This morning I have a column up at The American Spectator talking about whether the Right needs to move on from conservatism. The column suggests that something stronger and more energetic is needed to meet the times. Here’s a taste…
It isn’t enough to embrace the Benedict Option. It isn’t enough to retreat to the periphery and congratulate yourself for keeping lit the flame of civilization in the hills and hollows of the hinterlands. Staying on defense won’t win the game. We need revivalists who will fight tooth and nail for the country, who will talk big and act bigger. Who will outsmart, outfight, and outplay the tyrants and grifters of the Left and who will inspire the “conservatives” to follow.
Essentially, it’s a critique of “conservatism” from the right.
Because conservatism, depending on how it’s defined, is played out. Conservatism lacks energy. It’s been corrupted and sold out, and it’s an old movement which lacks meaning anymore.
In the column I offer up the famous quote from Eric Hoffer about how “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” That is conservatism now.
How do we know this? Go look around at the people trying to grift on conservatism.
I don’t want to name names, but the industry that has popped up trying to prove that some sort of electronic shenanigans fixed the 2020 elections is a perfect example. That’s a grift. The people who understand these things best, folks like J. Christian Adams and Hans von Spakovsky, who have fought the good fight for election integrity longer than any of these people were ever involved in politics, have been screaming from the rooftops that there was nothing particularly exotic about what the Democrats did to rig that election. They had $400 million in Zuckerbucks they used to corrupt local elections offices in places like Atlanta, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Detroit and they turned those places into get-out-the-vote centers for the Biden campaign; between that and ballot harvesting for mail-in ballots it was enough to squeak out a win they never would have had.
The riggers of the election even bragged about it to TIME Magazine. It’s not like they had any secrets. They were a lot like Dustin Hoffman in Wag the Dog; they couldn’t stand not getting the credit. Unlike Hoffman’s character, though, these guys know there aren’t any negative consequences to admitting to rigging the election. But the grift goes on. The racket goes on. Because the degeneration has happened.
And conservatism was always going to peter out as a movement that kept people’s inspiration and interest. Why? Because conservatism is about defense. It’s about a slow retreat.
Even the great William F. Buckley, who as much or more than anybody created modern-day conservatism, confessed to the ultimate futility of the movement. Remember this quote?
“A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”
Sure, it can feel that way sometimes. But why would you admit that?
History is not some inevitable march to socialism. When Buckley issued that quote we were in the middle of the Cold War. Guess what? America won.
The fight is not lost. The fight is never lost unless you give up the fight.
Why would you surrender the future of America to Pete Buttigieg, Cori Bush and AOC? That’s like conceding a marathon to a quadriplegic.
So when we talk about moving on from conservatism, we’re not talking about a surrender. We’re talking about fighting harder and more aggressively than mere conservatives are willing to do. We’re talking about the same level of energetic action the morons of the Left, who call themselves Progressives but who are really out-and-out Marxists, claim for themselves.
We don’t want to be a conservative site anymore. We want to be a Revivalist site.
And since what we do more than anything at the Hayride is centered on Louisiana, that has a special meaning.
Over the dozen years I’ve been doing this site I’ve had a whole bunch of interesting interactions with people of influence and power. The ones which have been the least interesting have generally been with the old-school gang.
These guys followed a similar pattern in how they sought to handle us. First, they ignored us. “That’s just some blog,” they said. “Nobody cares what they think.”
Then, when they noticed there are quite a few state legislators and others who were becoming regular readers, and they realized they couldn’t just pretend we didn’t exist, they sought to co-opt us.
I’d get approached at some of these parties and functions in and around the state capitol by various recognizable old-school political figures. “You know, I agree with you on most things,” came the refrain. “I think you got a lot of good stuff. Yer doin’ a great job. And we all want the same things.”
These were people who had been robbing Louisiana blind for decades, of course. And while a lot of them had dropped the “D” next to their names for an “R,” some hadn’t even bothered. Pretty much all of them had been Edwin Edwards’ stooges at one point or another.
I even had someone approach me saying Edwards himself was a Hayride reader and loved the site and wanted to meet me. My response was that practically everybody I went to high school with moved the hell out of Louisiana never to return mostly because of Edwin Edwards, that as far as I was concerned he’s the worst thing ever to happen to this place outside of Huey Long and that the pleasure of my company was not in the offing for him.
And the response to that, I kid you not, was “But he’s actually really conservative!”
Edwin Edwards as a conservative? The term then has zero meaning whatsoever. Nothing about his four-term misrule of this state was conservative.
Of course, the current Edwards, whose record in the state legislature was further left than anybody even in the Black Caucus, ran as a “conservative” Democrat. Why? Because, as his commercials bragged, he went to West Point and because he chose not to abort his own kids.
If that’s enough to signify conservatism, then forget the whole thing. You see how “conservative” John Bel Edwards is. He’s as conservative as Francisco Franco. He’s the redneck Mussolini.
Practically every one of the worthless Republicans in the legislature – I’m not saying all the Republicans in the legislature are worthless, mind you; to the contrary I’m talking about the ones who are actually worthless – call themselves “conservatives.” At least when it’s election season. That they always seem like they’re in the way when it comes to getting actual conservatism into public policy doesn’t appear to damage their rhetoric much.
Why? Because “conservatism” is just a word in Louisiana. It doesn’t really mean anything other than it’s what you say when you want to get elected.
“Conservative” has always been problematic here. What are you conserving, after all? From a political or governmental standpoint, there is absolutely nothing here to conserve. It isn’t like this place has a political history to be proud of. As cool a state as this is, the elected officeholders have always held us back.
We certainly don’t want to conserve slavery and segregation. Conserving Longite socialism? Great. Go vote for Foster Campbell if you like that crap. There’s zero point in conserving Edwin Edwards’ pathetic state constitution of 1974. Frankly, I don’t even want to conserve the state flag, which sends the worst message of any flag I’ve ever seen. A mama pelican bleeding herself to feed her dependent, never-to-grow-up babies, forever. It’s the perfect avatar for the Huey Long welfare state lots of these “conservative” politicians can’t fathom the idea of reforming.
In the American Spectator column I talk about how I’d rather be a revivalist than a conservative. It might be more appropriate to say “vival” than “revival” when we’re talking about Louisiana politics given our sorry and sordid history of incompetence, corruption, tin-pot authoritarian government and docile, servile, easily-amused voters, but the arguments hold nevertheless.
This site has always been about reforming Louisiana, about breaking the stupid patterns which have put us in last place and have chased off so much of our talent. The problem with properly branding that is it’s a radical notion here, not a conservative one. A revivalist can reject the status quo in pursuit of a cultural and political direction we know works because it’s working elsewhere; a conservative is less able to do so.
So for now, call The Hayride a revivalist site. We’ll leave the conservatism to the status quo crowd we’ve never had much use for.