Freeman

BOOK REVIEW

Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement

A Much-Needed Nuanced Analysis of the Old Right

JUNE 01, 1994 by JIM CHRISTIE

According to Old Right, paleoconservative columnist Pat Buchanan: “To understand the new rifts on the Right, scholars have begun to research its history, to explore its roots. Latest to do so is a San Francisco writer, Justin Raimondo of the Mises Institute. In his recently released book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, he argues that conservatism is a cause corrupted and betrayed.”

Raimondo certainly does—and with gusto, cutting right to the chase indeed, on pages one and two in his accusation of just who is to blame for ideological high treason.

“Today, the conservative movement is united on nothing, not even the traditional conservative credo of limited government,” writes Raimondo. “Instead of railing against the corruption of the Republic and the depredations of the New Deal and the Great Society, [neoconservatives] are comfortable with the legacy of FDR and seek not to repeal it but only to trim it around the edges . . . In this view the American state is much like its European cousins; it is provider as well as protector, and policeman not only of its own mean streets but of the entire world.”

Raimondo’s writing is clearly influenced by Buchanan: if Raimondo were a boxer, he certainly wouldn’t be known for many fanciful moves or for jabbing, but for fast combinations and, certainly, a roundhouse punch delivered, naturally, from the right.

His tenacity is evident throughout Reclaiming the American Right, with his targets purposely right-of-center. But then again, Raimondo admits he wrote Reclaiming the American Right as a fighting manifesto for the emerging paleoconservative cause rather than as a complete or impartial history of the Conservative Movement.

Still, for all its exclusivity and its fight, Reclaiming the American Right does have a considerable amount of good material regarding the reactionary and libertarian wordsmiths of the Conservative Movement, for Raimondo serves the admirable purpose of celebrating the Old Right literary canon—hence the felicitously appropriate subtitle, The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.

Raimondo gives Old Right writers such as Garet Garrett, John T. Flynn, and Colonel Robert R. McCormick of Chicago Tribune and anti-New Deal fame a sense of depth and texture that is no doubt lacking in even the handful of graduate-level courses that dare to touch on the Old Right. When such courses do, they usually tend to promote the conventional, caricaturesque, eighth-grade level history of the Old Right based on the stigmatizing of the America First movement as isolationist, xenophobic, pro-Nazi, racist, anti-Semitic, anti-progress, you name it.

Reclaiming the American Right is worth reading on that single accomplishment. Raimondo gives a much needed nuanced analysis of the Old Right, a rarity in a United States that now rarely acknowledges its anti-statist past in acceptable public debate. []

Jim Christie is with the Independent Institute of Oakland, California.

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June 1994

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