At the American Conservative blog, Dan McCarthy has responded to the arguments made by Paul Gottfried and myself relating to his TAC piece on George McGovern. As usual Dan offers much food for thought, expanding on the New Right/paleo connection I briefly made in my initial post and digging into the neocon angle as well.
The always interesting, paleoconservative writer, Sean Scallon has also entered the fray and made the following point in response to Dan's blog entry:
....Gottfried’s wrong about the communist angle and insultingly so. It’s true McGovern originally supported Henry Wallace and attended the Progressive Party convention of 1948. But what he doesn’t tell you is that McGovern switched his support to Truman when he realized the Stalinists were in control of the Progressive Party. If CREEP hacks didn’t think it was a big deal I don’t see why Gottfried does. Besides, if you use Gottfried’s logic then Murray Rothbard was a commie, everyone at LRC is a commie, and one could say Ron Paul is a commie too. In fact such crap has been said by the necons all last year.
And so long as we’re talking Commies here, why are we letting the neocons off the hook? Does Gottfried not remember than many of their number belonged to socialist political parties and groups? Did they get off easy because they were Trotskyests instead of Stalinists? Trotsky was a murderer too and had none of Stalin’s Russian patriotism. Why shouldn’t all of the gang at Alcove 6 at CCNY have gone in front of Sen. McCarthy’s committee and answered if THEY were members of the Communist Party? Hmmm? I sure we would have gotten some interesting answers from messrs. Kristol and Podheretz.
Of course the issue of why and how the neocons managed to crawl into the cracks of the conservative movement is a long debated issue that Prof. Gottfried himself has spent much of his time on over the years. I myself have discussed it some in the past, but Mr. Scallon's post was the perfect chance for me to expand on the subject a bit. Below is the response I posted to Sean and Dan at the TAC blog, which I expect may result in some unkind emails from those unable to discern the difference between criticism and contempt:
The neocons got off easy and snuck into the conservative movement because they shared the perspective of folks like Prof. Gottfried.
While it is true that there were large gaps between the New Right and the Neocons, both groups tended to view things through the prism of anti-communism and cultural liberalism. Much is made by paleoconservatives today about the "liberalism" of the neocons, but at the time of their ascension they were seen as allies because they were intellectuals, with interests in the hard sciences (interests that by their own account paleos did not have), who were openly opposed to the Great Society, Affirmative Action, et. To be more specific, the neoconservatives were opposed to the statist trends of the "Civil Rights Movement," which was to a large extent the primary enemy of the New Right.
The error made by the paleos/New Right was in assuming that eggheads of any variety were the friends of liberty or decentralized government.
Anyone with a passing interest in the work of Irving Kristol would know that he was an advocate of Universal Health Care, Social Security, expanded public education, and some sort of guaranteed annual income/family wage package. Kristol's gripe was not with the size or scope of government, but rather with government action that favored one group over the other for reasons of ethnic or gender identity alone. To Kristol social democracy was for everyone and "national greatness" was to be all inclusive.
On the other end of the neocon spectrum, the Commentary crowd was primarily opposed to this "second wave civil rights movement" for reasons that dare not be discussed without the charge of anti-semitism flowing freely (and needlessly). I will merely say that American blacks were not the preferred "victim" group with the Podhoretz clan, and leave it at that.
By focusing on decentralism rather than anti-communism, and community autonomy instead of cultural liberalism, the Ron Paul kids and their fellow travelers are promoting a much more "inclusive" form of anti-progressive politics. Though the paleoconservatives of old were right on most of the particulars, they were starting from a reference point that was a dead end and allowed for easy neocon takeover.
I don't blame the paleos for trying to make allies and build a coalition. That is the nature of politics. I do blame them for being hopelessly naive, and at times so dangerously preoccupied with certain ethnic dynamics, as to allow the worst of the worst within the "conservative umbrella."
Traditionalist conservatives and libertarians need not make enemies with a left that is increasingly allied with them on the most crucial issues of the day. An "alternative right" that has room for welfare statist "libertarians" like Charles Murray, or Israel-first White Nationalists like Larry Auster, ought not be shutting its doors to George McGovern, Ralph Nader, Gore Vidal or Robert Williams...it should be embracing them.