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National Review

Homeland Politics: Gingrich Promoted Statehood For Puerto Rico, Which Would Have Resulted In The Creation Of An American Quebec And A Canadian-Style Official Bilingualism

By John Fonte

June 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003
National Review, ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights reserved. 

National Review
Volume 55, Issue 10; ISSN: 0028-0038

From the Cold War to 9/11, conservatism had been portrayed as resting on two pillars: economic conservatism and social conservatism. Don't the third.

THE world since 9/11 is, in many ways, reminiscent of the struggle against Communism. Once again, Americans have witnessed ideological conflict on a global scale; militant anti-war demonstrations in U.S. cities; a Democratic party divided over national security; and, recently, NATIONAL REVIEW returning to its old role of defining the parameters of American conservatism.

During the ten-year break from "history" between the Cold War and 9/11, American conservatism was usually portrayed as resting upon two pillars: economic conservatism and social conservatism, or those who emphasize the market and those who emphasize morals. But the long-term meaning of the Republican success in the 2002 elections is that a third pillar-patriotic conservatism-is both the cement that unifies the movement and the key to electoral victory. In 2002, as in the days of Nixon's "silent majority" and the Reagan years, it was an emphasis on the nation, national security, and patriotism (rather than on the market or morality) that proved crucial to conservatism's success.

Around 50 years ago, Frank Meyer's "fusionism"-the blending of libertarianism and traditionalism-was the major concept "present at the creation" of modern American conservatism. This fusionism was built on support for individual freedom in the economic andpolitical spheres combined with recognition of the existence of an objective moral order that fosters individual self-restraint and differentiates between liberty and license. But there was more to fusionism than that. As historian George Nash has written, fusionism "was immensely assisted by the cement of anti-Communism," which was the one strand of conservatism about which there were few internal disagreements. Meyer's recent biographer, Kevin Smant, declares that anti-Communism was "the single most important factor both motivating and holding together the conservative movement."


This anti-Communism was centered in the patriotic impulse. Conservative intellectuals defended a specifically American regime of ordered liberty and republican government; even the libertarian-leaning Meyer described himself as a "nationalist" in one article criticizing the excesses of the U.N. Among rank-and-file conservatives, an instinctive understanding of concepts such as "defending the American way of life" was lived in American Legion halls and VFW posts. What NATIONAL REVIEW's Willmoore Kendall affectionately called "Appalachian to the Rockies patriotism"-an instinctual love of America, its institutions, customs, habits, and mores-provided the foundation of American conservatism.

In politics, patriotic anti-Communism meant support for strong national-security policies and for a rollback of international Communism. NATIONAL REVIEW writers including James Burnham and William F. Buckley Jr. believed that there was (in Douglas MacArthur's words) "no substitute for victory" over Communism, and excoriated the liberal-Left for its reluctance to endorse a muscular strategy. In the late 1960s, the American people rejected the New Left and its apologists in the liberal establishment. As blue-collar workers started to place American-flag decals on their hard hats it became clear that popular opposition to the Left was characterized by a patriotic rather than a libertarian impulse; the "silent majority," the "emerging Republican majority," and "Middle America" evoked the nation, not the market. The Right's mood was captured in the nationalist slogan "America: Love it or leave it"-quite different from the later libertarian mantra "Leave us alone."

The center-right majority that dominated the nation during the Reagan years was propelled by this patriotic impulse. Historian LeeEdwards describes Reagan as the ultimate "fusionist," who united elements of a diverse coalition by "reiterating traditional American themes of duty, honor, country." During this period, neoconservatism strengthened patriotic conservatism by emphasizing the themes of national security and national cohesion. On issues of international trade, anti-Communist neoconservatives such as Richard Perle battled corporate interests and libertarian ideologues, who often put global commerce over national security. Most significantly, the neoconservatives brought a new emphasis on the promotion of democracy in the struggle against Communism. This pro-democracy stance served both as a normative standard in its own right and as an ideological weapon that would allow conservatives to seize the moral high ground from the Soviets abroad and from the anti-anti-Communists at home.

In domestic affairs, the neoconservatives buttressed what could be called "national cohesion" or "One America" conservatism. National-cohesion conservatism means support for the original intent of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 (equality of opportunity, not equality of results)-which means opposition to racial, ethnic, and gender preferences; opposition to political multiculturalism and a bilingual education that de-emphasizes learning English; support for the traditional concept that rights and responsibilities inhere in individuals, not groups; support for racial integration and the patriotic assimilation of immigrants into the American way of life; support for teaching civic and patriotic values in our schools; and support for the general idea of One America, instead of an America divided by race, ethnicity, gender, class, and language.

