July 14 marks the fifth anniversary of the launch of this website. From the beginning, our mission to be “the leading voice of the next generation of American Conservatism” was predicated on emphasizing the word American.
We seek to conserve the meaning of that word in its fullest sense. America is a nation with a sovereign people and the legitimacy of its government is in direct proportion to that government’s recognition of that people’s sovereignty. Everything depends on that. Policies and politicians come and go, but a government derived from the consent of the governed is central to what distinguishes America from the tyrannies of the past.
The symposium that follows examines the future of the American Right (or conservatism, if you prefer) and the role of new voices like those at American Greatness in shaping that future.
We thank you for your loyal readership and we hope that the last five years have been as interesting, stimulating, and eye-opening for you as they have been for us. We mean to do what we can to make the next five years even greater.
Standing Against the Ruling Class
A few months back, reporter Emerald Robinson tweeted that, while the establishment conservative media is at best useless and at worst a backstabbing enemy, consumers of genuine rightist news and thought should not despair because a new ecosystem had emerged. She cited a handful of cable channels and websites. In looking at her list, it occurred to me that I had at least an indirect hand in founding three of them.
Including this website.
American Greatness was born from the ashes of the Journal of American Greatness, a blog I co-wrote with a small group of anons in the first half of 2016. My identity, hidden behind the pen name “Decius,” was supposed to be a great secret. But more than a few friends figured it out simply from reading my posts and thinking to themselves, “Yeah, that’s Anton.”
Among them were Ben Boychuk and Julie Ponzi, two old-time Claremonsters and dear friends who had, among other things, both attended my wedding.
That spring, Julie made a rare trip to New York—I hadn’t seen her in years; she didn’t look any older—where we discussed Trump, conservatism, the Republican Party, and the nation at length. I have a hard time recollecting any substantive disagreements, probably because there weren’t any.
The Journal of American Greatness quickly grew beyond what its writers (who all had full-time “normie” jobs, and hence something to lose) had envisioned, and so was deep-sixed a mere four months after it first appeared.
Very soon after that—voila! American Greatness. Julie and Ben picked up the ball we had set down, found a partner in another old-time Claremonster Chris Buskirk, and ran with it.
I wrote a lot for AmG (as the folder on my hard drive calls the site) [We prefer AG, but we’re not dogmatists—ed.] through that fall and winter, before a new job made publishing (temporarily) impossible. I recall Ben, who is not a preternaturally optimistic man, saying to me at that time, “I think this is gonna work.”
Indeed it has.
Things we dreamed about on conference calls back then—such as poaching big names like VDH and Conrad Black—they accomplished. (I hasten to clarify that I had no part in that, nor in any other of the site’s subsequent successes.)
American Greatness is now, with a handful of other sites (and Twitter accounts) at the center of the post-“conservative” Right. I put the word in sneer quotes not because of any intrinsic fault of its own but for what it’s devolved into in the hands of its official keepers. “Conservatism” today conserves only two things: its institutional positions and perks, and the ruling class’ grip on every aspect of American government and society.
American Greatness stands against all that, which alone would be enough to celebrate its existence. But it also offers a positive vision and sketches a way forward, both of which we will need in the coming struggle.
Pride being a sin makes me a sinner. I cannot help but be proud of whatever small role I played in the establishment of this great publication.
Michael Anton is a lecturer and research fellow at Hillsdale College, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, and a former national security official in the Trump Administration. He is the author most recently of The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return (Regnery).
The Future of American Conservatism Is Assertive Participation
As American Greatness reaches the fifth year of its publication, the future of American conservatism is already taking shape: spontaneous challenges to school boards and local city officials, and revulsion at soaring violent crime rates, anti-American school curricula, and racist imputations to all people and actions that aren’t woke Left. This is the strength that Alexis de Tocqueville saw in America 200 years ago: assertive participatory democracy.
It is the role and the destiny of contemporary American conservatism to roll back the teachers’ unions that abandoned the nation’s children and their parents during the pandemic, blackmailed the school boards and local governments before going back to work (long after thoroughly safe conditions had been assured), and triumphantly teach critical race theory and debunk the venerated personalities and traditions of American history.
Even though the media and the academy, under corrosive liberal occupation, have largely fallen into the hands of the ideological enemies of the traditional American system, a sizable majority of Americans uphold those traditional values. Their revolt against the woke school boards appears to be the beginning of the benign reaction to the lawlessness and Americaphobia that has gripped the media and the academy and is now oozing into and through the armed forces.
The public has been aroused, and once stirred, it is irresistible. Donald Trump poached much of the long-time Democratic strength in the working class and black and Hispanic communities, by offering remedies to their discontent—eliminating the endless illegal influx of foreign cheap labor across the southern border, and countering with enterprise zones the corporate relocations to cheap labor countries which then exported unemployment with their manufactured products back into the United States while the corporate profits remained abroad.
He thus drained Democratic support from the disadvantaged by application of traditional country club Republican capitalism. The conservative future is a counterrevolution to sweep from the bottom upwards, reacting to the anti-democratic Left, inflation, soaring violent crime, muddled leadership, and open southern borders. The media will roll over like poodles when the current woke fad wanes.
Conservatives will assure avoidance of tainted elections like the last one, and a completely non-political military and intelligence leadership, a much braver and more competent and balanced media, and a much less opinionated and monotonous entertainment and sports community. Conservatives will assert this resurgent and ultimately irresistible national will. It is distressing that the leader of a slothful teachers’ union and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff are defending critical race theory in almost identical terms. Conservatives will put all this behind us.
Conrad Black is a commentator and bestselling author of several books, most recently A President Like No Other: Donald J. Trump and the Restoring of America (Encounter).
The Better Mousetrap
Angelo M. Codevilla
Why, after five years, do so many beat a path to American Greatness’ door? Because Julie Ponzi, Ben Boychuk, and Chris Buskirk have built a better website. It’s not any better in terms of design. And it’s not that user-friendly, since it is, in part at least, financed by ad revenue. Content is what makes American Greatness a better mousetrap. And the content that brings it to the attention of so many is due to the editors’ exemplary editorship.
