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tv   Republican Party Conservatism  CSPAN  May 3, 2018 5:28am-6:58am EDT

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mission nasa had run. it looked too many people like near certain death to go on this thing. it was rushed, done very quickly, everything was for the first time. these men needed wives at home who were absolutely supportive but not just supportive, also did not reveal how much to their husbands how much they were suffering and how terrified they were. >> q a day, sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span. next, a panel on conservatism and how it can be defined in the modern era. this event was hosted by the american conservative magazine and the heritage foundation. it is 90 minutes.
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>> good evening. welcome to the heritage foundation. in our douglas and sarah allison auditorium. we welcome those who join us on our website on all of these occasions. for those in-house, we ask to see that mobile devices have been silenced or turned off. it is always appreciated. of course, those watching online and in the future on c-span are welcome to send questions or comments at any time. email us, leading our discussion on what is conservatism, is dr. lee edwards. dr. edwards serves heritage as a distinguished fellow in conservative thought in our center for principles and politics. he is well known in this community and most of us consider him the historian of the conservative movement. he was the founder and chairman of the victims of communism
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memorial foundation, has written numerous books and biographies and histories of organizations related to the conservative movement, serves as an adjunct professor at catholic university [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] particularly when we have an opportunity with such distinguished panelists to talk about one of our favorite subjects, which is conservatism. so here we are. what is conservatism? well, we will see. many have tried, and few have succeeded in providing an agreeable answer. bill buckley politely declined.
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russell kirk wrote a 478 page book, "the conservative mind." frank meyer came up with a new anotherfusionism. author contented himself with explaining why he was not a conservative. ayn rand, what did she do? she flashed the sign of the dollar. that was her explanation of what it is. here we are, nine at this old bone, trying yet again to answer , what is conservatism? here are a few thoughts. the volumeard to "american conservative thought of the 20th century, the liberal professor leonard leavy describes william f buckley's conservatism is the following. "vigorously individualistic, in favor of ordered liberty, hostile to promiscuous a gala
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terry and is him, and pronounceable he -- pronounceable he -- pronounceably a get a terry and his him. experiment, it has a deep streak of romantic utopianism. the professor believes conservative thought is addressed to shaping a visionary or paradigmatic society. he finds the0th centurto be a hideously science-centered age, with the passion for a quality that subverts the ideal society. what does mr. buckley himself say about the philosophy hind the magazine he founded, and which remains i think we would all agree, a most influential conservative journal in america? a seniors frank meyer,
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editor of "national review," for his development of fusionism, the joining of ideas of freedom and virtue. the core fundamental of conservatism, meyer wrote, is the freedom of the person, the central and primary end of political society. the state has only three limited functions. national defense, the preservation of domestic order, and the administration of justice between citizens. reflecting the views of the founding fathers, meyer said that freedom and virtue are compatible. indeed, their correlation is necessary for the good society. meyer wrote that the declaration of independence, the constitution and the federalist papers demonstrate simultaneous belief in moral value and the freedom of the individual.
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i think we can agree, or i would argue, this is the consensus of contemporary american conservatism, practiced by barry goldwater and ronald reagan, political icons of american conservatism, articulated by bill buckley, its intellectual spokesman. fusionism was not a rhetorical trick, but a recognition that conservatism was a house of many mansions. fusionism was illogical as well as a prudent resolution of a seemingly impossible political -- impassable political divide. i personally believe that a new fusionism is the only solution for the present discontent of the conservative movement divided as it is between reform icons, paleo cons, con cons, and the 57 other varieties of
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conservatism. in this present crisis, i must comenservatism together to form a new fusionism based upon certain ideas. limited constitutional government, free enterprise, individual freedom and responsibility, a balance between liberty and law, peace through strength and a commitment to virtue, private and public. these are the core ideas bounded by the constitution on which american conservatism rests in -- and by which its successful leaders, like ronald reagan, have always sought to govern. they are the tried and true ideas that can get america off the road to serfdom and once again on the road to liberty. now, to our distinguished panel of analysts. rois theenr editor othe american conservative. author of the best-selling "the
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." bob mary is a veteran washington journalist. his books include "president mckinley: architect of the american century" and "where they stand: the american president in the eyes of voters and historians." brad is a professor of history at hillsdale college and cofounder of the imaginative conservative blog. he is also a scholar in residence at the american conservative, which i am pleased to say and share with you all is celebrating its 15th anniversary this week. and they said it wouldn't last. [applause] >> thank you, everybody. i am rod to your.
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-- i am rod. i'm up from the bayou today for this event. before i get started saying what i think is going on with conservatism, i want to reference walker percy, one of my countrymen, who was once percy, do you despair? he said, i like to drink beer and eat crawfish. that is despair? that is the spirit that i want my remarks to be heard. i'm not optimistic about conservatism or anything else in our political culture, but i am hopeful. i hope we can get into the reasons why a little later. i am on the losing side of the fusionist deal and contract, which brought together traditionalists, religious conservatives on one side, that is my tribe, with libertarians who are more concerned about economics and the matter of the overweening state on the other.
