Those familiar with the over 300 installments in the MY CORNER series (and before that, with CONSERVATIVE CRACK-UP) will know that one of my primary objectives has been to distinguish historic and traditional “conservatism,” a conservativism that traces its roots back to the Founding and the intent of the Framers, from what is generally termed “Neoconservatism.”
Over the past several years, through excellent essays by various historians and authors such as Drs. Paul Gottfried, Clyde Wilson, and Jack Kerwick, and columnists such as Patrick J. Buchanan, Christopher DeGroot, Ilana Mercer, and "The Dissident Mama," I have attempted to examine the very real and stark differences both ideologically and historically between Neoconservatism and traditional conservatism. And going further back, I have cited commentary by the late Russell Kirk and Mel Bradford, plus detailed studies by scholars like Gary Dorrien (The Neoconservative Mind, 1993), and Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke (America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order,2004).
And of the Neoconservatives, I have taken a highly critical look at some of their leading propagandists, including Ben Shapiro, Jonah Goldberg, Victor Davis Hanson, Dinesh D’Souza, and Rich Lowry, and what these gentlemen propound.
One of the central differences between traditional conservatives—henceforth, I call them “traditionalists”—and the Neocons, is how they view the South, in particular, how they view the Confederacy and its important figures…how they view the public monuments to Confederate veterans…and what they think should happen to them in the face of the unrelenting and unhinged campaign by the lunatic social justice warriors of the left to topple them.
Monuments, flags, and markers are inanimate symbols, but they represent something far more palpable and real: who we honor in our history, how we do it, and the importance of remembering who we are as a people. And on these questions the Neocons have essentially been on the side of the frenzied Neo-Marxist iconoclasts, or, at least, silent in the face of the fierce campaign to erase and deconstruct a critical part of our history.
And that is very significant.
Of course, a major reason for this has been the Neocon genealogy which can be traced to a universalist mid-twentieth century Marxism and their embrace of the Lincolnian idea of the nature of the American union (for them unitary and expansive), and their ahistorical positing of the idea of equality as fundamental in and to the American Founding, that is, an “equality” of individuals basically across the board. And, of course, that egalitarianism is carried forward not just in their domestic propositions, but also in their intense desire to “make the world safe for democracy” and “impose equality” on the rest of the globe.
During the 1970s into the 1990s the Neoconservatives displaced the once more significant voice of the traditionalists in “conservative” media and foundations. Journals that once featured the writings of Southerner Mel Bradford and traditionalist Russell Kirk, magazines and foundations that once heralded the participation of Paul Gottfried and Joseph Sobran and Sam Francis, now withdrew the welcome mat. And to replace these writers and academics came the likes of Goldberg, Lowry, Shapiro, and others of their ilk.
The differences were startling, for not only did the entire focus of the old “conservative movement” become altered, but the quality of writing declined perceptibly. And the heritage and traditions of the Southland and the profound appreciation for the heroes of the Confederacy—a sure characteristic of the traditionalists of the Older Right—were met with, at best, silence and ignored, or more commonly with the Neocons joining in with the hysterical progressivists and decrying the “racism” and “white supremacy” of the South.
Thus, the shameful praxis of a Ben Shapiro during the Virginia gubernatorial race in 2018, or the outright condemnations of Confederate heritage byNational Review editors and writers Rich Lowry andVictor Davis Hanson. And these are just a few examples of the stridently anti-Confederate, anti-Southern bias of leading Neoconservatives. Watch Fox News most any day to see this on full display….
It is quite ironic to see the fatuous and historically ignorant (the best that can be said of him) Dinesh D’Souza pontificate on Fox News about American history, and in particular, about how today’s current Democratic Party is essentially the same as the old Democratic Party of the post-War Between the States period, or how—somehow—the current crop of Democratic presidential wannabees are just like, in the same mold as the old “segregationist” (AKA states’ rights) Democrats like Senators Richard Russell of Georgia or John Stennis of Mississippi. (Witness the recent hullabaloo over Joe Biden’s reference to Stennis and the late Senator Herman Talmadge of Georgia.)
In other words, for D’Souza the Democratic Party is the “racist” party, while the GOP represents the enlightened, egalitarian and anti-racist heritage of the post-War Republican Party. And thus, the Republican Party, representing as it does “equality” for all, expansive “democracy” and “true anti-racism,” stands at counter-purposes to Democratic Party…. You know, which opposed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Bills of the 1960s and objected to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision (1954): legislation and a legal decision that fatally weakened what remained of the constitutionally-enshrined rights of the states over education, accommodations, and voting.
This, we are told by the Necons, is what “conservatism” is all about; and since we are the “exceptional nation,” chosen by God to spread this egalitarian notion all around the globe, then it is our “moral” duty to do so.
But the so-called “conservatism” heralded, propagated and defended by these individuals is nothing more than a warmed-over, slightly less toxic mix of the same venom served up by those further to their left. Indeed, given their own Trotskyite origins and genealogy, this is only logical. And in so many ways it helps normalize the leftward trajectory that this nation has been on for the past 150 years.
Perhaps even more significantly, this intellectual fervor among the Neocons has had significant repercussions and effects politically. For Neoconservatism in practice is the dominant narrative of most “conservative” Republican politicians in 2019, in contradistinction to, say, the views of the late Republican Senator Robert Taft, or the first couple of terms of the late Senator Jesse Helms, whose understanding of America was in accord with the older traditional vision.
And that brings me to the latest emanation of what I would call the Neoconservative “Neo-Reconstructionism” regarding the South and Southern tradition. And it brings me to that “conservative voice,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
A number of my friends supported Cruz in the GOP primaries in 2016; he was, we were informed, a “true conservative” and not a rabble-rousing, bull-in-the-china shop like Donald Trump. And many of those friends were good Southern men who love our Southern and Confederate heritage. And Ted Cruz, certainly, good conservative that he was, would not oppose it, would he?
Cruz is just like the other timorous, historically inept politicians infected with the intellectually poisonous Neocon virus which manifests both its ignorance of and disdain for Southern heritage and the symbols of that heritage, which are, in effect, the symbols of the older America and its Founding.
Cruz considers General Nathan Bedford Forrest a horrible racist; his statues should come down, and under no circumstances should he be memorialized by the State of Tennessee. Rather, Cruz celebrates zealous Abolitionist and supporter of women’s suffrage, Frederick Douglass, whose extra-marital relationship with German Marxist revolutionary,Ottilie Assing, may have shaped his thinking.
This piece was originally published on My Corner on July 13, 2019.
Boyd D. Cathey holds a doctorate in European history from the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, where he was a Richard Weaver Fellow, and an MA in intellectual history from the University of Virginia (as a Jefferson Fellow). He was assistant to conservative author and philosopher the late Russell Kirk. In more recent years he served as State Registrar of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. He has published in French, Spanish, and English, on historical subjects as well as classical music and opera. He is active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various historical, archival, and genealogical organizations.