Principalities & Powersrnby Samuel FrancisrnPolitics Without a RightrnIt took only a few days after the rout ofrnthe Republicans in their battle to drivernBill Clinton from office for the leaders ofrnthe Beltway Right to decide that the warrnwas over and the only thing left to do wasrnannounce surrender. Four days after thernSenate “acquitted” the President of therntwo charges on which he had been impeached,rnthe grand marshal of the BeltwayrnRight himself, Paul Weyrich, seemedrnready to limp toward Appomattox. In arnletter privately circulated to friends andrnallies, Mr. Weyrich declared that the politicalrnconservatism he has led since thern1970’s has been a failure and that thernpremises on which it was founded arernnow (if they had not always been) wrong.rnThe news that Mr. Weyrich had givenrnup was in fact somewhat exaggerated,rnbut that was the conclusion to which thernleft and not a few on the right immediatelyrnleapt, and frankly there was not veryrnmuch in Mr. Weyrich’s letter to contradictrnit.rnPaul Weyrich, of course, was a majorrnfounder and leader of the “New Right”rnof the 1970’s, a movement that sought torndifferentiate itself from the “Old Right”rnby devising a populist political strategy,rninvoking explicit moral and religious issues,rnshunning (or at least de-emphasizing)rnphilosophical rigor and sophistication,rnand insisting that political victoryrnwas not only possible but also necessaryrnand sufficient for the achievement ofrnconservative goals.rnUnder Mr. Weyrich’s direction orrnwith his collaboration, the New Right actuallyrndid accomplish a good deal more,rnon a practical political level and for arnbrief time, than the right associated withrnRobert Taft, Barry Goldwater, and thern”conservative intellectual movement”rnhad in previous decades. Yet the 15 minutesrnof fame the New Right enjoyedrncame to an end rather more quickly thanrnmost of its apostles expected and certainlyrnsooner than they wanted.rnThe main problem with the NewrnRight, as with most political movementsrnthat bark their contempt for seriousrnthought, was its intellectual shallowness.rnI distinctly recall, in the late 1970’s, talkingrnto a young lady closely associatedrnwith the New Right who had recently returnedrnfrom her first visit to the PhiladelphiarnSociety, at that time one of thernmore intellectually interesting organizationsrnof the Old Right. She told me shernhad enjoyed the visit and meeting thernnice people there, but she didn’t understandrnthe point of “sitting around talkingrnabout whether Edmund Burke wouldrnhave agreed with Thomas Aquinas andrnthat sort of stuff.”rnNo, indeed, the New Right had norntime for such idle froth as Burke andrnAquinas. Its leaders were made of sternerrnstuff than the limp-wristed eggheadsrnwho were always gushing quotations fromrndead Greek philosophers. TTiere wererncongressional and presidential electionsrnto win, policies to implement, and legislationrnto pass, and, as one prominentrnNew Right leader announced publiclyrnsoon afterward, “There’ll be time enoughrnfor reading books when we’re all in jail.”rnOne result of the New Right’s contemptrnfor intellectualism, of course, wasrnthat neither its leaders nor its followersrnever thought through the slogans andrntruisms they spouted well enough to understandrnthat they often were implicitlyrnjettisoning or undercutting other ideas ofrnthe right or that their own pronouncementsrnmight soon become obstacles tornfulfilling other, longer-term goals andrnpolitical and cultural objectives. Anotherrnresult, arising from the first, was thatrnthe whole New Right movement wasrnrather quickly captured by the neoconservatives,rnat least insofar as the latterrnwished to absorb it. Lacking the intellectualrnfoundations for perceiving, letrnalone resisting, the far less radical ideasrnof neoconserv’atism and scornftil of anyonernwho suggested laying such foundations,rnthe New Right, by the mid-1980’s,rnhad ceased to exist as a distinct politicalrnmovement. In 1984, when Irving Kristol’srnmanifesto of neoconservatism. Reflectionsrnof a Neoconservative, was published,rnit was Mr. Weyrich himself who,rnreviewing it in the Heritage Foundation’srnPolicy Review, hailed the book asrn”a vital moral force in America” andrncrowed that several passages “come closerrnto a general statement of what somernin the New Right strain of conservatismrnbelieve than anything else in popularrnprint.” If there was any one broker of thernmarriage of the New Right with neoconservatism,rnit was Mr. Weyrich himselfrnToday, after 15 years of neoconservativerndominance of almost the whole ofrnthe American right, Mr. Weyrich belliesrnup to the bar to inform us that the war isrnover and “we” lost. The reason “we” lost,rnhe tells us in his February letter,rnis that politics itself has failed. Andrnpolitics has failed because of therncollapse of the culture. The culturernwe are living in becomes anrnever-wider sewer. In truth, I thinkrnwe are caught up in a cultviral collapsernof historic proportions, a collapsernso great that it simply overwhelmsrnpolitics.rnWhether “we” have lost or not, however,rnMr. Weyrich is in large part correctrnin what he says about the relationship ofrnculture and politics, and indeed no magazinernhas drummed that message morernthan Chronicles. In 1991,1 wrote in thisrnmagazine that “in the absence of a significantrncultural base,” conservative politicalrnefforts “were bound to fail.” I dornnot quote this passage to prove that I wasrnright while Mr. Weyrich was wrong (inrnfact, Mr. Weyrich was talking about thernimportance of “cultural conservatism” inrnthe late 1980’s) but mainly to show thatrnthe failure of the right he now lamentsrnand acknowledges was predictable yearsrnbefore it actually occurred. Perhaps (indeed,rnprobably) Mr. Weyrich himselfrnsaw or was beginning to see that somerntime before he wrote his letter last Februar)’,rnbut most others did not, and manyrnstill don’t. Some conservatives even continuernto imagine that their “movement”rnhas actually won. As Paul Gottfried hasrnwritten, if this is “victory,” I really don’trnwant to see what defeat is like.rnI have no disagreement with Mr.rnWeyrich, then, in his conclusion thatrnthe right has lost and that it lost becausernit failed to find or create an adequate culturalrnbase for political success. I wouldrnperhaps go further than he and suggestrnthat the reason it has failed to do so is thatrn(partly through Mr. Weyrich’s help) thernright fell under the control of neoconservatism,rnand neoconservatism has neverrnbeen willing to break with the dominantrnculhire definitively or to ally itself with-rnJUNE 1999/35rnrnrn