Long before I supported Ron Paul for president and in general, I was a staunch Pat Buchanan conservative. I still am. Giving my opinion on the radio and in print, at least twice a week for over a decade, I’ve been called a libertarian or a conservative depending on the issue being discussed, but more importantly, the political figures associated with those discussions. If arguing my opposition to NAFTA, illegal immigration and American empire in 2000, I was derided as a Buchananite-nationalist-isolationist. If arguing against NAFTA, illegal immigration and American empire in 2008, I was derided as a Paulite-libertarian-isolationist. I plead guilty on all counts.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd annual HL Mencken Club conference where a host of conservative and libertarian thinkers came together for a rousing exchange of ideas on what might—and what should—animate the American Right. One, surely ongoing, debate seemed to be whether right-wingers could make more progress by focusing on cultural issues like illegal immigration, multiculturalism and affirmative action or libertarian issues like government size, spending and perhaps, civil liberties. Would a more culture-minded Buchananite approach work best? Or perhaps a more libertarian-minded Paulite approach?
What many are now calling, appropriately and accurately enough, the “Alternative Right” encompasses both the Buchanan and Paul camps, and whatever differences each have are miniscule compared to their shared, stark differences with the liberal Left and mainstream neoconservative Right. Before discussing what should be done to advance Alternative Right causes—why not look at what has already been done?
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The two most successful, right-wing grassroots uprisings in recent years have been the backlash to amnesty for illegal aliens in 2007 and the ongoing “tea party” protests against government spending. Buchanan’s position on illegal immigration in 1996—something only he talked about back then and the GOP viciously attacked him for—is now conventional conservative consensus.
Whether born of partisanship or principle, the thousands of Americans protesting government spending at tea party rallies has radicalized the Republican Party’s natural base. When criticizing talk radio, liberals tend to believe the small, “angry” percentage who actually call-in, unquestionably represent the millions who listen—yet contradictorily assure respectable folks that these crazy “teabaggers” are but a small, vocal few. Sensing their influence and power, the GOP establishment pays anti-government protesters lip service, but to their credit, the tea partiers are not necessarily paying anything back. Notes the Wall Street Journal “the tea-party movement appears aggressively nonpartisan, much like Ross Perot’s supporters in 1992.”
So what happened to all those crazy Ron Paul kids during the election, waving protest signs and screaming about big government? Many of their parents have joined them.
If Paul had been elected president and carried through on campaign promises to secure the border, end “anchor baby” citizenship,” dismantle government programs like affirmative action, welfare, race-based housing loans and the like, the Texas Congressman would be portrayed by the Left as one of the most racist presidents in modern history. Just for following the Constitution.
But while the Left—including most of the GOP leadership—would shriek, the real Right, the Alternative Right, would applaud. While the GOP keeps scratching its head wondering how to attract more minorities and young people, ironically the only Republican who has attracted both is Paul, and his anti-statist message is feasibly more acceptable to the wider, mostly white, tea partying GOP base, primarily because it is anti-state, not anti-minority. Simply put, the libertarian approach—per Paul’s example—is the model that could build the broadest coalitions and bear the most fruit in advancing Alt Right policies.
In 1996, I thought libertarians who abandoned Buchanan—the only presidential candidate serious about rolling back American empire—were damned fools. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll published this week shows that Americans’ trust in government is at a 12-year-low and over half the country supports the formation of a third party. Fed up with George W. Bush-style “compassionate conservatism” and already souring on Obama’s “change,” what organized, anti-government, anti-establishment philosophy exists that might attract disenchanted voters who could challenge the status quo of both parties? In 1996, it was unquestionably the Buchanan Brigades.
In 2009, it is Ron Paul libertarianism. The reason I talk about Paul so much is because Paul has accomplished so much, creating an intellectually serious grassroots fervor that I hadn’t seen since Buchanan in 96, only younger, more enduring and with broader appeal. And today, and in any era, the cultural and constitutional wings of the Alternative Right would gain far more by hunting where the ducks are than trying to invent a brand new bird.