The Problem of the New Right

In the world of conservative thought, the intellectual energy lies with the New Right.

The New Right can be found in the society of Washington wonks, Silicon Valley dissidents, New York writers, and all manner of GOP politicos.[1] Many served in the Trump administration at one level or another; all are interested in taking the popular energies unleashed by Trump and forming them into a coherent Trumpism. In public their voices are most likely to be heard in publications like the Claremont institute’s American Mind and the Claremont Review of Books, though you will also find them writing in First Things, The American Conservative, and more niche publications. At their most intellectual you find them penning long policy reviews for American Affairs or seeking work at the American Compass; at the lowest intellectual tier you have figures like Tucker Carlson, who has learned to translate the New Right’s most interesting ideas into Fox-worthy bombast.

There is no New Right catechism. Each man of the New Right has his unique obsessions. Yet there is a broad set of shared attitudes and policy prescriptions that draw New Righters in. The New Right likes to think of itself as a band of class warriors. Of tariffs and industrial policy, they are unequivocally in favor. Government economic intervention is to be lauded, if such intervention revitalizes the heartland and secures the dignity of the working-class man. Both tech companies and high finance are viewed with suspicion. New Right figures are the conservatives most likely to be calling for Section 230 reform and least likely to care about corporate tax rates. The New Right distrusts capital.

This is partly because capital has become woke, but there are deeper concerns: the New Right is a response to the loss of a way of life (or an imagined way of life, for the New Right’s younger legions have never experienced personally what they yearn for), and when they survey the causes of heartland malaise (the horrors of the opioid crisis, the despondency of the deindustrialized boomtown, and so forth) everywhere they find the wicked hand of avarice. They believe that America’s corporate class has subverted American culture and betrayed the American people. The problem with financiers, they say, is that they have no roots. The financier is a flighty being who cares for nothing but lucre. He will follow the gold-laced trail wherever on the globe it might take him.

“Globalist” is the favorite epithet for the New Right’s enemies. They hate meritocratic climbers whose motives and mores mirror those of urban professionals in London or Singapore, not those of “normal” Americans in Chattanooga or Cleveland. The fantastic rise of Chinese power is the most dramatic proof of the greed, hubris, and disloyalty of this globalized class. If the New Right type is hawkish at all, it will be hawkish on China (though for many their hawkishness has less to do with animus towards Chinese communism than in their hope that that economic and technological competition with Beijing will force Washington into the sort of reforms they seek). Otherwise, the New Right is against foreign adventuring. They admit the last thirty years of geopoliticking were a disaster; they want no more wars in the Middle East. They see those wars as an outgrowth of liberal internationalism, itself a bloody bastard-child of the dominant liberal ideology at home. This ideology is just as dangerous to the American people as America’s traitorous elites. The New Right’s first war is against ideas.

To understand the philosophical enmities that unite the New Right, one must understand the historical narrative New Right thinkers have built their movement on. Their story goes something like this: modern American conservatism is a product of three separate intellectual strains that came together in the early post war world. Communism forced together the champions of the American social order (the social conservatives), critics of statist power (libertarians and free market ideologues), and geopolitical realists (neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks) into one common enterprise. The defeat of communism was the child of their union. But the union has lasted too long. The neoconservatives burdened the conservative political movement (to say nothing of the American people) with the debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan. So disastrous were these wars that this faction has lost all credibility with the right, and many of its leaders now march with the left.

The free-market fundamentalists are a different matter. They are still given purchase in the conservative movement, though the New Righters wish this were not so. According to these voices, libertarians and their enablers have had just as destructive an influence on American life as the neoconservatives: not only have their favored policies hollowed out the middle class and created Chinese superpower, but their allergy to state power prevents social conservatives from using the state for their own ends.

This is the true cause of New Right consternation: the conservatives lost the culture war, and this loss, they maintain, was their own side’s fault. The left never shies away from using government to make the world woke, but we have never been allowed to reply in kind. The libertarian dogmas of Milton Friedman and Frederick Hayek have handicapped conservativism. Libertarian ideals—which champion the sovereign individual unfettered by community, tradition, or obligation—are sugar coated poison pills. They promise to beat back a grasping federal government, but attempt to achieve this aim by sacralizing the same fatal lie that makes progressivism possible in the first place. There is no notion of common good, goes the lie, that can ever justify violating your right to individual self-realization.

Some on the New Right will trace this lie further back in time. I am reminded of a conversation I had with the editor of a New Right publication. He expressed regret over the role that the American Revolution plays in American political theology, a “ghost” he wished Americans could “exorcise.” As long as we associate revolution with foundation, he told me, it is difficult to have any kind of “pro-society worldview.” When I asked which founding mythology he would rather Americans celebrate, he pointed to the Puritan colonization. This particular New Righter is not religious, but you can understand the appeal the Mayflower Compact has for his type: unlike the American Revolution, a paroxysm of death devoted to tearing down an unjust hierarchy, the Puritan colonization was a self-conscious attempt to found an integrated communal order. Theirs was a spiritual project, a community united towards one teleological end—and it is in just such a sublime gathering the young New Righter wishes his own life could be sublimated into.

Perhaps the most ballyhooed version of this critique comes in Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed. Deneen is a political theorist. He beholds America’s ills through the lens of his profession. He discovers the origin of all that ails us in the thought of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Francis Bacon, early modern philosophers who reimagined liberty as lack of external restraint and recast humanity as a collection of autonomous and rational self-maximisers. Nowhere have these ideas had more power than in America, whose government “was instituted among men” to secure the “pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” for its individual citizens. In Deneen’s mind this is America’s original sin. Though America’s founding fathers could not have imagined Drag Queen Story Hour, by endorsing the liberal political project and the theories of selfish individualism this project was built on, they guaranteed that, sooner or later, something like Drag Queen Story Hour would occur.

This then is the spectrum of thought seen on the New Right. At its least radical end we have figures like Oren Cass, who would accept something like the Reagan coalition with industrial policy thrown in; at the other end we have folks like Gladden Pappin, eager to mainstream Catholic integralism. Everyone on this spectrum rejects the fusionist platform of yore. Some would accept conservative liberalism, if only the libertarians can be kicked to the curb; others reject liberalism outright, and look forward to a post-liberal future. All wage a bitter war against errant philosophy.

The enemies are well defined: Hayek and Friedman, Locke and Jefferson. The New Right is ever ready to debate first principles and first philosophers. This should not surprise: where leftists eagerly describe their coalition in terms of demographics and voting blocs, conservatives, even at the grassroot level, understand their movement to be a coalition of ideas.[2] But there is something self-defeating in the New Right’s fight against the philosophers. It puts too much faith in ideas as such. The real forces of history lie elsewhere.

Which brings me to the work of historian David Hackett Fischer.