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we did find 50 years ago that we have a lot in common. that is where the modern conservative movement came from. we have more in common than separated us. now, in 2018, i wonder what, as a cultural conservative and a believing christian, what exactly the conservative movement has conserved. from my point of view, the heart of conservatism is spiritual, and indeed, religious. i believe it was russell kirk who said all political problems are spiritual problems because they are ultimately problems of authority and transcendent meaning. i believe in part because of our own neglect, and because of cultural forces outside our control, religious conservatives have been routed. it is hard for me to see that we have a lot of hope in organized movement conservatism, certainly not in the republican party. i think our main error has been,
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--religious and consult cultural conservatives, thinking as long as we took care of the politics and the law, the culture would take care of itself. the culture was basically healthy. we have known for a while now that this is just not true. , weink it was 20 years ago failed at that. still to beas learned by a lot on our side. when you look around, you see the christian faith is dying in our country. the numbers don't lie. among the millennials and those younger, the faith is collapsing and the quality of the faith as christian smith the sociologist from notre dame has shown, it is very, very thin. for me, as a conservative, that is a primary concern because of -- if we don't get that right, the rest of our freedoms and virtues probably won't hold. i have written a book called the benedict option which is a strategy for shoring up the
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fragments against our ruin, of billion -- building resilient, faithful orthodox christian communities in a post-christian society. i'm a pessimist about our political future and our immediate cultural future. last fall, i was in paris having coffee with a well-known french philosopher and we were both agreeing that the prospect for france and the west don't look good right now. for him, islam is the greatest challenge, what they are facing in france, but he also said, and i agree, that we are losing our elan, our sense of purpose and meaning in the west. i asked him where he found his hope. he said i don't have any hope. he was being serious. he wasn't being glib at all. i said, i do have hope. my hope is not optimism, my hope comes from my religious faith and i told him about that. he said that is good for your americans, but here in france we
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believe that there is nothing beyond this life. when you are dead, you are dead. i left that meeting feeling pretty despondent for france. a country i love very much. movedhilosopher, who has to the right, he was a man of the left early on but he got mugged by reality and now he is a man of the right. he didn't see any hope outside of a recovery of transcendent meaning, which he thinks is closed off to him. , for me, theatism main policies of conservatism, to rebuild and restore and make resilient christian culture in this time of decline. what does that have to do with organized movement conservatism? i recall after a ruling in 2015, i came to capitol hill and was giving a speech on capitol hill, and had a meeting with some christian staffers for both the house and senate side, all conservatives, republican staffers.
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i said, we lost this one. what is the republican party going to do for religious liberty echoes i think that is the number one fight right now for social conservatives, to protect churches and schools and individual religious liberty. they said nothing. what do you mean, nothing? turns out there were no plans for the republican party to do anything about religious liberty because they saw it as a loser. they saw it as a way to be called bigots. they had no way to defend themselves. well, that made me realize that we conservatives, we grassroots conservatives, religious conservatives are on our own. that is no reason to give up. that is only a reason to take the fight to the local level, build our little platoons at the local level, in churches and .chools then, local initiatives. i will close by talking about a source of real hope i found recently.
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toas in prague, and i looked translate "the benedict option" in different languages. i visited the home of camilla. she and her late husband were anti-communist dissidents. they are catholics. the only christians in the circle. prison for went to five years for standing up to the communist government. his wife camilla had to take care of their six kids on her own. but they did it. they survived. and today, even though the czech republic is the most atheist country and all of europe, their faithfulremain catholics and conservatives, and their children are faithful, as well. i asked her how they did it. they had no political power at all. one of the things they did was, they constantly educated their children about what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful.
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conscious awareness that they were living in a society of lies. colin -- camilla said something to me. she said every day, i read to my kids for two or three hours every single day. me this in her apartment lined with books. she said it is important that we feed their imagination and give them something to stand on. she said tolkien was the biggest part of their childhood because they knew that mordor was real. i think today, here in our country, we don't live in communist tyranny, thank god, but i think the greatest anger we as conservatives can do is to -- the greatest thing that we as conservatives can do is to do what they did in their time of persecution and darkness. go back to the classics, go back to our faith, live lives of great spiritual discipline and lives of joy. their apartment was near the
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secret police headquarters in prague, and people knew that they were people who had been interrogated by the government and tortured by the police, they knew they were people of integrity and goodness and light and they would find their way to their apartment to be fed and cared for and restored. that, i think, is not only what christians should do, but what conservatives can do in this darkness we are now living through. [applause] >> good evening, everyone. i am glad to be here. i am brad and my wife and i got up early this morning and drove from hillsdale, michigan. we got the kids off to school, got in the car and just found parking behind the laundry. we are hoping that our car will still be there when they get -- when we get out. we are a little flustered. we had a great time. we are here. thank you all, and thank you for having us. what an honor. as we walked in, i couldn't help
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but think about how much this place has meant to the conservative movement and republicans in particular. it is wonderful to be in this building. thank you for hosting us and especially for the american conservative for putting us up. had the chance, actually the duty, to finish my american heritage classic hillsdale. they have finals next week. you can imagine what the mood on campus is like, except the weather was glorious are you have that strange moment where students aren't sure whether they should be studying or outplaying water sports on the lawns of their sororities. interesting thing to watch and observe. we are at the end of the semester, and i always end the american heritage class by talking about ronald reagan and by thinking about what happened in 1989.
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i am always reminded, so i was born in the summer of 1967, which was the summer of love. i was born in kansas, so i'm not sure how much of a summer of love there actually was. i grew up, and lee has heard this story many times. i grew up in a very solid goldwater household. next to the fireplace, we had goldwater's books and we had all of the britannica great books. in my mind, it was all just part of the same thing. in 1981, during this month of 19 -- may 17, 19 81, i got to see ronald reagan speak. it was his first public appearance after the near assassination that he went through and survived. in the spring of 1981, he spoke at notre dame. i was only in seventh grade, but it was one of those things that radically altered my own life thinking about what politics were, what did the soviet union stand for, where did americans stand? it really did open up a lot of things for me.
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i guess, like lee, even though we are of a different generation, i see myself very much as walking in between what is libertarianism and what is conservatism. i think that the only way that the right, if we want to call it that has ever been successful in american history, is one we have -- when we have seen those two aspects of the right come together. i think we also have to ask, what is it that we are trying to conserve? rod has already brought this up. he brought it up beautifully. if we are conservatives, what do we want to conserve? i worry about this a lot, not because of heritage, but when i turn on the radio and i am listening to talk radio and i hear so much of what is being passed as conservatism as either crassness or commercialism. in some way, there is this kind of populism that pervades everything. i find it disgusting, frankly.
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it doesn't strike me at all what conservatism was about when we go back to russell kirk or to robert nesbitt or the great two libertarian friedrich hayek. i wanted to bring up three points that i think are important for what we need to conserve. what matters in our conservatism, why it matters for us and western civilization. these three things, number one, i think we have got in some way fundamentally, and the left has stolen our language, but if you go back and look to the 1950's, whether you are reading hayek or kirk or gabriel marcel or any of the christian humanists, they are only speaking about the fundamental dignity of the human person. i think there were some people who took it too far. but i don't think hayek did. they had a good, grounded center in what that personal is him was
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-- what that personalism was. whether we call it individualism or personalism, and i realize there are variations. i actually think in hindsight, they have quite a bit in common. i think there is a lot that we need to understand when we think about human dignity, and it is hard for me not to think of one of the greatest figures of the last century, john paul ii who defined the human person as an unrepeatable center of dignity and liberty. that is one of the best definitions i have ever heard. that is better than anything hayek had. n in an is so hayek-ia understanding of what the individual is. i think that is fundamental. i think we'll may go back and i think we'll may go back and look at the western tradition, whether go to socrates or cicero, they are constantly talking about this understanding of dignity. free will, where do we choose?
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at what point are we determined? at what point can we make choices? [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] i think that is fundamental to who we are as conservatives, whether it is 1953 or 2018. the second thing i think it is important to conserve, we have to be able to conserve, we have to figure out how to balance what is universally true for all peoples and all places at all times. cicero said it doesn't matter if we are in a fit -- ancient athens our modern republican rome. it doesn't matter if we are here in washington, d.c. or if we are in hillsdale, michigan. it doesn't matter if we are the second to last human to exist or the third human to exist. there is as continuity, something fundamentally true about human person that corresponds justice during the corresponds to knowing our place -- correspondent justice.
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it corresponds knowing our place. questions i will never be able to answer, but fundamentally, they matter for understanding who we are. my wife and i getting in the car and driving for eight hours very we have six kids. -- eight hours. we have six kids. rarely when they get in the car, my wife really likes to talk to their is a fundamental aspect of justice in knowing our position, knowing where we are. even driving around d.c., we got a little bit snippy, but we are not urban people. why is this guy walking across the street right now? these were confusing things and i would say to her this lane, do you mean right or left? this lane. even after 20 years, there is
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that element of justice, something that is universal. in a new situation, we had to figure out the particulars. we got it worked out. as i told you, we are part had a laundry across the street. we are kind of praying the car will still be there. we had to work on that. there is a universal order to things, but there's always a particular manifestation. hillsdale, michigan is not washington, d.c. and we have to recognize that there are fundamental difference is in understanding the place within those things. the final thing that i think we need to conserve, we have an absolute duty as conservatives -- this would have been taken for granted a hundred years ago -- 100 years ago -- conservatives, and i mean this broadly, we were the artist. we were t -- artists. we were the creators 100 years
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ago. this is something only in the 20th century, and the modern and now postmodern world. russell kirk understood that we have to, as conservatives conserve our tradition. for us, standing here in washington, d.c., that means the western tradition. there is nothing bigoted about the western tradition. there is nothing -- it is not about what people, it is not about dead people. one of the greatest persons who ever lived in western civilization was saint augustus. he certainly was not caucasian in any way that we think. he was this great figure.
