The Past Is Always Uncertain

Progressives are often, and correctly, accused of re-writing the past in order to endorse their current claims about the present. It is a necessary habit that has been incorporated as a feature of the movement. Since most of what they currently believe about humanity and human organization is contrary to observable reality, they have to no choice but to reinvent the past. Something similar seems to be happening with the Buckleyites as they fall into obscurity. They are creating alternative realities to explain the present.

This piece by Henry Olsen is a good example. He makes the point that what so-called conservatives consider to be “conservative” has not been a winning formula for them in Republican elections. He then picks some representative examples of liberty-conservatives, presumably the sort championed by the Buckleyites, who went nowhere in the GOP presidential primaries. The main point Olsen is trying to make is that what he calls the liberty-conservatives have not had a lot of success in elections.

The subtle normalization of Rand Paul is interesting, given that NR types savaged Ron Paul when he was a real candidate. I will also note that National Review was prone to calling the utterances of George W. Bush “Reaganesque” and they praised “compassionate conservatism” as some sort of advanced form of Buckley conservatism. It is what makes their current fetish for timeless principles so comically bizarre. The definition of timeless conservatism is a set of goal posts on wheels that they push around to fit the moment.

That is the thing about re-imagining the past. You have to cherry pick and time shift in order to make it work. Barry Goldwater, for example, has not been salient in American politics for going on 40 years now. The youngest person to have voted for him is now seventy-four. On the other hand, the “liberty conservatives” were ebullient when George W. Bush won in 2000 and the GOP controlled both houses of Congress. Of course, there is no mention of Reagan, who was a Goldwater conservative, and the GOP’s most successful President.

The general point that Olsen is making is that today, the constituency for libertarian-conservatism is small, even within the Republican base. This is probably true, but the question is why? All of the megaphones of Conservative Inc. have been tuned to blast out the message of libertarian-conservatism. Talk radio, websites, Fox News, the commentariat, all of the organs of the so-called Right have been preaching about shrinking size and scope government for as long as anyone reading this has been alive.

So, why is that position a loser within Republican circles?

One obvious reason is no one believes it. When the GOP had opportunities to shrink government, they grew government. When they had chances to normalize our foreign policy, they went empire building. When they had the chance to defend the domestic economy, they threw in with open borders and globalist trade policies. The most egregious sin off all, however, has been their liberal use of Progressive rhetoric to denounce dissenters as racists, excluded from acceptable public discourse.

There is one exception and that is immigration. The one big win for liberty-conservatives was the 1986 immigration reform act. This made it possible for tens of millions of foreigners to flood into the country. Ann Coulter the other day noted that one in eight Virginia residents is foreign born. That means there are more foreigners in Virginia right now than the liberty-conservatives said they needed to amnesty in 1986. The one thing these guys were good at doing has been a disaster for their alleged love of liberty.

You see that in a post from J’Onquarious. The sort of civic minded libertarianism, which is popular with Conservative Inc., is really unpopular with the sorts of people they are hellbent on importing by the millions. The reason their favorite bugman was trounced in the Virginia election is that the sort of people liberty conservatives are fond of championing, are not interested in supporting liberty conservatives. It turns out that a policy of wishing death on your voters and their culture, is not a good way to win elections.

That is not a reality these so-called liberty-conservatives can face. Olsen does not bother to address this, as there is no way to explain away the mathematical and demographic realities. His only mention of immigration is to be gobsmacked at a Cato-backed study that shows Trump voters are not in favor of their wholesale demographic replacement. The fact that their one success has been a disaster for them, never registers. Instead, it is ignored. Olsen’s suggestion is more of the same, just even more of it.

This is where you see that all forms of mainstream conservatism share the same assumptions as Progressives about the nature of man and human organization. It is also why they have developed the habit of rewriting history, especially their own history, in order to explain the present. When you start from the premise that biology is unimportant, that all people everywhere are essentially the same, you are condemned to a life of disappointment, unless you can endlessly redraft the narrative to avoid facing reality.

The one major difference between the retconning of so-called conservatives and what we see from Progressives, is that the latter controls the institutions. Rewriting and replaying old fights is a proven way to distract people from current failures. When you control the levers of power, an unpredictable past becomes a useful tool in maintaining control. When you are allegedly challenging the status quo, an inability to clearly remember yesterday undermines your credibility. No one believes these guys and they keep reminding us why.

