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MLK Conservatives Eschew Identity Politics


By Hunter Wallace

A week ago, John O’Sullivan pointed out in a column at National Review that American mainstream cuckservatism was in serious danger of becoming unglued:

“British Tories, French Gaullists, Swedish Moderates, and other parties elsewhere increasingly narrowed their appeal to that of superior economic management in a capitalist economy than their countries’ respective Leftist parties. They adopted what Marx called “economism.” They were embarrassed by the patriotism and traditional moral values that had been part of their original identity. They wanted the approval of the metropolitan liberal opinion-formers in which their leaders moved socially. They tailored their electoral messages accordingly. …

We can estimate the size of that minority by looking at Germany where, since the early Fifties, the conservative vote has been split between the socially conservative Christian Democrats and the economically conservative Free Democrats. While the Christian Democrats repeatedly won around 40 percent of the popular vote whereas the Free Democrats struggled to keep above the 5 percent threshold needed to enter the Bundestag (at present they stuck outside Germany’s federal legislative body). Even so the tail succeeded in wagging the dog.”

John O’Sullivan is correct.

The origins of modern cuckservatism can be traced back to a key turning point in American history: Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. Running on a wildly unpopular platform of libertarian economics, Goldwater was defeated by LBJ in a blowout and only managed to carry his home state, Arizona, and five states in the Deep South, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina. In that year, the Deep South revolted against the Democratic Party over its betrayal on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which Goldwater had voted against in the Senate.

In the 1968 presidential election, George Wallace ran as a third party candidate and carried five states in the Deep South – Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and Arkansas – while Nixon invoked the “Silent Majority” to carry most of the rest of the South except Texas and West Virginia. The triumph of Nixon and Wallace in the traditionally Democratic ‘Solid South’ was due to the Great White Backlash to the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of the Counter-Culture, not because libertarian economics had suddenly become wildly popular in the South.

In the 1972 presidential election, Nixon carried the entire South and 49 states in which he defeated George McGovern in a nationwide landslide. McGovern was defeated because of the strong economy and his New Left positions. Even the AFL-CIO refused to endorse him. Among other things, Nixon imposed wage and price controls, ended the Bretton Woods system by floating the dollar, increased government spending, took a much harder line on free-trade than his predecessors and basically presided over the New Deal era economy.

Matt Lewis, a reliable bellweather of mainstream cuckservative opinion, writes:

“Conservatives once hated identity politics and victimhood—but then again, we once supported free trade, too. Perhaps our disdain for tribalism was always a high-minded, yet doomed, effort to suppress the natural, carnal state of a fallen humanity. You and I may view politics as being about ideas and human flourishing, but a lot of people believe it’s really about power—about making sure scarce resources are allocated to “our” people. …

If conservatism is about ideas like freedom and entrepreneurship, not merely cultural signaling (the stereotype being that the definition of a conservative is a white guy with a gun rack), then there’s no reason the guy who orders an Uber shouldn’t be a conservative. …

The rejection of candidates favored by the GOP establishment this past year has been unprecedented. The Republican base, at least right now, is rallying to the candidates who embrace this new tribalism.”

The historical ignorance on display here is breathtaking.

The truth of the matter is that the Great White Backlash against the Democrats and the dog-whistling and token gestures to “the base” had been absolutely critical in the rise of modern cuckservatism from Goldwater who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to Grand Master Ronald Reagan who kicked off his campaign in Neshoba County, MS by pledging allegiance to states’ rights to Poppy Bush who beat Dukakis with the Willy Horton ad to George W. Bush who narrowly won reelection in 2004 by rallying evangelical voters solely because gay marriage was on the ballot in key swing states.

Michael Graham at The Federalist chimes in with this:

“Matt Lewis has already written the article I’d planned to write for the new year about how the Left and Right have now devolved into identity-politics tribalism. In so doing, they’ve left me a man without a party. …

For me, conservatism has always been a rejection of identity in favor of ideas: Free speech, free markets, small government, individual opportunity and responsibility, and so forth. I’m a MLK conservative—all “content of character,” no interest in “color of skin.” …

Unlike many of the Trump fans I hear from, I don’t care that America will become a minority-white country. I care about whether the next generation believes in the American ideas of liberty, opportunity, and equality under the law. …

I want a tax policy that promotes the most wealth and most jobs for the most people. I don’t care if those jobs go to white guys or Hispanic transgenders. I want to replace the government-run school system, not because it failed a white redneck kid like me (it did), but because every motivated student who escapes an academic cesspool for education success will become a happy, productive, low-crime, taxpaying citizen.”

I would be hard pressed to find a more concise synopsis of the mainstream cuckservative worldview that their rise had been driven entirely by the innate appeal of neo-liberal economics to the electorate and that they are capable of “modernizing” the Republican Party and winning elections solely on the basis of ideas and appeals to identity politics for everyone but White people. Remember, Marco Rubio is a great Hispanic and comprehensive immigration reform is necessary to appeal to Hispanics on racial grounds, and Ben Carson is a black conservative who will appeal to black voters solely because he is black. My personal favorite is the hilarious pandering to identity politics at where P.B.S. Pinchback is honored as a great Republican hero.

As I read more about the late 19th century, I continue to see parallels between the demise of the modern cuckservatives and the division of the Democratic Party into Populists and Bourbons in the 1890s. The Bourbons, who were the champions of laissez-faire, free-market economics in their day said things like the Charleston News & Courier which boasted that it was “a great deal pleasanter to travel with respectable and well-behaved colored people than with unmannerly and ruffianly white men.”

Ultimately, a party that was electorally based on White solidarity couldn’t afford to antagonize the White masses while sprinkling the holy water of the “free-market” over them as they were economically ground into the dust. The quote above comes from Bourbon-controlled South Carolina on the precipice of the “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman era. History doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes.