It has been seven years since Sam Francis died. But the years since his untimely death merely show the accuracy of his insights. Francis’s writing was marked not only by loyalty to the people from whom he came but by an unswerving devotion to telling the truth about the way the world really is, not the way he wished it to be. As a result, contemporary American politics has had no more discerning observer than Sam Francis.
Francis knew that it was not “morning again in America” but far closer to midnight. Conservatives could not hope to achieve anything by defending elites, as conservatives have done since the French Revolution, since today’s elites are implacably hostile to all that conservatives wish to conserve. As Francis wrote in this magazine in 1994, “what really demands a radical challenge from the right” is “the domination of a hostile ruling class that uses state power to entrench itself and wreck the country, the culture and the middle class itself.” Elsewhere, Francis was even blunter: “The conservatives . . . who remain need to understand that the people and forces now in power in this country—in government, the culture, and Big Business—are the enemies of the real America and the real civilization of the West.” Following Francis’s thesis, Charles Murray has recently written Coming Apart, a book documenting how America’s elite entrenches itself in power and views the rest of the country with disdain. Francis also recognized, as he wrote in 1993, that the institutions that most American conservatives have trusted are simply not up to the task:
there is virtually no reason to think that either the Republican party establishment or the neo-conservative intelligentsia or for that matter most of the mainstream conservative establishment either wants or is able to mount an effective challenge to the dominant cultural apparatus of the left in this country.
Since then, “the Republican party establishment,” “the neo-conservative intelligentsia,” and “most of the mainstream conservative establishment” have turned themselves into cheerleaders for Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and now Mitt Romney, none of whom is recognizably conservative. Indeed, Romney’s politics are largely consistent with those of his father, who carried the banner of Rockefeller Republicanism in the contest for the 1968 Republican nomination.
But the problem with those institutions runs deeper than timidity or a failure to recognize the extent of the left’s dominance in the culture. To a significant extent, the Republican Party, the neoconservatives, and most of the mainstream conservative establishment support the dominant elites and wish to suppress any challenge to them. As Francis wrote, the “whole function” of neoconservatism “has been to undermine and cripple any healthy conservative tendency to challenge the dominance of the left and the truly rotten culture it dictates.” Moreover, “As neoconservatism entrenches itself as the dominant and defining expression of conservatism, there will be fewer and fewer Americans who even remember what real conservatism is.”
Recent developments at National Review illustrate both of Francis’s points. On April 5, John Derbyshire, an erudite and talented writer who had long been associated with National Review, wrote an article dealing with race relations for the online publication Taki’s Magazine. Derbyshire’s article was immediately denounced as racist in such leftist publications as the Guardian and The Atlantic. Derbyshire was fired by National Review two days later, with virtually no one at the magazine defending him and many of those who write for the magazine, including Ramesh Ponnuru, Jonah Goldberg, Andrew McCarthy, and Maggie Gallagher, denouncing his article or him. National Review, once again, acted as an enforcer for the left. By contrast, National Review had no problems with Derbyshire’s support for legalized abortion and his occasional disdain for pro-life arguments, even though National Review professes to believe that legalized abortion has killed tens of millions of Americans. The taboos National Review enforces are those of the left, not of the right.
More comically, National Review, as part of its ongoing effort to boost Romney’s campaign, published in its April 2 issue “An American Gospel,” an attack by Kevin Williamson on critics of Mormonism. In support of one of his central points—that Mormon theology is no stranger than orthodox Christianity—Williamson described the Eucharist as a “weekly session” of “symbolic or mystically literal cannibalism in honor of a Jewish god-man who ran afoul of the Roman criminal-justice system after a dinner party went south 20 centuries ago.” What Williamson does regard as a problem is that Mormons are seen as being “very, very white,” but he gives them credit for working “mightily to shed their Wonder Bread image. To visit the Mormons’ website is to be assaulted by the young, the hip, and the multicultural.” Thus, the current keepers of the conservative flame have no difficulty denigrating Christianity’s central rite but are disturbed by a demographic profile that resembles their readership and, indeed, those who write for them. Whatever else this is, it is not conservatism, and it poses no threat at all to the leftist domination of contemporary culture.
Williamson’s criticism of the Mormons for being “very, very white” shows that he understands, and agrees with, what Sam Francis saw as the real meaning of multiculturalism: that “there is something wrong with being too white, too male, too Christian, and too straight.” Indeed, a major part of the discussion about the shooting of Trayvon Martin has revolved around whether the man who shot him, George Zimmerman, should be regarded as Hispanic, as Zimmerman’s defenders claim, or white, as his detractors allege. Of course, Zimmerman’s race is completely irrelevant to whether he shot Martin in self-defense. But it is quite relevant to whether this sad case will continue to dominate the news. If the Trayvon Martin case can be used to illustrate the continuing lethality of white racism, we will continue to hear about it. If the Trayvon Martin case turns out to have nothing to do with white racism, we can expect to hear little more about it, just as the media ignores black-on-black violence, racial conflict between blacks and Hispanics, and racially motivated attacks of blacks on whites.
Indeed, as Sam Francis predicted, America continues to obsess over white racism, nearly 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education and nearly 50 years after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act. For many in the younger generation, racism is the only word that they know to express the concept of evil: A washroom attendant at the left-leaning Cleveland International Film Festival recently told me that, despite believing that paper towels worked better than hand dryers, he wasn’t “racist against trees.” There is no sign of this obsession disappearing any time soon. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that he could not “actually imagine a time in which the need for more diversity would ever cease. Affirmative action has been an issue since segregation practices. The question is not when does it end, but when does it begin . . . When do people of color truly get the benefits to which they are entitled?”
The election of Barack Obama has done nothing to change this picture, despite the expectations of many of those who voted for Obama, and whites who do not want to see Obama reelected can expect to be accused of racism. During the last election, journalist Spencer Ackerman advocated accusing random Republicans of racism in order to help Obama: “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares—and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country?” More recently, Lee Siegel wrote on a New York Times blog that Mitt Romney is appealing to white racism:
The simple, impolitely stated fact is that Mitt Romney is the whitest white man to run for president in recent memory. Of course, I’m not talking about a strict count of melanin density. I’m referring to the countless subtle and not-so-subtle ways he telegraphs to a certain type of voter that he is the cultural alternative to America’s first black president. It is a whiteness grounded in a retro vision of the country, one of white picket fences and stay-at-home moms and fathers unashamed of working hard for corporate America.
As this Siegel quotation suggests, a fondness for the America that existed before the cultural revolutions of the 1960’s will increasingly come to be seen as evidence of racism or other malevolence. Phil Griffin of MSNBC also appealed to the idea that America’s past is suspect when he justified the termination of Pat Buchanan by saying, “I want MSNBC to reflect America in the 21st century, not the America of the 1940s.”
Sam Francis told us this was coming in an essay in these pages in 1988, in which he analyzed the import of creating a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.:
It is one thing to say that Dr. King was a great man and a great American, a man whose personal courage and vision, despite his human flaws, errors, and enthusiasms, challenged lesser men of both races and forced them to confront evils, falsehoods, and obsolete ways. It is quite another to say, as the U.S. government does say in creating a legal public holiday for him, that Martin Luther King, Jr., was the most important American who ever lived, at least the peer of George Washington, the Father of his Country, the only American in history to have his birthday made a national holiday, the man who is now first in the hearts of his countrymen.
The meaning of the King holiday was “to legitimize the Left’s long march through American institutions” and would result in “the delegitimization of the traditional symbols, values, and institutions of America,” with the “radical reconstruction of American society” becoming “the principal legitimate goal of our national endeavor.” Francis also noted in this essay that “a nation that honors Dr. King and his legacy . . . must also renounce all forms of inequality.” This is precisely the argument that is propelling the drive for gay “marriage,” something that enjoyed virtually no support in 1988 but is now supported by tens of millions of Americans, especially younger Americans of the type who want you to know that they aren’t “racist against trees” and whose education has included countless hours of politically correct propaganda. One wonders what traditional institution will be the next candidate for radical reconstruction.
