Why Conservatives Can’t Win, by Mark Weber - The Unz Review (An honest appraisal of the past and future for White Americans!)
Based on their track record over the past half century,
conservatives are incapable of building or even defending the kind of society
that nearly all white Americans really want.
If white America has a future, it won’t be secured by
conservatives. It will be secured only by European Americans who reject
“business-as-usual” politics and the familiar but ultimately irrelevant
“conservative” and “liberal” categories, and who instead embrace a worldview
rooted in their heritage, history and identity, and act forthrightly to defend
and promote their own group interests.
Conservatism certainly seems
alive and well in America. For years polls have
consistently shown that more Americans identify as conservative than as
liberal. In recent decades both branches of Congress, as well as the White
House, have often been controlled by Republicans – who generally regard
themselves as conservative. “Conservative” Fox News has for some time been the
country’s most widely viewed television news source. Rush Limbaugh, who proudly
calls himself a conservative, has for decades been the country’s most popular
radio talk show host.
But such influence is
Over the past century, conservatives have drastically shifted
their views, abandoning their stands on one issue after another, including
Medicare, federal spending, Martin Luther King Day, and more. On any given
issue, the “conservative” view of today is often the “liberal” view of ten
When the Franklin Roosevelt administration and a compliant
Congress were establishing Social Security during the 1930s, conservatives
opposed it. Denouncing it as “socialist,” they pointed out that it’s basically
a compulsory old age insurance program. They likewise resisted Medicare in the
years before it was established in 1966, calling this federal program
Today not a single prominent politician who regards himself as
conservative dares call for dismantling Social Security or Medicare. To the
contrary, conservative politicians assure voters that they will “protect” these
programs. Conservatives likewise fought the Affordable Care Act, also known as
Obamacare. Although there is still some residual talk of repealing and
replacing it, it appears that some form of the Act will remain in place. And
just as they eventually accepted the once-despised Social Security and Medicare
programs, conservatives very likely will come around to accepting some version
Just what is it that
conservatives want to conserve? One answer that’s often given
is “freedom” – by which is usually meant “individual freedom.”
Well, if individual freedom is really important, those who call
themselves conservative should be very pleased with the trajectory of the past
century, because Americans today generally have more freedom and “rights” than
those of earlier generations.
Consider life in 1930, for example – when nearly all Americans
still regarded the US as a “great” country.
For one thing, employment and job opportunities were generally
segregated and restricted by sex and race. Employment notices in newspapers
appeared in separate sections, one for Men and another for Women. Women were
effectively barred from a wide range of jobs.
There were no “gay rights.” Homosexual behavior was punished as a
crime. Any suggestion that a woman might have the “right” to marry another
woman, or a man another man, would have been regarded as offensive and absurd.
By law and custom, people of European ancestry could not marry
persons of other races. In most states marriage between whites and blacks was a
Abortion was not a “right”; it was a crime.
Americans could not buy groceries, tools or clothes on a Sunday.
Stores across the country were closed on Sundays as an expression of respect
for the Christian heritage and Christian sensibilities.
No one could legally order a glass of beer or enjoy a bottle of
wine with a meal in a restaurant. The sale of alcoholic beverages was
prohibited throughout the country.
How many Americans today who call themselves conservative would
prefer life in the “great” America of 1930 to life in the “liberal” USA of our
era? Is “freedom” really the most important thing that conservatives want to
For Americans who call themselves conservative, the most admired
president of the past century is Ronald Reagan. He made millions of his fellow
citizens feel good about themselves and their country. Given his earlier career
as an actor, it’s not surprising that he was known as the “great communicator,”
and that so many people found his speeches inspiring and uplifting. He was
probably the last American president who actually believed what he said when he
assured audiences that this country’s greatest days are still ahead.
Reagan was a relentless critic of Big Government. When he was
campaigning for the presidency, he pledged to reduce the size and scope of the
federal government. He specifically promised to eliminate the Department of
Education, along with other allegedly unnecessary and unconstitutional federal
agencies. He criticized the federal budget deficit, and promised to balance it.
