How Mainstream Conservatism Failed—And Why
themselves on the back for the last decade or so, the
elders of the "conservative movement" now seem to have
glimpsed the dreadful truth: Conservatism as they
defined and led it for the last 30 years is at best only
a partial success and may even be a flop. Last week
reporter Ralph Z. Hallow detailed the elders`
reflections in a long front-page story in the
Washington Times. [Conservative
lament, August 24,
"We won the battle against communism, but I guess
we`ve largely lost the battle against big government,"
Phyllis Schlafly, who almost single-handedly won one
of the few
unequivocal victories of the right, the defeat of
Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. "And we`ve
lost lots of our
liberties," she added.
Mrs. Schlafly`s rather sad tone of resignation is
matched by most of the other leaders, who are mainly
inside the Beltway and mainly—well—a bit over the
hill. Hardly a one is under 60 and most are well beyond
it. That`s not a criticism, but it does perhaps suggest
that whatever the virtues and vices of these
conservatives, they`ve failed to reproduce themselves.
There`s a word for that sort of creature: dinosaur.
The somber note of most of what the leaders had to
tell Mr. Hallow is rather different from the merry tune
they sang a few years ago, when the Soviet Union had
collapsed and the Republicans were winning clear
majorities in Congress and the White House. Back then
the music was a triumphal march. Two victories by
Bill Clinton, the fizzle of
Newt Gingrich and his vaunted
"Republican Revolution" and the steady advance of
anti-Christian causes in the media and the culture
generally have perhaps led the elders to pipe a sadder
It`s even questionable that "we won the battle
against communism" or that Ronald Reagan won the
Cold War. Few conservative anti-communists at the time
thought we were winning, and not a few believed we were
losing. The Soviets collapsed mainly because of the
dismal failure of their own
economy and political system, not because of our
virtue and valor, and Marxism still flourishes in
Since the 1980s hardly any conservative even talks
about reducing the size and scope of the federal
leviathan, let alone seriously proposes to do it. Nor do
they talk seriously anymore about winning the
"culture war." When Pat Buchanan proposed that at
the Republican convention in 1992, he got denounced—by
conservatives or those who
claimed the title.
So what happened? Most of the leaders Mr. Hallow
interviews don`t seem to have a clue, but since no one
asked my opinion, I`ll volunteer it.
David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative
Union, unwittingly suggests a large part of the answer
in what he told the Times. The early movement, he says,
had to "shape a movement that wouldn`t drive away
more people than it attracted. Therefore, the Birchers,
racists, anarchists and assorted monarchists and kooks
were turned away."
Well, many of them needed to be turned away, but in
the process, the "movement" spit out just about anyone
who was interesting, different, or creative. The result
was a movement all right—of apparatchiks, enlivened by
the occasional con artist and outright crook.
purged anyone who wasn`t
acceptable to the standards of liberalism—that seems
to be the common denominator of the types Mr. Keene says
were "turned away." If there was anything the
dreaded more than "kooks," it was being attacked by
liberals they claimed to oppose.
The end result was not only the takeover of the
neo-conservatives—liberals who mouthed a few
conservative phrases and enjoyed the "credibility" and
"respectability" that liberal elites conferred and
movement conservatives craved—but also the quiet
abandonment of some of the basic items on the
conservative agenda. For reasons that ought to be
obvious, few young people have stuck around for the next
Does conservatism have a future? Not if it`s led by
these types, who are more worried about "turning away"
anybody might get them in trouble with the left.
The conservatives—if that`s the right word—who remain
need to understand that the people and forces now in
power in this country—in government, the culture and
Big Business—are the enemies of the real America and
civilization of the West. And they need to explain
to young people what`s happened to their country and
civilization and what needs to be done to save what`s
left. This is not so much a mission for conserving as it
is for revolution, but because the elders of the
"conservative movement" were such a dismal flop, it`s
the only course the serious right has left.
CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
[Sam Francis [email
him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection
of his columns,