Whither the Fanatic?

Churchill supposedly said “a fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” I think of that almost every time I visit National Review Online these days. As I’m writing this, the featured article is by the unhinged lunatic David French. He’s the nutter who thought about running for president on Bill Kristol’s Trotskyite party ticket. There’s another article by French on the sidebar, which is a rant about Trump. Above that is a tantrum about Trump by Jonah Goldberg.

If you were new to the scene, you could be forgiven for thinking that National Review is some sort of leftist site that was created for the sole purpose of howling about Trump. I have not counted, but others tell me that more than half the posted articles over the last year have been about the terribleness of Trump and Trump voters. Someone told me they went back a few months counting posts on their blog and the anti-Trump posts outnumber the anti-Clinton posts five to one. I’m not going to test the assertion as it seems in-line with what I’ve observed.

National Review is the flagship operation of Buckley Conservatism and it has given itself over almost entirely to anti-Trump lunacy. For over a year now they have been pumping out anti-Trump content to the point where there’s no point in reading any of it. The striking thing is not the volume so much as the total lack of content. Their rants fall into one of two categories. There are the base personal attacks, calling Trump a big meanie that makes them cry. Then there are the rants claiming Trump is not a “movement conservative” as if that has any meaning.

That’s really the issue at the heart of what’s happening. I’ve often argued that Buckley Conservatism was just anti-communism with things like small government and social conservatism as decorations. Buckleyites were fine trading authority for those decorative items over to the Left so they could have the whip hand on foreign policy. Once the Cold War ended and intellectual communism fell out of fashion, the Buckleyites were left without a purpose. They were a mass movement without an enemy. To quote Hoffer, “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.”

Thinking back, the fall of the Berlin Wall was in ’89 and then Clinton won in ’92. All the smart people at the time were wondering what would come of conservatism, but then the Republicans won the House in ’94 for the first time in fifty years. Republicans were able to impose spending limits on Clinton and for the first in generations and it appeared that the ratchet was going to click the other way. The smart people suddenly shifted gears and started wondering what would become of liberalism. Even Clinton thought the era of big government was over.

Rolling back the welfare state was going to be dirty work and there’s not a lot of fun in it. The Buckley Conservatives had been bred for generations to trade away authority over domestic policy so there were few with a real desire to get into the trench warfare that would be required to claw back the concessions of the previous generations. The ugly fight over welfare reform “taught” the Buckleyites that there were no parades for the party that cut spending and shrunk government. Fighting wars was much more fun and less risky, to them at least.

I used to say that the worst thing to happen to Buckley Conservatism was the Bush family, but the death blow was actually 9/11. The Buckleyites went all in on the Bushism because they were sure they had found the successor to the Evil Empire. It was like old times. They eagerly gave the Left whatever they wanted on spending and government, just as long as they could wage the great crusade against the Muslims. It was rank boosterism, devoid of anything resembling principle, but the movement had finally found a new devil and that’s what really mattered.

Now that making war on the Muslims is out of the question, the Buckleyites are once again in search of a devil around which they can base their movement. Anti-Trumpism for fanatics like David French is not going to be a fulfilling cause in the long run. Trotskyites like Bill Kristol and the other neo-coms can probably busy themselves with it for a while, but even they will tire of it eventually. Maybe they go back to being Progressives or maybe they just go away. Pat Buchanan thinks (hopes?) they will just go away, having been rejected by the public.

That’s not the way to bet. Fanatics will always be with us. The lesson of the Clinton years was that the ideologues would eventually adapt to the post-Cold War world. The Progressives dived head first into the cesspool of identity politics while the Buckleyites launched a crusade to pacify the Muslims. Now that the Coalition of Weirdos is blowing apart and the Buckleyites are reeling, we may enter a period of cultural sobriety, but it’s hard to know. Perhaps neo-nationalism will the next big thing to sweep the West. Maybe it will be something else, but the fanatics will eventually find their causes.

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A.T. Tapman (Merica)
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A.T. Tapman (Merica)

I really wanted to post a comment about something or other but you have covered the bases with your usual insightful commentary. Well except for the cucked buffoon French adopting a sprog and that was the basis upon which he was to run for the Presidency. His aborted run was going to be nothing but a constant virtue signal writ large, as it turned out the sprog went feral. Feral sprogs don’t play all that well with whitey even when they have been raised by the virtuous Frenchcucks.

Severian
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A.T, I love the Catch-22 reference.

A.T. Tapman (Merica)
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A.T. Tapman (Merica)

Thanks, Severian, I find it appropriate for the times in which we live. I am always surprised by how few make that connection.