Despite the fecklessness (or worse) of the conservative establishment, there is opposition to this ongoing transformation of America. The latest manifestation of this opposition is the Tea Party. What Francis wrote in this magazine in 1994 about the Religious Right is largely applicable to the Tea Party, a movement that was not planned in the Beltway and that grew from the conviction that the Obama administration represented a radical threat to the country:
The “religious right” is merely the latest incarnation of the on-going Middle American Revolution, a cultural and political movement that has underlain the political efforts of the American right since the end of World War II. Despite what many right-wing sages would like to believe, the movement never had much to do with their perennial holy cow, the free market, but rather with the perception that the white middle class core of American society was being evicted from its historic position of cultural and political dominance and was in fact in process of becoming an exploited and repressed proletariat.
Francis was well aware that Middle American movements were susceptible to the danger posed by “counterfeit leadership” intent on “co-opting the authentic populism of the Right,” and this has largely happened to the Tea Party. But the Middle American Revolution is still, as it was in 1994, “the only remaining oppositional force in American politics.” Barack Obama knows this, as shown by his decision to wage a campaign based on economic populism. As Francis wrote in 1996, many Middle Americans find “conservative, libertarian, and pro-business Republican ideology and rhetoric irrelevant, distasteful, and even threatening to their own socio-economic interests.” If Obama succeeds in portraying Mitt Romney as the candidate of Wall Street, the President may well be reelected, even though he has repeatedly shown his disdain for Middle America, done nothing to stem the tide of jobs lost to outsourcing and free trade, and been both a committed free trader and the beneficiary of enormous donations from Wall Street.
No matter which presidential candidate wins in November, another phenomenon—anarchotyranny—that Francis analyzed will not disappear:
What we have in this country today . . . is both anarchy (the failure of the state to enforce the laws) and, at the same time, tyranny—the enforcement of laws by the state for oppressive purposes; the criminalization of the law-abiding and innocent through exorbitant taxation, bureaucratic regulation, the invasion of privacy, and the engineering of social institutions, such as the family and local schools; the imposition of thought control through “sensitivity training” and multiculturalist curricula, “hate crime” laws, gun-control laws that punish or disarm otherwise law-abiding citizens but have no impact on violent criminals who get guns illegally, and a vast labyrinth of other measures.
All of these trends have continued apace since Francis wrote these words. The border remains open, and many violent criminals remain undisturbed, while peaceful citizens get trapped in the labyrinth of the 4,000 federal crimes and innumerable federal regulations carrying criminal penalties that The Economist counted in 2010.
Recent years have also seen new advances on both sides of the anarchotyranny coin. The Obama administration sought to use antidiscrimination laws to dictate to a small Lutheran congregation who its ministers should be, until restrained by a unanimous Supreme Court in the case of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The White House is now seeking to require, through regulations issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, religious hospitals, schools, and charities that have moral objections to contraception to provide health insurance for employees that covers sterilizations and contraceptives, including contraceptives that act as abortifacients. Never before has the federal government sought to tell mainstream Christian bodies how they should govern themselves and what they are allowed to believe. On the other side of the coin, the Obama administration has found no one to prosecute for the financial crisis that followed the bursting of the housing bubble, even though that crisis put taxpayers on the hook for trillions of dollars. Our elites are increasingly unaccountable. Indeed, the promoters of the disastrous Iraq war continue to fill the op-ed pages and talk-show panels, and most are now busily promoting a war with Iran. If only Charles Krauthammer and John Bolton had been right about something, they might not be able to write opinion pieces in prestigious papers or appear regularly on television, just as Sam Francis’s opinions were not welcome in those august outlets. But Sam Francis was right, and telling people what they need to hear is not always popular.
We have it on the highest authority that “no prophet is accepted in his own country.” As time continues to vindicate Sam Francis’s insights, though, we can hope that more and more of his countrymen will begin to listen to what he had to say and to begin taking the actions that he urged them to take.