Fischer’s most important work is Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. The themes introduced in Albion’s Seed are further explored in his later books Bound Away and Liberty and Freedom, and are the implicit subtext of his award-winning narratives Washington’s Crossing and Paul Revere’s Ride. The thread that connects all of these works is a careful attention to the folkways of the American people. Fischer defines these folkways as the “values, customs, and meanings” that exist beneath high politics and intellectual life, yet carve the channels through which both must flow.[3] Folk traditions are less articulate than the philosophical texts that Deneen and his sort like to argue over. They can be seen in clothing, housing, farming, sports, religious ritual, social hierarchies, sexual practices, and favored images, symbols, or metaphors. These things are inexact. They offer none of the intellectual rigor of a Hobbes or a Hayek. But they embody the beliefs and assumptions a people have about the way their world works, and the way they dream it could work. The meaning of words like justice, order, and freedom are determined at this level of society.

Fischer makes this point with the story of Levi Preston, a minuteman who fought in the Battle of Concord. In Paul Revere’s Ride Fischer quotes an 1848 interview of the ailing veteran:

“Captain Preston, what made you go to the Concord Fight [on 19 April 1775]?”

“What did I go for?”

“Were you oppressed by the Stamp Act?”

“I never saw any stamps, and I always understood that none were ever sold.”

“Well, what about the tea tax?”

“Tea tax, I never drank a drop of the stuff, the boys threw it all overboard.”

“But I suppose you have been reading Harrington, Sidney, and Locke about the eternal principle of liberty?”

“I never heard of these men. The only books we had were the Bible, the Catechism, Watts’ psalms and hymns and the almanacs.”

“Well, then, what was the matter?”

“Young man, what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: we always had governed ourselves and we always meant to. They didn’t mean we should.”[4]

Fischer discusses this scene in three of his books. Fischer’s discussion in Liberty and Freedom reads as if it were written in direct rebuke of Deneen:

Here is the central problem in American history, as liberty and freedom are essential values in American culture. Scholars have attempted to study it in many ways. 

The leading approach might be called the text-and-context method. It begins with American texts on liberty and freedom and fits them into an explanatory context that is larger than America itself. Historians have discovered many different contexts by this method. They variously told us that the meaning of American liberty and freedom is to be found in the context of Greek democracy, Roman republicanism, natural rights in the middle ages, the civic humanism of the Renaissance, the theology of the Reformation, English Commonwealth tradition in the 17th century, British opposition ideology in the 18th century, the treatises of John Locke, the writings of Scottish moral philosophers, the values of the Enlightenment, and the axioms of classical liberalism. 

All these approaches have added to our knowledge of liberty and freedom but none of them comes to terms with captain Preston. As he reminded us, the text-and- context method refers to books he never read, people he never knew, places he never visited, and periods that were far from his own time. [5]

The New Right critique of the American tradition assumes that liberalism and libertarianism are rationalist abstractions foisted by ideologues onto an unsuspecting people. Fischer, with his eye towards Captain Preston, would argue the counter case: America’s libertarian tracts were foisted on no one. Rather, they are simply an attempt to articulate in the language of philosophy the common-sense attitudes and practices long embedded in the customs of the people themselves.

An easy example—which Fischer does not focus on—is the Anglo-American understanding of marriage. A legal regime that allows children to freely choose their own marriage partners has been a far more efficient engine of atomization than all the Enlightenment theorists put together. Such a legal regime—and the nuclear family system it supports—predate Locke by centuries. [6] So it is with all the bugbears of the New Right. The detachment of the suburban home, the egoism of individualist striving, over-rationalist notions of social contract, the ceaseless whirring of the capitalist machine—all have clear antecedents in English society, many reaching back to the 1200s.[7] In America these antique individualist folkways met the realities of frontier living. No other explanation for the American people’s libertarian impulses are needed.

This is the first problem with the New Right’s proposed post-liberal turn. They might, with Deneen, attack liberalism for “liberating all from the constraint of custom.[8] In Hungary, Poland, or some other country where liberalism is a foreign import, that charge has merit. But in America? In the United States liberalism is the constraining custom. The folkways that comprise America’s liberal regime are centuries older than America’s liberal constitution. It is not clear to me that commercialism, individualism, and so forth can be excised from the American mind. Short of a massive social engineering project, by what means could this be accomplished?

The usual response of the New Right to this line of thought is to argue that it distorts history. Liberty-as-autonomy was not the “liberty” of founding era. Deneen claims that liberty-as-autonomy was in fact present in the founding era, but only so he can the extend the New Right’s general argument to an earlier point in time. For him, the enlightenment is the watershed of Western thought. On the far side of that divide, liberty was

believed to be the condition of self-rule that forestalled tyranny, within both the polity and the individual soul. Liberty was thus thought to involve discipline and training in self-limitation of desires, and corresponding social and political arrangements that sought to inculcate corresponding virtues that fostered the arts of self-government. [9]

It is in the face of arguments like these that the second theme in David Hackett Fischer’s work must be considered. Fischer does not study the folkway of the American people but the folkways of the American peoples. His central thesis is that America is, and always has been, a pastiche of nations. Four very separate cultures, with distinct and separate folkways, settled in America. To this day, Fischer maintains, these folkways (though somewhat changed by time and circumstance) shape American politics and society.

One of these four founding cultures were the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay. As my editor friend intuited, the “politics of the common good” that the New Right strives for aligns warmly with the Puritan’s communitarian conceptions of ordered liberty. I will return to these Puritan ideas in a moment, but to understand the challenge that faces the New Right we need to turn to one of America’s other founding nations.

The “backcountry” of the British colonies were settled by Scots-Irish immigrants from the borderlands of England and Scotland. The men and women who survived these war-torn marches did so through cultivating a reputation for savagery. The backcountryman put clan over community. Not for him was the New England township or the small groups of farmsteads that dotted the Delaware River Valley. Instead, backcountrymen spread their farms across the mountainsides, careful to build their cabins miles apart from those closest to them. The backcountryman honored strength and charisma, but had no respect for rank or hierarchy. Authority was weak in his world, and that is how he liked it. He rejected outsiders. He rejected the learning of the university men.[10] The backcounty wrapped its patriotism in the imagery of rattlesnakes, hornet nests, and alligators; they did not invent the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me” but nowhere was it more popular than among America’s Scots-Irish migrants.[11] 

Patrick Henry was an early backcountry leader. Fischer’s reflections on Henry and his people’s view of liberty are worth excerpting at length:

The traveler Johan Schoepf was much interested in ideas of law and everybody which he found in the back country. “They shun everything which appears to demand of them law and order, and anything that preaches constraint. Altogether natural freedom is what pleases them.” 

…[When] Patrick Henry was a member of the first Continental Congress, he startled that body by arguing that as a result of the passage of Parliament’s Intolerable Acts, “government is dissolved.” Henry insisted that “we are in a state of nature, Sir!” Congressmen from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts were as shocked is Virginia Burgesses had been [when they encountered Henry a decade earlier]. One described Patrick Henry as “in religious matters a saint; But the very devil in politics.” 

Patrick Henry’s ideas of natural Liberty were not learned from treaties of political theory. His idea of a “state of nature” was not the philosophical abstractions that it had been for Locke. Thomas Jefferson said of Patrick Henry with only some exaggeration that he “read nothing, and had no books.” Henry’s lawyer-biographer William Wert wrote, “of the science of law he knew almost nothing, of the practical law he was wholly ignorant. He was not only unable to draw declaration or a plea, but incapable, it is said, of the most common or a simple business of his profession, even the mode of ordering a suit, giving a notice, or making a motion in court.” Patrick Henry’s principles of natural Liberty were drawn from the political folkways of the border culture in which he grew up…. 