The end of the Cold War weakened the influence of national-security conservatism and, thus, patriotic conservatism. The Weekly Standard's "National Greatness" conservatism, NATIONAL REVIEW's "National Question," Patrick Buchanan's "America First" viewpoint-none of these greatly influenced the conservative mainstream. Nevertheless, as fights over multiculturalism and political correctness heated up, national-cohesion conservatism became an important potential source of support for the AmericanRight. The 1994 elections brought a conservative majority to both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Many conservative Republicans were elected with strong support from Reagan Democrats-voters who are deeply patriotic, opposed to P.C., and greatly influenced by national-cohesion/One America issues.

In the end, however, the Gingrich revolution failed-because it was not fusionist. It did not promote all three pillars of the conservative triad. After 1995, Republican leaders mostly avoided the national-cohesion issues of multiculturalism, political correctness, group preferences, and bilingual education. Indeed, they often acted as though the base of the conservative coalitionconsists of one and a half, instead of three, pillars, as social conservatism was given mainly lip service.

The American people opposed racial and gender preferences and bilingual education in favor of equal rights for individuals; they proved it even in referendums in Democratic-dominated states like California (on Prop. 209 and Prop. 227). Nevertheless, GOP leaders discouraged national-cohesion conservatives such as Florida congressman Charles Canady and Ward Connerly from promoting these issues. To make matters worse, Speaker Gingrich actively promoted statehood for Puerto Rico, which would have resulted in the creation of an American Quebec and a Canadian-style official bilingualism.


The 9/11 attacks changed the ideological landscape; the 2002 elections made it clear that the third pillar of U.S. conservatism, no longer a stepchild, had been restored to a position of equality with the other two. The American Enterprise Institute's polling guru, Karlyn Bowman, points out that Democratic strategist Stanley Greenberg has gathered perhaps the best statistics on that election-and his surveys show the single most important reason the voters supported the GOP was the need for "the war on terrorism and a strong military." These issues, Greenberg says, "obviously came ahead of taxes and other aspects of the Republican agenda"; the Republicans succeeded "in nationalizing the election and creating conservative energy around the President and security issues." Greenberg's numbers reveal more support for liberal Democratic than conservative Republican positions on taxes and Social Security privatization; but security trumped economics. The Republicans had a 40 percent advantage (59 percent to 19 percent) over Democrats on the question of "which party does a better job" of keeping America strong.

That said, it is also true that anti-tax economic and pro-family social conservatives were energized and mobilized by the White House and by local operatives like Ralph Reed, and turned out in large numbers. Both pro-gun and pro-life voters were up 4 points from the norm. These facts remind us once again that fusionism works-that conservatism is most successful when all three pillars are in place. The national-security emphasis proved good for the conservative movement itself, as the percentage of self-identified "conservative" voters increased from about 30 percent in 2000 to 41 percent in 2002.

But just as there were anti-anti-Communists yesterday, there are anti-anti-terrorists today. Anti-anti-terrorism could be defined as expending most of one's political energy opposing reasonable measures to combat America's foreign and domestic enemies, while professing support for the war on terrorism in the abstract. How American conservatism confronts the enemy at home and abroad will determine the nature of the new fusionism, just as the internal and external struggle against Communism formed the old fusionism that was ultimately triumphant in the Reagan coalition.

Despite the Cold War consensus, however, some elements of the American Right rejected the principles of fusionism: They opposed containment abroad and the fight against subversion at home. They were, as James Burnham might have put it, objectively anti-anti-Communist. At first they included old-line non-interventionists and isolationists. By the late 1960s, with the rise of radical libertarianism, they were a much larger force. At the 1969 Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) convention hundreds of libertarian delegates walked out over Vietnam. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, radical libertarians, led by Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess, opposed not only the war but also the policy of anti-Communism advocated by NATIONAL REVIEW writers; Rothbard attacked them as "global crusaders," "witch-hunters," and "statists."

Today, too, opposition to U.S. anti-terrorist policies has emerged from some elements on the right. Within weeks of the 9/11 attacks, a group of libertarians and conservatives worked with a variety of leftist anti-national-security groups to try to gut the Bush administration's domestic-security program. (Speaking for mainstream conservative opinion, George Gilder commented that it was "embarrassing for the conservative cause" to see opposition from conservatives to "what seemed to most people to be plausible and necessary steps to combat terrorism.") Using phrases that parallel harsh leftist rhetoric ("morally indefensible," "dangerous," "ugly"), analysts from the Cato Institute have attacked the Bush administration's anti-terrorism measures, particularly the detention of illegal aliens under the USA Patriot Act, the proposed military tribunals, and the designation of enemy agents as "unlawful combatants."