He opposed making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday.
His policies as president were quite different. During the eight
years of his administration, the number of federal government employees
increased by about 324,000 to almost 5.3 million, the great majority of them in
non-military work. Federal government spending under Reagan increased by 60
percent. The Department of Education was not eliminated; in fact, its budget
more than doubled. The gross federal debt nearly tripled. It was during his
presidency that US shifted from being the world’s foremost creditor nation to
being the world’s greatest debtor nation. And in an act with consequences far
beyond his lifetime, Reagan signed into law the bill to make Martin Luther King
Day a national holiday.
The contrast between Reagan’s conservative rhetoric and his actual
policies are perhaps not so surprising, given his record of approval for the
overall social-political trajectory of twentieth century America. One
noteworthy expression of that was his praise for President Franklin Roosevelt,
whose liberal “New Deal” policies vastly expanded the power and scope of the
federal government, and whom conservatives of that era understandably despised.
For Ronald Reagan, race was unimportant. Perhaps a better way to
put it is that, for Reagan, along with most white Americans of his generation,
it was an issue he preferred to ignore. As president, Reagan acknowledged that
when he was young “we didn’t even know we had a racial problem.” That’s because
non-whites were all but invisible in the country’s cultural, political and
social life. Until the 1960s, white America preferred to pretend that
non-whites did not exist.
As President, Reagan repeatedly proclaimed his vision of the
United States as a universalist society. In his 1982 Thanksgiving Day
Proclamation, for example, he said: “I have always believed that this anointed
land was set apart in an uncommon way, that a divine plan placed this great
continent here between the oceans to be found by people from every corner of
the earth who had a special love of faith and freedom.”
In keeping with this outlook, Reagan in 1986 signed into law the
“Simpson-Mazzoli” Act, which legalized some three million illegal migrants –
or, as they are now fashionably called, “undocumented workers” and “dreamers.”
His amnesty of millions of illegal immigrants was entirely consistent with his
often-repeated view of America as a color-blind nation that welcomes all those
who “love freedom.”
The gap between Reagan’s rhetoric as a politician and his actual
policies as president underscores the barrenness of conservatism in modern
In keeping with their distaste
for confrontation and discord, conservatives have long tolerated the promotion
of seemingly noble sentiments that have unpleasant long term consequences.
Emma Lazarus was a New York Jewish-American writer of the
nineteenth century who is most famous for her poem “The New Colossus.” In 1903,
a few years after her death, a bronze plaque with the poem’s text was attached
to the base of the Statue of Liberty.
It concludes with the words:
me your tired, your poor, Your
huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The
wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send
these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my
lamp beside the golden door!”
That final stanza was made even more famous when it was set to
music for the 1949 musical “Miss Liberty.”
Has any prominent conservative ever voiced an objection to the
sentiment of that poem, or protested its place at the Statue of Liberty? More
than that, conservatives have supported policies based on the poem’s underlying
spirit and ideology, which open the country’s doors to millions of “huddled
masses” from other continents. Conservative Americans only seem to get upset
when the “wretched refuse” of “teeming shores” arrive in their own towns and
neighborhoods. By that time, of course, it’s too late.
This view of America as a land for everyone, regardless of race,
ancestry, and so forth, was already vigorously promoted and widely accepted by
the 1940s. During World War II, the official “Why We Fight” US government
propaganda films proclaimed the ideal of America as a universalist society. In
the decades since then, the mainstream media, Hollywood, school teachers and
politicians have stressed racial, cultural and religious diversity as an ideal.
President Bill Clinton, for example, in his 1997 State of the Union address,
said: “We must never, ever believe that our diversity is a weakness – it is our
greatest strength.” Not a single prominent conservative politician disputed or
protested that view.