The libertarian phrases and thoughts which echoed so strongly in the back country had earlier been heard in the borders of North Britain. When the back country people celebrated the supremacy of private interests they used the same thoughts and words as William Cotesworth, an English borderer who in 1717 declared “you know how natural it is to pursue private interests even against the darling principle of a more general good.”[12]

See these backcountrymen articulate the same liberal platitudes that the New Right detests! At one point in Liberty and Freedom Fischer even describes their conception of freedom with the words “liberty as individual autonomy.”[13] This conception of freedom was developed without any knowledge of Enlightenment texts. Most of these 18th century pleasure-maximizing, autonomy-seeking egoists could not read. [14]

This culture and its ideals did not disappear with the American Revolution. It probably reached maximum political influence in the antebellum era, when the backcountrymen first secured one of their own as president. This was also the age of the backcountry’s maximum cultural influence: in the Jacksonian era, the libertarian and egalitarian impulses of the backcountry became the ethos of almost every white man in the country. Holdouts against these folkways persisted only in the exhausted tidewater aristocracies of South Carolina and the Chesapeake, and in the federalist strongholds of New England (European travelers regularly described Boston and environs as the only place in America where the lower orders seemed to understand their place).[15] Over the following centuries the cultural descendants of the backcountrymen—be they called “butternuts,” “hillbillies,” or something else—would occasionally rear up to make their mark on American politics once more. Their support made the careers of several famous American statesmen. Here are a few you may have heard of: Stephen Douglas, William Jennings Bryan, and Donald Trump.

That last name on that list leads us to the fundamental dilemma of the New Right. It was the literal descendants of the “butternut” settlers who delivered Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa to Trump; their cultural descendants helped tip Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan into Trump’s hands. Trump strongholds in contested states like Maine, Arizona, Texas are found in the places Scots-Irish settled; hillbilly country is the reddest place in the nation. The cultural descendants of the backcountymen are the base of the Trump coalition. The New Right faces a fundamental mismatch of means and ends: they hope to build a post-libertarian national order on the backs of the most naturally libertarian demographic in the country!

The tensions of this position are sometimes apparent in the New Right’s writings. Consider Gladden Pappin’s essay “From Conservatism to Post-Liberalism: The Right After 2020.” At its base, this long essay is an attempt to make Catholic integralism, or something like unto it, palatable for America’s non-Catholic conservatives. To do this Pappin must discredit the various conservative strands not on board with his project.

Allow me to quote at length:

Finally, many “standard” conservative activists have rebranded as being “pro-Trump.” The largest activist conferences, leaders, and media figures—like the Conservative Political Action Conference, Turning Point USA (and its leader Charlie Kirk), media figures like Ben Shapiro and countless others—have all rebranded as “MAGA” conservatives. For the most part, however, these movements have not substantially updated their policy stances since before Trump. The conservative activists in this vein generally have no intellectual background or interest in policy, but are rather media figures seeking to monetize the political moment.

Many of them operating today grew out of the Tea Party phenomenon, which formed at the beginning of the Obama administration to protest the government’s bailout of banks during the subprime mortgage crisis, and to protest the fiscal stimulus bills President Obama used to fight the consequent recession. The Tea Party tapped into a strongly anti-government view that had become associated with conservatism through the presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater in 1964. 

Many of the student and young adult conservative activist groups like Young Americans for Freedom (founded in 1960) date from that generation and have the same laissez-faire ideology today. Thus most of the conservative activists wearing MAGA hats at Trump rallies or conservative political conventions are simply anti-immigration libertarians. Talk to them about the need for the state to support domestic manufacturing, or the need to boost family formation through a Hungarian-style benefit program, and they will probably call you a socialist. In general, aside from opposition to immigration and support for the American military, they have no vision of how the government is to be used at all. In different circumstances, they would revert to an anti-government stance along with opposition to increases in federal spending.

Ironically, then, many “MAGA” conservative activists do not reflect the constituencies that propelled Trump to victory in 2016. Their visibility on the president’s behalf will merely harm his reelection campaign. While the world of conservative political activism may seem impressive, since the 1970s and 1980s it has become heavily laden down by financial motivations and salesmanship. Going forward, more lean and nimble organizations, particularly of a “post-liberal” variety, will be needed to enable political actors on the right to formulate what to do next.[16]

After castigating Turning Point USA for not “reflecting the constituencies that propelled Trump to victory,” Pappin argues that the first thing the New Right must do to “reflect” these constituencies is—dear reader, I do not jest—“decency laws that could restrict the distribution of pornography.[17]

Now look folks: I am strongly in favor of anti-porn legislation. I argued for it in past columns and am happy to argue for it again. But I also have no illusions about how little most Americans—including most Americans who voted for Trump—care about this. (Or, for that matter, the second item on Pappin’s list, “directing American investment toward strategic sectors”). Pappin’s despised “anti-immigration libertarians” who support a “strong military” but otherwise have “no vision for how the government is to be used at all” are not aberrations; their philosophy is not some sort of snake oil being sold to unsuspecting voters. The “salesmanship” of these activists succeeds only because of existing demand for their wares. Who is Pappin’s monster, this “anti-immigrant, pro-military libertarian with no vision for how the government is to be used at all?”

That, my friends, is a perfect portrait of the average Trump voter.

The libertarian streak of the median Trump voter is not refined or well-reasoned. It is more a product of instinct than intellect. It is the impulse that caused backcountrymen to cry for “elbow room” two centuries ago, causes modern Trumpists to yell “get off of my lawn!” today, and led both groups to embrace the slogan “don’t tread on me” when they felt like their way of life was under siege. Andrew Jackson became president because he honored white working men yelling for elbow room, promising to use his power to fight haughty East coast elites that seemed too eager to dictate to the backcountrymen how they ought to live.[19] Donald Trump was voted into office by the cultural descendants of these people, and for all the same reasons. Trump’s decision to hang a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office was a tacit acknowledgement of this reality.

In contrast, the New Right adorns their movement with the words of Jackson’s bitter enemies. There is something of a pattern here. The kinship between the New Right’s communal project and the Puritan settlement has already been noted. But they are not the only figures in the New Right hall of exemplary Americans. Alexander Hamilton is the New Right’s favorite founding father; the Whiggish “American System” is their most cited policy precedent. Theodore Roosevelt is the hero of every second young man on the New Right; the habits, education, and worldview of the pre-Boomer WASP elite is one of their constant obsessions.

Do you see the common thing that strings these all together? When I read New Right writings and meet with New Righters in person I cannot help but notice how Northeastern their vision of politics is. They do not like to admit this, but it is true. They are the spiritual heirs of the New England Whigs; when they find anything sympathetic at all in the American tradition, it is in the Boston Brahmins’ lost aristocracy.

