A New Conservative Strategy

Despite wresting the great prize from the hands of the heiress apparent in the 2016 Presidential elections, there is a palpable ambivalence on the American Right about the future of its beloved country. Perceiving violent enemies abroad and ideological adversaries domestically, many conservatives now find it imperative to ensure their ideas are not distorted by leadership within their own party.

A 2017 Pew Research Center study seems to confirm some success for the Left in persuading certain segments of the public to its political views. From 2000 – 2016, the share of the public self-identifying as left-leaning increased from 41 to 48%. Conversely, those self-identified as Right-leaning increased from 37 to 39%. While recent electoral gains demonstrate that the Republican Party is still a viable alternative to the Democrats, much commentary has been focused on the dangers of the advancement of a left-leaning agenda among a broader scope of societal institutions. If the Right desires to be an ongoing dynamic and moral force in America, it follows that we not only understand the various elements animating our society but that we seek to influence the course of affairs in a manner congenial to our own philosophy. In order to preserve the traditions of capitalism, constitutionalism, Judeo-Christian values and Western culture, we should translate our convictions into more specific methods by which we seek to convert newer generations of Americans. This calls not only for the broad exposition of Conservative doctrine, but also the development of a long-term and overarching strategic conception.

Priding ourselves ‘realists’ on the international stage, American Conservatives instantly shift gears into disturbing naiveté when confronting a domestic, yet hostile leftist onslaught. Many on the Right seem content to depend upon the goodwill or at least ‘fairness’ of organizations controlled by our opponents. Too often we have left evangelism to the religious – firstly Christianity to which is owed much of our values, but also the secular Left that has substituted ideology for theology. Understanding why the American Right continually fights its battles within the administrative framework established by its antagonists is partly inherent in its role in the American political journey. Being the repository of the historical American value system, many positions could be stated more easily in the negative rather than in a forward looking program.

A renewed effort on the part of the American Right would be above all to clearly define its ultimate aims. What is it trying to accomplish in the long term? Into what general level of importance can these objectives be classified? What skills and other assets may be brought to bear in the achievement of these goals? Its analyses of the Left can then take on a different cast – not only to offer a cerebral critique, but to go the additional step of using this frame of reference as the source of operational advantages over their approaches to public policy. The success of any institution is a function of its determination, resources, ingenuity and the strength of its leadership, relative to its rivals. All these qualities reside on the Right but will need a strategic framework – conceptual, intellectual and operational – within which to reach their fullest potential. Our modus operandi thus far has been to wait on events and then to react – in other words to be dominated by circumstances. It would not be an insignificant contribution to our purposes not only to develop this superior way of thinking, but to further institutionalize it and therefore not passively wait on some great awakening to realign the nation. Though mediocrity cannot be one’s objective, the Conservative movement should be successful even with occasionally average people occupying powerful offices – in a manner analogous to how the founding fathers designed the internal arrangements of the United States. In other words, the Right should foster a permanent set of institutions serving its ends that transcend any individual personality.

No group holding the courage of its convictions should be satisfied in allowing the spiritual inheritance of the current generation, so excruciatingly husbanded throughout the ages, to be whittled away by the frivolity of their contemporaries. It is our fortunate accident that America has already traversed a titanic struggle with an extreme Leftist dogma embodied in the Cold War. While not an exact template, this can serve as the beginnings of a guide to how one might confront an ideologically energetic menace. In 1947 George Kennan penned ‘The Long Telegram’ – a seminal document that scrutinized the Soviet Union and recommended practical steps in combating its growing influence. What was distinctive about this report was that it not only exposed the moral failings of communism, but rather it perceptively prodded its psychological nature, how this disposition affected its overall operational structure and then outlined a long-range policy of how the United States could combat the threat. Through this lens, one could interpret and even predict the general behavior of the communists and could discern the difference between a seemingly accommodating move and a genuine shift in policy by the Soviets. I am not suggesting that the modern American Left will advocate a form communism or that we can view them in completely analogous terms, my desire rather is to distill a style of conceptual thinking that George Kennan applied to the Soviet Union and use this as part of a set of tools that must then be translated into concrete plans. Among the important insights that Kennan made was that the Soviet ideology (a) (would) “…fill every nook and cranny available to it” and that (2) “can be contained by the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and maneuvers of Soviet policy”. With these perspectives the United States inaugurated the Cold War which ended in American victory (and Soviet collapse) years later.

