RN31, Apr - June 2001 | close window
Beyond the Beltway - the real American Right
Derek Turner interviews Samuel Francis, the US political analyst Pat Buchanan once called "the Clausewitz of the Right"
You have said that "The first thing to be said about the presidential election of 2000 is that George W Bush and the Stupid Party lost miserably". What do you mean by this?
In the literal sense, of course, they won, but it has to be remembered that they did lose the popular vote and, had it not been for the presence of Ralph Nader's Green Party on the ballot, the Republicans would have lost decisively to Gore. Let’s leave aside the pettifoggery about who really won Florida, if anyone really won Florida.
But in the larger sense, I meant that the "new Republicanism" on which Bush campaigned - the "compassionate conservatism", the "Big Tent Republicanism", what I call the "Rainbow Republicanism" - that was so evident in the racial pandering in the GOP convention and throughout the campaign - all failed. Bush didn’t win the election because of it or because blacks and Hispanics and women flocked to his banner (blacks and Hispanics flocked overwhelmingly to Gore’s banner); he won because the conservative rank and file of the party supported him, the white, Christian, middle class, culturally conservative iceberg on which all the Titanics of liberalism, Republican or Democrat, eventually crash. They supported Bush despite his running after strange gods, but just barely. If the Republicans keep ignoring or betraying them, they'll stay home or go somewhere else.
Bush himself won; it was his strategy and the liberal worldview on which it is based that lost miserably.
What is wrong with the US conservative movement? Are the Republicans unsalvageable? I believe the Republican Party is generally unsalvageable today. Because Bush did win legally, he and his supporters are now in a position to say that the old Reaganite, Southern Strategy, Willie Horton approach is what hurt Republicans and it’s the kinder, gentler approach of "compassionate conservatism" that won. As I’ve just indicated, that’s not true, but it takes some time and effort to argue that. It’s not obvious to casual observers.
As a matter of fact, the Republican Left has been making exactly the same argument for generations - ever since the New Deal - that the Right has no following and is just a small bunch of ideologues. The truth is that except for the war hero Eisenhower, no liberal Republican has ever been able to win the presidency. Only by running to the Right -- as Nixon, Reagan, and Bush Senior in 1988 did - can Republicans win. What is remarkable today is that Republican conservatives have now begun to buy into the Republican Left’s argument.
As for the conservative movement, in the 1980s the movement was invaded by "neo-conservatives" whose metamorphosis into genuine conservatives was incomplete, insincere, or both. The neo-cons brought some talents to the movement, but they insisted on having everything their own way. They succeeded in forcing out or silencing some of the best Old Right thinkers and then watering down the militant counter-revolutionary thrust of post-War American conservatism so that it would be more palatable to New Deal liberals who were afraid of the Soviet Union but were frightened by so-called "McCarthyism", concerned about Israel, opposed to anti-white racism, and didn’t like homosexuals, extreme feminists and criminals. Having destroyed Old Right conservatism, the neo-cons today are amazed to see that the GOP is not neo-conservative but really believes in nothing while purporting to believe in everything. G K Chesterton once said something to the effect that when you cease to believe in God, it is not the case that you then believe in nothing; it is the case that you then believe in everything. Having ceased to believe in serious conservatism, the GOP and many conservatives are now willing to believe that everything is conservative - Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, globalist foreign policy, continuous war, presidential supremacy, the welfare state, etc.
To what do you attribute the ignominious collapse of the Buchanan campaign?
Buchanan and his sister, who ran his campaign, made a number of serious tactical blunders. They made Lenora Fulani, a black Marxist, co-chairman of the campaign, which allowed Pat’s critics on the neo-con Right to ridicule him for claiming to be a "true conservative". The campaign emphasized trade and foreign policy issues at a time when neither went anywhere with the voters. And they chose a black female running mate (although she was at least a strong conservative) with some embarrassing baggage and no standing whatsoever. But Pat’s main problem was that conservatives had become so sick of Clinton and so scared of Gore that they insisted on voting for a Republican who had a chance of winning, regardless of whether he was really a conservative at all. This is because, as I have written in several places over the last few years, the American Right has become obsessed by Clinton, at the expense of substantive issues. The Right could have been redefining foreign policy after the Cold War, reforming immigration policy, dealing with a number of practical issues in a serious and radically conservative way that could have won them a new image and new voters. Instead, all they yammered about was Whitewater, Vince Foster, Monica Lewinsky, etc, etc. Nothing reveals the intellectual poverty of the American Right today more than this tendency towards obsessiveness over Clinton at the expense of serious issues.
Are there any genuine conservatives in the new administration? What do you think of John Ashcroft?
I’m sure there must be some real conservatives there, but I really can’t tell you who they are or what they might do. Dick Cheney is pretty conservative; I was sorry to see him trying to backtrack on his excellent voting record in Congress when he was named as Bush’s running mate. I would expect Cheney to provide some serious conservative instincts in the administration, but I doubt if he’ll have much pull against the spinmeisters and the political hacks.
Ashcroft is a decent but rather dim fellow. He had a real chance during his nomination to challenge the kind of demagoguery about the sympathetic views of the Confederacy he had expressed, and he could have blasted political correctness and the black radical domination of political expression soundly. Unfortunately, he took the easy path of recanting and wallowing. I really don’t expect much from him in the future for real conservative politics.
