Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – To the Dude Maker Hotline, a piece posted at the American Conservative magazine yesterday last by Daniel McCarthy, “The Right’s Civil War.” Making another return appearance, editor of the American Conservative Magazine, Daniel McCarthy. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: To the Dude Maker Hotline, a piece posted at the American Conservative magazine yesterday last by Daniel McCarthy, “The Right’s Civil War.”
Jack Hunter has resigned from Sen. Rand Paul’s office, in light of criticisms of his “Southern Avenger” background.
Mike: Then Daniel goes into some of the things about Jack’s resignation. Then he delves into this über deep and very complex and long-running conversation or internecine feud between factions inside the “conservative movement.” One side you have the Harry Jaffaites, descendants of Leo Strauss — I just call them Straussians — and those that believe in the Lincoln version of nationalism and American exceptionalism. Then on the other side, a smaller, crankier minority that are not Lincoln lovers, do not believe in the grandness and wonder of the almighty and ever-expanding centralized state and have been voicing that opinion since the 1950s. So this continues unabated to this day, and now it has embroiled, or ensnared at least, to some degree Senator Rand Paul from the great State of Kentucky. Dan McCarthy has written about it and we thought we should talk about it here on the program. Making another return appearance, editor of the American Conservative Magazine, Daniel McCarthy. Hello, Daniel, how are you?
Daniel McCarthy: Hi, Mike, thanks very much for having me on.
Mike: You’re very, very welcome. Good to hear from you today. Just flesh out a little bit of what “The Right’s Civil War” piece is about. Then we’ll go clause by clause, as they were supposed to go in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, and we’ll see if we can get to the bottom of this.
McCarthy: Well, you’re seeing a number of criticisms are being made in the media of Jack Hunter, which are pretty far off base. People have portrayed him as being some sort of a racist or what they call a neoconfederate. He certainly says a number of things that are very provocative, a number of things a radio host or columnist for a weekly newspaper tends to say in order to stir debate, in order to prompt people to think dramatically about questions that they may never have considered before, such as something like secession. What is the concept really about? You have a number of attacks on Jack Hunter which I think have not really gotten to the intellectual core of what he was trying to do.
Mike Church Show Transcript – A Belief In Secession, Self-Government, and Rand Paul Are Dangerous To The State
My article spells out how there’s been a long tradition on the right, sort of two traditions that have been in conflict, one of them being the one you mentioned by Harry Jaffa in which an argument for centralization is made that references back to Abraham Lincoln and to a number of other things like that. On the other hand you have both libertarians and traditional literary conservatives who have been very critical of centralization today in the 20th or 21st century who often tie their arguments back to history as well, even though sometimes what they’re really talking about are more modern conflicts like the welfare state and not really so much trying to get a purely historical view of what was happening in the 1860s….
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Mike: I think if you really and sincerely — I don’t mean you specifically, I mean the royal you — if you really and sincerely wish to delve into what was happening in the 1860s, that is an impossible task to do unless you’re going to study what happened in the 1850s. If you’re going to study what happened in the 1850s and bring that into the conversation, that’s another impossibility unless you’re going to go back to the 1830s and 1840s. You might even have to go all the way back to the Federal Convention of 1787 to really grab the proverbial bull by the horns and discuss this.
What I find in some of the comments I read at your website at amconmag.com and your particular article, even by some people who I still respect and admire, I just think they swallowed a big, sweet pill and haven’t questioned it, what I find is the common strain that runs through this — and I try not to act or sound like this, by the way — is that the search for historical truth seems to take a backseat to what it is that we would like to prove today. Would you say that I’m off base or am I spot on?
McCarthy: You’re spot on, absolutely.
Mike: Okay. If we seek an historical review so that, as Patrick Henry said, I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that’s the lamp of experience. If we seek the lamp of experience, you have to wade all the way back into the genesis of this and to why it became the way it was, how it stayed, in other words how the institution of slavery remained legal, and what were the attempts to do things about it, what those who attempted to do those things said about it, what defense or offenses were committed, what parts of the Constitution they cited or said needed to be cited in order to either continue it or end it.
I think, just in reviewing some of the contemporary work of the day, which is very difficult to get your hands on around 1865 to 1870, there are two very clear schools of thought. What you find is, not surprisingly, the Southern view and the Northern view. What happened after 1868 or 1870 or so is that the winning side, the Union side, the Northern view won out. The Southern view just kind of went away. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that these guys began writing about this and they were called revisionists. The interesting thing was, there was a kind of truce about this, is that the revisionists weren’t revising in the direction of: both sides had a point to brew and the war settled the point. The revisionists moved towards: both sides had a point to prove, but one was so virtuous and honorable that the other side’s point of view doesn’t matter and we shouldn’t even consider it; we’ll just assign it and say it was slavery, slavery, slavery, slavery, slavery and that’s the end of it. I think this was pretty much the mode of thinking all the way up until the time that maybe a guy like Mel Bradford goes: Hold on a cotton pickin’ minute here. There’s some actual history behind this. Again, where am I wrong?
