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: How did principles such as immigration restriction and cultural cohesion manage to evade scrutiny from 'respectable' politicos on both sides and secure starring roles in the future of American conservatism?
Paul Nehlen: First of all, I don’t think it evaded ‘respectable politicos' scrutiny. It goes back to the money. If corporations want a steady stream of low wage workers, be it low skilled laborers or higher skilled H-class visa holders, that’s what their political donations get them. The cascade effect to our fractious institutions, be it social security or education and the list goes on, is now sticking out on all sides from the smoke and mirrors utilized by ‘respectable politicos.'
When a corporation can replace Americans in their American job with a cheap foreign worker, as was done at Abbott Labs, Americans ought to be incensed. I am incensed.
Cotto: A band of disparate rightists banded together in support of Donald Trump's candidacy. These individuals, opposed to contemporary American conservative orthodoxy, came to be known as the 'alt-right'. Since Donald Trump's election, 'alt-rightism' has splintered prolifically. Beyond anything else, why is this?
Nehlen: I tend to look beyond what the media, neoconservatives, and other so-called conservatives want to label a broad spectrum of Americans. The term alt-right is another form of Balkanization. Some embraced it and some didn’t. Along with Hillary Clinton, who labeled those same Americans ‘Deplorables,’ the so-called-conservatives failed. They fought tooth-and-nail to ensure American’s had Jeb! or Marco or some other, any other candidate than one with a full-throated endorsement of America First priorities.
President Trump has supporters from all walks of life, all income levels, education levels, ethnicity, you name it. That, I suspect, scares the daylights out of those in power. To retain power, their efforts devolved into name calling a nebulous group of Trump supporters bigots, racists, anti-Semites, and so on. President Trump’s supporters are Americans. Calling them names galvanizes their resolve, as we saw with the election result.