Conservatives are generally
more willing than liberals or leftists to acknowledge racial realities, at
least in private, but they are unwilling to do so openly. In public,
conservative leaders applaud and support the same principle of “color blind”
equality that liberals promote.
Each January, Americans honor, or are supposed to honor, Martin
Luther King, Jr., on the anniversary of his birth. He is the only American who
is honored with a federal holiday of his own. At one time, those who called
themselves conservative opposed such a national holiday. That was
understandable, given that it was liberals and leftists who had provided the
backing that proved crucial in enabling King’s campaign to win greater
political power, rights, and economic status for African Americans.
These days, conservatives talk very differently about King and his
legacy. They now claim that he was actually a “conservative” because he pushed
for the supposedly “conservative” principle of equal rights for all, regardless
of race. Today no prominent politician, including those who call themselves
conservative, would dare denounce him.
Beginning in kindergarten, school teachers across the country tell
young Americans that we must all strive to live up to the ideal of racial
equality proclaimed by King. That includes support for the range of programs,
regulations and policies, which he promoted, that require discrimination
against European-Americans. Politicians of both major parties accept or at
least tolerate these “affirmative action” policies and programs, which are
based on the notion that white Americans are collectively responsible for the
legacy of discrimination and racism that, we are told, has kept
African-Americans from achieving the goal of equality of income and achievement
that even conservatives claim to support.
Educators and political leaders have for decades told us that
success in the struggle for racial equality must be measured not merely by
equality of opportunity, but by equality of results. As President Lyndon
Johnson explained during the 1960s: “This is the next and more profound stage
of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity … not
just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.”
In accord with that outlook, Republican President Richard Nixon ordered federal
contractors to use “goals and timetables” in hiring more non-white workers,
even when that meant discriminating against better qualified white workers.
In an effort to win popular
support while basically accepting the prevailing egalitarian- universalist
worldview, conservatives misrepresent American history. One of the country’s
most popular conservative writers and film-makers of recent years has been
Dinesh D’Souza. Born and raised in India, he is regarded as an outstanding
spokesman for American conservativism.
His latest film is a political documentary, “Death of a Nation,”
that favorably compares Donald Trump to Abraham Lincoln, and asks viewers: “Can
We Save America a Second Time?” The film draws parallels between Democratic
Party opposition to Lincoln in 1860, and Democratic Party opposition to Trump
today. It also draws parallels between the program and outlook of Hitler’s
National Socialist Party during the 1930s, and the program and outlook of the
Democratic Party today. The film accuses the Democratic Party – both then and
now – of racism and fascism. It also argues that the political left today
unfairly and maliciously portrays conservatives and Republicans as supporters
of racism, white supremacy, and fascism.
How accurate is D’Souza’s “conservative” documentary?
In late 1860 and early 1861, the southern slave states left the
federal union to form the Confederate States of America, and a short time later
the fighting broke out that began the American Civil War. In the years leading
up to those events, the key political issue dividing Americans was whether
slavery should be prohibited in the new western territories. Democrats in the
South generally favored the expansion of slavery into the territories, while
Democrats in the North, led by Stephen Douglas, believed that the issue should
be decided by the voters in each new territory.
Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party firmly opposed any
expansion of slavery beyond the states where it was already legal. But contrary
to what D’Souza and many other conservatives suggest, Lincoln and most
Republicans rejected political and social equality for African-Americans. When
he was elected President in 1860, Lincoln and nearly all Republicans wanted to
keep not only slavery, but all blacks, whether slave or free, out of the new
In the years before he became President, Lincoln repeatedly made
clear that he opposed voting rights for blacks, and supported laws against
interracial marriage. Both before and during his presidency, Lincoln made
clear, again and again, his wish that one day slavery would be eliminated. But
he also repeatedly expressed his hope that people of African ancestry would
ultimately be removed from the country altogether. He supported plans and
programs for “colonization” or mass resettlement of blacks in Africa or Central
“The enterprise is a difficult one,” Lincoln acknowledged in a
June 1857 address, “but `where there is a will there is a way,’ and what
colonization needs most is a hearty will. Will springs from the two elements of
moral sense and self-interest. Let us be brought to believe it is morally
right, and, at the same time, favorable to, or, at least, not against, our
interest, to transfer the African to his native clime, and we shall find a way
to do it, however great the task may be.”
