Neo Fascist Roots of American Conservatism

George Packer in a New Yorker piece dates the origin of conservatism back to 1966 When Patrick Buchanan went to work for Richard Nixon:

FOCUS | George Packer: The Fall of Conservatism

Having lived a bit longer, I press the date back to an earlier era when Bill Buckley was launching his particular revision of Spanish fascism at Yale and thereafter in this country. The current Yale Alumni Magazine has a 20 page feature on Buckley. We encountered him personally during our student days in the 1950s when he was prowling around Yale looking for and ensnaring young converts. My only indirect and direct connections with him were a course with one of his intellectual mentors, Willmore Kendall,  whose Spanish experience had made him a fanatical anti communist and who wrote for the National Review until he and Buckley had a falling out. And my wife to be and I witnessed together in 1955 the Ten Million Americans for Joe McCarthy rally at Madison Square Garden where Buckley sat uncomfortably on the podium with a general or two and older ladies in white tennis shoes. Lyn and I wrote up the event for our student papers, respectively at Sarah Lawrence and Yale and I received a scorching response letter to the Yalie Daily from Buckley. I later declined one of his invitations to visit his family estate at which he would typically capture young acolytes.

One has to track Buckley back both to his Texas oil roots and to fascist Spain where the family vacationed regularly to understand the peculiar mixture of Franco’s Spanish fascism and right wing McCarthyism that Buckley combined. He was a brilliant orator and could usually unsettle liberal critics with debating techniques which alternated between comic mockery and brutal ad hominem attack. The victim was never quite sure which Buckley would be coming at him/her and was usually wrong footed by Buckley who could shift the attack accordingly — a sort of advance version of the TV right winger attacks that one sees in sound bites that shut up the speaker and shift topic before an answer can be given.

Frankly, Buckley’s phony British accent gave me a pain. I don’t know where he picked it up between Texas and Spain. He was entirely fluent in Spanish which he taught to undergrads as an undergrad himself and presumably a superb mimic.

May he rest in peace and may our country recover from the satanic political philosophy that Buckley launched that has been doing vast damage in its climax this past seven years in Bush’s neocon version of American dominance of the world out there. Senator Joe Lieberman was assisted into office by Buckley who helped him defeat his liberal Republican predecessor. Buckley is said to have been unhappy with Lieberman’s support of the Iraq war and current militarism on behalf of Israel. As an undergrad Buckley was alleged to be an anti-Semite.

Beware, however, as there are still some 300 well funded right wing think tanks cranking out ever new slogans to entrap the unwary. The subject title here suggests that the roots of American conservatism are a bit more ominous than the emergence in the late 1960s of a counter reaction against such liberal efforts as the civil rights movement.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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