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he may be dead, though i assume, being a catholic, i assume he is dancing in heaven at the moment. he is gone from this world. at the same time, one of my great exemplars, certainly not out of central europe or blonde hair and blue eyes. i think we have to anchor ourselves in some kind of tradition. that tradition, going back to socrates, understanding the notions of what is humane? what are the humanities? people have dealt with this for the last century. these great ideas of being a humanist in the proper sense, not being a humanist and the secular as far as an atheist, but understanding the place of humanity as lower than god, but higher than the creatures. we have to understand this. it is an element of free will, education, certainly with liberal education, it is an element of the imagination.
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to go back, not just to russell kirk, but to others who understood this, the ultimate thing we can do when we think about what it is we need to conserve is to conserve what is loving. we have to conserve what is good, the good thing, the common thing. this is our duty as americans, but i think it is also our duty as citizens of the west. we have to be willing to preserve these things, to stand up and say this is worth preserving, this is not. we have to be prudent, we have to have fortitude, we have to have faith, hope and love. those things are critical whether we are in a libertarian anarchist society, or strict the conservative. if we are not really -- willing to give ourselves for our neighbor, sacrifice something, whatever it may be, we are nothing. that imagination means nothing. immunity means nothing and
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means, -- community nothing, and dignity means nothing unless we are willing to share those virtues. if we are willing to share and conserve love, that is the highest and we can conserve. [applause] >> i am delighted to be up here with these free people. -- 3 people. two colleagues from the american conservative. lee, i think we've known each other, 45 years? it's a great pleasure. i'm going to see if i can bring this discussion down to everyday politics. reporter.itical
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i would like to begin by taking note of what i consider to be one of the truly remarkable 16 year period in political history. from a time when conservatives some seemed finished to a time when it prevailed as the prevailing political force in the land. i think we need to study this as we ponder where we are today, because i think conservatism today is in crisis. much as it was, one can say back in 1965, after that debacle. today, it is ill-defined, it is at war with itself erie it is scattered -- itself. it is scattered. it is not clear what is
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represented by it. the first order of business, by way of exploring this question, is to ask what happened to reaganism? why did reaganism not last as a political force in the same way that the legacies of a jefferson or a jackson or a lincoln or the two roosevelt skerrit? i think there are two things to take note of in the political aspects here. one is that the republican party basically abandoned reaganism. i'm going to say here, and i say this, i covered these people when i was a reporter for the washington journal, especially the bushes. they kicked reaganism to the curb. the second point i would make is that the world has changed
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utterly. the end of the cold war has created what we call the post-cold war. -- post-cold war period. it only has a name for what it is in relation to its previous era. what does that tell you? it tells you in my view, we are in a crisis of the old order. the world is in a crisis of the old order. it says the old order of the world died in 1914. between 1914 and 1945, nothing had replaced it. i think we are in a similar situation. i don't believe in political terms, i am not talking about philosophical terms, but in political terms, conservatism has not come to grips with that fundamental reality of having to adjust to a changed world.
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when i say that the gop abandoned reaganism, what am i saying that it actually abandoned? to understand that, i think it is necessary to give it a little bit of tension to i consider to be a crucial political development in modern political history in america. that is the conversion of ronald reagan to supply side economics. i think that is a key to understanding the history of conservatism since 1976. when reagan ran for president, supply-side economics was a budding thing. it was not a significant point of view politically.
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it was brought to reagan's attention during that campaign by bob barkley and others. he didn't bite. he wasn't interested. he did, by the time he ran in 1980. we all know essentially what that is. it had to political ramifications for reagan that i think their notice. -- bear notice. one is that it actually worked. after reagan got through the recession of his early presidency, which was an induced session, it was not one that just happened, it was the federal reserve chairman basically going to reagan and saying i'm going to squeeze and plays in -- inflation out of
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this economy, are you going to fight me on it? it was a political gamble on reagan's part and took a tremendous amount of courage. after he got through that recession, he generated an annual average gdp growth rate of 3.89%, quite remarkable. the other thing i would note is that it served as an underpinning for a particular brand of what i am going to call populism. some people are going to say have you call this populism? i will try to explain in a moment. it is not a pitchfork brand of populism, it is a lot of venom and anger. it is more sophisticated than that. it is directed at expansive government. in many ways, although reagan did not use this term, what amounts to crony capitalism.
