Establishmentarians, eager to quash the notion of staying power for Donald Trump’s populist platform, have developed a special tagline for the conservatives who reflect the interests and demands of the Republican base: the “Alt-Right.”
These Establishment Republicans claim the Alt-Right is a perversion of traditional conservative values — values they keep enshrined. Whenever possible, these GOP elite play into the liberal media narrative that conservatives standing with the interests of the people are somehow white nationalists playing identity politics.
The mainstream conservative movement has forgotten that many of the political values it promotes are rooted in a culture it has failed to defend.
In truth, it is the Establishment GOP elite — who profit in both power and dollars by pushing a globalist economic agenda — who have strayed farthest from the tenants of traditional conservatism. These elites have actually created a for-profit structure. This “Conservative Inc.” dupes the base of the party into handing more power and campaign cash to an Establishment network that operates primarily against their interests.
That is not to say the rising populist wing of the party is any more pure in its adherence to traditional, intellectual conservatism. Neither factions is a pure embodiment of what early conservative thought leaders envisioned — but before determining why, one must first define what is conservative.
In his 1953 book, “The Conservative Mind,” Russell Kirk — widely considered the grandfather of the modern conservative movement — identified 10 principles that define authentic traditionalist conservatism, or true conservatism:
First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: Human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.
Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity. It is old custom that enables people to live together peaceably; the destroyers of custom demolish more than they know or desire.
Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription. Conservatives sense that modern people are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants.
Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence. Burke agrees with Plato that in the statesman, prudence is chief among virtues.
Fifth, conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety.
Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability … Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created.
Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked. Separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all.
Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism.
Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions.
Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.
In a hysterical screed entitled “The Breitbart Alt-Right Just Took Over The GOP,” Ben Shapiro writes that “constitutional conservatives can’t stand the alt-right. Conservatives — real conservatives — believe that only a philosophy of limited government, God-given rights, and personal responsibility can save the country. And that creed is not bound to race or ethnicity.”
But what Shapiro describes as the beliefs of “real conservatives” are no such thing. In his criticisms against the French Revolution, Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke, Kirk’s biggest influence and the recognized godfather of conservatism, attacked the abstract nature of the revolutionaries’ “rights of man.”
Burke argued that men are not born with inherent abstract rights to which they are entitled. Instead, he highlighted the ancient inherited rights and liberties of the English people, the result of a specific set of historical circumstances and political and social developments unique to the English nation.
Kirk stressed that, despite Jefferson’s flowery abstractions about natural rights, these ancient English rights and liberties are the same rights and liberties to which Americans are entitled — being a nation founded by Englishmen and established upon those very principles.
This principle was echoed by Savoyard philosopher Joseph de Maistre in his critique of the French revolutionaries’ ideology:
The constitution of 1795, like its predecessors, has been drawn up for Man. Now, there is no such thing in the world as Man. In the course of my life, I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians, etc.; I am even aware, thanks to Montesquieu, that one can be a Persian. But, as for Man, I declare that I have never met him in my life. If he exists, I certainly have no knowledge of him.
… This constitution is capable of being applied to all human communities from China to Geneva. But a constitution which is made for all nations is made for none.
The mainstream conservative movement in America has forgotten this entirely. It is why it supports nation-building and mass migration without any serious attempt at assimilation, things all true conservatives find abhorrent.
The Constitution worship of those like Shapiro and Sen. Ted Cruz reveals that the mainstream conservative movement has largely forgotten the principle of imperfectability.
The Constitution alone cannot guarantee some sort of political utopia. Man is fallen — a city on a shining hill cannot be guaranteed by a mere piece of paper. The fact that within a decade of the documents’ adoption the government was already trying to subvert it should be a clear indication of that reality.
The mainstream conservative movement has also abandoned any pretense of defending an existing moral order or social traditions, custom, convention, and continuity. It has caved on almost every radical social issue, from abortion to same-sex marriage, and implicitly supports a corporatist globalism that can be as destructive of traditional local customs as Communism.
Fundamentally, the mainstream conservative movement has forgotten that many of the political values it promotes are rooted in a culture it has failed to defend — and, in many cases, helped to erode.
The Left, however, has remembered the importance of culture and politics, which is why it attacks Western culture relentlessly. This comes in the guise of attacks on white privilege and racism. Indeed, if the Alt-Right is merely a white nationalist movement, it’s not difficult to see why that such a movement has arisen.
In their efforts to subvert Western civilization, the Left has normalized and encouraged attacks on Western people. It tolerates explicit anti-white racism and in many cases endorses it. In failing to adequately address reality, the mainstream conservative movement allowed the ethno-nationalist elements of the Alt-Right to turn what is inherently a cultural issue into a racial one.
However, the white nationalism endorsed by certain elements of the Alt-Right is equally as unconservative as the generic political abstractions and Constitution worship. Nationalism, despite the claims of liberals, is in fact a liberal ideology — one of the earliest.
Ethno-nationalism is a product of the French Revolution. It saw the transformation of kingdoms into nations, and was used to subvert the multi-ethnic Christian empires of Europe. Culture, not race, is what holds a society together, and culture, as T.S. Eliot stressed, is rooted in the cult — Christianity.
Those on the Alt-Right who believe a white ethno-state would be some kind of utopia would be sorely disappointed. It is clear that most white people in the West today have abandoned their own traditional culture and largely embraced an amoral, anthropocentric materialism and an individualistic liberalism.
The cultural bonds that hold together an organic society are broken — and this has little to do with the presence of massive numbers of foreigners. Indeed, had those cultural values not been abandoned, it is likely there wouldn’t be massive numbers of foreigners in the U.S. to begin with.
The mainstream conservative movement ignores the cultural rot that afflicts society. It has strayed so far from authentic conservatism that most of its standard-bearers are effectively liberals who just don’t want to pay a lot of income tax. The Alt-Right recognizes the cultural rot that afflicts society, but mistakes its origins, and offers solutions equally as unconservative as the mainstream conservative movement it constantly criticizes.