McCarthy: I think one thing that’s useful is to try and think about counterfactual history, things that didn’t happen but if they had happened, how would they change how we would look back on the sequence of events and what their values are? For example, if it had been the case that an anti-slavery minority in the country, a small number of states which had been anti-slavery and felt as if they were totally outnumbered by slave states were about to change the laws of the nation as a whole in order to make the entire country pro-slavery, I think absolutely nobody would object to the idea that those anti-slavery states could secede rather than have the laws of the majority that were evil laws imposed on them. Very clearly, I think the concept of secession is theoretically distinct from the concept of slavery.
That doesn’t mean, however, that in talking about the history of what can separate them that easily because that’s counterfactual history. Real history did involve an anti-slavery emerging majority in the country and a pro-slavery minority set of states. That did historically connect those two issues. That becomes a matter that’s very difficult, very sensitive to try and even talk about secession in isolation from slavery. It’s something that can’t be done, but at the same time, on some level, it has to be done. That’s a tension that I think anyone who talks about these things has to address.
Mike: I’m out here raising my hand going: Ooh, ooh, Mr. McCarthy, I’ll talk about it. Just in keeping in the line of discussion, what you just said, this is what bound up Jack Hunter in this imbroglio. It’s the exact point that you just made, and by affiliation it was an attempt on some people’s part to bind up Senator Rand Paul in the same conversation, even though there’s no historical evidence, not a shred in the historical record that Jack and Rand share that point of view, unless they did it on the bus when they were campaigning in Kentucky and Jack was taking notes for the book The Tea Party Goes to Washington, right?
McCarthy: I think the picture of Jack that’s been painted by these attackers from the neoconservative side and from the left is completely inaccurate, and it’s doubly inaccurate to try to tie Jack Hunter’s development and ideas to Senator Paul. Senator Paul has come to his own ideas through his own study of things and so has Jack Hunter. One man may work for the other, but that doesn’t mean that they follow the same intellectual trajectory.
Mike: Dan McCarthy is the editor of American Conservative Magazine. That’s at amconmag.com. You can find him on Twitter, @ToryAnarchist. I always ask you, are you still a Tory anarchist?
McCarthy: Absolutely, yes.
Mike: Let me switch the gear of the conversation a little more, steer it back towards what’s going on today with Senator Paul. One of your writers, Daniel Larison, has been writing an awful lot about this, as have a few other bloggers. Do you think the establishment right, as they are known, and I’m speaking of the John McCains, Lindsey Grahams, Kelly Ayottes of the world, those stonewall defenders of the status quo in the House of Representin’, Speaker Boehner, majority leader Cantor and some of the others, do you think they have a genuine and maybe visceral fear that their point of view and their dominance over the massive machine that is the Republican Party is in jeopardy?
McCarthy: Very much so. In fact, you can look at what’s happening in Wyoming right now where Dick Cheney’s daughter is thinking of running for senate. She wants to run an insurgency campaign. She wants to topple the sitting Republican senator. It really looks as if she doesn’t have much of a chance. The whole faction of the party that was associated with the Cheneys and the likes of Senator McCain and Lindsey Graham, that faction is very much distrusted by the public at large and in fact by the conservative base. Rand Paul and this new kind of conservatism, this much more libertarian kind of conservatism is a rising power right now. The neocons are absolutely terrified of that and are desperate to do whatever damage they can to that movement.
Mike: The follow-up question is: You, as an editor of a major serial publication, do you think by the correspondence you get, some of the other things you see written by some of your fellow editors and colleagues, do you think their attack is working or is it backfiring on them?
McCarthy: I think it’s a little too soon to say. I certainly think the fundamentals are that the neoconservatives had power basically during the George W. Bush administration, and that was disastrous for the Republican Party. It was disastrous for the whole country. The facts on the ground have basically disproven everything the neocons believe. Therefore, I think the conservative base, quite naturally and quite logically, is turning to Senator Rand Paul. These sorts of attacks here and there that we’ve seen against Senator Paul really aren’t going to be able to change those facts on the ground. The neocons have a record that has been dismal and disastrous. Therefore not only the Republican base but also the country as a whole is, I think, looking for an alternative, and Rand Paul seems to be providing that.
Mike: Keeping in the 2014 / 2016 mode of questioning and looking into the crystal ball, there’s another emerging, and I think this is the more important of the emerging — it may not be politically important but I think it’s culturally important — there is an emerging school of thought and of reason that I guess you could call, I like to call [r]epublicanism. There’s a group of people out there that calls it front porch republicanism. Some people call it localism. You had a big spread in the American Conservative Magazine about the return to localism. I know our mutual friend and one of your writers, Bill Kaufman, is a big localist. It seems to me that the local angle is something that is growing. It’s very vibrant. It’s very inspirational. It’s personal. It’s something that everyone, on some level, can relate to. Just to give you a great example, there’s a really good post — not that Dan’s post isn’t good because it is — by Gracy Howard last night at amconmag.com, “The Courage of Boundary-Challengers.” I’m assuming Gracy is a she?