In sociological terms, I suppose the best way to understand the New Right is as Puritan heretics. The Puritans were the most communitarian of Fischer’s four founding nations; their cultural descendants (found in places like Boston and Portland) are the Americans most willing to live for the Holy Cause today. Like the New Right, the left’s modern-day Puritans also lionize the Federalists and Whigs.[19] It makes sense, in a way. Most of the New Right’s leaders either come from or immersed themselves in Puritan milieus. The number of Ivy League degrees claimed by New Right thinkers is one proof of this. That Claremont is based in California—instead of, say, Texas—is another example of the phenomena. Yankee thinking seeps into the thought of those who long swim through it.

About a year ago I met with a young post-liberal who expressed a passionate loathing of everything American. American culture was not home to her. And how could it be? New England born, Ivy-educated, committed to the politics of the “common good” — here was a spiritual descendant of the Puritans if there ever was one. But of course all the other Puritans, whose religion now runs woke, would not have her. She has no place at their table. This outcast was instead forced into the other coalition, the coalition led by the raucous individualists of the backcountry tradition. Enemies of one’s enemies are friends they say, but tactical allies make poor bosom-mates. My post-liberal friend has no choice but to work for the living antitheses of her deepest convictions.

That is the problem of the New Right. I doubt most New Righters feel quite so alienated from the Trumpfolk they lead, but her problem is theirs. Pity the Whig who wishes to lead the Jackson masses! Spare a prayer for the post-liberal politico who must herd the backcountry crowd. The pillars of the New Right’s rising moral order are the most licentious and rebellious people in the nation. This is an unstable foundation for a post-liberal body politic if there ever was one.

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If this post on the history and American conservatism has caught your interest, consider reading my earlier posts “Conservatism’s Generational Civil War,” “A Parable Concerning Tolerance,” “We Were Builders Once, and Strong,” “Porn Restrictions for Realists,” and “Living in the Shadow of the Boomers,” To get updates on new posts published at the Scholar’s Stage, you can join the Scholar’s Stage mailing list, follow my twitter feed, or support my writing through Patreon. Your support makes this blog possible.
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[1] If you are completely unfamiliar with the term or the movement, Park MacDougald’s “The New American Millennial Right,” Tablet (24 February 2020) is as good an introduction as any; to get a sense for their priorities, I suggest poking around the American Moment’s website

[2] Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins, “Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats: The Asymmetry of American Party Politics,” Perspectives on Politics 13, no. 1 (March 2015): 119–39.

[3] David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 7.

[4] David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). 163, 397.

[5] David Hacket Fischer, Liberty and Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 2.

[6]  This point was first made to me in Michael Lotus and James Bennett, America 3.0 (New York: Encounter Books, 2013), 54. I expand on it in “Against Patrick Deneen (II),” Scholar’s Stage (3 June 2018).

[7] On individualism and family patterns, see Joseph Henrich, The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020); on the antecedents to suburb life, Michael Lotus and James Bennett, America 3.0 (New York: Encounter Books, 2013); on commercialism and the antecedents of commercial law, Alan MacFarlane, The Origins of English Individualism: The Family Property and Social Transition (London: Blackwell Publishers, 1989); on notions of social contract, M. Stanton Evans, The Theme is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition (Washington DC: Regenery, 1994), pp. 167-185.

[8] Patrick Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019), 148.

[9] ibid., 23.

[10] Fischer, Albion’s Seed, 754-777.

[11] Fischer, Liberty and Freedom, 75-84

[12] Fischer, Albion’s Seed, 777-782.

[13] Fischer, Liberty and Freedom, 75.

[14] Fischer, Albion’s Seed, 715-720.

[15] On Boston, see Robert Wiebe, Self Rule: A Cultural History of American Democracy (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 57; on the tidewater aristocracies, William Freehling, The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 162-197; 213229.

[16] Gladden Pappin, “From Conservatism to Postliberalism: The Right after 2020,” American Affairs Journal 4, no. 3 (Summer 2020).

[17] ibid.

[18] This is of course a simplification. If a New Right thinker were to take this seriously, however, and ponder over how to direct the Jacksonian impulse their their own project, the book I recommend starting with is Lawrence Kohl’s The Politics of Individualism: Parties and the American Character in the Jacksonian Age (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).

[19] There is an entire essay to be written on this topic. It would include, among other things, the Democrat’s decision to drop all Jackson-Jefferson dinners, Ron Chernow’s Hamilton, Washington, and Grant biographies, the musical Hamilton, the HBO special John Adams, and serious works of historiographical import like Daniel Walker Howe’s What God Hath Wrought and Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution.

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49 Comments

"Fischer, with his eye towards Captain Preston, would argue the counter case: America’s libertarian tracts were foisted on no one. Rather, they are simply an attempt to articulate in the language of philosophy the common-sense attitudes and practices long embedded in the customs of the people themselves."

I think it's interesting that this is also how libertarians often try to present themselves. Think of Hayek's identification of his concept of spontaneous order with the common law or David Friedman's attempts to root his anarcho-capitalism in an idealized reconstruction of proto-Germanic society based on medieval Iceland. Libertarians simply love to make the claim that we should be libertarians because we (Anglo-Americans) have always been libertarians at heart, and if libertarians can extend that "always" all the way back to the middle ages then all the better.

America has a broadly Puritan Right culture already, as Mormons descend heavily from old Yankee families and voted Trump by a 3-1 margin. In a lot of ways, Romney is the most "New Right" politician, though the Claremont Institute would never admit this. Very few other Republicans would champion minimum wage increases, childcare benefits, and immigration cuts.

To be more sympathetic to the New Right, the destiny of a nation is shaped very strongly by the beliefs of its elites. Backcountrymen yelling get the hell off my property will never appeal in Harvard Yard. Integralism isn't popular there easier, but it is much easier to see it taking root. For a young Ivy Leaguer to become an integralist involves nothing so gauche as a country accent or a desire to speak in tongues. They merely must shift from desiring that the wise elites enforce social liberalism to desiring that the wise elites enforce social conservatism. Vermeule's common good constitutionalism, for instance, is a pretty conscious mirror of progressives penchant for reinterpreting the Constitution as a lever for their preferred policies. Though the ends are different, the means and the mindset are the same.

And if it seems strange to imagine Harvard full of integralists, a similar switch has happened, after all. Increase Mather would surely find it Harvard's current beliefs absurd, and yet the switch did occur. As the Puritans went godless, so may they return, and make the past century of New England seem a strange aberration.

This is an unstable foundation for a post-liberal body politic if there ever was one.

And your alternative is:

"In the world of conservative thought, intellectual energy lies with the New Right."

Since there is no such thing as conservative thought, there is no such thing as conservative intellectual energy. The statement is meaningless.

"and forming them into a coherent Trumpism."

Good luck with that.

"In public their voices are most likely to be heard in publications like the Claremont institute's American Mind and the Claremont Review of Books, though you will also find them writing in First Things, The American Conservative, and a more niche publications."

"Niche" is understating it. Nobody reads these magazines.

"who has learned to translate the New Right’s most interesting ideas into Fox-worthy bombast."

Tucker has learned to repackage alt-right talking points from 2016 into the desire to move things back to 1980.

"Of tariffs and industrial policy, they are unequivocally in favor. Government economic intervention is to be lauded, if such intervention revitalizes the heartland and secures the dignity of the working-class man. Both tech companies and high finance are viewed with suspicion. New Right figures are the conservatives most likely to be calling for Section 230 reform and least likely to care about corporate tax rates. The New Right distrusts capital."

This is not thought, if taken uncritically (which it should never be), it's Peronism.

"the New Right is a response to the loss of a way of life (or an imagined way of life, for the New Right’s younger legions have never experienced personally what they yearn for)"

Sounds like Justice Peter Vivian Daniel.

"The fantastic rise of Chinese power is the most dramatic proof of the greed, hubris, and disloyalty of this globalized class."

The rise of China was due to internal Chinese reform combined with the ingenuity of the Chinese people. You could have treated China like Cuba or Iran, but China is neither.

This post sounds very half-decade old.

"but their allergy to state power prevents social conservatives from using the state for their own ends."

Welcome first steps toward this in Arkansas, but can you imagine Rs taking the next ones?

"He discovers the origin of all that ails us in the thought of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Francis Bacon, early modern philosophers who reimagined liberty as lack of external restraint and recast humanity as a collection of autonomous and rational self-maximisers."

All good stuff, but what do they plan to do about it?

"That last name on that list leads us to the fundamental dilemma of the New Right. It was the literal descendants of the “butternut” settlers who delivered Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa to Trump; their cultural descendants helped tip Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan into Trump’s hands. Trump strongholds in contested states like Maine, Arizona, Texas are found in the places Scots-Irish settled; hillbilly country is the reddest place in the nation."

You are confusing Kerry-McCain country with Obama-Trump country. Sad!

"Now look folks: I am strongly in favor of anti-porn legislation."

Very Korean.

"But I also have no illusions about how little most Americans—including most Americans who voted for Trump—care about this."

Wise.

"When I read New Right writings and meet with New Righters in person I cannot help but notice how Northeastern their vision of politics is."

Also a misguided attempt at ethnography.

The policies people end up supporting are not necessarily those people say they want now. I think that's been proven many times over the past decade.

This is quite interesting & important, but it conflicts in one obvious way with your earlier writing on the subject. In "Conservatism's Generational Civil War", you wrote that political movements in favor of some new vision of the common good they want to impose on the nation are so popular among young rightists that if American traditional conservatives & liberals "cannot develop a vision of the good, an ethos, as compelling as those on offer elsewhere, and find concrete ways to show others this vision at the emotional level, then they too will dwindle into obscurity." Here, by contrast, you describe the great majority of American Republicans as "raucous individualists", "natural libertarians", "the most licentious and rebellious members of your nation", with the conclusion that New Rightists do not properly fit into either political party. It is unclear to me whether what you mean is that the New Right is popular among active intellectual conservatives but not among conservative voters in general even in the youngest generations, or that young conservatives embrace the New Right in large numbers while their elders do not. In the former case, unless the New Rightists realize their dreams of attracting broader popularity through aesthetic counterculture or something similar, they will be overwhelmed by a conservative mainstream satisfied with cultural libertarianism. In the latter case, the same may happen anyway if today's disaffected Democrats & classical liberals defect to the Republican Party & take over its leadership (as some New Rightists have predicted); if that happens, with the progressives intent on moving the political Overton Window to the left in order to exclude as many of their rivals as possible & many of the liberals willing to accept this so long as they aren't being excluded (e.g. Yascha Mounk, who, in the introduction to his group blog Persuasion, denounces the Republican Party & its foreign equivalents as "[t]he primary threat to liberal democracy", "authoritarian populists", "bigots and racists" against whom "those of us who believe in the values of a free society need to rise to the fight of a lifetime." A more hypocritical-sounding opening to the manifesto of a group defending free expression & open political debate primarily against the illiberalism of modern progressives could hardly be imagined!), the New Right could find itself shut out of serious political discourse altogether. Otherwise, they might actually have a chance at some degree of success.

@Gordianus–

You are right, there is a bit of a contradiction there. This essay partially grows out of my recent recent experience in Trump-country talking to extended relatives, some of the QAnon variety. They are not politicos. They are for Gadsen flags, they don't care about porn restrictions, semiconductor subsidies, or Catholic integralism.

This does not mean they are eager for David French or William Buckely style civil discourse. The William Buckely types, I think, have difficulty communicating both with them and with the rising generation of conservative intellectuals (the new right). But the new right itself is disconnected from their own base.

You could maybe split it up that way. Tea Party masses, the largest base of the party. Old GOP elites and intellectuals, somewhat discredited and disconnected in the eyes of these masses. Then you have the rising intellectuals, who are not yet discredited but are almost as disconnected from the actual voters as the people they want to replace.

Thats how I see it at least.

Also, I must quibble with the characterization of Greater Appalachia as "libertarian". Were they libertarian, they would have voted for the libertarian party, rather than Huckabee types. Paul and Massie are libertarians, but this is just a coincidence. I would not characterize a WJC-Bush voter or a Kerry-McCain voter as particularly libertarian. I freely agree that there is a disconnect between ordinary residents of Appalachia and the extreme Jacksonian "New Right" ideologues, but this is an IQ and political awareness gap, not a product of a fundamental dispute over the extent of libertarian policies.

I would contend that Appalachians are libertarian in a small "l" sense, which is not necessarily identical to ideological libertarianism much less the Libertarian Party's platform. In other words, Borderlanders place a great emphasis on individual freedom and are sceptical of concentrated power but this can apply equally to big business as well as the Leviathan State. Indeed, the Jacksonian tradition of American politics associated with Appalachian/Borderland culture has as often been left-wing as right-wing in its views. William Jennings Bryan is already mentioned but Huey Long is the best example of a left-Jacksonian in American history. It is no coincidence that historians such as Schleisinger even sought to tie FDR to the Jacksonian tradition of American history. The New Deal coalition became possible because Borderlanders became fed up with the dominance of the Northeast in the nation's finance and manufacturing sectors, which is reflected today in today's conflict between what Michael Lind calls the Hub versus the Heartland. However, the sort of "common good" populism that the Jacksonian/Borderlander Americans will prefer is much more akin to Latin American style politics that rejects petty moralism such as calls to ban pornography which strikes the average blue collar American just as ridiculous and out of touch as elite liberal efforts to ban guns or impose a soda tax. One thing Fischer and other regionalist observers of America underestimate is how much the Jacksonian ethos has been *nationalized* among working-class Americans regardless of region which can be seen in the nationwide popularity of country music and the Confederate flag being flown in what were once Union states. I think there are distinctions between Kerry/McCain and Obama/Trump voters but the Catholic ethnics and Driftless Area Lutherans in the latter group have imbibed much of the Borderland ethos even if they are on the secularized and economically left-wing end of the white working-class.

Horace–

Second everything you have said. To a large extend the old backcountry culture was the birth of white working class culture across the country, just as yankee puritan culture is the seed culture for most of top 20% meritocratic striver culture today.

We might think of it as "don't make me wear a mask" libertarianism.

@Nasica– More about how Mormons fit into this in a later essay, I think. But I do have thoughts.

