Crashing the Gates

Fox News host Jesse Waters had a revealing discussion last week with Matthew Lohmeier, a former Space Force officer who lost his command in 2021 for attacking the teaching of critical race theory in the armed services. Lohmeier was on Waters’ program to comment on the Navy’s drag queen recruitment ads. What came out of their conversation underscores the gulf between the populist Right and that part of the conservative establishment still controlled by neoconservative ideas. Both men seemed deeply concerned about the negative impact the ads were having on Navy recruitment. This situation was seen as especially deplorable because it would limit America’s role as “the defender of the free world.” Bad recruiting would hamper our efforts to stand up “for our ideals” internationally.

My own reaction to the drag queen recruiting for the U.S. armed services was entirely different. Like other members of the populist and traditionalist Right, I felt disgust at how far this country has fallen during my lifetime morally and socially. The problem for me with the drag queen recruiting was the moral degeneracy that it illustrated, not the fear that the United States would be prevented from standing up for human rights or whatever else we’re supposed to project worldwide. Rather I am appalled at what has happened to us internally.

I’m also not sure whether the “free world’ is free any longer. Canada, Germany, Spain, and other Western countries seem to be sinking into a totalitarian cesspit, and we may not be far behind. A deeply religious Christian physician expressed to me his shock on hearing a lecture by a prominent surgeon who performs sexual change operations on children. This gruesome Nazi-like practice goes on at some of our best medical schools with the blessing of the “leader of the free world,” while parents in “liberal democratic” Canada face criminal charges if they try to dissuade their kids from undergoing sexual reassignment.

Meanwhile an “Incitement to Hatred and Hate Offense” bill is winding its way through the Irish Parliament. This bill, once signed into law, would make it a criminal offense that could carry two-years jail time to “prepare or possess” material deemed by the state to incite hate. One needn’t stretch one’s imagination too far to realize that the possession of material from this gutsy website could cause some poor Irishman to spend two years in the slammer. The Germans, never slouches when it comes to defending “democracy” by undemocratic means, have been enacting since 2019 a series of criminal laws against disparaging political figures over the internet. This campaign against “Hetze (incitement)” has been aimed explicitly at the Right, which includes all non-woke or even minimally patriotic political discussion in Germany.

Two days ago, I heard the French neoconservative writer and filmmaker Bernard-Henri Lévy explaining that the war in Ukraine is being waged to make that invaded land “part of our free world.” From Lévy’s neoconservative perspective, we Americans must press our moral righteousness on others, no matter what the state of our own souls. That is necessary for the aggressively missionary foreign policy that Lévy advocates. Although neoconservatives moralize incessantly, they are generally far less traditionalist in their moral views than those further on the right. Much of the younger generation of neocons have, in fact, thrown in with the Democratic Party. As far as I can tell, Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, Max Boot, and David French have no problems with the Democrats’ social agenda.

The neoconservative wing of the conservative movement is also less than excited about restoring our constitutional order or reining in our administrative state. A militant interventionist foreign policy and the role they assign to American military power cause neoconservatives to minimize certain inconvenient problems, e.g., the degeneration of American social institutions and the capture of our onetime constitutional government by the totalitarian Left. Neoconservatives are certainly open to the social Left and happy to integrate homosexual marriage and transgenderism into their conception of America’s moral mission to the world. 

Identifiable neoconservatives do finance conservative TV and conservative publications, but they work to moderate resistance to the social Left while pushing an ideologically driven interventionist foreign policy. A TV personality like Tucker Carlson was clearly a thorn in their side, and so they helped push him off Fox News.

It is essential that we recognize there is a growing tension within American conservatism. The internal discord besetting this movement is not likely to go away, as a younger, harder Right seems to be swarming all over the internet. The conservative establishment has generally done well maintaining a precarious balance among the various players it is willing to deal with—that is, neoconservatives, a toned-down populist Right, and Republican operators. But that balancing act may falter. 

The populists on the Right have grown restless and are working to create their own independent media presence. At some point, the Young Turks, already on the periphery of the movement, may crash the gate and push into the club. 

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About Paul Gottfried

Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.

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