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the two foundations were a fake and the ability of ordinary people to conduct their own economic affairs about a lot of intrusion from the government. secondly, a distrust economic and governmental and especially a, economic and governmental leaps that control matters through currency manipulations through their own benefit. this brand of populism had two major political effects. first, it made it possible for reagan to draw to his coalition, those so-called reagan democrats and also a lot of young people who have not been voting or interested in the republican party until that time. secondly, if fortified him against the allegation from democrats that he was just a country club republican who was full of the special interest in the rich and privileged. they attacked him with that barrage and allegation, as they have every republican sense, but it didn't stick with reagan
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because he had the antidote. by way of explanation, let me explain how this works, why i call that populism. i'm going to use an analogy from the early part of the republic, the early decades when the federal government found itself with a great deal of land in the west. the question was how to dispose of that land. the federalists and later the whigs wanted to sell that land at very high prices because that would bring in a lot of money to federal poppers that could be used by the governmental leaks to create bridges and canals and
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roads, all in the interest of national greatness. that was henry clay's american system. they had a good purpose, but the democrats, the populists, said no, give it away or sell it at very low prices so people will flock out there and take that land and develop the land and they will build communities and churches and they will build up america from below as opposed to being elitist, the henry clay view that the leaks would build up the country from above. now, we have george herbert walker bush, i will tell you i covered those people. i covered the early reagan years in congress, the budget and tax legislation, so i got to know all those people. i covered the reagan white house after the 1984 campaign and got to know all of the bush people.
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one thing that struck me was that they did not believe in reagan. they didn't understand his success. they didn't understand the core of his success and i thought that when they got empower they were going to know how to do it right. they basically cast aside both the substance of the populism, that is to say the tax cuts, no new taxes become tax increases which led to a significant burden on the economy. they also abandoned the reagan rhetoric to with stand the assault on the left and to pull those former democrats to the circle. when bush threw away reagan's antidote, he threw away his presidency. the problem for reaganism was that when he lost to bill clinton, it wasn't just viewed as a rejection of bush, it was also viewed by many as a rejection of reagan.
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then we have bill clinton. what is interesting about bill clinton is notwithstanding this assault on reaganism from within our public and party, reaganism was still exercising a significant poll on american politics. bill clinton that elected and said my aim is to repeal reaganism. two years later, he had his head handed to him in 1994, he said, the era of big government is over. he very cleverly crafted a means of getting himself just in the right position left of center so he could govern as a democrat fairly successfully. the reason that he did that and the reason he had to do that was because of the ongoing poll of -- pull of reaganism. then we had george w. with george herbert walker out of disregard, did a job on reaganism, george w just a
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tactic -- a tactic -- attacked it. the result of that was endless wars, middle east chaos, unnecessary tensions with russia, widespread popular unease about which the neocons don't necessarily care very much, unlike reagan who always knew that he had to find a way to craft this policy and rhetoric and his narrative in a way that resonated with the american people.
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now we have people who are elite running foreign policy who simply don't care about that. in abandoning reagan style populism, the republican party got instead trump populism. american conservatism offers not much of a coherent governing philosophy was any chance of capturing the country right now. we are kind of back to the 1965 post-goldwater period when conservatism seemed to be totally repudiated. it wasn't dead, though it appeared to be dead. is it not dead now, though it appears to be? that is the question. i don't really have an answer. i didn't come here to give you an answer, but that is my question. thank you. [applause]
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>> i know we have people who want to jump in, but let me just say in 1964 and 1965, i was there. conservatives looked at that crushing defeat of barry goldwater, which numbers were a part, and what did we do? the face of liberals who said that we were through, we were dead, buried stone cold in the cemetery, that it, goodbye to goldwater and conservatism, we did two things. we decided that we were going to become politically active and therefore, we founded the american conservative. that was a political arm. trying to figure out where do we go from here?