I love this essay and it reflects much of my frustration with the New Right, but I’m not sure if I buy the electoral narrative.
Not a sociologist or a philosopher, so I only have my family’s experience to draw from. My family does not easily fit into Fischer’s four folkways. We are an unusual convergence of cultures. In my family, there are Guatemalan nationals and German Americans; Catholics, Lutherans, and atheists; urban Arizonans and rural Iowans; Republicans and Democrats. But we are all united by a belief in virtuous leaders and a politics oriented towards the common good. They may not use this language, but to all of us, the idea of individualism seems anathema.
To me this makes a lot of sense. Catholics are obviously committed to an ideal of the common good. Lutherans are a little more individualistic, but they still have a strong communitarian structure (just look at Scandinavia).
And if I really think about it, this makes the New Right look strong electorally. The Scots-Irish may be libertarian, but the heart of Appalachia has been voting Republican for decades. Meanwhile, most of today’s swing states have strong Catholic/Lutheran populations (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Arizona, Texas). These are the states where my extended family lives. Four of these states voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Three of them voted for Biden in 2020. This swing is very important. The Catholic/Lutheran demographic may have hated Clinton’s elitist brand of politics, but they could never learn to live with Trump’s crude character.
Hence my frustration with the New Right. If anyone in my family called someone a “midwit intellectual” they would be shunned. There is a yearning in this country for common good politics. But that is not Trumpism. I hope that one day Appalachia and the Midwest/Southwest coalition can be reconciled. But if common good conservatives want to succeed, they need to recognize that Trump and his base will not get them there. Honestly, a more socially conservative Biden would probably be a good model, given that he is fulfilling a lot more of Trump’s promises than Trump ever did.

On Appalachian culture, I think it is more Scott-Irish clan culture. Their misgiving with governments is the fact they are not their kins. But do you think the New Right truly cannot move beyond new fusionism? I have been thinking about Meiji Reform, which end up doing the opposite of what its initial supporters set out to do. Besides, modern Americans are fairly deracinated, and there are wokesters' brilliant projects of racial affinity groups going on. Would it be truly impossible for the New Right to ply disillusioned individuals from Woke Puritan culture to their own Puritan project. Let's just be honest, libertarians simply won't be able to run a modern state.

@ Pithom

"New atheist" lolololol

This ain't 2008, bro.

Voltaire was overwhelmed by a "rationalist" hysteria born of their principles and so, too, have your people.

Also, obvious point: the only states that voted Whig in the 1852 presidential election were Vermont and Massachusetts… but also Kentucky and Tennessee.

Lots to think about here. Point regarding the (lack of) influence of intellectual paradigms on popular sentiments well taken. But I'm wondering how civic humanism/renaissance republicanism fits into the story here? JGA Pocock and Daniel Howe showed that a common good rhetoric was deployed in both populist and "aristocratic" contexts. Whigs absorbed it as much as Jeffersonians/Jacksonians. Neo-roman conceptions of liberty cohabitated alongside the more rugged self-possession that characterized frontier living. Hence people like Hamilton and Clay could justify an "American System" of economics by arguing for a break with "corrupt" dependence on foreign trade. Jeffersonians could justify their arcadian republic along similar lines.The language of civic humanism exerted some influence over the early artisanal, populist, and labor movements. Some popular figures may have arrived at their ideas independently,and certainly not many in Appalachia were reading Locke or Harrington, but isn't it better to say that their ideas were absorbed via osmosis? After all, those who constructed the articles and then constitution were truly attempting to frame the national character as much as build a functioning republic in accordance with ideas derived from elsewhere.

None of which detracts from the central dilemma which is, as you rightly point out, that the average MAGA hat does not see themselves engaged in any intellectual project. Their thoughts are an unstructured mishmash of positions that span the spectrum and might only occasionally align with that of the New Right. But if political/economic/social structure and context determine sentiments, then there is no reason not to think that with changing structures will come changing positions on the part of the masses. Especially not when the New Right can tap into a language of the common good that is not really so alien to America.

Very well written essay, but I find your reference to the 4 groups in Albion's Seed very strange. America underwent several very large waves of Catholic, Jewish, and non-Anglo Protestant immigration between the 1840s and the 1920s. Albion's seed may describe the pre-Civil War political landscape, but it becomes less useful over time as America became even further balkanized by additional immigrant groups. I noticed that much of Trump's support in the North and Midwest is from "ethnic" Catholics (i.e. not always practicing), a group with none of the libertarian folk instincts you described (Franco, Salazar, de Gaulle, Mussolini, Dolfuss, and Pope Leo XIII could all be called "big government conservatives"). And let's not forget all the German-Americans in this country. Milwaukee had several socialist mayors due to the influence of refuges from the failed 1848 Revolution, while the Catholic seminary in Wisconsin Blessed Solanus Casey once tried to join had classes only in Latin and German, because German Catholics hated "masonic" American liberalism and refused to assimilate.

One possible interpretation of the New Right is that it is not a right-wing movement in the traditional sense at all, but is rather a movement of socially conservative New Dealers who have no place in the modern Democratic party. Criticism that the New Right does not express the folkways of Anglo middle America therefore misses the point. There may be some significance to the fact that in the 2016 primaries Trump did best in the Northeast, Rust Belt, and Deep South (home of ex-New Deal Democrats and their children and grandchildren) and worst in the Great Plains.

My second objection is that I am not confident that the libertarian folk tendencies in middle America you describe actually translates to support for libertarian policies as defined by the Cato Institute and the Mises Institute. Someone that is critical of centralized state power could just as easily object to corporate power. Look at the 1890s Populist movement or Huey Long. Just because a folk tradition exists doesn't mean a particular set of policy goals is the best expression of that tradition. Government intervention in the economy to help the petit bourgeois small business owner and cut into the bottom line of Wall Mart does not necessarily seem at odds with the American tradition. I hate to recommend 600 page books in a blog post comment, but Christopher Lasch's book "The True and Only Heaven" goes into this issue at length.

I think the reason that most of these Trump voters Pappin described were "anti-immigration libertarians" is less a matter of popular tradition and more a matter of the millions of dollars spent on libertarian propaganda. Trump voters only watch Fox News and Newsmax because they know that the people who run CNN and MSNBC hate them and their values. If Fox News and Newsmax heavily promote libertarian policies, then Trump voters will be libertarians.

One thing that a few commenters on this page have pointed out is how the Jacksonian ethos and culture has become nationalized throughout the United States to places in the North such as Northern Michigan and Wisconsin, which originally had a completely different culture from the Jacksonians. In the 20th century, the Great Migration and the Second Great Migration from the South to the North happened. Most people know of the two Great Migrations in the context of the former African slaves in the South moving to the North in search for better economic opportunities, but equally important was the movement of the Jacksonians to the North as well for similar reasons. J.D. Vance talked about this in his book Hillbilly Elegy, where his family amongst many others moved from Appalachian Kentucky north into Ohio in the 1950s. Unlike the African Americans, the Jacksonian migrants to the North were accepted and integrated into the mainstream Northern working class, and in the process of assimilation, the Jacksonians, in the same way as the Germans, Irish, Italians, et cetera, left their own stamp on the Northern working class. This is one of the reasons why much of the Northern working class came to have a Jacksonian ethos, replacing (especially in the Midwest) the former social democratic ethos of the Northern working class.

