Frank Chodorov, to sustain young conservatives on college campuses–now firmly dominated by a “Left university” system–are neglected.

And, last, but not least, even though Grove City and Hillsdale College do their best in a sea of Liberals in control of academia, only two or three recent attempts were made to create new ones including Shimer College, Yorktown University and Wyoming Catholic.

The one launch of a conservative law school  (Delaware School of Law) in the 1970s had difficulty attaining ABA accreditation, merged with Widener University and became much less principled, ultimately firing its founder, Alvin Avins.

The loss of Shimer, Yorktown University and Delaware School of Law was representative of lackluster efforts by conservatives to educate their own and was a sign that what had begun in the 1950s as an intellectual “movement,” by 2016, was very weakened and now appears to be on its deathbed.

That is to be regretted because “movements” that can affect the course of nations by challenging corrupt elites occur very infrequently and, after their demise, they cannot be revived.

Perhaps that explains why the populism of Steve Bannon took front and center place only for a short time, but was a sign, nevertheless, that conservatives are still a social force. None, however, has answered the call to form a national conservative party to replace–or contest–a somnolent GOP.

What will follow the Trump Administration?

Nothing good comes to mind and, in fact, we may want to think about purchasing some of those dry foods now being advertised that can last twenty-five years.





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