The Corner

Struggling

Yesterday, Betsy Woodruff had a piece about Stephen Bannon, the new chief of the Trump campaign (and therefore a chief of the Republican party). Betsy Woodruff is a reporter for the Daily Beast, who used to work at National Review.

The opening of her piece is as follows:

Donald Trump’s new campaign boss — the guy white supremacists are so excited about — once described D.C.’s top Republicans as “cunts.”

Stephen Bannon . . . used the phrase two years ago in emails with Breitbart reporter Matt Boyle. Bannon ran Breitbart at the time, and the two schemed about how to get activists to “turn on the hate” as part of a plan to “burn this bitch down.”

To read the e-mails, consult the piece. They reveal the mindset that is now in charge of the Republican party.

It occurred to me that the two phrases already mentioned — “turn on the hate” and “burn this bitch down” — are perfect mottos for the new GOP: the Trump GOP.

I thought of what Roger Scruton said to Mona Charen and me, in a podcast last year:

“I think that, in the end, there is something that unites all conservatives, which is that they are pursuing something they love. My view is that the Left is united by hatred, but we are united by love: love of our country, love of institutions, love of the law, love of family, and so on. And what makes us conservatives is the desire to protect those things, and we’re up against people who want to destroy them, and it’s very simple.”

The gap between the Scruton view and the Trump GOP view is wide. Which view will prevail? Which will be known, throughout America and the world, as “conservative”?

Will it be Bannon or Buckley? The National Enquirer or National Review? (Trump, as you know, cites the Enquirer on such matters as the Kennedy assassination, and says that the tabloid ought to win Pulitzers.) Will it be Alex Jones or George Will? Milo or Milosz?

You get the idea. In my opinion, conservatives should be wary of alliance with this other kind of Right. The gap between the two camps is too great.

I think that 2016 has presented many of us with a great relearning: about the fundamentals of politics, philosophy, and “life its ownself” (Dan Jenkins). I think conservatism probably has as little in common with the alt-Right, or whatever we should call it, as it does with the Left.

When you speak of love instead of hate, construction instead of destruction, swaths of the Right cry, “Loser! Cuck! RINO!” I know this, because they tweet at me on Twitter. You can also see them, hear them, elsewhere in the social media.

This struggle, between the idea of conservatism that Roger Scruton expressed, and the thoughts and emotions in those e-mails that Betsy Woodruff reported on, will go on. And a lot rides on the outcome.

Believe me, I sympathize with the incendiary Right. I have been appalled at the Left for most of my life. I want to beat them as much as the next guy (the next righty). But how and with what?

What can conservatives do to defend freedom and civilization? What can we do to stem and reverse the encroachment of malign forces at home and abroad?

National Review has been thinking about this since 1955, and we’ll keep at it. Thanks for joining us!

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