They practice the elements of good editorship, foremost among which is attention to the importance of what they publish. Having decided—correctly, as it turns out—what topics are worthy of the public’s attention, they have sought out authors to cover them. In the process, they have invited and developed young or otherwise unknown persons into becoming voices influential in national affairs. Having solicited thoughts on important matters, they read the incoming quickly, and make their choices.
The unevenness of the pieces’ quality reflects the breadth and diversity of opinion among Americans who yearn to right the wrongs being inflicted on us. But the overall quality of the editors’ judgments may be seen in the increasing frequency with which American Greatness products are shared, and hence make a difference.
Making a difference is what it’s all about. Julie Ponzi is a Southern California housewife and a graduate of a small college in central Ohio. A nobody. Many contributors are also nobodies—e.g Julie Kelly, an Illinois housewife—who have become influential voices in America. Such is America’s glory.
American Greatness proves once again the old saw that, if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.
Angelo M. Codevilla is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of many books on American politics and strategy.
American Greatness is unique. You won’t find the content that appears here anywhere else. And it is radical. Most other publications wouldn’t dare publish some of the things AG does.
The editors have courage; that’s a moral virtue. But they also have intellectual virtues. They understand that ideas matter, they know that “politics ain’t beanbag,” they care about the truth, and they know that honesty—even when honesty is painful—is what the country desperately needs right now.
Most mainstream conservative publications are pretty useless because the people in charge of them don’t even know what they stand for—if anything. Nowadays, the conservative establishment in Washington, D.C. mainly wants to conserve its fundraising lists and its good standing with the Beltway elites. It recycles lame and outmoded slogans from the 1980s and seems almost oblivious to the depth of the crisis our country is facing.
American Greatness understands that the older America—the America established by our founding fathers—is slipping away. We can’t afford to be conservative now; we need to be radical. That’s why AG doesn’t really call itself “conservative.” The label and the movement it represents are dying or already dead.
Patriotic Americans (what’s left of them) are in a fight to the death over the future of our republic. The enemies of America are winning right now. Their lies and tyrannical intentions grow bolder every day. But the fight isn’t over. My teacher, the great Harry Jaffa, insisted that history is not determined; and as long as there are people who love liberty and have the moral convictions to defend their God-given rights, anything is possible.
But America’s patriots need a reliable source of news, information, and analysis—along with intellectually serious essays that can remind us of the fundamental lessons about self-government, natural law, human equality, the moral foundation of the family, and other essential truths.
That courageous, honest truth—informed by a deep appreciation for ideas and principles—is what you’ll find here at American Greatness.
Glenn Ellmers is Weekend Editor of American Greatness, a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, and the author of The Soul of Politics: Harry Jaffa and the Fight for America, forthcoming in September from Encounter Books.
America’s Virtues Are Hers Alone
We are in debt to American Greatness if for nothing else but the reminder that there is greatness in our history and our character, or what used to be our character.
Some people will complain that when the nation was founded, not every adult person of sound mind was permitted to vote. Surely that is an ungenerous and ungrateful way to look at things. Where in the world at that time was the franchise more broadly granted, and for a wider range of offices, with affairs of importance at stake, than in the United States? We struck forth on a new path. The world would never be the same: the winds of an apparently irreversible change were blowing from the West. Conservatives may question whether the changes were all for the good, but liberals? What they have against these changes, I cannot tell.
Of course our history has been marred with great wrongs. And what nation is saintly? It is no surprise that Americans have sometimes been opportunistic: see the Mexican War. What does surprise, though, is how often Americans have given their lives for what they believed was right, regardless of whether it would profit them.
The world is full of men who would be Napoleon, but lacked the genius or the main chance. What needs explanation rather is a man like Robert Gould Shaw, who left his native home to fight on behalf of the beleaguered slaves of the South. America is (or was) a nation with the soul of a church, said Chesterton, and if that has sometimes embroiled us in business not our own, it has also brought the light of liberty to many regions of the world submerged in darkness. Imagine what Europe would have become had it not been for America. Or do not imagine it. Ask someone from Poland or Hungary.
It will be said that Americans stole a continent from the natives. Again I wonder whether people who say such a thing really should have preferred the great plains of the Midwest, some of the richest farmland in the world, land that now feeds many hundreds of millions of people, to remain untilled and undeveloped? Could the westward expansion have been more just? Yes, no doubt about that. But what needs explanation is not that a strong and technologically superior people moved into a land and took it over. That is the story of man.
What needs explanation is that Americans had, from the first, an admittedly inconsistent solicitousness for the Indians; think of the novels of Cooper and the poems of Longfellow. When Helen Hunt Jackson wrote A Century of Dishonor (1881), to call the American government to account for its negligence and its broken promises to the Indians, she made friends and enemies both, but she was surely not ignored, and her novel about a half-Indian half-Scots girl, Ramona (1884), was immensely popular—300 printings. Imagine a Chinese Communist writing about the suffering of the subjugated people of Tibet and becoming a political star overnight, and gaining the ear of some—not all—of the leaders in Beijing.
Every growing power has its myth of manifest destiny. But Americans had also a belief in the final judgment of God, to whom all the nations are as a drop in the bucket.
So I will not be bullied into shame for my country. Her sins have been the sins of all nations, but her virtues, or what used to be her virtues, are almost hers alone.
Anthony Esolen is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a professor and writer in residence at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts, in Warner, New Hampshire.
“Witless Ape Rides Escalator,” was the 2015 headline in National Review describing Donald Trump’s entry into the race for the Republican nomination. It was quite possibly the first airing of the establishment’s deep grievance against Trump and indeed anyone who was not in their clique. It came not from the Left but from the Right. And for many of us, it was the beginning of a realization that something was wrong with the publications we’d trusted and the writers we’d respected.
It was a great political awakening, and for many a great disillusionment: The once-mysterious political landscape came into sharp focus, revealing the fundamental divide between a self-appointed ruling class and the American citizen. The old cliché proved true—Republicans and Democrats, lifelong politicians on both sides, had more that united than divided them. They might disagree on policy, but more important by far was their shared conviction that the average American could not be trusted to manage his own affairs.