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Mark Stoval
Mark Stoval
6 years ago

Back in 1992 Murray Rothbard wrote and essay on how the Stupid Party (the Republicans) could win and do the country good. Right wing populism. Whole essay here: https://www.lewrockwell.com/2017/02/murray-n-rothbard/program-right-wing-populism/ While a bit dated, the following bits from the essay are still what the Republicans SHOULD have been pushing all these years: l. Slash Taxes. All taxes, sales, business, property, etc., but especially the most oppressive politically and personally: the income tax. We must work toward repeal of the income tax and abolition of the IRS. 2. Slash Welfare. Get rid of underclass rule by abolishing the welfare system, or, short… Read more »

Mike@Mike.Mike
Mike@Mike.Mike
6 years ago

A bit off topic Z-man, but what are your thoughts on the idea of so-called conservatives employing the Alinsky rules? I’m not exactly a fan of it, as I don’t really see any proof that it is effective. For example, most of the liberal imploding we are seeing regarding the sex scandal stuff has nothing to do with the right employing rules for radicals (even though they seem to be taking credit for it), it’s more the left just eating their own. Further related, I have serious doubts about jumping on this newly hitched bandwagon that has the Right calling… Read more »

Karl McHungus
Karl McHungus
Reply to  Mike@Mike.Mike
6 years ago

I think it’s a fantastic trade off, given that the dems and progs will lose 3 pervs for every gop perv. The latter are no skin off my ass anyways.

A.T. Tapman (Merica)
A.T. Tapman (Merica)
Member
Reply to  Mike@Mike.Mike
6 years ago

Watching Dems and other pols squirm is great fun! They made the rules They should abide by them.
What we see now is “flooding the zone” when everyone is guilty, no one is guilty. It is just the way straight men act. It will kill them to admit it but progs need men, even the few girlymen they attract, women cannot successfully run a political party as proven by the smartest woman in the world H Clinton.

Ursula
Ursula
Reply to  A.T. Tapman (Merica)
6 years ago

Though it is amusing to see the Dems and other pols squirm under their PC rules, as a woman, the unending river of complaints is embarrassing. I mean, calling for an end to someone’s career for putting a hand on her butt or making a joke about grabbing breasts for a silly photo? Come on. Who wants to live in such a world. In most cases, it just comes down to degenerates finding each other and one of them makes $ off of making the encounter a legal issue. I was already fatigued of the complaints back when Al Franken… Read more »

merde
merde
Reply to  Mike@Mike.Mike
6 years ago

I too am sceptical of the use of Alinsky’s tactics. But others think differently and are attempting to make an argument in there favor. There is one such apologia ppublished this week at Thermidormag.

Anonymous White Male
Anonymous White Male
Reply to  Mike@Mike.Mike
6 years ago

As far as the Alinsky rules, you forget the number of times men from the right have been smeared by making some female feel “uncomfortable”. Not so many from the left, though. Why is that? Bill Clinton did far worse than what some conservatives did and he essentially got a pass because of the great “right-wing conspiracy”. Now, all of a sudden, the left has found religion and is throwing their own under the bus. What has changed? The left would prefer to ignore these scandals because it puts the lie to their “feminist” sainthood and the Republitards “war on… Read more »

Dennis L
Dennis L
Reply to  Anonymous White Male
6 years ago

“When you show up at a knife fight armed with a bowtie.” Very good!

Issac
Issac
Reply to  Mike@Mike.Mike
6 years ago

“I am not willing to concede any more to the anti-masculine crowd just so I can point and say neener neener to a liberal. Thoughts?” I would suggest concession is the wrong word. Progressives have virtually all the moral power. What you think about their moral frame is largely unimportant. Whether or not one of theirs gets a pass has no bearing on whether one of yours will be prosecuted for the same in the future. Pulling such a punch is simply discarding an opportunity for no readily discernible purpose. Consider for a moment what would happen if the right… Read more »

Teapartydoc
Member
Reply to  Issac
6 years ago

I look at this sex scandal shit the same way I look at the anti-smoking hysteria a few years back. The libs just need to prove that they still control the public morality so they gin up some convenient issue and are even willing to sacrifice a few of their own to get the right atmosphere going. And since they start the parade it’s easy to jump out in front of it. It’s all political theater coordinated to keep them in control of people’s minds. It is the one thing they are still masters of. Once we learn how to… Read more »

Ursula
Ursula
Reply to  Issac
6 years ago

They REALLY do not want Judge Moore in the Senate. God speed, Judge Roy Moore and Alabama! Don’t you think this recent sexual assault hysteria came about because of fear of Judge Moore’s vote on a close one in the Senate? Maybe he’s the kind of man they can’t corrupt so they must keep him out of the club!

joey+junger
joey+junger
6 years ago

I think progressives have a better understanding of time than you give them credit for, inasmuch as they know when to endorse a conservative or a conservative idea, and when not to, i.e. the left will talk up a Ron Paul or a Pat Buchanan or a Barry Goldwater if they’re reasonably sure that the ideas of these men are being aired in a climate where they can be used for temporary gain and in highly selective and subversive ways that won’t gain wider traction or challenge progressive rule. Pat Buchanan is the best example. During the Bush years he… Read more »

Severian
Reply to  joey+junger
6 years ago

Yep. Just like the Left always seems to discover what a principled, reasonable, cooperative, just all-round gosh-darnit NICE guy __ was a few minutes after he turns up dead. E.g. Ronald Reagan — every “news” room in America had its Ronald Reagan dart board, some dating from the late 1960s, and not five days after he died, these same clowns were longing in print for the days of “reasonable” conservatives like Reagan.