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how do we deal on the fact that 27 million people did vote for barry goldwater? frank meyer said you can build a pretty good political movement with the base of 27 million people. on the intellectual side, we started the philadelphia society. who was there at the beginning? milton friedman and russell kirk talked about what is conservatism in chicago. coming out of that, was the beginning and what were the ideas and what can be some kind of philosophical foundation for a political movement. up until that time, we had been an intellectual and political movement. following with goldwater and our experiment with that, we are very fortunate because along came ronald reagan in 1966. we were able to transfer all of
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the energy and excitement that we gendered with barry goldwater to ronald reagan. that was certainly a key thing. i think also, one has to say that reagan was many things, but one of the reasons why he was so successful, that he was a man of intense ambition. we forget that. he really wanted to be president. there has been some recent research on this which has shown that he was trying very hard to get the nomination in 1968. i didn't realize it in my own research. he was closer that a lot of people knew at that time. the man of intense ambition and also willing to be pragmatic about things and reaching out to people. if we're talking about leadership for the future, we
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need charismatic leadership, but we also need pragmatic prudential leadership as well. just a few thoughts. i agree with you, those 16 years were key between 1964 and 1980. >> i became a conservative because of ronald reagan. i entered college in 1985 as a liberal and i left as a conservative in large part because of reagan. i think even more because of this dynamism, all the best arguments and all the best writing was on the right. i became convinced. i wonder if a ronald reagan is even possible today or if we expect too much because of not only has the media landscape fragmented, the whole idea of authority has fragmented. back in the 1980's, you read national review, the american
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spectator, other magazines that you read and people you look to as authority figures to tell you what conservatism meant and what conservatives were to do. today, do we even have that? is that even possible? i think part of the answer to these questions is where we go and what we might do to resurrect conservatism is asking ourselves what we have to give up from the reagan era or from what we idealize from the reagan era? what do we have to give up in order to conserve what really matters go i don't have the answer to that either, but i think we have to be careful to
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not be too backward looking and a member that reagan emerged in a specific time and place to counter specific problems. now, we have different problems. i don't think anybody here is suggesting this, but i think it is fair to ask some conservatives, is the problem but we need now really more tax cuts and more foreign wars? i don't see what conservatism have to say much beyond that. i believe a certain tradition does, but popular conservatism, i am not seeing that or saying no to whatever the liberals want to put out there. i'm happy for that, but we need to have more than that. when i say that -- something bob sent remind me of a speech i heard. i was present for the meeting. it was a really good speech. he spoke for 45 minutes and didn't mention politics once, which i thought was unusual for a senator. what he said to the philanthropists was that we are going into a time, we have entered and will continue to go into a time of intense turmoil, the likes of which we haven't seen for a long time in this country. he said it what you need to do, speaking to the philanthropists, it's about your time and treasure to helping build resilient local communities. he said social science tells us that there are four things that people need to be stable and
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happy and to thrive. they need to have a religion or a philosophy that explains suffering and death to them and reconciles them to that, they need to have a family, they knew to have a core group of good friends they can count on, and they need to have meaningful work. the senator said we are entering a time when all four of those things will be challenged intensely and if we are going to make it as a society, as a culture through that, we have got to help people stay resilient in the face of all of those pressures. notice, he didn't mention politics once. politics are important, but i would say focusing on the local culture and facing these problems that the senator identified, that is the most important thing that conservatives can do. >> i love what has been said and i think there are so many things that can be said about reagan, in particular. if we look back to 1953 when kirk published the conservative mind, there were just as many divisions if not more than there
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are now that i think there probably were prior to reagan. we had the classical liberalism, anarchism, fabulousism, i think one of the things that kirk was able to do was take that aspect of things and give it a coherent voice for a while. the agreement does allow for goldwater to rise and ultimately for reagan. my second point would be, and i will freely admit, reagan was shot when i was in seventh grade. i remember our vice principal coming on and telling us he was dead, which obviously he was not. that was the worry.
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i remember sitting at notre dame in 1989 and watching the wall fall. reagan will always be that president for me. it is hard for me to think objectively about him. i will say this, and i say this probably more than anything else, but it strikes me that reagan gave us 20 years abroad and at home. the economic success of seven fat years. we lived off of that until 2008. one of the reasons he created the 600 ship navy in the military so that we could end an empire and retrench. i think reagan made a calculation.
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he said it we will do everything sink the soviet union and hopefully people in the future after that victory will do the right thing. they kicked reagan to the curb. i think that salvation we had in the west lasted 20 years and we blew it. we have troops now in 150 out of the 200 countries. we have military bases everywhere. we don't have any coherent foreign policy, we just go and react. these are all things reagan would have just abhored in every way. >> i would draw one significant distinction between 1953 and today, not to take anything away from your point. in 1953, we knew what the issues were because the world had been re-created through that cataclysm of world war ii. franklin roosevelt created a new order with america at its center. that was clear for everybody. we had the cold war and that was
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a problem and a mess and it certainly had psychological implications. we knew what the era was. we knew how it was to find. defined. we knew what the issues were. today, we don't. that makes it a much larger challenge for conservatives and for liberals and for americans and anybody in the arena. that is one of the reasons why, in my view, our politics have become so venomous and poisoned. that is going to continue until emergesd of a new era to replace the old one and to replace the transition between the old and the new that we are living through today without really realizing it. >> we are going to go to the audience for a q&a. let me just make one point.
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talking about wars and getting involved in the reagan era and the reagan doctrine in the 1980's. if you go back and study that decade, you will see how very careful reagan was in his use of force over and over again. if there was a problem, he would use force, but it was more than adequate to solve that as quickly as possible with the minimal loss of life. particularly, he said i am not going to send men to fight in nicaragua or afghanistan. what he did was support anti-communist forces in both of those countries. he was someone who truly believed in peace through strength. a phrase first used by dwight david eisenhower, which reagan borrowed. i remember meeting with a kgb colonel who was trying to pump me for information about the inside story on ronald reagan.