LetsPlay
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LetsPlay

ZMan, I’ve noticed in several of your posts that you ascribe a lot of power and misdeeds to “Buckleyites.” This puzzles me a bit because as in the discussion of your previous post, Wm. F. Buckley was a true Intellectual. I admit that I have not read National Review much but have noticed it coming to the fore over the last few years since Buckley’s demise in 2008. I guess I can only surmise that the publication has been highjacked. As for the assertions about the war mongering by “Buckleyites,” I can only point to three things that have been… Read more »

Meema
Guest

The problem with organizations devised by humans is human nature. Human nature is a child that cannot grow up and is easily coaxed away by offers of candy. There is no institution, government, corporation or religion that remains the same, that holds to the original vision or charter of the originator(s) because human nature has the attention span of a three year old.

James LePore
Guest

Communism still exists, in China, Cuba and North Korea. The oppression and misery index in these countries is beyond belief. If the people at NRO would concentrate on them they’d be doing the world a service. But no, they have to bash Trump. Are they kidding? Do they realize how silly they look doing this?

LetsPlay
Member
LetsPlay

Agreed. I was watching a clip of the RNC Convention speech given by Ret. Gen. Flynn and he said that “Communism had been defeated” back in the day. I gagged and then changed to a different topic. How can anyone in this day and age actually believe that because the Berlin Wall came down and the USSR collapsed that the ideology called Communism was ever defeated? Just look at California for goodness sake? Or Massachusetts? Or, where is Bernie Sanders from? You get my point. We don’t even have to leave the boundaries of the continental US to find it… Read more »

Saml Adams
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Saml Adams

Not sure how much self-reflection I’d attribute to the Goldberg et al crowd. Most of them simply remind me of “Vito the Killer Pimp” from Risky Business admonishing Joel to “never, ever fuck with another man’s livelihood”. Trump owes them nothing if he wins. Then all the money dries up and what fun is it being a truly poor pundit?

Uncola
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Uncola

No matter how you slice and dice it, in presidential politics, the last two right-of-center establishment hacks failed to get elected. Moreover, given the demographics today, it has become too easy for the media and center-left politicos to paint Hitler’s little mustache on Conservative Puritans like Ted Cruz. In my opinion, the phenomenon behind Trump transcends ‘left-right” politics and is predicated, instead, upon a candidate who is viewed by voters in both parties as one who loves his country, is financially independent and unafraid to speak truth to power. It is no wonder why Conservative Puritans, establishment politicos and the… Read more »

James LePore
Guest

Trump did the Dirt People a huge favor by running for president. Watching Chris Matthews, et al, lose their minds has been tremendous fun. If he loses, the fun will end. If he wins, well, that is the great unknown. I just read that there are 30 million people currently employed by government in the U.S. He can’t beat them or even make a dent. And the liberal crazies and the media will go after him with the viciousness of cornered beasts. They will start a political intifada. That will not be fun to watch.

LetsPlay
Member
LetsPlay

The action is wild and woolly these days and there are a lot of lessons to be learned. Maybe Trump could take a page out of Turkey’s Erdogans play book and simply fire anyone hired into government service during the Obozo years? Call it a National Emergency of the first order. The place sure needs a wholesale fumigation and no better place to start than all those bureaucrats who think their shit don’t stink. And while he’s at it maybe he should just issue an EO and declare an Fed. Employees Union contracts null and void. They work for the… Read more »

Drake
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Drake

There is a strange gap in their thinking over there. The “conservative base” has been growing ever more angry and disillusioned with the mainstream candidates NRO supports – the people who dependably campaign as small-government conservatives, then legislate as liberal Democrats. Somehow the NRO staff seemed blissfully unaware of this situation.

When it finally exploded in their faces – and their comments – they were shocked. Now the site is little more than a long, futile temper-tantrum against reality.

Dan Kurt
Member

Hey Z Man, give us the inside scoop as how & why Trump maneuvered Cruz to commit political seppuku on TV last night. I watched the speech and burst out laughing thinking only a IQ of 130 could be sooo proud as to slit his own (political) throat by not endorsing Trump on that stage.

Dan Kurt

Fuel Filter
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Fuel Filter

Cruz was scheduled to speak for 9 minutes.  He instead spoke for 23 and thereby pushed Pence out of prime time. Cruz has, ever and always, been about Cruz. Everyone in the senate hates his guts and this is a prime example of why. His globalist wife Hedi had to be led out of the venue (by that snake Ken Cuchinneli) because of the scorn heaped upon her by the crowd, some shouting “Goldman-Sachs” over and over again. And he’s just held a rally (note, not a presser) to publicly justify his despicable, backstabbing act. He signed his political death… Read more »

Dr. Mabuse
Guest

Is that right? Trump said that he’d seen Cruz’s speech several hours before, so he knew that Cruz would be going on for much longer than 9 minutes. Or perhaps when the original invitation was given and accepted, 9 minutes was what was allotted, and Cruz just went ahead and took more, even if it meant screwing up the schedule. In any case, that puts Trump’s upstaging arrival in the hall at the end of Cruz’s speech in a different light. According to the original schedule, he’d have been arriving just in time for Pence’s acceptance speech.

