I don’t think many people would deny that the hard right around the world is growing in numbers and in impact. I’ve decided to write this piece for two reasons. First, many people find this trend troubling and are quick to project what they hope our stories and backgrounds are to resolve their cognitive dissonance. The second, those of us who hold views outside the mainstream of American politics tend to rightfully shroud our backgrounds in mystery in a way to stay pseudonymous, but I always appreciate learning about others and finding shared experiences.
I also want to make this point clear: when I use the phrase “hard right”, I mean that if I was honest about my views, I could not win elected office. That said, there’s nothing I’m not perfectly comfortable expressing to my friends and family. Feel free to examine my other posts or talk to me on Twitter to discern my views; that’s not what this article is about. This is an article on how I found myself a political nomad.
I doubt I ever had a real chance at being a progressive. My father’s most oft-spoken aphorism was “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. My young self was derided as a “tax-and-spend liberal” for the way I played Sim City 2000. Both of my parents are highly educated, and are what most would classify as east-coast conservatives. While I was raised in a household without religion (in fact my father has read most of Dennet’s and Dawkin’s work and is privately atheist), I was instilled with a strong moral foundation. Bill Bennet’s Book of Virtures was regular reading for me as a child.
My first proper experience with politics came when I was ten years old. I had been identified as a highly gifted student (IQ in excess of 3 standard deviations) and was offered a chance to go to a three week long camp for gifted students. I had qualified both in their STEM and humanities programs and I decided that since I usually leaned towards STEM areas, I would take a program doing Model UN. The course was to spend two weeks with a college professor and a grad student learning about foreign policy and politics before a week of mock Security Council meetings. In addition to learning basic research skills and parliamentary procedure, we also read selections of Thucydides, Plato’s Republic as well as the whole of Machiavelli’s The Prince. It was a heck of a way to spend the time between elementary and middle school.
I went to a private middle and high school that emphasized western canon and discussion. In high school, I participated in Model Congress all four years, and developed a political outlook that I could only really describe today as trying to rustle the jimmies of my classmates and teachers without getting into actual trouble. I really focused on developing skills in rhetoric and oration by arguing against whatever was the popular opinion rather than holding consistent views or having a serious philosophy. The frame I developed to argue from was right-wing, and I certainly was considered as one of the few conservatives around at that school. The only current political book I read during this time was one of Ann Coulter’s.
I graduated high school at 17 and went to a top-50 college to study engineering. I largely gave up all of my previous political involvement. The College Republicans were just the lamest and most milquetoast group of people I’d ever met. My political mind, as well as my rhetorical and oration skills atrophied as I sunk into getting through the engineering program.
At this point, my political philosophy was really a “go along to get along” sort of conservatism where I was happy to be inoffensive and blend in and not offend anyone. In short, I acknowledged everyone’s grievances and said something responsible sounding when pressed. I even was able to hold my tongue and lie long enough to befriend some radfems, hoping to get laid. In the end, I wound up bonding with a friend-of-a-friend sitting next to me during the Vagina Monologues who was rolling her eyes even more than I was.
Starting in my sophomore year, and continuing ever since, I started to get tired of the endless focus on engineering, and started spending my free time reading western canon, witg a special emphasis on Greek and Roman histories. This established a fundamental appreciation of the history, importance and fragility of western civilization that continues to this day.
As I started reading more, I found myself extensively reading classic science fiction and had my first experiences with Asimov and Heinlein. I had already read Dune in high school, but reread it and its sequels for good measure. I also read Mark Steyn’s prophetic America Alone around this time
It was the day of Obama’s inauguration I had a sea change in my personal outlook. At the time, it looked like the Republican party would have to lurch leftward in order to stay relevant. And at that point, I knew I didn’t want to pretend to go along with it. Things started coming into perspective as I realized most of the Republican party members were there for the power and money, not for responsible governance nor advancing a particular view of government.
After that, as I’m sure was very common among conservatives like me, my 21 year old self found the libertarian movement as a place which allowed me to challenge many long held beliefs. I begin finding firm ground for myself philosophically while still being fairly respectable and with a coherent group of people who largely held the same beliefs. At some point in late 2009 I read Atlas Shrugged for the first time just like lots of people. I continued dabbling in right-libertarianism the next few years reading lots of Thomas Sowell and Charles Murray. I read several of Jonah Goldberg’s books as well as Stephen Moore, Mark Levin, Robert Zubrin and Greg Gutfeld in this timeframe.