Interesting throughout, but I have a few thoughts:

1) I'm not a fan of the "X person never read anything by Y person, so they can't have been influenced by them" case. Ideas have a way of spreading in many directions while those who spread them lose track of the source. To pick a layman example, think of the blue sweater monologue in The Devil Wears Prada.

2) The New Right building a movement on top of the backcountry folks does sound like an endeavor doomed to fail. But there are plenty of coalitions that boggle the mind in American history, and aside from transitional moments when the elite themselves lose control and the little people take charge, most of the time the elite manage to get the little people to vote how they want them to. As long as the New Right can maintain enough of the cultural cues of the Trump years (I'm thinking primarily xenophobia and anti-immigration), then they will likely be given significant leeway to have their way with industrial policy and socially conservative tweaks. They would be well-advised to send their cues through dog whistles though – The New Right can and should recruit from those on the left who are disillusioned by its various missteps, and those people will need to be reassured that they are not joining the racist party.

One thing about the Jacksonians – in the 1820s and 1830s. they favored expanding suffrage, but only to those who were male and European American. African Americans and Native Americans were still denied suffrage, as were women. Their descendants today are Trump's base and they still favor suffrage only for male European Americans, which in 2021 means restricting the right to vote for those who are non European American and not male. Hence why you see all these efforts across the country after the 2020 election to suppress the African American, Hispanic American, and Native American vote.

Liberty? The frontier spirit? The "Scots-Irish?" Nobody cares about that. The reason that authoritarian conservatism is not possible is because it isn't allowed because that would be Hitler and the whole point of liberal democracy is to prevent another Hitler. Half the country is on Social Security disability. The reason normal white people mouth libertarian platitudes is because they listened to Rush and watch Hannity. No one cares about "small government," whatever that means and Friedmanite talk of free trade.

To add to what you are saying, there is an element of geography to the shaping of American Culture.

In the South, the soil is of such a nature (quickly depleted) that you need ~6x (if memory serves me) the amount of land to keep your growing sustainable relative to New England. So they weren't just spacing themselves out because they like it that way.

The story out west is similar. There is a culture of individuality out west. Some have (correctly) noted that the U.S. government was heavily involved in the conquest of the west. They thus (incorrectly) derive from this that the wild west individualism we mythologize is a sham. But it's not. The reason people had to be individualistic is that much of the land out there was also rather not of particularly high value. There was a belief that "Rain Follows the Plow" in the 19th century, that they were to sadly learn was not true in the latter homestead acts. Surviving homesteads had to be made much larger.

Greater distance means less ability to have an effective centralized cultural process such as in New England. So not only did many of our cultures start out highly individualistic, the land itself reinforced it.

Very much appreciate this essay — the notion of a Secular Puritan New Right really resonates — and it allows a way of seeing why such people see themselves as intellectually superior to any & all Trumpists.

A few notes :

1) The ethnic makeup of hillbilly county has changed over the decades — it is not made up of Scots-Irish anymore, but rather of Germans now, who tend to have reasonably statist leanings.

2) The fact that Roosevelt won the nomination with the support of hillbilly county shows that they have as much skepticism of state power as they do corporate power. They want self-sufficent, self-governing communities, not corporate oligarchs.

3) The fact that Tucker is so popular among young conservatives, has the highest ratings on TV, even moreso then Hannity and has a sizeable Boomer audience, shows that there is a high degree of skepticism for libertarianism among even your typical american conservative.

The New Right may be very elitist to a certain degree, but it isn't as opposed to any authority from the state as you think.

So you have these feelings about American conservatives, and you have read Fischer, picking out random bits of his writings.

In this many paragraphs, you could have taken the time to back up a point or two. But you didn't. I now know who you like and who you don't, but not much else.

"This is the true cause of New Right consternation: the conservatives lost the culture war, and this loss, they maintain, was their own side’s fault."

The cultural conservatives lost the culture war because they weren't willing to reach out to the black community in America, many of whom share very similar cultural views with conservatives on Christianity, gay marriage, abortion, transgender issues, gun rights, immigration, patriotism, and so forth, and welcome them into the conservative coalition. Because of that, the cultural liberals got to speak for black Americans for the past 40 years and take them for granted, even though many of their cultural views are completely opposite to those in the black community.

The New Right are doing no better at this, when they support people like Kyle Rittenhouse who shot an innocent black person in Kenosha last year with no repercussions and support people like Alex Jones and Bronze Age Pervert and Tucker Carlson who promote white genocide conspiracy theories and white replacement conspiracy theories and other alt-right white nationalist talking points, which the black community rightly views as targeting them, alienating them from any New Right movement. One can have an majority American nationalist party that supports the average American against the culturally liberal elite by cracking down on illegal immigration (and the business elites who use illegal immigrants), taking on big tech, big finance, and other big corporations with a stranglehold on American life, protecting freedom of speech from the transgender mob online and their woke allies, reviving manufacturing and protecting American interests, bringing back social capital in the form of Christianity, et cetera, without resorting to divisive anti-black racism. Unfortunately, I am not seeing any of it in the current form of the New Right. And until the New Right learns to stop shooting themselves in the foot and dispense with the racism, they will continue to alienate crucial parts of their nascent coalition such as the black community, and the destructive cultural liberals will maintain a majority in American politics and culture for the foreseeable future.

Do I detect a great skepticism of philosophy's role in history from you?

For my part, I don't think that the common folk believe it, sure, but the common folk aren't the driving force for most of modern history. Especially once the middle class gets going. I think the philosophers really do drive the politics of modernity, and whatever material conditions their ideas are thrown into are ignored, for better or for worse, in favour of the ideal.

@Anonymous
> The New Right are doing no better at this, when they support people like Kyle Rittenhouse who shot an innocent black person in Kenosha last year

Well, for starters the people he shot weren't black. (I say this first because it is a completely objective fact that you still managed to get wrong.) They weren't innocent either considering they were attacking him and engaged in destroying businesses before that. The rest of your comment is no more accurate which leads me to believe you are an obvious concern troll.

@Anonymous
> And until the New Right learns to stop shooting themselves in the foot and dispense with the racism, they will continue to alienate crucial parts of their nascent coalition such as the black community, and the destructive cultural liberals will maintain a majority in American politics and culture for the foreseeable future.

Trump did better with black Americans (especially conservative black Americans) in 2020 than he did in 2016, and Trump did better with black Americans in 2016 than Romney did in 2012. So clearly the New Right is not shooting themselves in the foot.

Meanwhile, the pro-racial equality black American W.E.B. DuBois voted for Woodrow Wilson in 2012 for his economic policies despite Wilson being an absolute racist, and black Americans defected to the Democratic Party in 1932 to support FDR's New Deal despite the Democrats having a large faction of racist white supremacist Dixiecrats in the South. So the historical evidence doesn't even support your thesis. If the Republicans have an economic platform that benefits the average working class black American, then black Americans would vote for Republicans despite the Republican's racism, especially with the Democrats now catering to corporations and the donor class.

Fischer's Albion's Seed and this piece in general ignores the various other ethnic groups that have immigrated to the United States and allied themselves to one side of the political divide or another. The German and Scandinavian Protestants of the rural Upper Midwest are one such ethnic group.