McCarthy: Oh, yes, of course.
Mike: You don’t know these days. Ms. Howard has posted a most provocative look at localism. She quotes someone else and they mutually conclude that even people that move off to big cities and leave their non-Rod Dreher hamlets in St. Francisville, Louisiana — Rod Dreher is a writer for amconmag.com and has that great book Little Way of Ruthie Leming book out. Even those that don’t return to St. Francisville, Louisiana and flee as fast as they can and put as much distance between them and the small town they were raised in, even they, and they may not know it, actually are localists because they always complain about or talk about how homesick they become from time to time. Did you get a chance to read Ms. Howard’s post?
McCarthy: I did in fact have a look at it. I thought it was very insightful.
Mike: On the subject of localism, is this something that transcends parties or is this something in your opinion that a party could pick up on and use to its political advantage? Not that I’m an advocate for this but we are talking realism and we are talking life in the United States in 2013.
McCarthy: I think this is an issue that transcends parties; therefore if this is something that’s going to go forward, if it’s going to have an effect on our national life, it’s something you’ll ultimately see being picked up by both parties because it’s something the great mass of Americans really want. They want to get a life that is led in a more personal way, that’s led in a more context-rich way instead of being part of a more national mass where massive powers, whether it’s big government, the big banks, an employer like McDonald’s or Wal-Mart, where these massive forces that we have very little influence over are controlling our lives. I think people on both the left and right, both Republicans and Democrats, would love to have more control over their own lives. It’s going to take some time, but eventually I expect you’ll start to see this show in both parties.
Mike: Ron Paul once told me — I asked him a question similar to this. It wasn’t on the exact same subject. Ron Paul said: Mike, the people are already there. It takes the political class three, five, sometimes ten years to catch up. Do you think Paul is right?
McCarthy: Absolutely. You even saw a little bit on the left in the early 2000s. Someone like Ralph Nader represented some of this, for example. I do think you’re going to see both elements on the left and elements on the right over time getting this message through to the major political parties. Then we’ll start to see some reform, but it will take a long time.
Mike: So at the end of the day, Senator Rand Paul, at the end of the Jack Hunter phase and now that this “distraction” has been put to bed and Jack is going to resume his career, Senator Paul will continue doing the things he’s done. Has he arrived on the other side of this as strong of a candidate, less strong of a candidate, or is he stronger because now he knows just how vicious this is going to be?
Mike Church Show Transcript – The Neo-Confederate Storm: Rand Paul, Jack Hunter, And All Those “Bigoted Southern Rebels”
McCarthy: Well, I think there’s certainly an element of truth to the last point. Rand Paul, every time he faces one of these battles, Rand Paul gets a deeper knowledge of just what forces are arrayed against him. I think fundamentally he’s still pretty much as strong a contender in 2016 as he was before. The reason for that, again, has to do with the fundamentals. We have had a chance to test out neoconservatism during the Bush years. We’ve had a chance to test out a left-wing alternative to neoconservatism in the Obama years. Both of those have really fallen flat and failed the country. I think there’s a tremendous demand for another alternative. Rand Paul is working very hard to develop that. A lot of people seem to be willing to give him the chance to try it out.
Mike: So it seems that the libertarian-leaning point of view may actually get a hearing. Dan, this is why I think it is so vitally important for serious conservatives, and I mean people that take their conservatism seriously, not your political conservatism, your actual quest to conserve the good things and restore some of the good things from the past that our nationalism has cast asunder, it is vitally important to have more of the conversations of the kind that Rod Dreher is having with his audience and with yours about those things that make the conservative life, what makes the American life or life in the United States worth living. There are good things out there. You went before me at the APL conference last year. You said something I thought was funny and true at the same time. You said: We can’t just be this group of people that run around complaining with this little, black, pigpen cloud over our head all the time and it’s always raining. The final word from Dan McCarthy on accentuating some of the positive, non-political things.
McCarthy: It’s really true. Even in politics, you see the last time you had conservatism of any kind that was very popular and viable was when you had someone like Ronald Reagan. He was always a very optimistic, sunny warrior. Our country has faced such trauma in the past decade. We had a Pearl Harbor-like event with 9/11. We had a Vietnam-like event with the Iraq War. We had a Great Depression-like event with the Great Recession. All of these contributed to the demoralization of our national life. What’s needed right now is a kind of re-moralization, encouragement, a rediscovery of the virtues that made this country great in the first place and can do so again if we get these big institutions that are very flawed out of the way and let local communities reassert themselves.
Mike: Brilliantly said, my friend. Dan McCarthy, editor of American Conservative Magazine. You can get it in your mailbox every month. The print edition is always great to read. Subscribe online. Go to amconmag.com and follow that @ToryAnarchist, Daniel McCarthy. Daniel, thanks for your time.
McCarthy: Thanks again, Mike.
End Mike Church Show Transcript