A lifetime spent in power or close to it may breed the conviction that one is indispensable. Certainly, the “conservative” political writers whom the Left is forever quoting (as in, “even so-and-so, who is conservative, thinks this, so you need to think it too . . .”) caught this bug badly. They grew accustomed to having the ear of the rich and powerful. They left America behind. And they were glad to be rid of it.
To the establishment Right as well as the Left, America is the last, greatest collection of dangerous idiots on earth. People who might think anything, believe anything, do anything. People, in short, who have too much freedom.
It’s perfectly true that people who lack strict governmental guidance may come up with all sorts of crazy ideas and do all sorts of crazy things. It is this fear that drives the establishment on both sides to limit freedom and expand government.
It is also true that people lacking this “guidance” are the most inventive, innovative, productive, happy, and generous people on earth. It is this belief that drives Americans to hold onto their freedoms with both hands, and restrain government.
American Greatness is America’s voice. Not the establishment voice, not the voice of people who wish to dedicate their lives to managing other people. It is the voice of freedom. We do not stand athwart history, yelling “stop!”—which is a pretty phrase but a silly idea. We serve rather as a reminder that the greatest honor America can bestow is citizenship. Not a seat in the Senate or on the Supreme Court, not even the presidency itself—nothing—can make you better than an ordinary American.
Dan Gelernter is an adjunct fellow for the Center for American Greatness.
One evening in 1992, a coven of culture warriors gathered to discuss Pat Buchanan’s run for the presidency. Among them were Russell and Annette Kirk, Murray Rothbard, Paul Gottfried, and Samuel Francis. At the time, Buchanan alone among political figures understood the threat that the political correctness regime spawned by the civil rights era posed. The Republican Party and the conservative movement not only had been trucked over while standing haplessly athwart the train tracks of history but had actively reconciled Americans to the death of the old order for which it claimed to stand.
Despite the “Reagan Revolution,” Republicans seem incapable of changing the country’s trajectory. Reagan, in fact, tripled the national debt, increased the federal workforce from about 324,000 to nearly 5.3 million people, and symbolically declared the victory of the civil rights regime when he signed MLK Day into law. Rather than dismantling Great Society programs as promised, the Gipper merely found a new way of financing them by plundering the future. President Donald Trump’s tenure reproduced many of these same results, from increasing the national debt, swelling the federal workforce, and normalizing Black Independence Day in the national psyche.
Each victory before and since would be crushed by the courts, strangled by regulatory bodies, and undermined by deracinated capital. And with each passing year, the conservative movement embraced the same or very similar rhetoric and worldview as their “liberal” counterparts.
Against this backdrop of uninterrupted failure, the group of aforementioned conservatives and libertarians met in Buchanan’s home. When the question arose about what name their ideological battle standard should bear, “conservative” floated through the room as a suggestion. “When Mrs. Kirk insisted that it should, because all its basic ideas had flown from her husband’s typewriter, Sam rose to register his dissent,” Gottfried recalls. “He wished that any association with a defeated and historically irrelevant movement be rejected and that instead we march under the banner of ‘the Right.'”
In retrospect, Gottfried believes Francis accurately diagnosed a fundamental problem with conservatism. It is born to lose, has lost, and could only continue to lose, consoling itself with “elegant reprimands of the establishment.” Francis’ point is perfectly illustrated by a National Review headline: “A Conservative Defense of Transgender Rights.” American Conservatism has failed to preserve the reality of biological distinctions between men and women—how could it ever conserve a people, a country, or a future?
In Frank Herbert’s Dune, the reader is introduced to the “attitude of the knife”—”chopping what’s off what’s incomplete and saying: ‘Now, it’s complete because it’s ended here.'” The paradox conservatives face is that they must become revolutionary to preserve anything worthwhile by cutting away the rot. They must first destroy and then rebuild. They must unlearn the slavish morality of the perpetual loser, disabuse themselves of blind loyalty to past forms and institutions, and advance into the future resolved to build new things on the principles of which the old ones were expressions.
American Greatness arose partly in response to this dilemma, and I am happy to have contributed to the attitude knife here for years, cutting away the dead orthodoxy so that something new can grow.
Pedro Gonzalez is associate editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture and a senior contributor to American Greatness.
Another Time for Choosing
Victor Davis Hanson
As the rise of publications like American Greatness demonstrates, we know what the future of the American Right is likely not to be. It won’t be a traditional Republican Party of open borders, as a conduit to illegal and cheap labor and an accelerant of tribal politics. Conservatism’s prior acquiescence to Davos-style globalism, and “let the market alone adjudicate national economic policy” are likewise not sustainable propositions.
The Marquess of Queensberry approach and the “live and let live” tolerance of controversial progressive cultural agendas has only empowered the current woke social revolution. Conservatives will not embrace fatalistic acceptance of China’s supposedly inevitable trajectory to world dominance. Nor will conservatism argue that the more Beijing is courted, made prosperous, and allowed to violate commercial norms to “catch up,” the more, in gratitude and success, it will gravitate to good international citizenship.
Optional and unilateral military interventions in the Middle East are losing traditional conservative, pro-military support. Given the emblematic careers and public commentaries of General Lloyd Austin, John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, General Mark Milley, Robert Mueller, and a host of retired and serving four-star admirals and generals, conservatives are likely to become Eisenhower-like in their vigilance about the threats to liberty and traditional values arising from this new military-intelligence-corporate complex—especially its extra-constitutional arrogance and chain-of-command propensity to monitor private citizens, warp political campaigns, and fast-tracked progressive cultural agendas.
In iconic terms, for better or worse the traditional Republican presidential résumé of the Bushes, John McCain, or Mitt Romney will not appeal to enough of the working classes. After all, at a time when the Republican Party made substantial gains at the local and state levels—particularly during the eight years of the Obama Administration—its presidential candidates lost the popular vote in seven out of the last nine elections, and have not won a 51 percent majority of the popular vote since 1988.