In the Jacksonian era, the Germans and Scandinavians haven't yet immigrated in large numbers to the Upper Midwest, and so the area was largely populated by Yankee migrants from New England. However, in the postbellum and Progressive eras, they came and eventually overwhelmed the existing Yankee population with their numbers, yielding to a split in the fortunes between the Upper Midwest and New England, with the Upper Midwest supporting the Progressive Party and the Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota before eventually becoming Democratic states in the late 1940s. New England proper remained largely Republican until the Democrats adopted neoliberalism and social liberalism as their main ideology in the late 1980s.

In the Trump era, as the Democratic Party becomes less Protestant and more secular and moves away from its working class roots towards a more urban upper class demographic, the Germans and Scandinavians of the Upper Midwest, many of whom remain Protestant, are trending towards the Republican Party, while secular New England remain one of the most Democratic constituencies in the Trump era.

I agree that Albion’s Seed is to narrow a source here. A really helpful text for broadening and bringing forward Fischer’s insights is Colin Woodard’s “American Nations.”. Woodard calls the German-Scandinavian, moderate, communitarian culture the Midlanders, and argues that they have brokered nearly all the compromises that keep the nation together. Woodard also says they are losing ground to “Greater Appalachia,” Fischer’s “Borderlanders,” as others have noted.
I think that the author’s branding of the New Right integralists as neo Puritans is a miss, though. We have a throne-and- altar tradition in America, the Tidewater aristocracy, though it has always been Protestant, not Catholic, and has been thinner and thinner on the ground in the last 300 years. But Jamestown, with its prominent place for established religion and High Tory social ethos is a much better foundation model for them than those squabbling Puritans. Of course, the dominant social ethos of American Catholics has been in Woodard’s Midlanders group (it was the only group to really accommodate them). As others have noted, the integralists could find some common ground with them.
The real problem is that our social-cultural politics has become far too narrow. Pretty much all we have left are the two most disagreeable and troublesome types, a Appalachian right and a Puitan left.

Folks,the people who are enemies of liberty in all its forms are busily burning the Constitution and the limited government / individual liberties we used to enjoy. I'd suggest we quit wasting time arguing the niggly details of political philosophy of the 'Right' and focus on putting out the fire. We can quibble when the threat of real tyranny is extinguished.

@John Fisher

Unfortunately the enemies of liberty in all its forms are dominant in both the modern woke Left and the modern Trumpist Right, both of whom want to burn the Constitution and limited government/individual liberties so they could establish their totalitarian regime, whether it be a woke theocracy or a white Christian theocracy.

@Anonymous
> Unfortunately the enemies of liberty in all its forms are dominant in both the modern woke Left and the modern Trumpist Right, both of whom want to burn the Constitution and limited government/individual liberties so they could establish their totalitarian regime, whether it be a woke theocracy or a white Christian theocracy.

So, I take it you consider America to have been a "white Christian theocracy" for most of it's history. If that's the case we need more of it.

So many people completely divorced from reality here. The internet has truly broken so many people's brains.

The word you are looking for is "unaccountability". Not "liberty" or "freedom": these are only euphemisms for unaccountability. From Fischer's anecdote to Trump's pardons, the line is direct, and it is unaccountability, full stop.

The strand of coercive communitarianism is a red herring. It is the flip side of the desire for unaccountability; both are manifestations of sadism, which is a manifestation of infantility. The moral imperative starts there: no infant left behind; but dragging a peasant out of infantility would require a degree of coercion never seen, never attempted, never imagined. And yet without it, the human race will self-immolate within the next lifetime.

This is certainly an interesting intellectual dissection, but where does it get us? It also completely neglects to look at the unmistakable authoritarianism, indeed potential fascism, evident in Trumpism and now embodied in demagogues like Tucker. Moreover, was Trumpism the culmination of the GOP's evolution or an aberration?

@Anonymous
> So many people completely divorced from reality here. The internet has truly broken so many people's brains.

Many people, especially people in power, have been completely divorced from reality since the first large scale human governments formed. The internet just makes it more obvious to everyone else.

Oh wow, I'm impressed by the quality of the writing here having read my first post. Such a good summary and historical overview.

My interest here is not with the particular focus of the article though, but what's a subtopic here: the fate of the Enlightenment in the Western world. The Woke left have been refusing Enlightenment out of immense colonial guilt – rejecting their former heroes and founding fathers as well as cherished values such as free speech.

So, astonishingly it seems like both the Left and the New Right are content to abandon Enlightenment, and I really don't think that the typical Trump supporter like an earlier Jacksonian populist cares too much for it as explained in this article. That seems to seal the fate of Enlightenment with no one to stand for it (except perhaps a small number of rationalists and what remains of the "economical" left).

Enlightenment is without a doubt the foundation for Liberalism, and I don't think Liberalism can survive on its own without its Enlightenment foundation. With liberalism gone, the Right is freed from reverence to it, and I think that's what is happening today.

I think the ingredients are there to make some predictions for the future of American politics. The New Right has to be populist. It will have to be religious (with Liberalism waning). And it will be isolationist. Out of these three elements some form of politics will be cooked to suit the preferences of the various cultural tribes. Isolationism for some, social conservatism for others, and crony capitalism for the rest.

> My interest here is not with the particular focus of the article though, but what's a subtopic here: the fate of the Enlightenment in the Western world. The Woke left have been refusing Enlightenment out of immense colonial guilt – rejecting their former heroes and founding fathers as well as cherished values such as free speech.

Ironically the notion that people shoold feel guilty for colonialism is itself a product of Enlightenment values.

I wonder if there is not some confusion between "behaviors" and "values" there; the "Scot-Irish" could have a "disordered" lifestyle, but this nor necessarily means that they will trend libertarian in political issues. I remember some time ago to had read something about Kentucky being simultaneously one of the more "economically liberal" and also one of the more "socially conservative" states – exactly the New Right combination.

You could be a strong supporter of YOUR individual freedom without being a supporter of freedom in a general and abstract level (even more if you are not of the intellectual type…; and my impression is that Scot-Irish are not); in practice, you could be a strong supporter of the freedoms that you and people like you wants to exercise without being a supporter of the freedoms that other types of people (from ethnic minorities and sexual "deviants" to big capitalists) wants to exercise.

Trumpism cannot live on backcountry support alone. The man had other allies somehow ignored in this essay: the Quakers. Them's the folks that voted for Obama twice, but switched to Trump in 2016. It's from his German ancestry that Trump learned the virtues of Quaker pacifism–for unlike the Hillbillies, the man IS a pacifist. One cannot carry Ohio, Pennsylvania or the Northern Plains states without Quaker support.

Do you have a source for this? GF is a semi-famous Quaker and was truly baffled to hear this. If there was a Trump movement among Quakers, she would have known, I’m sure. Through various calculations too tedious to record here but in which I trust (see FWCC), I think at most there are 5-10,000 Quakers whose votes might have made a difference in 2016, probably closer to 3,500, and so while it’s possible Quakers tipped the “surprise” counties that got Trump the electoral, I find this highly, highly improbable.