The Corner

Getting the Gipper’s Back

Another week, another Reagan-bashing article, this time appearing in Obamaweek Newsweek, by Jeremy McCarter, entitled “Reagan Was Wrong.” All good for me, I suppose. Reagan in headlines must draw in readers, because once you get into the text of McCarter’s essay, it turns out not to be about Reagan at all, but is rather a long mash note to the late Henry Fairlie, who disdained American conservatism for contradictory reasons — first, its supposed lowbrow populism, and for its un-conservative embrace of open markets that undermine tradition and other aspects of Burkean conservatism. Fairlie and McCarter both fail to understand (along with, let’s admit it, some conservatives) that American conservatism has always been a different animal than European conservatism, a fact Patrick Allitt captures in his new book, The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities Throughout American History. Says Allitt rightly: “American conservatism has always had a paradoxical element, entailing a defense of a revolutionary achievement.”

I won’t rehearse the familiar intramural conservative arguments here, except to say that it is precisely this dynamic tension that accounts for much of the success of the Right in recent decades — a dynamic tension wholly absent on the Left (as Jonah has often observed here) and hence incomprehensible to most writers on the Left such as McCarter and Fairlie. McCarter offers a sampling of Fairlie’s scorn for American conservatism. Fine. But I think NRO readers might like to take note of a few of the other things Fairlie had to say about Reagan and Democrats back in the 1980s that have gone missing from McCarter’s quote book. After Reagan finished his first 100 days in office, Fairlie wrote in the Washington Post: “It is almost a heresy for someone of my beliefs to say that this transition takes my mind back to 1933. Yet how can one deny it? This is not Truman to Eisenhower, or Eisenhower to Kennedy, or Johnson to Nixon, or Ford to Carter. This is a feeling of a nation with its own mandate.”

In 1983, Fairlie tried to warn Democrats about their intellectual lassitude: “Those Democrats who are seriously interested in the future of their party should be ready to consider the fact, however unwelcome, that it is the Republicans who in recent years have been appealing to masses of voters who have considered themselves disenfranchised.”

Meanwhile, props to Ramesh, who gets the Gipper exactly right in his new piece. Lo and behold, the piece is actually about Reagan.

Most Popular

U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Science & Tech

Set NASA Free

The Trump administration has proposed shifting the International Space Station from a NASA-exclusive research facility to a semi-public, semi-private one. Its plan would nix all government funding for the ISS by 2025 and award at least $150 million per year to NASA to help with the transition. This would be a ... Read More