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i have written a book about him. -- i had written a book about him. i kept telling him, he doesn't want war. what he wants is an opportunity to sit down and talk with you guys, but of course you keep dying on him. [laughter] you can get a leader who doesn't die, then reagan will sit down and talk with him. he was saying no, he is not talking about dropping a bomb on moscow, he is talking about sitting down at the bargaining table. that is precisely what happened. one more little thing, the last time i met with my kgb buddy, 1985. gorbachev had just been picked as general secretary of the communist party in the soviet union. my buddy looked at me and said about gorbachev, he is different. he is different. even a kgb guy could see that
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there was something special about gorbachev. that is the way it turned out to be. >> we need to finish up so we can go watch "the americans." it is on tonight, you know. >> we will see what our deadline is. questions from the audience. here we are. please. if you would be so kind as to identify yourself and try to keep your orations down as much as possible. >> i'm a professor, that's difficult. americans have been described as being based on three pillars, free market economics, cultural traditionalism, and a strong foreign policy. ofthat a good description conservatism today? should it be?
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>> i will be happy to tackle that. i am fine with it. where my problem may arise is on strong foreign policy. i don't know what that means. but if it means the american foreign-policy since george w. bush post-9/11, i am against it. i am against trump foreign-policy. i am not against america being in the world. i think we have to be in the world. we have too much power and we have too many interests. we have too much of a role to play towards stability. going overseas in search of monsters to destroy and remake society in our image and all of that is a disaster. it will continue to be a disaster. i suspect we are going to continue to do it. maybe on a big scale time. i am very worried about it. >> about the cultural and
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religious traditionalism, that was fair to explain at one point, i don't think it is fair at all. i am not talking about the collapse of religious faith among the young, but also the falling apart of the family. i think one of the most important stories of our times is the collapse of the white working class. the african american working class has been suffering through this for a long time. now, it has moved to the white working class. we see middle-class people of all races, young people suffering from great anxieties, a loss of a sense of purpose. on and on. you can read lots about this. this is not coming from -- this is a manifestation of a weak culture. weak traditional culture. i gave a talk a few years ago at a conservative christian college. i was talking to the professors there and i said this must be a good place to teach, you must see great things among the students.
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they said actually, we worry about the kids because they come here with no cultural background sense ofy thin religion or doctrine or anything like that. they come from open families. a professor said he doubted the students would be able to form a stable family. this is a conservative evangelical college. the professors nodded. i said why do they not? they said because they have never seen it. this is pretty deep. it's not -- we have to get back to the bible and all that. a lot of that 1980's style religious political fundamentalism is out of fashion and has become kind of repulsive in what some religious leaders have done under trump. we know that. i'm talking about more fundamental traditionalism. not only religious, but cultural.
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finally, my friend, who will be speaking tomorrow night at the american conservative gala. he said something that really shocked me. he wrote a column that got attention talking about the students at notre dame. he said these are the best and the brightest. they come here, work hard, they are ambitious, they have ticked all of the boxes off, but they are blanks. they don't know anything about where they came from or where they are going. they know nothing about the history and culture of their own country and their own civilization. it scares him. it is not the fault of these kids, it is the fault of we adults who have failed them. >> questions? >> in the front here. >> i want to speak to the role of immigration in our current system. we have a lot of immigration without any efforts of assimilation. is it sustainable to ask the
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question of how to conserve what we have if we are allowing a number of people coming in who are unaware of what our culture is or has been? >> i would be happy to take a first stab at that. i think the metric to watch and to look at is the percentage of foreign-born in the country at any given moment. that percentage has probably exceeded now 14%. the last time it hit 14% in our nation, there was a very significant backlash in the 1920's as a result of the immigration. large waves of immigration, mostly from eastern and southern europe from about 1890 and forward. what strikes me about the open border people, and the people who don't care about this and don't see it as anything other than healthy development in american history, is you can't
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get them to tell you what they think the number should be, or any number that reflects a level of immigration. -- the level of immigration. it is not just a question of bringing people in, it is the question of assimilation. 14% in my view, and i think the american people sense this and they sensed it the last time. that constitutes a challenge of assimilation that they think could be very deleterious to the nation at large. especially as it continues. should it be 18%? is it going to be 20%? at that point, your question -- abser.ry absurd i think we have reached the point where assimilation and closing off the influx to the extent that assimilation can
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happen much more normally and naturally is in order. >> it is fascinating to me. i am probably contrary to a lot of modern conservatives on my own views. historically, to look at how people have moved. we know people's move almost anytime they can when they don't have security. that is just a constant in world history. the only time they stop is when they don't have the technology. getting stuck at the atlantic until they can cross the atlantic. or in the pacific and vice versa. we see that constantly. in the american tradition, we had a very long period, almost 100 years, between john quincy adams being secretary of state, all the way up until 1921, with the exception of the chinese and the gentleman's agreement with the japanese. we have almost completely free borders. we have free movement of people. we had free movement of capital,
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we had this incredible motion everywhere in the united states. now, the problems that bob is bringing up our serious issues. beenradition has always one of allowing people to move pretty freely. we don't see any major restrictions until 1921. then again in 1924. and we have to wait until 1964 and 1965 to see major restrictions on immigration. our tradition has been one thing, obviously where we are at in modern america, that is something else. i am speaking personally. i missed when the republicans became the party of closed borders. that happened during my lifetime. i don't remember a moment when -- where it suddenly transitions. i remember talking to people in upsetrnia who were very about immigration, and texans were happy about it.
