How an ex-Soviet spy predicted modern conservatism

Right now I’m reading Witness, the memoir of the late, great Whittaker Chambers. A journalist who served as a Soviet spy in the American Communist underground in the 1930s, he gained notoriety when he outed a popular, high-ranking State Department official, Alger Hiss, as a fellow spy. Witness is a fascinating, real-life thriller, but even more than that, a tale of redemption. I highly recommend it to all my readers.

Chambers was not only a devoted anti-Communist (and for that matter, an anti-Leftist) for the latter part of his life: he also had strong critiques of the fledgling ‘Conservative Movement’ we are familiar with today. Although Trump has taken an axe to it and it will likely fall for good if he is elected, Movement Conservatism has been, for the past 60 years, not a force of preservation, but a force of surrender.

Chambers recognized this fact, even in the 1950s when he was friends with the founder of Conservatism, Inc. – William F. Buckley, of National Review fame. Chambers even wrote for National Review for a time, but it wasn’t too long before he felt obliged to leave, citing the following concerns with Buckley’s new movement:

You…stand within, or at any rate are elaborating, a political orthodoxy. I stand within no political orthodoxy…I am at heart a counter-revolutionist. You mean to be conservative, and I know no one who seems to have a better right to the term. I am not a conservative. I am a man of the Right. I shall vote the straight Republican ticket as long as I live.

if the Republican Party cannot get some grip of the actual world we live in and from it generalize and actively promote a program that means something to the masses of people –why somebody else will [emphasis mine]. Then there will be nothing to argue. The voters will simply vote Republicans into singularity. The Republican Party will become like one of those dark little shops which never apparently sell anything.  If, for any reason, you go in, you find at the back an old man, fingering for his own pleasure some oddments of cloth. Nobody wants to buy them, which is fine because the old man is not really interested in selling. He just likes to hold and to feel…

The above quote, ironically, is found within the first few pages of Witness, in a forward written by Buckley himself.

As Chambers foresaw, Movement Conservatism was doomed from the start. The GOPe, #NeverTrump, have no interest in adapting to the times. For them, it is always 1980 and Regan has just been elected. Or it is 1950. Who knows? Needless to say, their concerns are not relevant anymore.

While they fiddle with their cloth in the darkened store, somebody else (i.e., Leftist totalitarians) have been diligently destroying our country, cloaking their poisonous ideology in words of honey. The Left is also very tuned in to people’s needs, even if it  doesn’t really care for these ordinary people it claims to love. Nevertheless, it actively promotes a program that means something to the masses. What else could explain why Bernie Sanders has been so popular – or why the Right was about to lose forever, until Trump came along?

Some in the GOPe and #NeverTrump crowds do realize their party needs to change. But instead of listening to the voice of one who happens to be immensely popular and a gut conservative – Donald Trump, for instance – they throw such a person under the bus because of said person’s lack of ‘principles.’

Then, in order to maintain some type of relevance, they take advice from the most unprincipled people imaginable – the Left. So instead of reconsidering party orthodoxy on trade deals and border security, they throw away the social issues platform (except for anti-racism, of course), desperately try to pander to Hispanics and Millennials, and purge a la Stalin any conservative ally who is ‘not respectable.’ In effect, they neuter the strength of the Right, forcing it to be not a powerful opposition to the Left, but its controlled ‘opposition’ and groveling slave.

Hint to conservatives: The New York Times is not your friend. When you try to be a) libertarians, and/or b) Christian Pharisees, you fail.  And that’s why Donald Trump is successful and why Whittaker Chambers was right – and that’s why Buckley’s heirs who oppose Trump, such as the National Review, Weekly Standard, and Wall Street Journal, are so angry, so bitter, and so dangerously wrong.



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