I have greatly enjoyed the pieces by Dan, Michael, and Jim on paleoconservatism’s possible future, but want to voice a tentative quibble from a Kirk-influenced conservative.
Politics, Russell Kirk thought, was only a partial solution, and political programs or solutions or “positions” ultimately will fail unless they are connected to some actual cultural wellspring. I would argue that despite the Ron Paul revolution, paleoconservatism is a long way to tapping into that mainstream. Or, more likely, it must start the process of creating it. For all its distance from American populism, the neoconservative program until recently had won the acceptance of a large percentage of the populace, and I for one do not doubt that if the war in Iraq were handled better, Bush’s numbers would still be high in the polls. Even now, most Americans do not seem too incensed about the collapse of civil liberties, or the fact that the current AG seems to condone torture. Remember, Sam Brownback who, as Daniel Larison ably pointed out, was basically for extending democracy everywhere, was treated as an actual conservative. On immigration, the paleo effort has been better, but I must question again whether there would have been that success (partial though it is) in a stronger economy.
Given that, the paleo program must be as much a cultural as a political, one. And on that score, while Sam Francis may have voiced a coherent program, that too is just wishful thinking. Most Americans do not think of themselves as part of a “new nationalism,” developed or not – whatever happened to federalism, anyway? A new nationalism is, as conservatives should know, only another tool that can be used by people who are decidedly non-nationalist.
While ambitious and on the right track, the program advanced by paleos, located in many cases in the same placeless big cities as the movement conservatives themselves, is simply a different version of the beltway game that the movement conservatives have played, and will end with similar results. To be effective, such a program must wrestle with the uncomfortable truth that many conservative Americans do not actually agree with us.