The usual explanations for failure at the top, even as conservatives did well regionally, seem valid enough: until 2016 there was a steady erosion of support from the white working class, whether we call them Reagan Democrats, blue dogs, or old Perot voters. No inroads were made in appealing to minority populations on the basis of shared class interests and anxiety over the elite cultural Left’s capture of the Democratic Party. National Republican elites too often lived out leftists’ stereotypes of a party controlled by polite men who, as wealthy professionals, felt their own careers were not just ideal models for others but easily attainable if the less fortunate just adopted their values and ethos.
Donald Trump, despite his alienation of suburbanites, offered a different pathway to electoral success in incorporating former Democrats of the working classes. His losses of proverbial swing voters or purple-state constituents came not because his new Republican Party and conservative agenda had alienated moderates, but because Trump’s combativeness, his resulting demonization in the media, and his attitude of getting mad at but not getting even with the swamp, ensured that he, rather than his policies, became the issue of the 2020 election.
Recent national trends may accelerate the political expression of a new conservatism. The public now accepts the dangers of the “deep state.” After the pandemic and lockdown, it is losing patience with government functionaries, whose directives are issued on the basis mostly of their appeals to authority rather than logic and common sense. Americans are becoming skeptical of the entire notion of alphabetic expertise—M.A., Ph.D., J.D., etc.—and of the elite universities, which claim to turn out both educated citizens and skilled technocrats. Our largest cities—Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle—are nearly ungovernable, unsafe, and, in their downtowns, increasingly unlivable. Crime has not been reduced by decriminalizing serious misdemeanors, slashing police budgets, or electing ostentatious left-wing identity-politics mayors, district attorneys, and police chiefs.
The goal of a new conservatism is to return to constitutional republicanism, secure and definable borders, a Jacksonian deterrent foreign policy, and fair rather than asymmetrical free trade. It must turn its attention to the incubator of racial polarization: the university. For a start, the government should exit the student loan business, tax large endowments, and demand constitutional protections for all students on campus. But the Right’s chief mission will be to end the polarizations of race and sex and unify the country by advancing middle-class interests and economic inclusiveness, rather than to outbid liberal tribalists.
Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 and his loss in 2020 both, in paradoxical fashion, empowered a new conservatism. In the former case, he showed how to defeat the establishment machine by offering agendas designed to enhance the working classes; in the latter election, his defeat reminded conservatives that institutionalizing a new American trajectory requires not just confronting but also outsmarting the Left.
Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and author of several books, including The Case for Trump. His next book, The Dying Citizen, will be published by Basic Books in October.
Politics Can’t Be Our Lodestar
The occasion of the fifth anniversary of American Greatness brings to mind the reality that the great difficulty in providing a forecast about the future of the Right in America is that it is not at all clear that “the Right” even exists in this country. Has it ever?
Back in 1950, in his preface to The Liberal Imagination, the critic Lionel Trilling famously wrote that “In the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.” Trilling went on to observe that “it is the plain fact that nowadays there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation.” There might be strong conservative impulses, Trilling allowed, but with some trifling exceptions he concluded that these impulses express themselves “only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.”
Much as I admire Trilling, I suspect that something closer to the opposite is true today. While there is plenty of conservative intellectual firepower abroad, efforts to realize those ideas on the ground, in policy, express themselves mostly in irritable political gestures which seek to resemble action. Why is this?
To a larger extent than we generally appreciate, I think, it is a matter of rhetoric—the art, as Aristotle defined it, of persuasion. On the one hand, those calling themselves “liberals” enjoy a virtual monopoly on the rhetoric of virtue. To appreciate the oddity of this state of affairs one need only reflect on how illiberal are those we call liberal today. It is easy to provide an historical archaeology for this phenomenon, beginning with Rousseau and his peculiar, if powerful and self-absorbed, notion of virtue and following up with Robespierre’s appropriation of that yeasty idea in his own fieldwork among the insufficiently virtuous denizens of late 18th-century France.
On the other hand, it is plain that many conservatives do not really believe their own rhetoric, since they tend to lead bifurcated lives, extolling a large menu of conservative ideas in public but then embracing policies guaranteed to render the realization of those ideas impossible. I believe this is true, anyway, of those to whom we have entrusted the direction and appointment of the ship of state. Democrats say and do “progressive” things. Republicans say some conservatives things but overwhelmingly do progressive things just as the Democrats do.
At the end of the day, however, the problem is less the direction than the ubiquity of our politics. Yes, in the debate between Right and Left, the Right generally finds itself playing on the Left’s home turf, using the Left’s instruments and even its vocabulary. Paradoxically, though, the Right will have a future only to the extent that the business of life is no longer cast into the sclerotic but domineering terms of Left and Right. That is to say, the Right will triumph insofar as it stops defining itself in reaction to the Left.
For that to happen, politics would have to be dethroned from its position as the lodestar of life. The chances of that happening, I suspect, are de minimis. Which is why I remain somewhat hesitant about the future of the Right.
Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books.
Talk about serendipity.
My family and I were at our Michigan lake house the weekend of the Charlottesville rally in August 2017. As we watched the PGA Championship on Saturday, news broke about the chaos between protesters and police. As I checked Twitter for the next few hours, I was astounded at the “conservative” editors and writers blaming President Trump for what was happening. This included a prominent legacy “conservative” publication I was writing for at the time.
It was clear that this group of NeverTrumpers, and even some who supported the president, would never stop siding with the Left to perpetuate a phony narrative about Donald Trump and his supporters. I decided to search online for the name of a new outlet that had just been featured in the New York Times, promising to challenge the “conservative” movement and promote America First policies. “American Greatness gives voice to a growing genre of conservative thinking that wants the right to be less oriented to the issues that built the Reagan coalition of social, fiscal and national security conservatives and more focused on the country’s self-interest,” the Times profile read.
But before I looked for the article, I checked my email. There was a message from Chris Buskirk. “A few friends sent me your Kristol column at The Federalist. I’m interested in having you write for us. Can we talk on Monday or Tuesday?”
Here was my response: “Hi Chris – I can’t tell you how much your email just freaked me out bc I was just about to look up your email address to contact you about writing for your organization. I followed you on Twitter last week. Days like this make me reconsider who I write for (between us). I would love to talk. Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning works best. Please let me know.”
I still have those emails dated Saturday, August 13, 2017. My first article, “The Kristol Crackup,” was published at American Greatness a few days later.
