I’m delighted to be able to write that this week W. James Antle III is taking the reins as The American Conservative’s new editor, a welcome development for all involved with the magazine.
I’ve known Jim since the early months of TAC, when as a young freelancer in 2003 he sent us over the transom a piece on resurgent tensions between conservatives and libertarians within the conservative movement. It was nuanced and sophisticated for a young writer, cognizant and instructive both about the intricacies of the fusionist synthesis forged in the 1950s by William F. Buckley’s National Review, and the contemporary disgust felt by many libertarians at the then-very popular warfare conservatism pushed by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Jim came to the appropriately skeptical conclusions about the life span of Buckley’s synthesis and TAC ran his piece as a cover story.
We shortly thereafter hired him to a staff position, immediately assigning him an almost impossible investigative piece about rumors and charges of “debauchery” involving holdover Clinton appointees at the U.S. embassy in Bucharest. Jim pulled it off with tact and aplomb. He settled in for several years as a creative and steady TAC voice at a time when the magazine was growing rapidly while being attacked from all ideological directions.
Jim left us in 2006 to take a series of Washington journalism positions, leaving each one with his reputation enhanced. He published in 2013 Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped, an important book analyzing the historical difficulties of conservatives getting anywhere with their aspirations for greater liberty and smaller government, while making the case for persistence and outlining realistic strategies for limited success. I suspect that these critical points won’t be overlooked in the years to come, as the current Democratic activist Left has become increasingly avowedly socialist in its goals, democratic or otherwise.
In any case, I know Jim as a man of great wisdom and temperament, perhaps modestly libertarian but able to thrive professionally in mainstream GOP Washington circles, well attuned to the personalities and quirks which make up as much of the texture of national politics as ideological questions. Now some 15 years after he first came to TAC, he qualifies as a veteran of the magazine and the sensibilities which formed it, but also of The American Spectator, Washington Examiner, and The Daily Caller and other institutions commonly viewed as more conventionally conservative.
I am delighted to welcome Jim back, and look forward to his editorial leadership at a time when the personalities are different (we are now in the age of Trump and Ocasio-Cortez and not of Bush, Cheney, and Howard Dean), but the need for understanding the political forces which will shape our futures is greater than ever.
Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative