Conservatism In The Age of Milo, Donald Trump and The So Called Alt-Right
Confucius, Cato the Elder, John Locke, Edmund Burke, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Alexander Hamilton, Irving Babbitt, Whittaker Chambers, Eric Hoffer, Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, Russell Kirk, Barry Goldwater, Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, William F. Buckley Jr. Richard Grigoris points out that while conservatives are a diverse lot, there are similar foundations in their thinking. These many politicians, social philosophers, authors and activists share certain core beliefs. In essence, they echo through the centuries, firmly holding onto traditional attitudes and values and remaining wary of change simply for change’s sake.
What happened? Now, conservatives justify the many things represented as conservative, which are not, with “well let’s try something new,” “we may as well give it a chance” or “we won.” That is literally change for change’s sake. This kind of thinking is ripe for grifters. Enter our 45th president and Milo Yiannopoulis aka Milo Hanrahan aka Milo Wagner.
Donald Trump, “Conservative”
Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. In 1964, he campaigned for Barry Goldwater. He served as a successful conservative governor of California for two terms, and he was one of the key figures in the creation of the modern American conservative movement.
Peter Wehner stresses how Donald Trump, on the other hand, was a registered Democrat when it was being led by John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Trump was a particularly big donor in elections that brought Pelosi and Reid to power, and he has shown no interest and made no contributions over the years to conservative philosophy and ideas.
David French identifies Milo, for those who don’t know, as the flamboyantly gay, former senior editor at Breitbart News, a provocateur who relishes outrage from the left and deliberately courts as much fury as he can. How? Conservative Ben Shapiro explains:
Jews run the media; earlier this month he characterized a Jewish BuzzFeed writer as a “a typical example of a sort of thick-as-pig shit media Jew”; he justifies anti-Semitic memes as playful trollery and pats racist sites like American Renaissance on the head; he describes himself as a “chronicler of, and occasional fellow traveler with the alt-right” while simultaneously recognizing that their “dangerously bright” intellectuals believe that “culture is inseparable from race”; back in his days going under the name Milo Wagner, he reportedly posed with his hand atop a Hitler biography, posted a Hitler meme about killing 6 million Jews, and wore an Iron Cross; last week he berated a Muslim woman in the audience of one of his speeches for wearing a hijab in the United States; his alt-right followers routinely spammed my Twitter account with anti-Semitic propaganda he tut-tutted before his banning (the amount of anti-Semitism in my feed dropped by at least 70 percent after his ban, which I opposed); he personally Tweeted a picture of a black baby at me on the day of my son’s birth, because according to the alt-right I’m a “cuck” who wants to see the races mixed; he sees the Constitution as a hackneyed remnant of the past, to be replaced by a new right he leads.
Recordings of Milo apparently excusing pedophilia and expressing gratitude to a Catholic priest for teaching him how to perform oral sex were released. (Later, on Facebook, he vigorously denied that he supports pedophilia, saying he is “completely disgusted by the abuse of children.”) No matter, he resigned his editorship from Breitbart and his publisher backed out of his book deal.
Conservatism From A Liberal Perspective
Cal Thomas notes how today, conservatism has become known in the eyes of many for what and who it is against, not what and who it is for. Part of this is due to media stereotyping, but not all. Traditional conservatism has been a positive “we can do better,” an inspiring and uplifting philosophy that motivates rather than denigrates.
The conservatism of Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley Jr. and Ronald Reagan was about ideas, not emotion and exclusion. Reagan, whom the modern right likes to claim as one of its own, was an optimist. Even when he criticized the left’s policies, he almost always presented a superior alternative. He wanted to attract as many people to his worldview as possible by winning the argument and converting opponents, whom he always regarded as fellow Americans and “friends,” even when he disagreed with them.
In his 1993 book “The Politics of Prudence,” Russell Kirk set down principles he believed should define conservatism. Among them were the following: an enduring moral order; an adherence to custom, convention and continuity guided by the principle of prudence; the principle of imperfectibility, meaning we don’t look to government to create perfect men and women, or a perfect society, thus rejecting utopianism; the belief that freedom and property are closely linked; conservatives uphold voluntary community and reject involuntary collectivism; the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions; permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.
That last one bears elaboration, and Kirk offers it: “The conservative knows that any healthy society is influenced by two forces, which Samuel Taylor Coleridge called its Permanence and its Progression. The Permanence of a society is formed by those enduring interests and convictions that give us stability and continuity; without that Permanence, the fountains of the great deep are broken up, society slipping into anarchy. The Progression in a society is that spirit and that body of talents which urge us on to prudent reform and improvement; without that Progression, a people stagnate.”
One sees this in the debate over the Constitution between liberals, who believe it to be a “living” document subject to constant change and updating; and conservatives, who believe it a rock of stability that serves as a guide even in the face of rapid technological and cultural change.
The Way It Used To Be
In 1962, William F. Buckley Jr. denounced the John Birch Society as “far removed from common sense” and urged the Republican Party to purge the movement from its ranks. Traditionally, according to Amelia Sims, conservatives have taught that freedom is most fully realized through actions with others and through the recognition of mutual rights and duties. Though everyone has the right to freedom of speech, we also have the duty to promote civil discourse and debate. Exalting crudity, offense and cruel ad-hominem attacks as virtues only inhibits political discourse and undermines the very goal of free speech — the free exchange of ideas. Of course not all people who identify as conservative hold these tenets, but they do represent the beliefs of a tradition that has been upheld in America intellectually, culturally and politically. Those principles are worth defending and articulating.
Being Republican does not presuppose the rude vulgarity of egotists like Milo and the current President of the United States, who condone violence and cruelty. This effort to turn conservatism into a bonfire of rage, a spectacle of insults, is a disservice to conservatism and to those who have represented it. They’re just making money off of those who don’t understand what they espouse to represent, from the White House and the college campus.