As I was reading all these books, I went to grad school at a top 10 engineering school and got my Master’s degree. I continued dabbling in politics as a conservative with libertarian sympathies. Eventually, I found myself reading the “Claremont Review of Books” and adopting something of a Jaffaite view on politics.
Since it is a relatively obscure movement I’ll try to explain a bit of it. Jaffa held a political philosophy that was informed by the Declaration of Independence, rather than most conservatives’ attachment to the Constitution. His view was that the Constitution is the practical application of the principles of the Declaration, so rather than judging if something is in line with the Constitution, we should judge whether it is in line with the Declaration.
By the time I got there, Jaffa was in his 90s and not writing much. For me, William Voegli was the best columnist out there.
Over the next two years as I finished grad school, I had a great deal of upheaval in my life. I moved and changed jobs several times, I began to find religion and became increasingly frustrated with my dating life. Neither I nor the women I dated were finding happiness, which didn’t make sense to me as I was playing everything by the rules, and doing everything “correctly”. I eventually found TheRedPill subreddit, and while I don’t visit anymore, it provided a few key things that would lead to my political evolution: I learned that uncovering the truth often requires ignoring what you’re told and focusing on what you see; I became staunchly opposed to typical Salon/Slate variety feminists; I became more interested in developing myself as opposed to joining with others; I was first introduced to some of the figures of the hard right.
A few months later, Gamergate began. As Adam Baldwin sounded the horn to begin the biggest resistance so far to the unending march of progressivism through cultural institutions, I was caught up in the front lines of actually doing something to fight for culture. As we had successes and pushed back, it felt empowering.
Most importantly, it changed my expectations of what the conservative movement should be capable of accomplishing. It also disappointed me to be so completely ignored and dismissed by conservative writers and pundits. We were here pushing back against the very worst of progressivism, and they didn’t care.
This was followed by the Sad/Rabid Puppies campaigns which were another blow against progressives. Again silence from the conservatives I read.
At this point I started getting introduced to the rising star of Milo Yiannopolous, Vox Day, Mike Cernovich and many others. I started exploring things like the Dark Enlightenment and neoreaction as I came across them and reconciled what they argued with my own thoughts and beliefs, taking the best bits along with me. The most important thing was I was able to find people who I disagreed to my rightward extreme.
My final break with the conservative movement came in the past year. It started in March, when I read Charles CW Cooke’s The Conservatarian Manifesto. Cooke was my favorite writer at the time, as a young, eloquent and thoughtful voice that largely holds the same sorts of views as I do. I was hoping Cooke would offer something new and invigorating that would find a way to bring the copious amounts of pro-freedom energy floating around America into the conservative movement. What the book was instead was largely just an argument for conservatives to move leftward on gay marriage and drug laws to policy positions both of us share. Despite being about the same age (perhaps younger) than Milk Yiannopolous, he didn’t have anything to say that any other National Review author wouldn’t have been able to articulate just as well. At this point I felt like the conservative movement was totally lacking in ideas and drive to move the country rightward.
It was a series of three events, along with a rant from Ace of AOSHQ this spring and summer that finally led me to conclude that not only was conservatism inept, but its leaders simply are not interested in moving the country rightward.
The Corker Bill, the reauthorization of the ExIm bank and the “attempted” defunding of Planned Parenthood proved to me the GOP wants to put on a front of conservatism, but ultimately had no use for me or my political desires outside of acquiring my vote. The combination, rather than any one individually, really sealed it for me. They were willing to use every legislative muscle to keep the corporate welfare program. They let other things get killed by the filibuster so they can claim they tried, while knowing they wouldn’t succeed.
At that moment, the failures of the conservative movement came into full light. It is a movement that has, at best, aimed to throw sand into the gears of the progressive machine and at worst served to grease the gears. It is a movement that presumes my support of a 20 years delayed progressivism because current progressives are worse. It is a movement that has failed to stop the continual erosion of American culture, community and values.
While the actual usage is somewhat different, when I first heard the term “Cuckservative”, I interpreted it as a term for conservatives who look on helplessly as their beloved nation is routinely defiled by progressives. Its the way I’ve come to view the ineptitude of the conservative movement.
Ultimately, where I am now comes back to an earlier point I made. I recognize the history, importance, and frailty of Western civilization. It is my wholehearted belief that it faces an existential threat in progressivism and that the conservative movement is unable to do more than delay its victory.
At this point I’ve gotten to where I stand today. On the right and outside of the conservative movement.