The rest, as they say, is history.
As we celebrate American Greatness’ five-year anniversary, I just want to thank all the courageous people in the AG family for standing up for the American people and standing against the groupthink, cowardice, and complicity of “establishment conservatism.” During American Greatness’ five-year rise, legacy publications on the Right, on the other hand, have repeatedly humiliated themselves by going along with whatever tripe the Left rolls out on a weekly basis. If Trump has acted as a clarifying agent to smoke out all our enemies inside and outside of government, he’s done the same for the putative Right.
Whether it was promoting the bogus Russian collusion hoax or the “very fine people” falsehood or the imaginary threat of “white supremacy,” outlets such as National Review and the now-shuttered Weekly Standard, among others, almost never failed to play the useful idiot to the insidious Left. Ditto for pandemic-justified lockdowns, the absurd “quid pro quo” impeachment sham against Donald Trump—which acted as a head-fake to conceal the Bidens’ overseas grift—the “absolute right” of Big Tech to censor news and opinion the overlords deem unacceptable, and finally, election fraud.
The low point for most in the “conservative” media was their piling on with the social media mob against the Covington Catholic High School students. Their reflexive impulse to accept without question whatever phony narrative was concocted by the Left revealed their stupidity or ignorance—or both.
“But what did Trump-hating ‘conservatives’ do? They betrayed boys who, by all appearances, are the progeny of conservatism,” I wrote in a January 19, 2019 column. “They aided the Left in the virtual thrashing that prompted death threats against the children and their families. They acted in the same way—worse!—they accuse the president of behaving. They sided with the enemy.”
“When the Trump era is over, there will be a long list of journalists, opinion outlets, and commentators who have irretrievably lost their credibility. That list will include many ‘conservative’ influencers who betrayed pro-life religious teenagers at the behest of the Left’s ongoing lynch mob.”
The Trump era isn’t over, but the prestige once enjoyed by these outlets certainly is. The reputations of so many one-time “thought leaders” on the Right remain in justified tatters. Places like National Review will never return to its once-vaunted status; it won’t be long until NR, much like The Weekly Standard, is nothing more than a cautionary tale. Their offshoots, spinoffs from disaffected writers and editors of those publications, have no influence in the political sphere. Their writers and editors spend much of their time spasming on Twitter about Trump “cultists” while defending the most destructive parts of the Left’s agenda, including critical race theory.
Thankfully, American Greatness has quickly filled the void for Americans who want the unvarnished truth about our country’s current status—Americans who want our enemies in the Democratic Party, Big Tech, the news media, major corporations, academia, and even within the Republican Party called out and exposed, not coddled with the facile language of a bygone era.
American Greatness is fearless. When most of our competitors on the Right refused to touch flagrant voting fraud after the 2020 election, American Greatness never flinched. And not a single news or opinion site has tackled the events of January 6 more than American Greatness. We are diving into the details to expose the truth, and warning Americans about how that day is being used by the Biden regime as a pretext to achieve all sorts of dangerous goals long pursued by the Left.
There’s an old saying that it’s not really work if you’re doing something you love, which is true. It’s also not work when you’re blessed to work alongside like-minded people you consider not just friends but freedom fighters. To that end, I want to thank Chris Buskirk, Julie Ponzi, Ben Boychuk, Liz Sheld, and Debra Heine for their work, their patriotism, and their shared sense of purpose. I am beyond grateful and humbled to see my byline among some of the greats, including Victor Davis Hanson, Conrad Black, Angelo Codevilla, Roger Kimball, and Michael Anton.
It has been an exciting and fulfilling ride so far. And we are just getting warmed up.
Julie Kelly is a senior writer for American Greatness and author of Disloyal Opposition: How the NeverTrump Right Tried—And Failed—To Take Down the President (Encounter).
“V” for AG
My friends, even friends of many years, constantly surprise me, which leads me to question how I deserve such amazing people. But why should I have been surprised?
Five years ago they declared independence from the conservative movement, and I was nonplussed. Would they be misunderstood?
They would get some of the writers from AG’s brilliant predecessor, the Journal of American Greatness. But who else would write?
The editors and publisher have come out of nowhere and scaled the heights. There’s plenty of talent outside the New York-D.C. think tank world. Those targets were soft, very soft. The hardest work lies ahead.
Of course they had individually and collectively plenty of the right education, professional experience, grit, and foresight—the elements of prudence. They had seen promising projects go sideways. They knew, above all, that failure was unacceptable. American life would become intolerable and unknown to their children.
And they got the writers, working with them and developing them. They arose in the midst of a crucial election, matured during the Trump presidency, and now are ready to carry on post-Trump. I don’t think it was ever about Trump as a personality cult—it’s the farthest thing from that, in fact. They built it, and they came. American Greatness is American Goodness. Does the conservative movement believe in either?
I have spent too many years in D.C. (10 in the Feds), another 12 hanging around the administrative state and its haunts. But if America is to be saved, it will be through those who are not of Washington, D.C., who know a different part of America.
The “V” we honor American Greatness for is five years of deserving victory. The battle continues.
Ken Masugi, Ph.D., is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute.
Five Years of Rockin’ Freedom
In the 1980s, new wave techno-pop and big hair heavy metal ruled. But I chose rock-n-roll. Our garage band was a motley quartet of disparate influences, ranging from classic rock, funk, jazz, reggae, boogie-woogie—but not techno-pop or hair metal. From these disparate influences and sounds occurred the miracle of E Pluribus Unum: hard-driving rock-n-roll careening down the street like a beat-up Buick.
That street was a dead end. The issue wasn’t the audience, who didn’t hate us. The bar owners did. After owners noted our neglect of big hair and spandex, they’d ask what we played. We shrugged and said, “rock-n-roll.” They shrugged and said, “beat it.” They weren’t talking about the Michael Jackson song.
It was an era when mega-corporations devoured early rock’s energy and entrepreneurialism. Promoting their “Johnny Bravo” acts through their cohorts in the corporate music press, such as Rolling Stone and MTV, these mega-corporations dumped musical manure upon the populace for massive profits. It was the antithesis of Rock’s rebellious roots. The music-buying public knew it, but were helpless. And the big guys’ business plans didn’t give a damn.
