Don’t Rock the Boat, I’m Counting My Money

“Irony,” Oscar Wilde observed, “is wasted on the stupid.” And our political life has become very stupid indeed.

It is hard to know why the usually sensible Law & Liberty, which I enjoy reading, would publish “Revanchist Revolutionaries” by Michael Lucchese, a review of a new collection of essays edited by Paul Gottfried (A Paleoconservative Anthology). Lucchese’s review is too hostile to be edifying and too self-serving to be credible. The author wouldn’t appreciate the irony that his nasty review actually proves the point of the book.

Lucchese proudly identifies himself as “the founder of Pipe Creek Consulting, a communications firm based in Washington, D.C.,” and a former aide to U.S. Senator Ben Sasse. Could any less objective or fair-minded writer have been found to review a critical study of the exclusive guild that comprises Conservatism, Inc., the D.C. political elite, and the various Beltway grifters who keep the money flowing?

Unsurprisingly, Lucchese does not even pause to give Gottfried and the contributors to this book the benefit of the doubt that they are well-intentioned patriots—however misguided he may think they are. He simply dismisses the book with contempt as unworthy of serious consideration. This paleoconservative critique of the political elite, he alleges, emphasizes

class warfare, racial grievance, and power politics, it is an ideology better understood as a right-wing form of Marxism. As Gottfried’s Anthology shows, this toxic mix is a recipe for electoral disaster and moral bankruptcy.

The premise of this denunciation is Lucchese’s bizarre conviction that “conservativism” is nothing more than a disposition or an attitudinal approach to politics, disconnected from any moral principles or standards of justice. Republicans and others on the right should be defending, at all costs, whatever decrepit arrangement happens to exist at the moment—which is certainly convenient for anyone lucky enough to have found a comfortable, lucrative niche in that system.

Lucchese is shocked that the contributors to the book actually want to challenge the corrupt status quo. He is such a creature of the D.C. swamp that he seems unable to comprehend that recovering our liberty demands overturning, not defending, our ruling oligarchy.

One of the most incisive and articulate figures of the older paleocon movement was the prolific columnist Sam Francis, whose name recurs in this collection of essays. Lucchese invokes with evident disdain a passage from Francis’s 1993 book, Beautiful Losers.

Francis believed the right should become the vanguard of an American proletarian movement. He said the Right should “enhance the polarization of Middle Americans from the incumbent regime” and mobilize them “in radical opposition to the regime.” 

That sounds like sound and perceptive advice to me, yet Lucchese doesn’t even bother to explain why he thinks it’s wrong. Instead, he resorts to the establishment’s favorite form of name-calling:

One aspect of Francis’s Right-Wing Marxism rarely cited by his latter-day fans is its explicit racism. He believed the “elite” allied with an “underclass” of racial minorities to subvert the “social, cultural, and national identity” of white Americans.

Again, he doesn’t bother to explain why Francis was misleading us. As a Beltway insider, Lucchese surely knows that our elites have been telling us for a long time that America is defined by systemic racism and that individualism, punctuality, and delayed gratification, for example, represent oppressive “whiteness”—as the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History announced in 2020. The whole ideology of leftwing identity politics seems to bother Lucchese a lot less than those troublemakers on the right who have the audacity to object to woke tyranny.

Lest we imagine that there is anything seriously amiss in our politics, Lucchese wants his readers to imagine that we are still living in the golden age of Ronald Reagan, whose name he mentions no less than five times. He writes as if nothing relevant has happened over the last 40 years. Despite the millions of MAGA voters, the widespread horror at the 2020 summer of riots, or the alarming weaponization of our federal law enforcement and national security apparatus, he claims that “Right-Wing Marxism has no real mass appeal.” The label “Right-Wing Marxism” is his disparaging term for the defenders of moral decency and republican self-government who think it has finally become necessary “to fight fire with fire.”

The book review does mention a few carefully chosen contemporary figures. Lucchese claims that Blake Masters’s defeat in Arizona last year proves that most Republican voters yearn to maintain our uniparty establishment.

Arizona voters had little interest in paleoconservative ideology, however, and Masters lost to his Democratic opponent by hundreds of thousands of votes. It is doubtful voters elsewhere in the country are hungry for paleoconservatism, either. The candidates who did best in 2022 were mainstream conservatives such as Brian Kemp and Jim Pillen, politicians who won stayed away from the bizarre obsessions of the Right-Wing Marxists. 

Now, by an odd coincidence, Lucchese has previously bashed Masters and praised these same two politicians—Brian Kemp from Georgia and Jim Pillen from Nebraska—in an article for the Washington Examiner in April. Much like his Law & Liberty book review, Lucchese’s Examiner essay is devoted to singing the praises of “common sense conservatives” while heaping invective on the evil proponents of “political extremism.”

Only a cynic, of course, would wonder if Luchese’s consulting firm has any connection to the Kemp or Pillen campaigns, or to Masters’s opponent. Of course, no political operative in D.C. would ever stoop to writing an apparently objective book review or op-ed for the purpose of promoting his professional clients. In the dream world of Reagan nostalgia, such sordid things simply don’t happen (or at least we are supposed to pretend they don’t). And to the extent that any right-wing authors try to expose this sort of sleaziness, which pervades our whole political class, they must be dismissed “ideologues” who “inflame” America’s “partisan tensions.” Coincidentally, that’s exactly how Lucchese describes Gottfried’s book.

Only an extremist would suggest that a political consultant using a book review to promote certain establishment politicians proves exactly what one contributor to Gottfried’s book, Pedro Gonzalez, describes as the need for “counterrevolution.”

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