Herein, is a love letter to The American Conservative (TAC). We are of the same cloth; I walked a similar path of ideas as some of you. I engaged and dialogued with some of you as I wrote anonymously during the early 2000 anti-war days. I disagreed with your position in 2006 on voting Democrat, and I believe that served in large part to make the traditional right irrelevant to the populist Tea Party, we were unable to guide them and lost them to others. I am writing this, in the open and on the Net because, I do not believe an email would sufficiently get through. Take this for what it is, love from a guy that wants to see the cause of right-reasoned traditional conservatism find a real place in the public square.
As I related in a post that answered ‘who is Barry Clark?’, in the 1990s I found kindred spirits among the solid traditionalists and paleoconservatives. Many of the relationships and connections formed then continue to encourage and sustain me. In the 2000s when paleo-conservatives and paleo-libertarians came together to form an anti-war coalition, I was right there. I was already anti-war (anti-those wars) after my first deployment with the Army. I blogged anonymously so I could keep my job, but I was right there, doing my duty in uniform and at home.
In the mid-2000s the proverbial torch was passed from the aging intellectuals of the movement (Gottfried, Fleming, Livingston, Wilson, and so many others) to 30-40-year-old ‘writers and journalists’. Some in this group were academic students of the masters. For example, Brion McClanahan to Clyde Wilson. Others, like the editors that took over The American Conservative, were accomplished writers that had developed relationships with the masters. The transition from the Silent Generation to Xers was not that of Kirk to Gottfried.
In 2006, TAC, one of only two major traditional conservative magazines, Chronicles being the other, advocated for true rightist to vote Democratic in the mid-term elections. Any potential for relevance, any measured ability to make a difference was lost that day. Whether The American Conservative was right or wrong only time will tell. What is an indisputable fact is paleoconservatism and traditional conservatism and an organized, relevant, systematic and historically rooted intellectual endeavor ended that very day. The publication frequency of TAC fell from twice monthly to monthly and finally in 2013, every other month. I suspect these are not unrelated facts.
I took a strong exception to the stance of TAC in 2006, one that has not fundamentally changed since. I thought to abandon the only party that might stand in the way of the progressive wave that was about to wash over the country was strategically flawed. It seems there certainly was enough support in ordinary Americans for a revival of real conservative principles, the Tea party bore this out as truth. However, without an intellectual base of conservatism, that effort was bound to be, as it was, usurped by neocons, Straussians, and false-conservative. Paleoconservatives were no longer relevant, one of our major outlets had proposed voting for Democrats; how could our ideas be taken seriously by ordinary folks that wanted a conservative resurgence but lacked intellectual depth in the philosophy of conservatism? They could not see the nuance of that resistance.
I am with you but…
I dialogued and engaged with some of the current writers back in the 2000s when I was a small, inconsequential and anonymous blogger and they were just bigger known names in a relatively small blogshere. Now, I am not anonymous, the ‘blogshere’ does not exist, I am still inconsequential and they are blue-checked twittercrats. Perhaps it is personal, but the fact that these guys refuse to actually engage in discussion; they write stuff, post it to twitter several times a day and generally only respond to each other or perhaps someone else with a blue-check is discouraging. This was not my experience with Thomas DiLorenzo, Thomas Woods, William Lind and many, many others back in the early days; Clyde Wilson for instance, he went from being an inspiration to a friend and mentor of mine, because he engaged – folks that wrote and engaged in an effort to build a community around principles.
In a very real sense, I am calling out TAC, out of love. This is for you, the editorial staff and writers. You may not like all my ideas, I may not write in a professionally polished way, I may have but a handful of Twitter followers (I did just start two months ago), I may be passionate – but I am you, we are from the same philosophical cloth. If I feel that you are distant, irrelevant, disconnected and aloof, do you suppose I am alone among your potential readership? I suspect not.
We have two real publications that write from a traditional and paleoconservative perspective and one new fabulous new effort I discovered yesterday. Your Twitter engagement rate is pretty low, both in ‘followers’ engaging and TAC engaging back. Perhaps take some time away from repeat posting and actually engage with people that are probably on your side and think like you – act relationally as the mega-church folks like to say, build real community through dialogue.
Here is a fact for you. Anyone that ‘Twitters’ and is inclined to think, read and ponder philosophical questions is not a consumer of information, they are not ‘followers’. If they are on the platform they are there to engage. My experience, my observation over the last couple of months tells me you do not want to engage, to debate subtle difference of opinion, to shine the light on the strengths of an argument or to take on the view that there may be other approaches to an authentic approach to the Right. I do not perceive that you want to build a community around our principles or highlight others within the movement that share core beliefs. If it is just me, well, then it is just me. However, I suspect there are many more folks like me out there.
Hire someone to manage social media with the task and purpose to engage, not simply repost information at ideally selected times during the day. I am not suggesting your current folks are not doing what you have told them, I am simply sharing that the task and purpose need to be expanded.
Build community – through the efforts above, and in other ways. Ideas alone are not enough right now. Words are not enough. Our cause needs a more relational approach.
Instruct your writers to actually engage. Don’t delete comments on the site that call someone to task for an article. Principled debate is not trolling. Don’t ignore reasonable questions or comments on Twitter posts only to move on to reposting content. That comes off to folks just as it sounds.
Stop throwing so many rocks. I get it, I find Trump abhorrent also. Yet, I cannot imagine what a world where Trump had lost would have looked like. He is a very useful speed-bump. Use the advice our grandmas gave, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing. Write an article that talks at a high level about principles without dunking him directly when you are upset at him. Look at the world we live in! Be realist! Be more Burkean in our pragmatism! Most of those folks out there screaming MAGA will never listen to a single point of principled discussion from anyone that disses herr Trump. If we want to remain irrelevant, throwing rocks is a strategy. If we want to truly help revitalize an authentic right, we have to be able to be heard by those people.
With love and affection, a disgruntled traditional right reader.