For the center-Right, the past decades have mirrored the ’80s music industry. The Republican Party elite, in combination with their crony media, K Street, and multinational corporations, transmogrified a movement into a racket. This “cashocracy” subordinated the public to its own avarice, thus abetting the decimation of Americans’ lives, liberty, and livelihoods. This cashocracy even created its own Johnny Bravos to “lead” the party.
By 2016, the rank and file center-right realized it; and found a candidate who aired their righteous indignation at the GOP and the “swamp.” Yet, the election of President Trump produced but a man. What was needed was an infrastructure to promote and defend the center-right populist movement he rode into the Oval Office.
Enter American Greatness.
For five years, American Greatness has brought together the voices and visions of familiar and emerging champions of freedom to provide opinions, and policy and political analysis; and to fight pressing issues, such as the Left’s continued, abusive weaponization of the federal government against the sovereign citizenry.
With such a unique and intelligent collection of editors and contributors, a uniformity of thought is lacking. Unlike the Left, we know this is a virtue. The differing influences, styles, and substantive determinations defy political pigeonholing. Is it “Populism?” “Conservatism?” “Republicanism?”
Like the question of what my band played, best to shrug and say, “American Greatness.” For from these unique individuals comes once more the miracle of E Pluribus Unum; and, thus uniting to combat the swamp and champion our republic’s exceptionalism, for five years American Greatness has rocked freedom and accomplished what was once deemed impossible: the “silent majority’s” voice is being heard.
Thanks for letting me strum along on the backing track.
Former U.S. House Republican Policy Committee Chair, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter, is an American Greatness contributor and Monday co-host of the John Batchelor Show
A Battle Against Collectivism
When I was first introduced to the editors of American Greatness, I was intrigued. A mutual friend suggested I should write for this fine publication, and that began a new intellectual journey into the meaning of America.
Culturally and politically, America was changing and there was a need to define conservatism within the context of American essence. Indeed, what does it mean to be an American, while being cognizant of leftist ideology as well as the significance of classical liberalism? While the country was suffering from fragmented discourse, American Greatness was striving to bring a fresh approach to an intellectual dialogue that could also affect real world change.
This remains a unique publication, and one of the reasons is because there is a variety of individual voices who don’t always agree on everything. But these disagreements add to the diversity of opinion and enhance a discussion, as we’re trying to figure out the best way to preserve the order of things.
You might wonder what exactly we are seeking to preserve and conserve? Unlike so many so-called conservatives in today’s American intellectual scene, American Greatness represents an important mode of being—human flourishing. In this sense, there is a great deal of progressivism in this publication but not the kind that the leftist ideology likes to claim. The leftist idea of progress is an actual regress into collectivism and a denial of individualism.
For many contributors to American Greatness, the progress that matters is the one that recognizes the value of an individual person as he or she relates to a community. In other words, true progress is the one when every human being has an opportunity to flourish individually and to contribute to the well-being of their families, as well as the community at large.
The leftist and the pseudo-conservatives of the American media scene would like to say that they have a claim on the notion of community and interconnection between people. But these are mostly just words that are meant to be suggestive but don’t require any moral responsibility. Without the notion of flourishing and the public square (which should be open to every citizen in order for him or her to realize that existence and potential), there will be no community.
But there is one more rather important component to the AG mission—sovereignty. This battle already began with the rise of globalist ideology and it has greatly intensified with the strange circumstances of the last presidential election and COVID-19 crisis. We are experiencing a new form of authoritarianism, which continues to deny national sovereignty as well as the indispensable sovereignty of the self.
The mission and the battle have been slightly altered. Not only are we fighting for a preservation of the American way of life and sovereignty but also for normality of life, given the rise of authoritarianism due to COVID-19. In other words, without the proper foundation that values freedom, society cannot function.
At this point, the power brokers are creating a society based on fear, suspicion, malaise, and anxiety. These are the hallmarks of collectivism, which go against the very idea of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” These are uncertain times, but along with the protection of the American way of life, American Greatness will continue to affirm the principles of order and human flourishing.
Emina Melonic is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness.
Five Years of American Greatness
The simple act of flying the American flag leads to beatings, detentions, and social isolation in Hong Kong. Ex-patriot Cubans protesting the repressions of their home country fly the American flag as a symbol of a freedom they hope to restore to their country. Yet so many Americans have forgotten or have never learned that individual liberty lies at the heart of our American greatness. In this era of censorship and the politicization of our legal system, we are again challenged to preserve the very liberties that so many freedom-hungry souls around the world envy. While shadowy corporate interests fund and control so much of the unified message of mainstream media, this band of freedom-loving intellectuals takes real risks and bears real personal cost to publish the modern equivalent of our forebearer’s pamphlets that agitated for individual liberties. In American Greatness, I have found a home of fellow-liberty lovers who swim against the heavy tide of anti-freedom forces. “Conservative” is the wrong label for the movement which seeks to renew and spread reverence for our cherished God-given liberties.
The staff of American Greatness meticulously review and edit everything I submit. They painstakingly fact-check the assertions and do not hesitate to question any unsupported assumption. Yet they will fearlessly publish a disruptive and unconventional viewpoint when it presents sound reasoning.
Thank you American Greatness and congratulations on five years of freedom advocacy!
Adam Mill is a pen name. He is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and works in Kansas City, Missouri as an attorney specializing in labor and employment and public administration law.
The Future of the American Right Is Bright
The biggest weapon the so-called Right has in America is their innate optimism. It derives not only from a faith in the power of individual agency, or the faith in a divine and benevolent power that is far greater than ourselves. It also derives from its contrast to the American Left. Our leftist opponents are stricken with a pessimistic outlook in almost every aspect of life. They believe the planet itself faces imminent environmental catastrophe. They believe Americans are either villainous oppressors who carry collective guilt, or helpless victims of historical and systemic oppression. They are unhappy with the default setting for male and female, and despite eons of natural evolution that validate this default, they are determined to reinvent sex and gender.