Severian
6 years ago

I’d like to know who rewrote the past to say that the Founders believed in blank-slate equalism. The Founders weren’t stupid, and “the blank slate” as currently understood is one of the dumbest ideas in mankind’s long, sordid intellectual history. The Founders believed in equality before the law. Those naturally predisposed to lawbreaking will run afoul of the law more frequently than others. This is not systematic bias against lawbreakers; it’s systematic bias in favor of a lawful society.

Teapartydoc
Member
Reply to  Severian
6 years ago

It all comes from giving John Locke more credit for how the founders thought than he deserved. The same thing was done for the early whigs in the glorious revolution of 1688. Locke’s political commentaries were published after it, but somehow they are that revolution’s intellectual underpinnings. A war between classes and estates becomes a battle of the minds, and the minds with the right thinking win. This is an attractive notion for “men of letters”, university types, politicians, you know, people who are interested in controlling minds. It looks like one way to get yourself literary immortality is to… Read more »

D&D Dave in the Bubble
D&D Dave in the Bubble
6 years ago

That article by Olsen just sums up why I can’t stand to read NR articles. It’s like the eggheads still sitting around scratching their head, sifting through tons of meaningless data and computing endless formulas when the answer is as simple as 2+2=4. Never mind putting up a photo of loser Jeff Flake at the top of the article. Perennial favorites in the past like Forbes and Thompson were nothing more than one or two trick ponies and once they got on the campaign trail they were exposed. Just like Guliani, just like Walker, etc. Guys like Paul and Cruz… Read more »

Rod1963
Reply to  D&D Dave in the Bubble
6 years ago

The GOP has been shitting on it’s base since GHW Bush was in office. Who do you think came up with NAFTA? Bush did. Who supported NAFTA, PNTR with China, GATT, killing Glass-Steagall, deregulating the derivatives market? The GOP did. Without the GOP support in Congress none of these would have been signed into law. All of these seriously f**ked with the working and middle-class to the point of devastating entire regions and deindustrializing the U.S. While creating a new class of wealthy people. When Shrub took office he just kept on globalizing and kicking the lower class whites in… Read more »

Severian
6 years ago

Jim Morrison said “the future’s uncertain and the end is always near.” And he would know. Sounds like we’re screwed either way. Let it roll, baby, roll… all night loooong.

Dupont Circle
Dupont Circle
6 years ago

I think you do a great job explaining these head-fakes.

Karl McHungus
Karl McHungus
Reply to  Dupont Circle
6 years ago

Zman detailed the head fakes but we are still looking for the reason why they were done; i.e. an explanation for such perfidy.

el_baboso
Member
Reply to  Karl McHungus
6 years ago

I go for the simplest explanation, Karl. It’s the Globetrotters and the Generals. The same guy owns both teams, reserves the arena, sets the schedule, etc. The only difference is that in the Globetrotter business model, it makes zero economic sense for the Generals to ever win.

Rabbi High Comma
Rabbi High Comma
Reply to  el_baboso
6 years ago

Nice analogy el_baboso. There’s zero chance the GOPe and their commentariat didn’t know where the ship was headed. Their job was to manage White America into political irrelevance. Trump’s victory in the heavily stage managed production left the NRO types fumbling through their lines for a scene that wasn’t scripted, angry and fearful. They were well compensated for their lies. But you can’t lie to people for extended periods without eventually despising them. It seems that’s how the mind justifies the deception. Thus the venomous tweets from the likes of National Review, Rick Wilson, and Sloppy Williamson when they knew… Read more »

Teapartydoc
Member
Reply to  Rabbi High Comma
6 years ago

Great comment. Especially the part about not being able to lie to people much before learning to despise them.

Tim
Tim
Member
Reply to  Rabbi High Comma
6 years ago

Agreed. Perfect. Lies and contempt explains a lot. T

Drake
Drake
6 years ago

The reason National Review hates the Pauls is that they actually mean what they say. How many GOP losses since 1992 are because of the establishment fake? Promise less government and lower taxes, deliver the opposite – the Bush clan mastered the fake and nearly destroyed the party with it.

After getting fooled for a couple of election cycles, conservatives who actually want less government get mad and stop showing up on election day – and stop writing checks to the Rinos. They even get to the point where “Alt-Right” candidates sound attractive if they mean it.

Rien
6 years ago

Nothing works as good for creativity as declaring a ‘holiday’ from blogging 😉

I noticed this myself, somehow it frees the mind and idea’s that were (long) forgotten come back…