As the media and political establishment continues to reel from the unexpected outcome of this past Tuesday, it may be worth noting that for at least one generally overlooked group of political commentators the Trump phenomenon did not quite come as a totally unexpected bolt from the blue. I refer to those who are sometimes called “paleoconservatives.”
The tongue-in-cheek term paleoconservative emerged during the Reagan years as a response to neoconservatism, and signifies a general commitment to the principles of the Old Right, as well as a sympathy for (if not outright embrace of) archetypally Catholic principles such as subsidiarity. In particular, paleoconservatism signifies a firm rejection of the neoconservative idea that the US military should be employed as a missionary force for spreading democracy throughout the world. Under the leadership of Catholic classicist Thomas Fleming, then-editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, paleoconservatives have in recent decades severely criticized as imprudent and immoral the Clinton administration’s intervention in Bosnia, the George W. Bush administration’s occupation of Iraq, and the Obama administration’s more recent attempt to create an “Arab Spring.”
Paleoconservatives have also argued for domestic policies much like those Trump has used as the cornerstone of his campaign: A much more restrictive immigration policy, especially with respect to immigrants from Muslim countries, and a protectionist approach to American industry.
An argument can even be made that paleoconservatives saw Trump’s victory coming. One term paleoconservative literature uses to characterize America’s political trajectory is “anarcho-tyranny” — a system whereby rioters, illegal immigrants, and even terrorists are dealt with indulgently, even as law-abiding citizens are subjected to an increasingly totalitarian regime of political-correctness and affirmative action. Some paleo thinkers predicted that MARs — “Middle-American Radicals” — would come to detest anarcho-tyranny enough to mobilize themselves, and would thereby radically transform the political landscape.
To be sure, the paleoconservative emphasis on classical culture, gentlemanliness, and civilized behavior may be hard to reconcile with the bluff persona Trump presents to the world. And key aspects of the paleoconservative program — subsidiarity, states’ rights, local community — have been conspicuously absent from Trump’s rhetoric. Nonetheless, no one serious about making sense of recent events can ignore the extent to which the Trump campaign looked like a better-funded, more aggressive version of paleoconservative journalist Pat Buchanan’s year 2000 presidential run.
Whether the reader loves Trump, detests him, or is simply relieved at having dodged another President Clinton, there is one bright spot I hope we can all agree upon. This election has dealt a staggering blow to the credibility of CNN, NBC, The New York Times, and other institutions dominated by anti-Christian influences. The supposedly all-knowing sages of the mass media have been made to look like total fools. And that is a very good thing, indeed.