Matt Lewis writes over at The Week:
Something weird is happening on the American Right. Over at Politico Magazine, Michael Auslin, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, has penned a column titled “America Needs a King.”
Had Auslin’s strange desire not come on the heels of Pat Buchanan’s paean to Vladimir Putin, or an anti-democracy movement being championed by tech libertarians like Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, one might see this as merely an example of an academic being intellectually provocative. In other words, “trolling” us.
But this isn’t mere trolling. It’s a trend.
Hmmm. Color me unconvinced. For starters, Michael Auslin — a friend and colleague of mine at the American Enterprise Institute — doesn’t want a king, I’m fairly certain. He was making a point about the political culture. Moreover, to lump him in the same intellectual camp of Pat Buchanan (or Peter Thiel) is pretty ridiculous. Also, Buchanan as far as I can tell isn’t calling for a monarchy in his regrettable praise for Putin (and Buchanan’s standing on the right is remarkably diminished these days). Peter Thiel’s views — while always interesting — strike me as more of a mix of technocracy and minarchism, not monarchism. Lewis goes on to talk about the neoreactionaries, an interesting intellectual subculture from what I can tell, but calling them extremely marginal to the mainstream right probably still gives them too much credit.
Lewis also suggests that conservatives have a special weakness for strong men. This isn’t a ridiculous statement, but it woefully lacks context. It’s true that conservatives have sometimes championed dictators in foreign countries, but almost entirely as bulwarks against Communism. Moreover, the idea that right-wingers are uniquely prone to liking strongmen might come as a surprise to some given the Left’s defenses of Stalin (the Man of Steel) to, more recently, Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro (one might also quote all the wonderful things The New Republic and others had to say about Benito Mussolini).
By the end of the piece, Lewis offers a number of to-be-sures and take-backs acknowledging the generally flimsy or non-existent connective tissue between his main examples. He then writes:
Still, they all have some things in common. First, they are boldly venturing outside the bounds of what would have been considered acceptable shared political opinion just a few years ago. This is, perhaps, indicative of the low level of confidence we have in our system and our leaders, of the atomization and feeling of alienation that is plaguing our nation, and also of the way technology can empower people whose opinions are outside the mainstream to spread what unconventional ideas.
But the other things these movements have in common is that they occur during a time when America looks weak.
Additionally, these movements tacitly accept that conservatism as a political force is utterly incapable of slowing the leftward march of liberalism. By definition, conservatives, who want to conserve the good things about the past, are always playing defense. When you consider that many of my conservative views aren’t terribly different from John F. Kennedy’s views in 1960, this becomes self-evident.
Some on the Right have given up the belief that they can fix our country by working within the current paradigm. And for a country that got its start by breaking the yoke of monarchy, what these conservatives are proposing is really quite radical.