Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bringing a Hard Right to the Green Mountains

It was Samuel Francis, a populist paleo-conservative scholar in the vein of anti-communist and "neo-Machiavellian" intellectual James Burnham who first phrased the term "Hard Right". The Hard Right for Francis was a loose coalition of individuals, organizations, and publications who dissented from the prevailing mainstream conservatism in America. It was not really organized like the neo-conservatives or the Beltway Right and as a consequence found itself yelling from the sidelines of American politics. That was until the War in Iraq and the Right found itself in open warfare amongst itself over intervention in Baghdad and "saving the world for democracy", a lesson most traditionalists and paleo-conservatives thought the United States would have learned after many previous botched attempts at humanitarian military missions.

Green Mountain Hard Right! is designed to be my own personal little soapbox against Revolutionary (modernist) impulses in Vermont. As a self-described reactionary and counter-revolutionary, I am doubtful of "liberty, equality, and fraternity", the "natural rights of man", "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and other feel-good notions of Enlightenment liberalism. Instead I value communitarian values based on localism, natural hierarchy, custom, and prescription. I prize social authority--not authoritarianism, but rather the authority which one's faith, family, and community place on a person--over atomistic individualism. I agree with Simone Weil that "order is the first need of all" and that Christian humanism is a more appropriate response to human suffering than humanitarianism (read Irving Babbitt for a better understanding of the fatal flaw of humanitarianism).

This said I feel that the Right in the Green Mountains is in a state of disarray, which has allowed the Revolution to move itself in and supplant traditional culture and morality. Traditionalists saw this with the Act 60 bill of the late 1990's and the civil unions legislation that followed. My own view of the civil union controversy was quite simple: homosexuality is sinful as well as dangerous sociobiologically. Despite this, however, I was not fully on the side of the conservative populists who led the charge against the Left on this issue.

The reason for this was that I held a rather Burkean view of representative government. As I saw it, in a society where one person elects another person to represent him in government, the constituent elects a candidate with full knowledge that when that candidate becomes a representative he will use his own judgement when passing legislation. While the constituent might make his opinion clear on how he views on an issue or policy decision, the constituent clearly knows and accepts that it is up to the representative to decide how he will vote, irregardless of whether that vote correlates to what the constituent wants. Consequently, it is during the next election cycle that the constituent is to decide whether or not to re-elect the representative based on his voting record.

The argument I heard most from voters and the populist Right (most of whom have not read Edmund Burke let alone have heard of him) was that the 2000 legislature did not "listen" to how their constituents wanted them to vote. In fact, most of the representatives did listen to their constituents, they just didn't take those views into serious consideration when they decided to put civil unions into law. Following the Burkean view of representational government, the legislators fulfilled their obligation representative duty by using their own judgement and voting accordingly. And that fall, when election time rolled around, the outraged citizenry fulfilled their obligation as well by voting the majority of pro-civil union legislators out of office.
This should have been the strategy of the Right on the issue from the very beginning, however the fast and easy approach of populism and zealotry was used instead. The end result, of course, was a vicious smear campaign against the GOP's gubernatorial candidate, Ruth Dwyer, and a short-lived State House victory for the Republicans that was ultimately undercut by its own social democratic wing. Since then the Left has increased its power base and further attempts to carry forward the Revolution have continued.

This is where the need for a Hard Right comes in. A Hard Right is distinguished from a Soft Right in that the Soft Right are social democratic Republicans (Rockefeller Republicans, RINOs, liberal Republicans, Ripon Society Republicans, etc.) or other Leftist fellow travellers (the Beltway Right, neo-conservatives). The Soft Right either intentionally thwart genuine conservative victories or "go-along to get-along" for the sake of political expediency or sheer opportunism (the Soft Right is fond of referring to themselves as moderates despite the fact that there is nothing moderate in aping the policies of the Left).
The Hard Right, in contrast, recognizes that there are first principles to be defended, first principles that are under constant attack by the forces of modernity and progress. For example, here in the Green Mountains, the assault on traditional morality and Christianity reached a crescendo a few years ago during the civil unions controversy when a sitting governor had the temerity to try and intimidate a Roman Catholic bishop over the latter's courageous defiance against state-sactioned heresy. As the Republican Party has continued to lose seats in the legislature and its legislators have continued to acquiesce to the Left, the need for a Hard Right in the Green Mountains is becoming more necessary. Conservatism in Vermont needs resuscitating and it will not come by way of a tax cut or new jobs. It will only come by an appreciation of eternal verities and a return to the "Permanent Things".

Link to Samuel Francis's column, "Toward a Hard Right" in the February 2005 issue of Chronicles magazine where he outlines the a future strategy for those paleconservatives opposed to the direction of mainstream conservatism.


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