Notsothoreau
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Notsothoreau

Vox Day has been explaining it as Alpha versus Gamma. He said that Gammas always take it personally. There has to be something to explain Cruz’s stupidity. Maybe it’s a lawyer thing. By contrast, Rubio comes out as an honorable man.

James LePore
Guest

I think Trump saw this as win-win. If Cruz endorses him, he’s forced him to acknowledge who is boss, to bow before the king. If Cruz clings to his bitterness, he does it in front of a huge audience and reveals himself for the self righteous asshole he really is.

Al from da Nort
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Al from da Nort

I’d guess that some of the animus from the alt right folks towards the so-called beltway conservatives probably stems, unavoidably from human social impulse. As in, it’s no fun to be what feels like the only critic of the consensus. OTOH, it is a true pleasure to be among congenial people who happen to be comfortably wrong. When the political paradigm shifts suddenly as with the unlocking of the tectonic plates by Trump, and the sanctimonious foe stands dazed and discredited, it is both right and natural to feel some spite and schadenfreude. When he started in 1955 W.F. Buckley… Read more »

Severian
Guest

My bet is Fascism (or neo-nationalism, if you like). Those who fancy themselves intellectuals can dig up old fossils like Carl Schmitt and gin up another Grand Crusade to protect the Volk. The hangers-on get to wear cool uniforms and lecture the rest of us about our impurities. And since their buddies on the “Left” have basically been there for two decades, the social scene will still be the same. The fun bit will be sorting out the True Believers from those who are #NeverTrump because they’re too low on the totem pole to keep their jobs in a Hillary… Read more »

bangagong
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bangagong

You vote for Trump because winning is way better than losing. This shouldn’t be hard. For the SCOTUS nominees alone you vote for Trump.

Notsothoreau
Guest
Notsothoreau

The tell should be the folks willing to vote for McCain and Romney but not for Trump. They only want losers. It’s easier than leading.

Meema
Guest

Oh the irony! All the hoopla and righteous rhetoric over Trump’s lack of qualifications to be president. Tell me again what Obama’s creds were? And how about his Iranian handler and our defacto unelected prez Valerie? Anyone? Anyone?

What does Clinton have that Trump doesn’t?
A body count.
If that doesn’t get folks to the polls then nothing can.

Drake
Guest
Drake

“The Progressives dived head first into the cesspool of identity politics while the Buckleyites launched a crusade to pacify the Muslims.”

But the Buckleyites did it in the stupidest way possible. They bombed and invaded countries over there, taking down strong-men and replacing them with democracies doomed to fail. Meanwhile the insist on letting in large numbers of immigrants from the very places we are supposedly at war with. The think themselves into knots to do the exact opposite of what is in our national interest.

SgtBob
Guest

Been trying to figure out why the established Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy is so Hell-bent on electing Mrs. Clinton. Now I know. “You stay on your side of the street and we will stay on ours. We get this piece of the candy bar, you get this piece. Now we’re all happy, right?” Z Man has the answer in a few words.

Lysander Spooner
Guest

The anti-Trump virulence and obsessiveness of the bizarre scribblers at National Review is an attempt at scapegoating Trump. None of the writers at the NRO have anything approaching the commercial success of Trump, and now their efforts at persuading people to oppose Trump have pretty much failed as well. Trump poses a serious threat to their self-image as successful and persuasive professionals, and they are trying to scapegoat, destroy and consume a man who actually possesses many of the skills and virtues they only pretend to possess and champion. Trump’s willingness to question obama’s bona fides, while National Review Online… Read more »

Tim
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Tim

Knowing David French personally, being familiar with his service in Iraq on the border with Iran and writing briefs used in victories against the Obama administration at the Supreme Court gives me a different perspective on the man. I like him on a personal level. I’ll just leave it at that. The important thing left out of all the sword play going on in this presidential election is this simple fact: Most people have no idea of what they are voting for or why they vote for a candidate on either side. When presidential candidates make a promise to provide… Read more »

james wilson
Guest
james wilson

That oath has not been taken seriously by any President since 1925, bless Calvin Coolidge. It’s as ceremonial as the King of England. Like the rest of elected government. If the aggression was left naked and out in the open people would be less tolerant of it. “I will faithfully do whatever I think is best for you” does not inspire confidence.