Ideas Have Consequences is the title of a 1948 book by conservative
thinker Richard Weaver that in recent years has become a kind of slogan
for movement conservatives trying to convince themselves and their
financial angels that their beliefs have triumphed at last. The lesson
we learn from a recent New York Times article on the "post-Buckley" right
is that Professor Weaver was quite wrong: Ideas -- his, at least --
have no consequences. That has to be the conclusion of anyone familiar
with the ideas Weaver and similar conservative heavies emitted in the
years after World War II down through the 1970s. The survival of these
thinkers' and writers' legacy has been open to doubt ever since the
neo-conservatives arrived to share the benefits of their wisdom with
real conservatives, but today, when even the elder neo-cons are fading,
the situation is bleaker still.
"Conservative is a word that is almost meaningless these days," one
young rightist, Caleb Stegall, interviewed by the Times, announces.
He's entirely correct, but to judge from the article, he and his comrades
are helping to keep it that way. Mr. Stegall is part of a new web site
called newpantagruel.com, which The Times describes as "conservative
but irreverent" (I guess the two don't usually mix) and "about
religion and politics." Later we learn from Mr. Stegall that "If
I could sum up what we
stand for in one word, it would be sustainability." Huh? The
Times feels the need to clarify that "he meant theologically
conservative views on sustaining family life as well as typically liberal
views on sustaining the environment and local communities and helping
the poor." Noble causes all, no doubt, but exactly why they are
conservative is never clear.
Yet another post-Buckleyite pops up at the Weekly
Standard, the official
voice of Bill Kristol and the neo-cons. Eric Cohen, at the hoary age
of 26, is not only a Standard contributor but, among other achievements,
also "director of the biotechnology and American democracy program
at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington," an establishment
neo-con outfit that has been around for years.
Mr. Cohen's deathless contribution to post-Buckelyism is that "conservatives
needed to accept an active role for government in dealing with advancing
technology, whether in the form of terrorists' weapons abroad [we tried
that, if you recall] or attempts to change the nature of life at home." Mr.
Stegall then assured The Times "he shared Mr. Cohen's
support for government social programs, but for religious reasons."
One idea of real conservatism is that post-New Deal government was
far too big and needed to be reduced. That idea seems to have been
dropped into File 13 by the post-Buckley geniuses. No consequences
The article continues, discovering unsung young post-Buckelyites thither
and yon, and virtually nowhere does a single one offer any idea that
bears much resemblance to what has been called "conservatism" in
this country for the last 50 years. Only Daniel McCarthy of the American
Conservative utters anything like such a brainstorm.
Calling for a return to the "so-called isolationist and noninterventionist
McCarthy affirms forthrightly, "America is a
nation state. It is not meant to be a sort of world government in embryo,
not meant to be a last provider of justice or security for the entire
As for the war in Iraq, only Mr. McCarthy openly expresses opposition
to it. Mr. Cohen, as you might for some reason guess, is all for the
war and isamong those who "argue that the United States may need
to become more active, not less."
Nor do the post-Buckleyites seem to have much to say about the "culture
most any other real problem that confronts the real world today and
which most pre-Buckley conservatives have traced to liberalism and
pseudo-conservatism: cultural collapse, mass immigration, racial revolution,
the war on the middle class, the future of the nation state, and the
emergence of democratic totalitarianism in our own societies.
The Times of course is delighted to uncover a crowd of "conservatives" who
offer no threat whatsoever to the dominant liberalism it regurgitates
in its pages every day, but if it wanted to find them, there's a real
post-Buckley — we might even say a post conservative — right out there.
What the real new right is talking about is not making government
bigger or cryptic catchwords like "sustainability" but the
problems the Times' favorite conservatives won't mention.
You can find them not only in the American Conservative but also at
Chronicles, The Occidental Quarterly,
American Renaissance, the Citizens Informer, Middle American News, and Vdare.com. Not all their writers
and editors agree with each other, and neither the Times nor the post-Buckley
kids it's pushing would care for
them, but the ideas you find there might actually some day have some
[This column was originally published July 23, 2004]
Back to Samuel Francis Classics archives
The Samuel Francis Classics are copyright © 2008
by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfbooks.com.
All rights reserved.
Political pundit Samuel Francis was an author
and syndicated columnist. A former deputy editorial page editor for
THE WASHINGTON TIMES, he received the Distinguished Writing Award
for Editorial Writing from the American Society of Newspaper Editors
in both 1989 and 1990.
FIRED: SAM FRANCIS ON AMERICA'S CULTURE WAR, a collection of some
of Mr. Francis' writing and speeches,
was published by FGF Books, a division of the Fitzgerald
Griffin Foundation. See www.shotsfired.us
To sponsor the FGF E-Package:
please send a tax-deductible donation to the
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation
P.O. Box 1383
or sponsor online.