[This article appeared in the March/April 1997 issue of Conservative Review, pp. 8-12.] 


“Moderation” Can’t Save America

Dwight D. Murphey

Wichita State University 


            America, in the form we have known it, is in a terminal condition, and the complacency inherent in “moderation” offers simply to let the slide continue.  Only an intransigent movement offers any hope, and intransigence itself is a form of “playing with fire” unless it is under the constant control of humane influences.  Accordingly, the choices facing the American people are more and more desperate.  Only those who “will not see” are able to act as though this were not so. 

The Forces of Corrosion

            In a society overrun by “doomsayers,” is there not a risk of simply adding “more of the same” by such a prognosis?  Let’s look at the facts:

            * Immigration, legal and illegal, is so extensive that non-Hispanic whites are projected to become a minority in the United States by the year 2055, within the lifetimes of children now living.  By that time, our European heritage, with all that that implies, will long-since have been swamped out.  The “tipping point” at which this demographic change becomes irreversible may already have been passed.  Unless the process can be stopped, we will hardly recognize our country in a few years.  [Note in 2004: Seven years have passed since this was written, and the influx has not diminished, but increased.]

* American society is dominated in all of its major institutions – including but not limited to the media, our universities, our charitable foundations, our mainline churches, our film-making industry, and the legal profession – by what the Left has called “a march through the institutions.”  An ideological elite sets the tone of virtually all articulated discussion (the radio talk shows excepted).  It paints the picture we and the world see of ourselves and our history.  And, inexcusably, it even determines what it is all right to think and to say.

            *  This is an elite that has long held the American mainstream in contempt.  Read Unlimited Access about the Clinton White House, or Primary Colors for a quasi-fictional recounting of the 1992 Democratic primary election campaign, to see how separate this elite considers itself to be from the mainstream that it simultaneously courts and detests.  Read, especially, All Too Human about Jack and Jackie Kennedy, written by a man who was for eleven years the editor of the New York Times Magazine; nothing comes through more clearly than the Kennedys’ disdain for “bourgeois” values, such as an ethic of marital sexual fidelity.  To the Clintons and the Kennedys, and to the elite that has supported their politics and ideology, America is a gigantic casino open to a “sucker’s game.”

            *  Consistent with this, the great majority of Americans are reduced (or, more correctly, allow themselves to be reduced) to political and ideological impotence.  If the voters in California or Colorado, say, pass an initiative on subjects like affirmative action or homosexual privilege, a federal judge instantly strikes it down.  If eighty percent of the electorate in a state like Kansas wanted the death penalty for heinous crimes, that was not sufficient, for many years, to cause first the governors and then the legislature to enact it.  [Note in 2011: Although Kansas has nominally had the death penalty, finally, during much of  the twelve years since this article was written, there have as yet been no executions under it.]   A state university president can insist quite stridently on multiculturalism despite the fact that a large majority of the state’s electorate would almost certainly oppose it.

            We do not have a democracy – and certainly no longer a “republic” in the original sense – in the United States.  Academia and the media would shed crocodile tears about “the loss of American democracy” if they were not delighted by the support that this impotence gives to the elite.

            * We are governed by an ideology that applies a Jacobinical, intolerant egalitarianism without regard to the many other values that have been essential to American civilization.  In its name, we have acquiesced in the destruction of freedom of association and have allowed the majority to be hounded through spurious litigation and in countless other ways.  The freedom of the average mainstream American is circumscribed by the threat and reality of severe sanctions in important areas of life.

*  Inexorably and not-so-slowly, the United States’ national sovereignty is being surrendered, both through the transfer of power to international and regional bodies and through the “internationalization” of multinational corporations, which come to profess loyalty to no nation at all, much less to the United States.

*  Less understood is a fact that already looms ever-larger in the lives of ordinary Americans: that “downsizing,” “restructuring” and “worker displacement” are just beginning, rather than simply being a phase in a cycle.  The great majority of Americans are becoming increasingly marginalized.  As computerized and robotized technology offers an age of previously unthought-of affluence, its non-labor-intensity displaces more and more people, making the average American family struggle even to keep up.  This it has barely been able to do, even with both spouses working.  In its early phases, this is due mainly to global competition of low-wage workers in the Third World, but increasingly, it will be because technology itself, in all its wondrous plenitude, as the payoff of a century of burgeoning science, makes even low-pay work obsolete.  We are only a small fraction of the way into this process.

The answer will not be to kill the technology; the solution will have to come from each people’s (including the American people’s) willingness to “take care of their own.”  This will demand a major shift into economic nationalism, internationalist free-trade ideology notwithstanding.  The alternative will be social and political turmoil and scapegoating.  The challenge will be to maintain social order at all.  In economic terms, only those countries that can maintain both freedom and order will enjoy “competitive advantage.”

*  Despite several years of emphasis on “privatization” and of the Reagan years’ attempts (generally without success) to reduce government, there are increasing signs that the federal government is growing ever more authoritarian.  It is difficult in an age of mass transportation, easy mobility, national and international markets, and instantaneous communication to maintain a federalist decentralization of power, but those who are concerned about power and its potential for abuse, as American conservatives have been, must be especially concerned when education and police authority are shifted increasingly to the central government.  Of all the functions of government, those are the most crucial to maintaining a free society.  Power over them is being shifted rapidly, however, to Washington, with little effective resistance by conservatives, many of whom no longer even recognize the importance of the decentralization of power.

*  And finally, we have experienced a profound cultural slide, with ever-lower standards of behavior.  Who among us does not feel the hot breath of internal barbarism that threatens our lives, our property, and the tone of our daily existence?  The middle class flees from city to suburb, from whole states, and from threatened neighborhoods into walled compounds with security gates, hoping to gain by that flight a basis for perhaps a few more years of comfortable existence.


“Moderation” Isn’t Working

During the weeks and months following the 1996 election, there was a time of “bipartisan good feeling,” with much discussion about how the Republican Congress and the Clinton White House should “get along” to “solve the nation’s problems together.”

Nothing could be more ultimately destructive, however, in the context just outlined, than such “moderation.”  It is precisely “moderation” that sees none of the urgency, that treats our national life as simply an on-going “business as usual.”  “Moderation” won’t stanch the flow of immigration, other than to perhaps a token extent at best.  It won’t disturb the elite in its ideological dominance, nor breathe life into the impotent body of the American majority.  It won’t restore the freedom of the individual as that used to be understood, as something to be enjoyed by everyone, not just by members of minorities.  It won’t reverse the growth of authoritarian power in Washington or the loss of sovereignty.  Nor will it think afresh the economic issues that increasingly bedevil the American people.

This morning, I looked back at an article I wrote for the national magazine of Young Americans for Freedom in November 1976, a little more than twenty years ago.  It points to the same civilizational slide I am describing now! – and, just as with my current remarks, implores Americans to stand up and be counted.  I notice that it voiced optimism that if someone like Ronald Reagan were elected president, that might make a difference.

Now, twenty years later, we recall that even so wonderful an American as Ronald Reagan felt himself compelled to sign the bill that apologized for our evacuation of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast during World War II, and ordered the payment of $20,000 each even to people who have now lived in Japan for many years or who during the war marched around in formation to celebrate Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on each anniversary after the attack.  We see from this that conservatives may win ostensible political victories, but that the essential impotence of the American mainstream continues unabated, supported in large part by that mainstream’s own acquiescence in its emasculation.

No, only intransigence can make any difference.  We have got to say “no” and draw a line in the sand.  Americans must allow themselves to become angry!  We must become self-conscious and aware of the principal contours of what is eroding our society.  Mainstream Americans must become insistent, as they have not been at any time in the memory of anyone alive today, that their voice be heard and acted upon.

In its political aspect, is there any longer any hope that the Republican Party can or will serve as the vehicle for this?  The question almost answers itself.  I grew up feeling great reverence for the Republican Party and for what I thought were its ideals.  But it has long been evident that those ideals were my own, projected wishfully onto a Party that no longer gave more than lip service to them.  The Republican Party contains many wonderful people who will no doubt have to be at the center of any committed movement.  But it also includes the deadening hand of courthouse cliques, of those who are in politics only to serve themselves, and of “moderates” who either don’t see the dangers America faces or don’t want to see them.  To stay in the same party with these people is to invite dilution.  America’s drift will continue.