One of the principal problems with the organized conservative movement today is that it has based itself in Washington – "inside the Beltway" - and has come to be part of the political system it was supposed to challenge. The think tanks, periodicals, consultants, media stars, journalists, PR experts, etc form a managerial elite of their own, closely wedded to the larger Leftwing elites inside the state and appendages. The conservative wing can be part of this larger elite only if it refrains from saying and doing radical things that would threaten the larger system. Hence, the conservative wing has in effect become part of the system, has been co-opted by it.
What has happened to the "Reagan Republicans" and the so-called "Middle American Radicals" (MARs)?
The MARs - who provided the backbone of the Wallace, Reagan, Perot, and Buchanan movements - may still be there, but changes in the economy have undermined the manufacturing sector that was their economic base and changes in the culture, due mainly to immigration, and the emergence of non-white racial consciousness, have challenged their cultural role. Buchanan was never willing to appeal to them as radically as Wallace did, but it may still be possible to mobilize them in a radical conservative movement. Time will tell.
Is Southern secession feasible and/or desirable?
I have managed to anger a great many of my Southern friends by arguing that it is neither possible nor desirable. It is not possible because the Southern national identity is just not there today (it may not even have been there in 1861). It is not desirable because it draws an artificial regional line among the middle-class whites who should be working together and not trying to define each other as enemies as ‘Yankees’ and ‘Rednecks’. We - whites in general - are today faced with an immense threat from non-whites that is demographic, political, and cultural, and if we don’t learn how to work together in the next decade, the white world will vanish within a generation or so.
Who are the most useful and important people on the modern US Right?
I believe the Council of Conservative Citizens, as well as a handful of new publications, groups, and websites, are slowly building an alternative right that is sharply different from the Beltway Right around Bush. The Council is today mainly regional in its focus, mainly a Southern group, but it has chapters all over the country and is the only real membership group on the right in this country. Groups like the Christian Coalition and the John Birch Society, though still in existence, are virtually moribund. The Council is an activist organisation whose members agitate in defence of Southern traditions and symbols like the Confederate flag, against immigration, and similar grassroots issues.
Peter Brimelow's website, Vdare.com [Editor’s Note: See RN21 for an interview with Peter Brimelow, or visit www.vdare.com], and Louis Andrews’ Stalking the Wild Taboo [Editor’s Note: See page xxx, this issue) are probably the most exciting websites on the Right in cyberspace today, and of course, Jared Taylor’s American Renaissance remains the most courageous and most interesting hard copy publication on the American Right, though it has only a racial focus. Middle American News is a good, hard-Right monthly newspaper published in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Council of Conservative Citizens publishes a bimonthly newspaper, the Citizens Informer, of which I am editor in chief. We are gradually upgrading the CI to make it competitive with the best offered by the American Right today. I remain persuaded that these are all signs that an increasing number of Americans are sick of the establishment Right, the neo-conservative Right, Beltway Right, the Rainbow Republicans, and the rest of the merry band. We need to work together more and begin making our presence and our power better known.
You are an aficianado of such writers as H P Lovecraft and Dennis Wheatley. Why?
I read both of them in high school and still occasionally read them. Wheatley not so much, since I soon came to regard him as a bad writer of banal books, despite their exotic and somewhat lurid themes (he wrote a series of cheap novels about Satanism, as you know). Lovecraft was a genuinely interesting man, an independent thinker who was on the political Right most of his life. I think the supernatural fiction they wrote does point to a worldview that rejects the conventional rationalism and anthropological optimism of the modern world, and Lovecraft, despite his own atheism and materialism, was extremely anti-modernist. The best of Lovecraft ’s stories, I have argued and continue to believe, can be read as dramas of modernity, in which the consequences of modernism - rationalism, optimism - work themselves out symbolically in dreadful and horrifying ways. Lovecraft is an example of what I have elsewhere called "counter-modernism", the use of modernist ideas and forms to challenge the conventional rationalistic and optimistic forms of modernity. James Burnham is a similar figure, and so are T S Eliot, Ezra Pound, and a number of others.
Samuel Francis: Born Chattanooga, Tennessee, on 29th April 1947 Education: John Hopkins University (BA, 1969), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (MA, 1971 and PhD, modern history, 1979) Policy analyst, The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, specializing in foreign affairs, terrorism, and intelligence and internal security issues, 1977 – 1981 Legislative assistant for national security affairs to Senator John P East (Republican, North Carolina) and worked with the Senate Judiciary Committee’ s Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism, of which Senator East was a member, 1981-1986 Editorial writer, Washington Times, 1986 Deputy Editorial Page Editor, The Washington Times, 1987-1991 Acting Editorial Page Editor, The Washington Times, February-May 1991 Staff columnist, The Washington Times, 1991 to 1995. Editor and publisher of The Samuel Francis Letter and Samuel Francis Online (www.samfrancis.net) to date
Publications: The Soviet Strategy of Terror (1981; revised edition, 1985) Power and History: The Political Thought of James Burnham (1984) Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism (1993) Revolution from the Middle (date?) Articles or reviews in a number of newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, USA Today, National Review and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture Member of the Board of Editorial Advisors for Modern Age: A Quarterly Review Recipient, Distinguished Writing Award for Editorial Writing of the American Society of Newspaper Editors 1989 and 1990 Finalist, National Journalism Award (Walker Stone Prize) for Editorial Writing of the Scripps Howard Foundation in 1989 and 1990