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Conservative Vibes for Our Time

That’s what Nat Con II was all about: getting inside the vibrations of modern life.

What do we mean by “conservatism” these days, anyway? That was one of the questions always present (stated or unstated) at the National Conservatism Conference put on by the Edmund Burke Foundation in Orlando, Florida, late last month. It was the second such conference, NatCon II, the first one having been held in the summer of 2019. How is this new conservatism different from what has gone before? Is it different? About 750 people, many of them young, went to Orlando to find out.

William F. Buckley Jr., the founder of National Review, wrote years ago that he knew, if not what conservatism was, at least who conservatives were—confessing at the same time that it was easier to know who a liberal was: “Spin me about like a top, and I will walk up to the single liberal in the room without a zig or a zag and find him even if he is hiding behind the flowerpot.”

Some of the “conservatism” of the Orlando crowd is a reaction, and rebuke, to the Republican establishment, especially some (maybe many) of the Republican office holders in Washington—e.g., the 13 Republican members of the House of Representatives who voted for Joe Biden’s trillion dollar “infrastructure” bill (and who should spend the rest of their time in Washington behind —in?—flowerpots). They are “Chamber of Commerce” Republicans, people who care only about business and the bottom line, not about how we get to that line, or how many people have to get stepped on, or fired, or replaced by Chinese workers (or slaves), to get to that line. National Conservatism is something different—something more proudly American, “Trumpist,” the liberals might claim, accusingly, though it has little to do with Trump, and his name was mentioned only occasionally at the conference.

And “National Conservatism” is not exactly Reaganesque either, as a number of speakers pointed out. But that’s not surprising: Reagan took office more than 40 years ago, and there is no reason to suppose he would have proposed, as the solutions for today’s problems, the solutions he proposed then.

Even Buckley was criticized by one speaker, who said his famous cry for “standing athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!’” was simply not sufficient. But Buckley never said it was. That iconic phrase appeared in the first issue of National Review in 1955. But there was a whole lot more.

Buckley wrote: “[National Review] is out of place because, in its maturity, literate America rejected conservatism in favor of radical social experimentation [Doesn’t this remind us of open borders? Critical race theory for kids? Gender optionality?]. Instead of covetously consolidating its premises, the United States seems tormented by its tradition of fixed postulates having to do with the meaning of existence, [Justice Kennedy’s infamous “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” anyone?] with the relationship of the state to the individual [you vill vear your mask und vhere are your vaccinations papers?], of the individual to his neighbor, so clearly enunciated in the enabling documents of our Republic.”

And Buckley continued: “Conservatives in this country—at least those who have not made their peace with the New Deal, and there is a serious question of whether there are others—are non-licensed nonconformists; and this is a dangerous business in a Liberal world, as every editor of this magazine can readily show by pointing to his scars. Radical conservatives in this country have an interesting time of it, for when they are not being suppressed or mutilated by Liberals [mind you, this was decades before Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook], they are being ignored or humiliated by a great many of those of the well-fed Right [Hmm: Republicans In Name Only?], whose ignorance and amorality have never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity.”

“Not made their peace with the New Deal”! Holy smoke! Of course, the New Deal was younger then, dating from about 1933 to 1939, less than two decades before the founding of National Review. But who these days is calling for the repeal of anything?

Christopher DeMuth, the chairman of the conference, said in his speech that three of the critical foundations of nationhood are religion, locality, and family. Exactly. The dedication in Buckley’s first book, God and Man at Yale (1951), reads: “For God, For Country, and for Yale . . . in that order.”

DeMuth’s speech illustrated a point Buckley made in an address to the Conservative Party of New York State in 1964. Buckley said: “Modern formulations are necessary even in defense of very ancient truths. Not because of any alleged anachronism in the old ideas—the Beatitudes remain the essential statement of the Western code—but because the idiom of life is always changing, and we need to say things in such a way as to get inside the vibrations of modern life.”