Since Kennan proposed to confront a distant, foreign country, his system was based upon the military and economic strength of the United States. Because we are dealing firstly with domestic opponents, our approach must ultimately be rooted in an ongoing effort to persuade and induce the majority of Americans, especially the young, to our vision. In this mission, the venues of academia and mass communications will be crucial. That these two areas are dominated by our adversaries is no insight – the Right must rather seek to change and even reverse this fact rather than accepting it as the default state of being. There is no inherent reason why this cannot be done if an ample amount of talent and creativity is brought to bear in these fields – witness the enduring success of Fox News, talk radio and think tanks. Our underrepresentation in both the media and academic worlds should be understood as a reason for optimism because they are fertile opportunities where we can make inroads and advance our principles. We should therefore assess these worlds as vast untapped industries to be exploited rather than an immutable fait accompli of our competitors.

Psychological considerations

Throughout history, weaker parties in any ongoing struggle were able to gain incremental advantages and even usurp their rivals by correctly judging and shrewdly manipulating the other’s psychological disposition. In fact, almost all revolutionary movements – and the activist Left should be discerned in this context – start from a posture of weakness and are able to marshal a preponderance of strength to upset and occasionally overturn the status quo. The Right’s psychological inclination has often been to accommodate ‘reasonable’ demands that, for each individual case do not constitute a radical shift in belief or lifestyle, but in aggregate may prove revolutionary and irreversible. Yearning for frankness on behalf of their fellow Americans, the Right fails to come to grips with a policy that uses negotiation as preparation for a final overthrow. Too often we assume that our interlocutors are simply a misguided, restless, occasionally bombastic lot. In recent years, as the result of growing Liberal power, the Right has felt increasingly marginalized and bewildered at the chutzpah of its opponents. From attacks on the Freedom of Speech, the use of the IRS to harass Conservative groups, intimidation of journalists and the use of the legal system to attack its opponents, the Right seems confounded and unable to translate its complaints into a check on the Left’s ambitions. On closer examination, one may speculate that a fundamental reason the Left is so vicious to those with whom it differs is precisely because of its own unspoken moral self-consciousness.

Economic considerations

Regardless of how sensible the Right may consider it proposals, they would remain theoretical if not backed in most cases by financial resources. A thorough investigation into the sources and uses of funds of both major factions must be undertaken to properly dissect this indispensable element. Even though such an analysis is outside the scope of this article, some general observations may be made.

The Right should seek to maximize the total amount of finances that may be accumulated to further our ideas in ways sustainable for the indefinite future. If not directly belonging to any Right wing group, major organizations could be induced to use their heft in a fashion compatible with our own designs. Much of our monetary backing has traditionally been from private donations – the Right believing that government funds should be returned to taxpayers whenever possible. Since we do not operate in a vacuum however, we must also recognize that the wealth of the state is being used skillfully by one camp, while the other looks on from the sidelines, rendered impotent by its own ethos. It is absolutely essential that this outlook be seriously reevaluated. Currently, the fact remains that the general public has been unwittingly funding the initiatives of the Left for decades. The predictable consequence of this is a proliferation of resources that propagate its own vision. Astutely leveraging any monies available to us will be a highly useful contribution. The ability to squeeze every drop of influence out of our dollars is vital. We should focus our capital on areas with disproportionate influence while inducing our opponents to either squander their own or redirect and frustrate their energies.

Morality and Strategy

As our reinvigorated approach begins to yield dividends, we will from time to time have to make decisions which speak to questions of ethics. It is my observation that the American Right tends to attract people of a higher ethical caliber, courageous, responsible, industrious and kind. Nevertheless, it is also my belief that if we do not demonstrate a commitment to winning internal American battles with the legitimate and honorable methods currently available, the Right may be tempted by desperation to engage in acts that do not represent its highest virtues. Only a movement lacking imagination and inspiration can control all branches of national government and look on passively while the foundations of their civilization are redefined right in front their eyes.

Creating media outlets, influencing the world of culture and ideas and harnessing the power of technology are all ‘soft targets’, meaning, they are open to anyone having the motivation to utilize them. In electoral politics on the other hand, we have ‘hard targets’ where we must play tougher and every result is a zero-sum game between passionate competitors.

Many new converts can be won to our side if we conceive of internal American life as being an ecosystem of activity – where each part influences each other part and all elements are in flux simultaneously. While we may experience loss in one area, we can score big successes in another. All available tools must be made at our disposal. The essence of strategy is first to define one’s objectives and then improve one’s own standing, while degrading that of the opponent in pursuit of the goal. The nature and role of all relevant factors must be analyzed. Both successes and failures must be frankly scrutinized, with emphasis shifting from less to more effective methods.

In 1980, the American luminary William Buckley published prescient words regarding the pretensions of Marxism:

“The thinking has been done. The research has been done… It requires only that it (anti-Marxism) become an official crusade, one to which we will attach ourselves as vigorously as if we were spreading the word of how to extirpate smallpox from the fetid corners of the world.”

Hardly a statement of passive acceptance of circumstances! We would do well to recall such sentiments to guide the next leg of our journey as we seek to seize the moral and spiritual offensive in our exceptional country.

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