Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Failure Of American Institutions, Not Of Conservatism, Made Donald Trump Possible

Trumpism is not the same as populism or the New Right. . . It is what happens when no one trusts anyone any more.
The Washington Free Beacon’s Matthew Continetti argues at length in an essay published Friday that populism has displaced conservatism in the Republican Party, creating a crisis for the conservative intellectual class and representing a triumph for the “New Right”. He opens with a description of the debate over the Panama Canal between Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley and their respective supporters, which you can watch here:
Within seconds you will be struck at the level of discourse between the future president and his interlocutors. The repartee is spirited, intelligent, respectful, detailed, and humorous. It is hard to imagine a similar intra-conservative dialogue being held today. And yet, at some level, a replay of the controversy over the Panama Canal Treaty is exactly what the American right has been experiencing over the last 16 months. The conservative movement is divided over the question of Donald Trump, over his suitability for office, over the issues of nationalism, illegal immigration, criminality, corruption, and elitism he has raised in his campaign. The terms of and parties to this dispute are remarkably similar to those in the debate at Duke University almost 40 years ago. In some cases they are the very same people. The antagonism between the populism of Buchanan and the conservatism of National Review is remarkably persistent.
Watch the debate ABOVE
What makes that episode of Firing Line significant in retrospect is how it threw into high relief the differences between Buckley and the so-called New Right. Since founding National Review in 1955, Buckley and his colleagues had been the spokesmen of an intellectual and philosophical critique of democratic mass society as well as the domestic and foreign policies of American liberalism. Beginning with the Republican nomination of Barry Goldwater (whom Buckley supported) in 1964, however, and accelerating in the tumultuous 1970s, the National Review crowd found itself challenged by a group of activists, journalists, and politicians whose criticism of the elite was populist, vehement, bipartisan, and anti-corporate. The question of how these anti-Establishment newcomers from the south and West fit into the conservative movement and the Republican Party, the question of where to strike the balance between populism and conservatism, has bedeviled conservative intellectuals and pro-business GOP officials ever since.
Read the rest from Ben Domenech HERE.

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