But this leads to a key question: Who decides? I believe that in the coming years, a new cutting-edge issue will absorb much conservative energy. Western elites (including many Americans) will increasingly attempt to transfer political decision-making from American elected representatives to transnational arrangements, agreements, institutions, and bodies beyond the authority of the U.S. Constitution. This assault on the American nation-state-and thus on American self-government-is already underway from international-law professors, so-called "human rights" advocates, and such former diplomats as Strobe Talbott, who welcomes a future in which "nationhood" will be "obsolete" and all states "will recognize a single global authority."

On October 24, 2000-about ten months before the U.N.'s notorious Durban Conference on racism-representatives from over 50 U.S. non-governmental organizations sent a formal letter to the U.N. Human Rights Commission calling on the U.N. "to hold the United States accountable for the intractable and persistent problem of discrimination" that "men and women of color face at the hands of the U.S. criminal justice system." The groups' spokesman, Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, declared that they were unable to get satisfaction from "federal and state officials": "In frustration we now turn to the United Nations."

Their frustration poses a threat to all the rest of us. The Clinton administration, during its final days, signed on to the International Criminal Court (ICC); happily, the Bush administration reversed that decision. But when Henry Kissinger complained of the "extraordinary attempt of the ICC to assert jurisdiction over Americans even in the absence of U.S. accession to the treaty," Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch disingenuously replied that the "ICC will assert such power only if an American commits a specified atrocity on the territory of a government that has joined the ICC." But Roth (an American citizen) knows that this would include Afghanistan, South Korea, and Colombia, countries in which U.S. forces could be engaged in conflict and thus subject to the ICC-even though the U.S. has rejected the treaty.

The pre-Durban letter from the NGOs and the support for the ICC by "human rights" activists (and some in the State Department) are just the beginning of what will surely be a continuous assault on American self-government from transnational "progressive" elites. President Bush's affirmation during his State of the Union Address on January 28, 2003, that "the course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others," is a rallying cry for all Americans-conservatives, liberals, centrists-to defend the principles of American sovereignty and self-government.

In this conflict over democratic sovereignty, the right-center coalition should have little trouble coalescing under the banner of patriotic conservatism. Foreign-policy-realist conservatives of the National Interest-Foreign Policy Research Institute-Nixon Centerstripe support an internationalist foreign policy based on American interests and balance-of-power calculations; neoconservatives support an internationalist foreign policy focused on spreading democracy, American values, and American power. Both these conservative groups are represented within the Bush administration. While there are some differences of approach to Iraq, China, North Korea, and democracy promotion, they will clearly stand together against encroachments on America's democratic sovereignty. Nearly all conservatives will support American sovereignty, but there are some elements of the Right that-because of their general ("non-interventionist") opposition to internationalism-will remain outside the conservative mainstream.

In sum, the political milieu post-9/11 creates a new yet philosophically familiar era for American conservatism. The two-pillar model (economic conservatism plus minimal lip service to social conservatism) that formed the basis for the "leave us alone" coalition of the 1990s is as inadequate for the War on Terrorism as pre-NATIONAL REVIEW Old Right isolationism was for the Cold War. What is needed is a paradigm shift among conservative intellectuals and activists from two-pillared conservatism to a three-pillared movement that adds patriotic conservatism to the mix. The 2002 elections showed that this change has already occurred operationally among the conservative rank and file; it is time for the change to occur conceptually as well, among conservative elites.

We need an explicit recognition that conservatism should ask instinctively what is best for the nation (the republic), not simply what is best for the market, or even for morality and Burke's "little platoons" of civil society, whose cultivation we all desire. This patriotic conservatism was integral to the Reagan coalition and would be critical to any successful post-9/11 fusionism. It would strengthen (not replace or put aside) a vital economic and social conservatism in a new fusionism. Besides support for President Bush on homeland security, terrorism, and issues of American sovereignty, patriotic conservatism would embrace the morally right and politically popular One America issues, such as support for assimilating immigrants into what we should unapologetically be calling the American way of life. Patriotic conservatism offers an appealing vision for America, and its hour has come.

Mr. Fonte is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

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