Matthew Continetti: How The Right Misunderstands Its History

Bill Kristol’s son-in-law has a new article on the history of the conservative establishment in the post-World War II era.

National Review:

“Conservatives like to say that their movement began in the wilderness. Then William F. Buckley Jr. came along and founded National Review in 1955. He led the Right to political relevance by winning the 1964 Republican nomination for Arizona senator Barry Goldwater.

Goldwater lost that year, but the ashes of his candidacy were fertile soil for Ronald Reagan, who brought conservatives to power in 1980. Since Reagan’s presidency, conservatives say, the movement has endured setbacks and diversions. But the Right still shapes American democracy through intellectual institutions and media platforms that were unimaginable when the movement began. Conservatives admit that Donald Trump caused friction within the Right. But they also believe he recalibrated the Right along populist and nationalist lines and attracted new constituencies to the movement.

This story contains elements of truth. But it is too neat. The edges of the movement have been smoothed over. Its blemishes have been covered up or ignored. …

If the Vietnam War splintered the Democratic coalition, then the 2003 Iraq War fractured the Republican one. Conservatism was never the same. The public’s rejection of the war, the economic calamity of 2008, and the Republican Party’s continued support for an amnesty of illegal immigrants delegitimized the establishment in the eyes of the populist independents, conservative Democrats, and disaffected voters who had been crucial to GOP victories in years past. …

One century later, in the early 2020s, the Right had been driven from power at the federal level. It no longer viewed core American institutions as worth defending. It was apocalyptic in attitude and expression. It resembled more closely the populist Democrats of William Jennings Bryan — who rallied under one banner all those who felt excluded from or dispossessed by the economic, social, and cultural powers of his time — than the business-friendly Republicans of Warren Harding. …”


So, what is the difference between the Right of Calvin Coolidge and the Right of Donald Trump?

The thing that stands out most to me is that the South and East have traded political parties. Eastern conservatism has been replaced by Southern conservatism. The big change since George W. Bush was president is that populist swing voters in rural areas and small towns vote so much more Republican than in 2008. This is why Chuck Todd was crying about how Democrats lost Iowa.

The Right in the Cold War era was a conservative-libertarian coalition. The ideology of mainstream conservatism was conservative liberalism. The Left was a populist-progressive coalition that was created by FDR in the New Deal. The governing ideology of the Democratic Party was progressive liberalism. The term “liberal” came to be used in its modern sense during the 1920s when it was adopted by the liberal progressives who embraced modernism and broke with Woodrow Wilson over World War I and Prohibition. The division between progressive liberalism and conservative liberalism can be traced back to early 20th century thinkers like John Dewey.

American politics was much more interesting and colorful before the progressive liberal vs. conservative liberal era which lasted for nearly a century from the 1920s down to our own times. The Democracy as the Democratic Party was known in the 19th century was a populist-conservative coalition. The Whigs and later the Republicans were the party of Big Business and utopian social reformers. Liberals migrated from the Republican Party into the Democratic Party in Woodrow Wilson’s time. Before the 20th century distinction between progressive liberals and conservative liberals arose in the Progressive Era, the conservative liberals or 19th century liberals were the Left in this country. Conservative liberals are “conservative” in the sense of being yesterday’s liberalism or 19th century liberalism. Jefferson Davis was the conservative in his era. Abraham Lincoln was on the progressive side.

American politics has cycling back to the old 19th century alignment since the Truman administration. Populists have been defecting from the New Deal coalition. Liberals have been defecting from the Republican coalition.


  1. I have a different view. The US was sold off to bankers by corrupt politicians in 1913 and has been groomed to be a slave state ever since. Buckley was a huge part of the grooming process by political political and economic theories that were harmless to the Shlomo Slave Masters. What difference do tax rates mean to a slave?

    • Yes the Republic ended permanently in 1913. The empire was established in 1865 but it wasn’t totally in control for another 48 years. The whites in the South for example were able to muster enough votes in the house in 1876 to force a compromise with the ruling Republican ideologues. Politics has been unidirectional since WW I. With the passage of another half-century the control of the empire was total. Only fake opposition permitted now. The recent de-facto declaration of war upon Russia and its bi-partisan passage – while our own border remains undefended from an ongoing invasion – reveals how totally fake and gay the so-called opposition party is.

