those rials that bothered him.rnThe left, whether Puritan, Jacobin,rnBolshevik, or other, can do that becausernit generally represents histor’s winners, arnrising social force that actually has anrnagenda with concrete interests and ideas,rnand sooner or later the victorious mainstreamrnsimply cuts adrift the nuts, crackpots,rnand perennial malcontents thatrndeflect it from its main purpose. Butrnthe right, whatever the historical context,rntends to be composed of history’srnlosers â€” people whose interests, ideas,rnand values represent a social and politicalrnorder that is on the wane. If it werernnot on the wane, there would be nornemergence of “right” and “left” at all andrnhence no significant conflict betweenrnthem. But precisely because the interestsrnand ideas of the right are declining, it hasrnimmense difficulty in coming up withrnany practical, concrete program byrnwhich its obsolescent wishes can be realized,rnand because it generally representsrnthe losing side of history, it tends to attractrnfolks who arc losers in many differentrnrespects â€”conspiracy nuts who worryrnabout the fringe on the flag while thernsubstance of their national sovereignt’rnand civilization is being destrovcd;rncrackpots who have invented their ownrnsecret cures for AIDS and cancer; fanaticsrnwlio have drafted vast, unreadablernmanuscripts exposing the bankers, thernJews, the Masons, or the Clinton WhiternHouse as the real cause of everythingrnthat’s going wrong; and, inevitably, thernsad sacks who have no social life whatsoeverrnother than the potato-chip-andsoda-rnpop soirees in which history’s discardsrnget to know one another as humanrnbeings.rnIn the United States before 1950, itrnwas not so. The right back then was thernorganized political expression of a dominantrnsocial and political class, a class thatrnsported at its top such families as thernDuPonts and at its bottom such happyrnwarriors as Sinclair Lewis’s George Babbittrnand his friends. It was a class that dictatedrnthe tastes and manners of the day,rnwas determined to keep immigrants outrnof the country, maintain the Constituhonrnand the free enterprise system, putrnAmerica First, preserve the white, Christian,rnRepublican character of the nation,rnand crush the Bolsheviks and labor agitatorsrnvherever they could find them. As arnruling class, it was an amalgam of the oldrnstock Protestant establishment and thernplutocracy that rose to national power afterrnthe Ci’il War. However poorly definedrnits ideas and vapidly expressed itsrnethic, it was nevertheless a real class thatrnhad something to conser’e, and it generallyrnknew that it could not conserve it unlessrnit also conserved the social and culturalrnfabric through which it exercisedrnsocial power.rnIn the Great Depression and NewrnDeal, this bourgeois ruling class was effectivelyrndislodged from social and politicalrnpower. Its top ranks, if they survivedrnat all, soon allied with the emergingrnmanagerial elites in state and corporation,rnand its bottom ranks, stripped of anyrnreal prospect of preserving or restoringrnthe social order in which the’ had playedrna significant part, simply drifted. It wasrnmainly those middle and bottom ranks ofrnthe old bourgeois elite that for the nextrn40 years would effectively define “conservatism”rnand the right as they werernknown to the generation between HerbertrnHoover and Barry Goldwater. Unablernto articulate its own ideas and valuesrnen- effectively, it welcomed ideologicalrnallies in journalism and the academyrnthat could express them, but the journalistsrnand the academics were not for thernmost part of the same class or culture.rnHence, the “conservatism” thcv definedrndisplayed all the symptoms of rootless intellectualismrnand attracted all the oddrnand awkward personality types whorncould not fit anywhere else and wouldrnnot get along with each other.rnOnce “conservatism” is decoupledrnfrom the social order and the social classrnthat it naturally represents, it becomesrnsimply one more ideological ghetto,rnangrily hunting down and kicking outrnthose who deviate from its sectarian commandmentsrnand every now and thenrnhurling a few mudballs at whoever passesrnby, and the kinds of personality it attractsrnare precisely those that are unablernto work together for any serious purpose.rnIt ceases to defend authentic traditionrnbecause authentic tradition has ceased tornexist in a coherent form, and what it defendsrnis “traditionalism.” It ceases to defendrnauthentic liberty because the rootedrnlibert)’ that once prevailed in the defunctrnsocial order is no longer meaningful, andrnwhat it defends is “libertarianism.” Itrnceases to defend the people, culture, andrninstitutions of the old order because theyrntoo have ceased to exist coherently as arnfabric or have been conscripted into thernnew order, and what it defends is simplyrna pallid ghost of what was once a livingrncivilization. All it can do is worr}’ overrnwho is and who is not a “real conservative,”rnwhich merely means who does andrnwho does not let the self-appointedrnswamis of the right do his thinkingrnfor him. Depending on the personalrnstrength and success of the particularrnswamis that lead them, the cults ofrn”movement conservatism” may flourishrnindefinitely, continue to publish theirrnendless series of unreadable tracts andrnsermons to their own choirs, and actuallyrnmeet the payrolls of their staffs, but nornoneâ€”least of all the swamis in chargeeverrnexpects to gain substantial power orrntake charge of the rudders of histor}’.rnIs there anything that can be done torncure the incessant self-destructiveness ofrnthe right or remove the causes of its ownrnsuicidal tendencies? Probably not, asrnlong as the “right” insists on defining itselfrnin terms of social and historicalrnforces that have already lost. The onlyrnthing it can do is try to grasp the truthrnthat those forces have lost and that whatrnthey represented cannot be restored and,rninstead of presenting itself as the championrnof lost causes, to align itself with newrnforces able to challenge the establishedrnorder and to do so in terms that will neitherrnbe co-opted by the new regime norrnbe deflected by the phantoms of the old.rnOnce in a while such a movement appears,rnbut invariably it only excites thernwrath of the “right.” It is too “populist,”rnit appeals to Mass Man, it is too “statist,”rnit is too “radical,” or it deviates from thernideological orthodoxy of the right inrnsome other arcane way. Sooner or later,rnsuch a movement is either captured byrnits allies on the right and simply becomesrnone more phone booth into which allrnthe malcontents and oddwads try to cramrnthemselves, or else it ignores them, wishesrnthem a good da}’, and proceeds tornmake a little history all by itself, on itsrnown terms and for its own purposes. But,rnof course, when the movement does thernlatter, it ceases to belong to the “right” atrnall and actually begins to evolve into onernof history’s winners.
January 1975April 21, 2022By The Archive