Based on the views he
expressed repeatedly, and the policies he supported, Abraham Lincoln should be
regarded, by today’s standards, as a white nationalist and a white supremacist.
Dinesh D’Souza, along with many others who call themselves
conservative, seem to believe that white racial identity and politics are evil.
In this, they agree with most liberals and Democrats. But if it’s morally wrong
to hold white identity views, or to support policies based on white community
interests, than it’s difficult to look back without shame at the views and
policies of Lincoln and nearly all white Americans during most of the country’s
For prominent conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh, Dinesh D’Souza
and Sean Hannity, the ideal America is a country in which race is as irrelevant
as hair color or shoe size. For such people, it simply doesn’t matter if the
USA, racially, resembles Brazil, India or Malaysia. But in the real world race
does matter. It’s certainly more important than whether tax rates are high or
low, or whether gun control laws are strict or lenient.
In which country would American conservatives prefer to live: in
liberal “big government” Denmark, which has strict gun control laws,
comprehensive state health care, and high taxes, or in Haiti, which has no
income tax, no strict gun control laws, no state health care, and a government
that interferes very little in the lives of its citizens?
Whether they regard themselves as conservative or liberal, most
Americans prefer to live in neighborhoods and communities of people like
themselves. And whether they think in racial terms or not, most white Americans
prefer life in a society that is culturally Western and racially European.
As recent election campaigns show, conservative voters seem to be
motivated more by what they oppose, fear or dislike than by any solidly
grounded principles. Because conservatives embrace the same
egalitarian-universalist worldview that liberals relentlessly promote, they
have a long record of waging predictably hopeless rearguard battles against
programs and policies based on that same outlook. But even as they lose the
war, conservatives comfort themselves with occasional election and legislative
victories – tactical successes that are essentially meaningless.
We hear a lot these days about “identity politics” – that is,
political appeals and activism based on race, ethnicity or gender.
Conservatives don’t like it. “Why can’t we all just think of ourselves as
Americans?,” they lament. But “identity politics” is not a game. It’s serious,
In the years before 1776, when the 13 colonies along the Atlantic
coast broke away from British rule, the great debate was really about identity:
Are we British subjects, with loyalties to the British monarch, or are we a
separate, American people? Virtually all the great conflicts of our age are
really conflicts about identity.
Ordinary politics involves issues of day-to-day concern to most
people, such as taxes, jobs, affordable housing and health care, entitlement
benefits, and so forth. Appeals for votes in routine politics like that are
based on the presumption that we all share the same basic outlook and
interests, and that we’re all in this together as Americans.
While white Americans are still trying to play the traditional
political game – that is, by pretending that race doesn’t matter – millions of
other Americans are playing identity politics. While white conservative
Americans keep playing “softball,” insisting that “We’re all Americans,” the serious
contenders are playing “hardball,” the only game that matters in the long run.
Even though conservatives sometimes still win battles, it’s no
wonder they are losing the war. They’re not even playing the same game.
Based on their track record
over the past half century, conservatives are incapable of building or even
defending the kind of society that nearly all white Americans really want.
If white America has a
future, it won’t be secured by conservatives. It will be secured only by
European Americans who reject “business-as-usual” politics and the familiar but
ultimately irrelevant “conservative” and “liberal” categories, and who instead
embrace a worldview rooted in their heritage, history and identity, and act
forthrightly to defend and promote their own group interests.
This item is adapted from a talk given at a
meeting on Oct. 20, 2018, in southern California.
Weber – historian, author and lecturer – studied history at the University of
Illinois (Chicago), the University of Munich, Portland State University and
Indiana University (M.A). He is director of the Institute for Historical