In the need for intransigence we come upon a dilemma.  Intransigence isn’t the spirit in which we want to live.  Nor, unless it is effectively controlled, is it an appropriate means for the protection of a free society.  Americans will not, for a variety of reasons, support a “fascist” movement, even if to some it comes to seem the only way to clean house and to preserve the society.  And they should not, since the “cure” would be as bad as the “disease.”  If at the end of a militant struggle for the defense of American civilization we were left with hatreds, brutality and an over-arching statism, we would have lost, just as irretrievably as we will lose if we allow the present drift to continue.

Accordingly, a movement of Americans based on commitment and rightful anger must also be a movement that never loses sight of what it is about – i.e., that never forgets that it is precisely a free and humane society that it seeks to serve.   I believe the hour is not too late for such a movement that is at once forceful and humane.  In a few years, it will almost certainly be too late; and then we will have lost, whatever we do.

These things apply just as much to Great Britain and Europe as they do to America.  The question is: Does Euro-American civilization have the will to survive? 

Essentials of a Program

There are countless details of what needs to be done.  Here are simply the essential components:

*  Restore the cultural and demographic integrity of the American people.  This allows maintaining friendly relations with all peoples, but calls for not permitting immigration and an ideology of multiculturalism (which is really an ideology of exalting everybody’s culture except that of mainstream America) to “swamp out” the predominantly European nature of our society.

*  Displace the current liberal-Left elite, replacing it with leadership that is consonant with a healthy American society.  In every area, there are people who could exercise this leadership.  In art, for example, there are innumerable artists in places like Santa Fe or Jackson, Wyoming (or virtually anywhere else in the United States), who are doing splendid work.  Their art is vastly superior to much of that championed by the National Endowment of the Arts.  We need to “throw the rascals out” and begin to show our appreciation for those who precisely are not anti-bourgeois.

Such a substitution of elites is a tall order.  It is something, indeed, that a “bourgeois” (i.e., a commercial) society has probably never done before.  But if such a society is to survive, it must do it.

We are going to have to ask ourselves, “Why, in so vast a society as our own, have we so far been unable to initiate or to support even a single conservative, mainstream television network?”  When a fourth network finally started up, it was headed by Ted Turner (whose wife, we all know, is Jane Fonda).  [Note in 2004: Fonda is no longer Turner’s wife, but there is a more important reason to comment now: After this article appeared, the Fox network did come into being, providing much “conservative” commentary.  The difficulty, however, is that “conservatism” is by 2004 splintered beyond recognition, with the predominant factions advocating policies that worsen rather than correct the problems I have pointed to in this paper.  The Fox network, accordingly, has been more damaging than helpful.]

The real question is why mainstream America is so inert.  One of the main reasons, though there are others, is that people have been comfortable, which leads to a soul-deadening complacency.  It may be that they will not act until circumstances force them to; but by then we will have to have prepared them with ideas appropriate to the necessary action, since mindless action is precisely what we don’t need.

*  Adopt an ideology (i.e., a philosophy and program) fitted to American survival and prosperity.  For conservatives, it will be easy to repudiate the liberal-Left.  What will not be so easy will be for conservatives to sort out the varied ideologies that make up the “conservative movement,” such as it is in the United States today.  If we are to stem immigration, are to adopt such economic nationalism as is needed to assure a meaningful place for each of our people, and are to restore some semblance of the norms that typified earlier Americans, this most especially means moving away from the sway of “do your own thing” libertarianism or even of pure free-market thinking as it is applied on a global scale.  This will mark a revolution in “conservative” ideology (in the sense that “conservative” has long been used in the United States as signifying the broad blend of non-socialist ideologies).  We are going to need some fresh thinking, and fast – not as a departure from the philosophy supporting a free society, but as a search for the best means to attain it.

*  As part of that philosophical change, restore valuable distinctions, denying the intolerant egalitarian moral perspective.  Since World War II, egalitarian ideology has seemed irresistible to the American public.  They have sensed no defense against it, and so have ridden its waves as though there were no other choice.  Anyone who has studied social and political thought supportive of a free society knows, though, that this is nonsense.

*  Reform American institutions to give effect to the public will.  Supporters of a free society – with its Constitutionalism, rule of law, and checks-and-balances – have always been suspicious of “pure democracy.”  They have never wanted unadulterated “majority rule” without legal and Constitutional constraints.  Nor should we today.  But this is not the same thing as to say that we want the liberal-Left elite’s incubus to continue to crouch over the American political system, thwarting every manifestation of the public will that runs at odds with that elite’s social vision.

