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  Beyond Paleo and Neo Conservatism
by Steven D. Laib, J.D. M.S.
April 2003 

To a large degree the discussion over assumed values is not relevant, nor is it useful. It is not the issues which divide conservatives, but what to do about them, and how it can be accomplished.

Much discussion has occurred over the last several years on the many aspects of conservative political trends and movements during the last half-century or so.  A large portion of this discussion has centered on an examination of the so-called “Neoconservatives and Paleoconservatives”.  These two labels have been applied fairly recently to members of the conservative camp, based largely on whether they came into existence as a reaction to the radical left of the 1960’s (the Neoconservatives) or as a further reaction, because the Neoconservatives have not gone far enough in their pursuit of perceived core conservative values (Paleoconservatives).  To a large degree this discussion over assumed values is not relevant, nor is it useful.  As many conservatives will readily point out, their values cross the Paleo/Neo line in many instances.  What is more likely correct is that these assumptions do not necessarily reflect anything except that somebody believes that there are these two groups and that they believe certain things.

It all reminds this author of a debate he encountered some years ago over “Big L” and “Small L” libertarians.  What made it rather ridiculous was that if you get two libertarians discussing the same subject you are likely to have three or more opinions about it.  The same thing happens with many conservatives because they do not tend to fall into easily identifiable categories.  They think for themselves, are individualists, and generally can easily formulate their own opinions because they are accustomed to thinking, analyzing and concluding for themselves.  This is why they are not part of the great mass of liberals who allow reactionary rhetoric to think for them; a process, which leads to lemming-like conformity. 

Focusing more closely on the great debate, we can see fairly easily that the argument is more related to the practical aspects of conservative politics versus more radical idealism.  It is not the issues which divide conservatives, but what to do about them, and how it can be accomplished.  Neocons want results just as much as their counterparts.  Where they differ is on the method.  They tend to be more pragmatic and more focused on getting any results.  Paleocons contrast with this markedly.  They want action and results ASAP, and see a lack of movement in the right direction as dangerous to conservatism and to Americans as well.  Because of this, some Paleocons have adopted the idea that the Republican party has been hijacked by Neoconservatives, resulting in weakened devotion to principle, and a soft attitude toward liberalism.  In extreme cases they have even adopted the same views as the radical left, in advocating isolationism, and anti-Semitic attitudes.  Despite this, in the end, it is all pretty much business as usual.  People have been making similar arguments on both sides of the aisle for many years.  What matters now is that the noise is where we can easily hear it.  Those of us who are old enough can recall the Nixon versus Goldwater antagonism in the early 1960’s.  Some people tend to forget that it happened. 

So if this arguing is business as usual, and the views on both sides are not really all that different, then what is the argument about?  Again, it is about action.  Take Pat Buchanan and Michael Savage as examples.  Both stress borders, language and culture very strongly in their public positions.  Both tend to get very vocal about how America is being inundated by immigration and that the immigrants are not pulling their weight culturally by adopting American ways and views.  Both have expressed strong ideas about how to control immigration and what should be required of immigrants.  Both are correct in their view.  The issue separating them from much of the conservative movement is whether or not the action plans can be implemented.  That is the center of the great debate. 

Over the last 50 or so years immigration policy and procedure has become lax.  In my own experience in preparing immigration petitions I have found that little or no investigation is ever conducted into the truth of the matters asserted by the applicants Some of us will recall how a visa petition was issued for one of the September 11 terrorists even after his participation in the attack had become national news.  In addition, immigrants are not required to learn the language or the culture to any significant degree.  When voting materials and public classroom instruction are provided in other languages and cultural identification with America is discouraged, then it is little wonder that we have a problem here.

But it is not the Neocons who have created that problem, nor would they like to see it continue.  What makes them different is that they see how difficult it is to get their way in the political arena right now, and so they working on a different schedule.  It is not because they want to, but because they believe that they have to.  Considering that the American voters placed Bill Clinton in the Oval Office for two terms and nearly placed Al Gore there after him is a grave testament to the difficulty facing conservatives.  When you consider that many Republican office holders have been and continue to be less than zealous in their pursuit of conservative goals, it is little wonder that many conservatives are concerned.  Consider Newt Gingrich for example.  Meanwhile, the complaints leveled at Ronald Reagan for failure to restore a pre-New Deal system were very few.  Yet it is likely that he felt that failure as much as anyone. 

What Buchanan and his colleagues seem to forget in their zeal is that American didn’t turn liberal overnight.  It was a process of more than a century.  Now, the pendulum may be swinging back, probably of necessity.  What we do not want is for that pendulum to swing too far.  One thing which many conservatives distrust is the “man on horseback” phenomenon.  Readers may wish to look up Guy R. Odom online, as has written an intriguing work on this subject.  Suffice it to say here, that we do not want to develop our own version of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin or Hussein.  What we need is not just one person to solve our national problems.  We need a group dedicated to emphasizing the realities that made America great, and then enacting the laws, which will restore the opportunities for that greatness and doing so as part of the legitimate political process. 

Right now America is facing a very difficult time.  It is being challenged culturally by Islamic extremism and the PC Left.  It is being challenged politically by forces from extreme liberal and extreme conservative positions.  It is being challenged economically by past assumptions that government can grow ever larger, grabbing responsibility over virtually everything, and can continue spending money in continually increasing amounts forever.  America needs the Pat Buchanan types to light a fire under us occasionally.  It also needs the practical people to stay the course and get the job done.  Finally it needs is a realistic view of the world and the political realities we face.  Blaming other segments of the party, or engaging in that tired practice of scapegoating Jews gets nothing done and only helps the opposition.  It's time that conservatives remembered that they all have a role to play, and that pushing conspiracy theories has never resulted in political success.  Otherwise we may as well all go home and let the liberals have their way.  They have been using a divide and conquer strategy for years.  Let’s not use it against ourselves and let the liberals laugh their way to total destruction of free society. 

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