In the future, the American Right will co-opt many of the new buzzwords of the Left, not as a tactic, but because the most practical and realistic pathways to “equity, inclusion and diversity” come from the Right. Equity can only be achieved by the Left through government tyranny and universal economic misery. To the extent it is attainable in a free and prosperous society, equity depends on freedom of opportunity and merit-based, competitive free enterprise. Inclusion according to the Left has devolved into segregated “safe spaces” and mandated racial quotas. This is a recipe for tension and tribalism. True inclusion is colorblind, which today is a concept embraced by the Right, and stigmatized by the Left. As for diversity, the Left ruthlessly attacks anyone whose thoughts and ideology deviate from their pessimistic dogma. It is the Right that tolerates diversity.
This fact, that the seductive rhetorical aspirations of the Left can only be achieved by embracing the right-wing concepts of freedom of opportunity, freedom of expression, and colorblind, merit-based competition in a capitalist economy, is why the Left is doomed and the Right will eventually triumph.
But to accelerate that inevitable triumph, the American Right needs to abandon ideologies that have been used to diminish American prosperity. Right-wing dogma left over from the 1980s, focused on free trade, lower taxes and limited government, is still essential but cannot be embraced unconditionally. Misapplied adherence to these concepts has turned America into an oligarchy, and nurtured a corporate ruling class hostile to the interests of ordinary Americans.
The challenge facing the American Right is not the twisted ideology of the Left, because the American people are already rejecting that even in the absence of a coherent alternative. The challenge is to define that alternative. How can “America First” be defined in a way that sets an inspiring example to other nations, instead of alienating them? How can an all-of-the above approach to ongoing development of water and energy resources be pursued in a way that is practical and sustainable, and delivers more economic opportunity? How can government be limited while still fulfilling its obligation to regulate the excesses of globalist corporations and invest in genuinely productive infrastructure?
The solutions to these challenges are not mysteries. All the American Right has to do is express a vision of the future in which the alternative policies they offer have created a nation where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Exposing the pessimistic and futile fixations of the Left is a necessary prelude. But expressing the optimistic essence that defines the character of the American Right is what will drive the national electorate, in numbers too big to cook, to evict leftist politicians en masse and realign America.
Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness and co-founder in 2013 of the California Policy Center.
Champions of the People
Until 2016, conservatism had been adrift. This ineffectiveness and indifference to the concerns of ordinary people included both the Republican Party and the various institutions we now label Conservatism, Inc.
The biggest problem with Conservatism, Inc. was that much of their energy was spent either fooling the people or policing the Right. All the talk of social issues was empty talk, a cover for the real agenda of serving corporate America and the ruling class. D.C. conservatives also loved nothing more than attacking anyone to their right, labeling departures from ruling class liberalism as racist or xenophobic. As exemplified by guys like John McCain, Mitt Romney, and David French, they had fully adopted the moral outlook of American liberals. They conserved nothing.
Trump energized a moribund Republican Party and exposed the uselessness of Conservatism, Inc. His emphasis on a nationalist agenda—trade policy, immigration restrictions, and foreign policy minimalism—tapped into deeper roots of Americanism that the vaguely libertarian and militarist GOP of the 1990s and 2000s had forgotten. He also showed that the real way to expand the Republican base was not to be “socially liberal and fiscally conservative,” but rather to be quite the opposite.
That said, Trump was a man of instinct. He was smart, but clearly not an intellectual. He was also more showman than manager, in spite of his business success. This could have worked, but he employed too many people who did not share his agenda. He allowed himself to be fooled into taking on mistaken outreach efforts, such as his criminal justice initiative. He was thwarted by the permanent bureaucracy, especially the intelligence agencies, which he never fully assumed control over. Finally, he failed to deploy the right team to roll back the machinations that rigged the 2020 election.
Regardless of his mistakes, Trump showed a way forward and employed a winning formula. He tapped into a broad set of ideas that are both in the interest of the American people and popular with them. These ideas, however, were not fully explored or defended by the legacy institutions of Conservatism, Inc. Indeed, as noted above, they spent much of their energy criticizing them.
American Greatness has provided a platform to defend and expound upon the Trump agenda, i.e., Trumpism. This defense has gone beyond Trump himself, whom some latch onto not for ideological reasons, but simply for reasons of distaste and contempt for the ruling class. Thus, unlike the writers of American Greatness, they lacked a vocabulary with which to criticize his departures from the nationalist core of his politics.
Here, a wide variety of outsider intellectuals—professors, businessmen, lawyers, housewives, and students—obtained exposure barred by Conservatism, Inc. In the process, they added data, analysis, depth, original reporting, and historically rooted defenses to Trumpism, which will outlive Trump regardless of how he proceeds in 2024.
In other words, American Greatness has performed the vital work of true conservative intellectuals: defending and giving intellectual weight to the morally correct sentiments of the American people.
Christopher Roach is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and an attorney in private practice based in Florida.
American Greatness Calls Citizens to Action
It’s been an honor to be a real part of the rise of American Greatness, especially over the last three years. The site has provided the philosophical and intellectual underpinnings for an America First agenda and at the same time, especially with Julie Kelly’s work on January 6, actually demonstrated to the corporate propagandists what real investigative reporting should look like.
On this fifth anniversary of American Greatness, it’s important to remember that ideas and action must go hand-in-hand for real change to happen. The old (tired) Right—otherwise known as Conservatism, Inc., with its corporate-funded think tanks—was always lost in the self-validating echo chamber of itself, basking in the supposed goodness of its ideas, all while, in essence, popping those ideas into a bottle and tossing them upon the waters in hopes they might become policy.
America First is in part a rejection of Conservatism, Inc., but if we want to see America First policies continue to grow, which is really just common sense promotion of the American people’s interests in a government by and for the people, these ideas have to be put into action.
For that to happen, we have to understand that we will only see America First triumph by gaining political power, which quite frankly is a noble pursuit. Yes, the pursuit of political power is a good thing, especially in defense of the republic. We have to embrace that goal, achieve it, and use it to actually implement the right policies that will dismantle the odious administrative state and strengthen the American people as we restore the free American republic. And the only way we are actually going to gain political power is by transforming one of the major parties into a creature of our own creation.