We need to clean the elitists out of the Presidency, the Congress and the courts (as well as all other major institutions that are the elite’s captives today).  Some will shout, “Oh my God, that’s populism!”  But think about it.  Those who decry it as “populist” to say that the people should rule are really saying that an elite should rule instead.  There was something to be said for this in the Founding Fathers’ model of a “republic,” with mechanisms to assure the selection of the most public-spirited and capable.  But what elite do we want to have rule us today, unless it consists of capable leaders rising from the ranks of the people themselves?

*  Use federalism to block the growth of an authoritarian center.  It’s almost impossible, and probably not even desirable, to roll back the Constitutional jurisdiction of the federal government over the economy to what it was before the late New Deal Supreme Court shifted power to the national government.  But we very much do need to deny the national government a role in education and police.  Decentralization, through “states’ rights,” of those two functions is a necessary linchpin for the prevention of totalitarian power.

*  Reaffirm national sovereignty.  We can seek to be friends with people of good will everywhere, to enter into such trade with them as is beneficial, and to create such international mechanisms as will lend themselves to peace – all without signing over any part of our national existence.

Why is American national existence important in a world that seems to be “moving away from the nation-state”?   A sufficient answer would be, “because we value what we are.”  Moreover, the world as it now is is not a secure repository for either American interests or our personal freedoms.  The move away from nation-states must await a world far different from the one we have.

*  Be prepared to do whatever is needed to safeguard the participation of all Americans in the economic system and to preserve the sense of community among Americans.  If “computer integrated manufacturing,” robotics, biotechnology, and international competition based on ever-and-ever higher technology continue to bring on a situation in which only those with high-tech skills will have a place (other than such menial tasks as millions of others can scrape up), the displacement of middle- and lower-class Americans will have disastrous effects.  First, it will stop the advance of the technology itself, keeping it from reaching its full potential in serving people.  Second, it will lead to social chaos and perhaps revolution, with all the unspeakable effects that can flow from it.  Third, it will violate the imperative within any society, including a free one, to look to the overall health of the system as something that is serviceable for people in general.

 Pat Buchanan was right when he pointed to this problem.  It does not make him a “Democrat” or a “socialist” to do so.  Supporters of a free society are going to be forced to find ways to assure everyone’s participation in the economic system.  In part, this may mean going to a thirty- or even a twenty-hour work week.  (Right now, we feel so economically “pinched” that it seems hard to imagine that the technology offers the productivity to make this possible.  But precisely that level of productivity is coming, and will offer both widespread affluence and the displacement of workers.)

*  Work to raise our level of life to a higher plane.  This will very largely be accomplished if we destroy the hold that the liberal-Left has on American culture, with its dissonance and alienation.  Imagine films and music without those elements!  And imagine the level a free society can attain if it ever comes to have an intellectual culture that is appropriate to, rather than subversive of, itself.

*  Adopt an ongoing reformism against all abuses, governmental or private-sector.  Classical liberalism (the movement that championed an individualist society) was once a reformist creed, but it lost that impetus when the rise of the world Left forced it on the defensive.  If, as Friedrich Hayek has implored, it is to regain the idealism that appeals to young people and to “intellectuals” in the best sense, it will need to regain that reformist spirit.  We live in a society in which it is true that there are “abuses in which all connive” (to borrow a phrase from Emerson).  It will greatly serve the movement, and the society, to stand for a removal of abuses.  This should be seen not as a temporary house-cleaning but as a permanent feature of the conservatism as best conceived.

*  Be resolutely humane, both as to means and to ends.  I have discussed this previously here.  Anything less will not attract the support of mainstream America; and anything less will result in consequences that are the complete opposite of what we seek to achieve, which is the restoration and survival of America as a free society. 


            We have the option of letting things drift in the direction they have been going.  To do so is to make a decision in favor of the death of our society as we have known it.  Do we have what it takes to reverse that drift?

            Conservatives see the flaw in what has come to be called “victimology.”  If they can see that flaw as it applies to others, they should reflect on how it applies to themselves.  Mainstream Americans are not rightly to be seen as the “victims” of the liberal-Left.  Nothing predestines them to groan under its sway.  If they fail to assert themselves, it is themselves they have to blame, not the liberal-Left.  Roughly speaking, with many exceptions, of course, people get pretty much what they deserve in this life.