That’s what Nat Con II was all about: getting inside the vibrations of modern life.


November 11, 2021
American Greatness

Reimagining Donna Brazile

Loose lips sank ships and caused carnage at sea during the Second World War. But loose lips today—mouthing the Democrat Party and Black Lives Matter police brutality canard—cause carnage in America’s inner cities.

Donna Brazile, a Democrat operative, wrote this recently in the Wall Street Journal:

As a black woman, I’ve experienced plenty of discrimination… [I]n the past year I’ve watched the same videos and read the same accounts that millions of people around the world have seen—images of police killing unarmed black people in American cities. I cried over these horrific killings.


Except it’s really not right, it’s mostly wrong. People in the public policy space should know better.

Last year this writer took after Catherine McGehee, the headmistress (you can still say “headmistress,” but not “headmaster” and certainly not “house master,” at least not at Yale) of Foxcroft, a girls’ finishing school in Middleburg, Virginia. McGehee had said, “We struggle with the loss of yet more unarmed Black men and women, which regrettably continues as a cruel legacy of our nation’s racist history.” We remarked that if Ms. McGehee had bothered to determine how many “unarmed Black men and women” had been “lost,” she might not have had to struggle so much.

If McGehee had bothered to look up the statistics, she would have discovered that, in the year in which she struggled so much, just one unarmed black woman was killed by police, and nine unarmed black men were. Of the 10 killings, only two resulted in criminal prosecution because the rest were considered justified.

Ms. McGehee runs a secondary education organization, while Ms. Brazile, au contraire [see below], is a public policy maven—she’s the person who helped Hillary Clinton cheat in one of her debates with Donald Trump, and she is a former chair of the Democratic National Committee.

“Au contraire,” incidentally, means “to the contrary” in French, a language many schools have probably given up teaching, much like Princeton has given up requiring Latin and Greek in the Classics Department(!) because the “history of our own department bears witness to the place of Classics in the long arc of systemic racism.”

Of course, a viewer can’t tell, as she watches killings by police on television, how many of them will not result in criminal prosecution. Even so, there wouldn’t seem to be enough to justify Brazile’s phrasing (“images of police killing unarmed black people in American cities,”) which implies, obviously, multiple images. Yet that was her phrase, and written in a column, not ad-libbed in an interview.

Maybe Ms. Brazile thinks two unjustified killings is a scandal requiring wholesale uprooting of policing and the broader criminal justice system. But adults, at least those who don’t help people cheat on exams, might ponder that number (it was two) in relation to the population of the United States, which is about 340 million.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the “defund the police” movement has been causing havoc and death, especially in black communities, and you might think that would receive special attention from people like Donna Brazile.

Murder is up everywhere. According to the Council on Criminal Justice, “Homicides, aggravated assaults, and gun assaults rose significantly beginning in late May and June of 2020. They jumped by 42 percent during the summer and 34 percent in the fall when compared to the summer and fall of 2019.” This trend has continued. Murders are up 800 percent in Portland, 56 percent in Minneapolis, 40 percent in Philadelphia, and 27 percent in Los Angeles.

Some people have blamed the Chinese Flu, but murder rates in other countries have not gone up. In this country, however, crime rates have soared where Democrats have “re-imagined policing,” which is woke-speak for defunding, or cancelling, the police—even as Princeton has re-imagined the Classics by giving up Latin and Greek.

Brazile’s piece may have been primarily about anti-Semitism, but someone in her position obviously can’t resist playing the race card. Too bad she couldn’t spare a few tears for the dozens of black Americans killed in the inner cities by other black Americans in the last few months, though not—alas?—on national television. Now there’s a scandal, and one that far outpaces police misconduct.

But unfortunately for the people who live in the inner cities, that carnage is not a scandal easy to blame Republicans for, and so it will be forgotten or ignored—as World War II is soon likely to be. After all, President Roosevelt described it as “a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization,” which does not align with the woke ideology.


June 8, 2021
The American Conservative