I’ve said it time and time again: a party is what people say it is. And the people who say what it is are those who run in primaries and show up at conventions. So it’s time for America First adherents to run in Republican primaries and show up at Republican conventions. If you do that enough over the next few election cycles, then all of a sudden you have put together a party full of people who believe that we should promote the American people’s interests. The storefront sign might still say Republican, but the essence will be a party that actually knows how to fight Big Tech, the administrative state, the shackles of corporatism, and say the American people come first and last in all things.
How refreshing—and in this day and age, apparently a revolutionary idea—that a government of, by and for the people might actually promote, advance and protect the interests of the people. Everything else flows from that premise of America First, whether it’s trade deals or immigration or breaking the power of Big Tech.
So in the years to come, my hope is that those reading the ideas, opinions, and facts here will always be motivated to put their hands and feet into action.
Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority. You can find him on Twitter @nedryun.
Organization Is the Key to the Right’s Survival
Brandon J. Weichert
In a post-apocalyptic world, who would win in a fight between escaped death-row inmates and office clerks? This was a scenario presented to an audience by a Herman Kahn-like academic (played by Walter Matthau) in the 1962 classic, “Fail Safe.” If you answered the escaped death row inmates, you’d be wrong. While escaped death row inmates would be physically stronger than office clerks, the office clerks have capabilities that the convicts lack: organization.
Organization is the key reason why companies like, for example, Apple, have transmogrified from passion projects like the one in Steve Jobs’ garage to a multinational empire with the GDP of a small country. Individual strength matters—but only when that strength is married to a potent organization can fundamental change happen. Adversity can be overcome through organization coupled with leadership. Yet, strong individual leadership paired with a weak organization rarely yields the desired results—just ask William Wallace or John Brown.
Better organization was the decisive factor for Vladimir Lenin and his tiny Bolshevik Party’s victory in the Russian Civil War. It was only when a Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, began dismantling the communists’ organization for control that the USSR fell, and the Cold War ended.
Similarly, Mao’s unlikely victory in the Chinese Civil War—and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) continued control over China—is because of the superior organizational capabilities of the CCP. The revolution never ended in China. It simply took on new forms. First, during Mao’s quixotic Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. Then, during Deng Xiaoping’s deft embrace of Western-style capitalism. And today, under Xi Jinping’s quest to make China the predominant world power by 2049. Individual leadership and strength are always important. But the organization’s perpetuation is essential for victory. Without that organization, an individual leader has nothing to lead (and if an organization is too closely tied to that individual, it won’t last).
This is something the Democratic Party understands. Former President Barack Obama kept his Organizing for Action (OFA) group—which had originally been designed to help Obama win the presidency in 2008—operational years after it had been established. For Obama, the campaign never ended. It persists today. He may no longer be president, but his influence is felt everywhere on the Left—because of his organization.
Whatever divisions exist within the Democratic Party (and many certainly do), these differences are subordinated to the larger goal of obtaining power to impose the Left’s agenda on the country. And now that organization has consolidated with Big Tech, Big Media, Big Education, and the Big Unions.
If the last five years have demonstrated anything, it is that the Right, in order to have any hope for the future, must eschew its obsession with finding one strong leader to push the polyglot movement forward. After all, one man can be defeated. But a movement with a robust organization can change entire societies, regardless of whether Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis or J.D. Vance is at the forefront of that movement. The Right still has much to learn from the Left in this way . . . and time is not on our side. With the clear-thinking and seriousness of purpose at work in enterprises like American Greatness, however, there is always hope.
Brandon J. Weichert is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers). He runs The Weichert Report: World News Done Right. Follow him on Twitter @WeTheBrandon.
Saving the Middle Class to Save the Revolution
In The Republic, Socrates’ breathtaking assertion is that evils will not cease in the city until philosophers become kings. I have a less astounding view.
Evils will not cease in America until the middle class becomes king, again.
American Greatness, understanding that America is now in its fourth or fifth decade of policies on trade, immigration, education, and monopoly that have eroded the value of unskilled and semi-skilled labor to the point where the system of republican government embodied in our Constitution cannot function, set out to expand on implications of this crisis. Either the United States will restore the middle class or it will cease to exist—and cease to have the chance to exist—as a republic, in practice, and likely in form.
Most people lack either the talent or inclination for the development of skills. This is just a fact of human nature. By definition, half of Americans have an IQ at or below 100. They are unable to acquire any skill that cannot be easily acquired by means other than competitive labor. And some portion of people with an IQ over 100, for reasons that are personal to their choices and chances, do something other than develop a skill which is both in demand and difficult to acquire (sheltering their labor from broad competition).
American trade and immigration policy has seen to it that American unskilled labor competes directly with labor from all over the globe. That global labor has different “indifference curves” for leisure and work, as economists would describe it. Global labor will work harder for less reward than American unskilled labor. It is not that American unskilled labor will not work hard; it is that it will only do so for a higher return.
American education policy has turned from training for trade, and teaching methods for increasing the value of labor by limiting competition (trade guilds and labor organization) to teaching liberal arts and empty political activism that has next to nothing to do with increasing the value of unskilled labor. This vast money-hungry apparatus does little to transform the value of the labor of its graduates but does a great deal to ruin their finances, and that of their parents, delaying household formation and impoverishing retirements.
At the same time, the skilled end of the American economy has become increasingly dependent on monopoly structures funneling flabbergastingly rich rents to a very small number of people and extraordinarily high compensation to the class of people—technocrats—who service their wealth and industry.
The depression of the value of unskilled labor and the elevation of the value of a narrow band of skilled labor has produced an oligarchy. This oligarchy is defending its interests by every means conceivable, buying influence, controlling media, peddling drugs, and pushing woke religion.
The future of conservatism—the defense of America and of the founding fathers—is, of course, dissent, and struggle (even essay writing) against this oligarchy and its perverted religion. But to oppose it effectively one must have an alternative and that alternative must be one which would radically overturn our policies of trade, immigration, education and monopoly—or the restoration of republican government will not succeed.
Jay Whig is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness. Whig practices law in New York and resides in Connecticut, specializing in insolvency and restructuring.