The British are coming! They’re coming in the form of a new website from an organization that touts itself as “the world’s oldest weekly magazine.” The Spectator has been publishing in Britain since July 5, 1828, and now the folks there have created a U.S. web edition called Spectator USA. Like its parent it will have a conservative tilt, manifest in some of the writers it has pulled to its side—Jacob Heilbrunn, Daniel McCarthy, Helen Andrews, and others. McCarthy once served as editor of The American Conservative, while Heilbrunn, editor of The National Interest, writes for us regularly.
This is a development in American political journalism that is worth noting. First, The Spectator has a venerable pedigree. Writers of its distant and recent past include GK Chesterton, Graham Greene, Evelyn and Auberon Waugh, Ian Fleming, Henry Fairlie, Iris Murdoch, Christopher and Peter Hitchens, Peregrine Worsthorne, and Michael Lewis. The writer of a brief introductory essay that ran as the website went up, after noting these names, adds, “I could go on.”
The essay said the new U.S. Spectator will “continue to discover and promote literary talent.” It adds, “We will find life amusing, and we will never confuse the serious with the dull.” It touts a new blog called Cockburn (“the ck is silent”) that will “indulge in mischief, mayhem, and gossip.”
Here at The American Conservative, we welcome our friends from across the pond and the American writers they plan to congregate in the interest of literate and probing commentary—and not just on politics but on the world. “We promise always to see,” says the introductory essay, “that the world is far bigger than politics.” That’s what we seek always to see as well.
And the world is in a state of progressive flux, as is American politics and the politics of many other nations, particularly in Europe but also in China and Russia. Meanwhile, global stability comes under growing strain as the world struggles with what I have called, with increasing emphasis, a crisis of the old order. The American political status quo is severely stressed, as is the geopolitical status quo.
This calls for sound, measured, expansive, probing analysis of developments in the cultural, social, political, and foreign spheres. Conservatism in recent years has been rent by disparate perspectives on the profound developments of our time and the prospect of further developments, seen and unseen. It’s an open question whether it will ever again enjoy the coalescence of outlook that occurred in the quarter-century leading up to the presidential election of Ronald Reagan.
But whether it will or not, the times call for vibrant thinking and a feisty temperament and a (mostly) respectful combativeness. That’s what we try to put forth here at TAC, and that’s why we welcome others who want to enter the fray in the interest of somehow finding a new conservative consensus for a new political era, arrived at through the combat of ideas.
As we contemplate this new entry into the arena, we find ourselves thinking with a certain wry regard the welcoming words of National Review in response to the rise of the new neoconservative movement. “C’mon in, the water’s fine,” said the magazine.
That one didn’t turn out so well, for conservatism or the country. And of course we’ll be watching our friends over at Spectator USA with a proper measure of respectful skepticism. We certainly won’t hesitate to jump in with criticism when we disagree with them. But we see it as all very healthy for conservatives and for American politics.
The folks over at The Spectator say their U.S. edition will be “pro-America and pro-Americans.” At a time when one of our political parties seems enraptured at the rhetorical denigration of a quarter of the U.S. citizenry as “deplorables,” that’s a refreshing perspective from across the sea. Welcome to the fray.
Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington, D.C. journalist and publishing executive, is editor of The American Conservative. His latest book, President McKinley: Architect of the American Century, was released in September.