Although Stacy McCain is entitled to his preference for Rush and Palin over their critics, I must seriously question his ascription of a rightwing populist label to either figure. Stacy is describing people with conventional GOP leanings who cultivate a populist style. Rush is a very predictable advocate of whatever left-leaning centrist the GOP is running for president, while he and Sarah Palin both hold generic liberal internationalist views on foreign policy. Palin to my knowledge has never distanced herself from the John McCain-Bush position on amnestying illegals, and during the campaign she talked up government measures to ban gender discrimination from the workplace and educational institutions. Far from representing an alternative to her running mate in the recent presidential race, Palin ran around flaunting his positions.
Yes I know the liberal media has gone after both of Stacy’s heroes but this hardly suggests that we on the right have a duty to defend everyone who sports a populist style and whom the media decide to go after. The media also skewered McCain during the campaign as a heartless right-winger. Should we then support him as a man of the Right because of his critics? Or should we applaud Karl Rove, who has never seen a Democratic ethnic constituency he has failed to slobber over, because the Democratic media has castigated him as well?
The neocons and bogus conservative movement are able to use their power in order to frame areas of contention while controlling both sides in the debate. While Frum may have attacked his erstwhile ally Rush, the two of them nonetheless continue to be joined by shared associations and a shared foreign policy. Does Stacy believe for a moment that National Review even after apparently taking sides with Rush against Frum would not welcome Frum back as a member of its editorial board? Conversely the same magazine would have nothing to do with either one of us, no matter how loudly we screamed in favor of Rush.
When it comes to alliances, we should remember Socrates’s teaching in Plato’s Republic. While the Greeks are naturally friends even if they occasionally fight, foreigners are the natural enemies of the Greeks, even when they seek their friendship. In this instance it is we who are the barbaroi, while Frum, Lowery, Rush, Palin and Bill Kristol are all natural allies. We can’t change this simply by imagining that all of us are ‘populists’ and therefore in the same camp with those who hate our guts. Nor do we make Rush and Palin into something different from what they are, voices of a neoconservative-led Republican Party, by attaching to them an ill-fitting label that would have suited George Wallace. Being a rightwing populist is about more than peppering one’s fractured syntax with ‘You Betcha.’ It’s about reactionary substance, as Sam Francis used to remind his readers.
The only sensible rightwing course at the present time is to tune out on the name-calling among our enemies. Does Stacy believe that Palin because of her critics would actually side with him against the neocons if she were the presidential candidate in 2012? Nothing in this lady’s record in national politics would suggest anything of the kind. Yes, she is pretty and yes she jabbers like a provincial graduate from a third-rate college! But that’s not enough to make her fit the job description Stacy has in mind. Let’s not confuse her with George Wallace appealing to blue-collar social conservatives in 1972 or with Pat Buchanan taking on the GOP establishment in 1992. Those were rightwing populists, which Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh are unfortunately not. And let us not allow the useful mess that Obama is plunging this country into to be wasted on the bogus opposition being sold to us by the GOP-neocon elite. All of this potentially productive misfortune would be for naught if we get Ms. Title Nine, talking up wars for democracy, as our alternative to Obama in 2012. And I wouldn’t trust having Rush certify anyone as a good populist, before he checks with Karl Rove.