    • @KT-88 Agree. The US is nothing but a slave state, to work and fight wars for that particular “ally”. They control our money and exploit us. I don’t even know if we have any gold anymore.
      Property taxes is part of the never-ending fleecing of the taxpayers.

  2. “When you study conservatism’s past, you become convinced that it has a future.”

    Not really, Matt.

    Does anyone actually pay to read NRO content?

  3. ContinnettiI has always been a Warhawk Chickenhawk “conservative”….His allegiance is only to Jew-only-Israel….And he married a tapeworm parasite’s daughter…..

  4. Whites have very little history left thanks to revisionist history written off by the jews in the public schools.

    • I’m waiting for Hollywood to make a movie about Elon Musk or Bill Gates, and they’ll cast Denzel Washington in the lead role, like they did when they made the movie about that pilot.

    • For decades people of Leningrad were bombarded with the propaganda that Lenin was a great man but they changed the name back to St. Petersburg as soon as they could. You cannot erase cultural attachment so easily.
      Lovecraft said:
      ‘The real truth is, of course, that these radical innovators represent anything at all–i.e., merely represent the absence of something. What they lack is any coordinated background & unified antecedents whatsoever. Having nothing of their own, they try to assemble a hodge-podge of new & suddenly-born culture. Actually, what they achieve is merely an unplaced & unplaceable chaos.’

  5. “”… founded National Review in 1955..led the Right to political relevance by winning the 1964 to power in 1980.If the Vietnam War then the 2003 Iraq War the economic calamity of 2008 in the early 2020s…”””

    Demonstrates that some people have serious psychological issues and why ideologies never work.

    Roman Empire was destroyed by 476, Vikings attacked Cuck Island in the 7th century, Russians start drinking 100 millions hours and 7 seconds before Prophet Mohammed cat had sex with another cat somewhere in the modern Yemen 1300 years ago what is somehow relevant today to avoid Latvian Star Wars with Luxemburg in the year 3000 so we must capitulate and let all immigrants in.

    Some people are so smart and educated that you can not hold you back to call them idiots. . I like Pat Buchanan. He has also interesting pieces. Because of Lincoln had secret homosexuals sex with Hitler somewhere in the Assyrian Empire, Greta Thunberg was born and now we all doomed.

    This is the reason why Jared Taylor an Richard Spencer were thrown out from Eastern Europe. We will not turn our healthy successful nationalism into absurd.

  6. The way I see it, if you want to reduce politics to four basic ingredients, conservatism, liberalism, populism and progressivism, these days conservatism, liberalism and populism are increasingly teaming up on the right to take on progressivism on the left, which is off in its own world somewhere, progressives have gone batshit crazy.
    Modern right: a coalition of conservatism, liberalism and populism.
    Modern left: progressivism by itself, if you don’t think the green new deal and the great reset are right, across the board, you’re an insert smear here, Nazi, Putin’s Puppet, etcetera.
    There are still some guys like Jimmy Dore who’re progressive on some issues but populist, liberal or even conservative on others, but increasingly progressivism is becoming an all or nothing deal.
    This is dangerous, if progressives can’t get a hold of themselves and rediscover common sense and compromise, then hopefully they’ll destroy themselves without damaging the rest of us in the process.

    As for politics before 2016, yea it was more like conservatism and liberalism on the right, liberalism and progressivism on the left.
    Populism wasn’t really a thing back then and hadn’t been for decades.
    Once the right started embracing populism in addition to conservatism and liberalism, the left, instead of embracing its own brand of populism or sticking with liberalism and progressivism, went insane, they ditched liberalism and embraced unbridled progressivism.
    These people are cancer.

  7. Spencer was thrown into a Hungarian jail (Orban was president) on the orders of Victoria Nudelman. I recall Taylor was banned from Cuck Island, whose devotion to Woke dogma is even greater than in Chiquitastan. It’s somewhat funny in retrospect as both were obviously controlled opposition the whole time, with Spencer now openly allied with Globopedo.

    • Yes Spencer is so obviously controlled opposition. He sounds like Trudeau’s lost brother when he speaks.

  8. Calvin Coolidge was the last President of the United States to sign legislation that reduced legal immigration. Trump probably would have, but none ever got to his desk (mainly because he was fool enough to trust Paul Ryan).

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