Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
Nowadays, it can be hard to figure out just what it means to be a 'conservative.'
Does it mean the promotion of limited government ideals such as free markets, minimal immigration restrictions, and wide-ranging privatization? This is what untold millions have believed since the early 1980s, when the modern conservative movement crystallized under the influence of Ronald Reagan and his key backers.
The roots of their philosophy -- though some might say 'ideology' is a better term -- stretch back to what California was in the post-World War II age; a land of industry, a magnet for new residents, and fertile ground for diverse ideas. Amid this constant cultural change, pro-commerce voices competed with labor activists for the loudest bullhorn. Anything seemed possible, though a uniquely Californian brand of optimism, palpable as San Diego sunshine, ruled the day.
Nobody ever imagined the good times would come to an end. Who had the gall to think that Reaganism might give way to the New Left superstructure now entrenched in Sacramento?
That Reagan conservatism proved a flash in the pan, rather than a long-term trajectory, is a bitter pill to swallow for most center-right Americans. None too few movers and shakers still speak the late president's name in an almost deistic context. Nonetheless, his beliefs' lack of societal staying power and the hugely unpopular neoconservative ideology that succeeded them have placed a damper on the Gipper's legacy; especially for the under-40 crowd.
Presently, one must ask if conservatism means something different from what Reagan championed. Does it pertain to the preservation of America's Anglocentric culture, the defense of its borders, and the protection of its economic power from emerging foreign markets?
The new conservatism is actually quite old -- a throwback to what the Taft family, Calvin Coolidge, and Teddy Roosevelt stood for. Its resurgence comes against the odds; internationalism was trumpeted as the Washington Consensus until less than a year ago and there seemed little chance of changing this.
Now, a fierce battle of ideas unfolds over not just which variant of conservatism should triumph, but something far deeper: What matters more -- the transcendent ideals of Reagan or the kith-and-soil campaign of the Tafts, Coolidge, Roosevelt, and Donald Trump?
Paul Nehlen has proved himself one of the emerging right's most vocal and enthusiastic proponents.
Earlier this year, Breitbart described him as "not another lifelong politician, but a business executive and inventor. Nehlen started out on the factory floor, and through God's grace, grit, and determination rose to lead Fortune 500 manufacturing businesses around the world. Nehlen challenged Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s 2016 First Congressional District to stop Trans-Pacific Partnership and secure America’s border. Today he is waging the battle against the refugee resettlement racket and leading the cause to fight for America’s values."
Nehlen's run against Ryan attracted international attention and, though there was no upset victory, a serious, well-funded campaign against the Speaker sent shock waves far and wide. Nehlen continues to remain relevant by advocating for, more or less, the America First philosophy of Donald Trump -- though with a distinctly Midwestern, homespun approach. With a large following and contemporary-right message, it seems likely that Nehlen will remain in the news for some time.
While two weeks are an eternity in politics, I would not be surprised to see Nehlen holding some substantial office in two years. Either that or some serious leadership role in the ever-more-nationalistic conservative movement.
Nehlen recently spoke with me about many topics relative to American politics. Some of our conversation is included below.
Joseph Ford Cotto: The social justice warrior left has attained great success in spreading its ideas among young adults in this country. An emerging rightish movement will need to gain favor with the same demographic if it wants long-term prosperity. Given the extent to which conservatism -- especially on social issues -- is reviled among young adults, can Trump-era conservatives seriously expect to turn the ship around?
Paul Nehlen: The social justice warrior (SJW) left is shattered, and will be retired to the dustbin of history. They created division where none existed for the purpose of consolidating power. We can point to the fascist actions of a group that branded itself the Orwellian named ’antifa’ or anti-fascist movement as evidence of the death-throes of the SJW movement.
The SJW left had full throated support from President Obama and his decidedly race obsessed Department of Justice and their war on police, border agents, I.C.E. agents with SJW-esque coverage from the main stream media. I applaud President Trump’s efforts to take his message directly to the American people, the effect of which will be to snap SJW sympathetic youth out of a false narrative.
The Truth has no agenda. My hope is the George Soros[es] of the left will be held to account for the violence they've fomented in dividing Americans to consolidate power unto themselves.
Cotto: Beyond any other factor, how has Trump already changed American conservatism; specifically for what seems to be the long run?
Nehlen: President Trump has framed the conversation as America First. When can you recall so-called conservatives Speaker Ryan (R), Lindsey Graham (R), Marco Rubio (R), and others frame the discussion in a way that isn’t equivocating America’s best interests with other nations, tossing about that trite phrase ‘leveling the playing field?’ President Trump has even uttered those words, but in a decidedly ‘tipping the playing field’ context.
President Trump’s America First policies are the essence of what American conservatism ought to be: an offense, not a defense in the long run.