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it became very restrictive. >> we must talk about it. i don't see this kind of conversation we are having right here and now being conducted at a national level. i don't see members of congress see members of't the senate doing it, and frankly, i don't see conservatives doing it. we need to get at this and talk about it. i think what brad is saying about what does it mean, do we ignore the 100 years? or do we say we are in a different period? i don't know what the answer is. but i think we need more talk, more discussion, more debate. there is no more vital issue, it seems to me, then immigration. >> whatever those policies were during the 100 years, they did not manifest themselves in terms of a foreign-born percentage
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anything approaching 14%. that was because of the technology back then. the massive influx was not possible. it didn't create that question or problem, or challenge that i am referring to. let's point this out. in the first republican debate, in 2016, actually it was 2015. immigration came up. donald trump said you wouldn't even be talking about this if it weren't for me. that is true. all these politicians wanted to finesse the issue throughout 2016. why, because they can't control it in the middle of a campaign. they can control it more in the legislative setting. that is what they wanted to do. let's not talk about it. then, trump comes down the
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escalator and in this very awful manner says what he says about mexican immigration. it couldn't be ignored anymore. because theis that establishment parties seated the issue to this crude guy as they were trying to finesse it. they should have been addressing it in a responsive manner. -- responsible manner. >> i used to be on the editorial board at the dallas morning news in the last decade. in the 2000, immigration to texas was an enormous issue. our board took a really aggressive stand for immigration reform at the national and state level. i don't have a particular passion about immigration one way or the other, but i noticed after a while everybody on our board, whether they were republican or democrat, we had a good mix, we also had white,
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black, hispanic, everybody thought immigration was a good idea. we didn't see the people in our own city who suffered from immigration. i actually went out to some of these neighborhoods that were suffering and were overwhelmed by a legal immigration from mexico. it was striking. going out and seeing these neighborhoods made me realize that all of us on the editorial board were middle-class people. on immigration -- our impact or meeting on immigration was in the restaurants. we got great ethnic foot, getting good gardeners, getting good people to work for us. but we didn't have to send our kids to the schools who were overwhelmed by people who didn't
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speak english. the schools had to deal with them. we didn't have to use the public hospital like poor white and black people, and latino people who are citizens. these were invisible to us. therefore, i came to feel the immigration issue was a chance for us to virtue signal. we are not like those rednecks who cannot stand mexicans. i thought about that a lot when trump came out and was successful with that. i don't agree with the way he talked about immigrants, it was ugly in many ways, but least he was talking about it. he was not ignoring it. ignoring concerns about what people in the middle-class sought. if we saw them, it was only to put them down for being bigots. i want to say if you haven't --d this new book by a yell law professor called
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political tribes, i recommend it. one of the things she says is history shows us that in policies where there is not one dominant minority, things become unstable and can turn into violence. she says it will happen. she says we have to be careful about it as america transitions from being a majority white nation to being one in which no particular minority dominates. this history shows us that this could go really bad for us if we are not careful with how we manage it. that i think is probably the best reason to put a cap on immigration right now until we can stabilize things. >> we can see just how this issue generates some real strong opinions. i just want to throw in myself one thing. it was an idea in a book, the americanization of emily. i'm trying to think where that was.
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to me, that is a major issue when we start talking about immigration is assimilation but education and the americanization of people who are coming here, particularly, if they are legal, they should be able to accept our culture and language, our ideals, so forth. it is also a part of this reader debate that we need to conduct on immigration. >> i would like to evaluate the heritage of richard nixon. he was not really a conservative, but in many ways he was a much more intelligent
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and much more world character version of donald trump. he was able to appeal to the same sorts of people. i gave my opinion, but i will leave it with -- leave it with you. >> who are we talking about? >> richard nixon. what did you think about him as a character versus trump? >> i think in many ways he was a brilliant politician, he was also a tragic figure, his own worst enemy. there has been a lot written about him. i think in the most recent book -- i am drawing a blank. a wonderful book that looking at him from the left attempts to
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understand what was driving this guy. and ultimately the pressures political --this in political terms, he was something of a phony. he didn't believe anything. he was no conservative, but he managed to get conservatives behind him. that was a rather interesting trick. >> isn't that what trump has done? >> to a very large extent. trump has some conservative instincts, but he is not a conservative by any stretch. >> from a conservative point of view, richard nixon was remembered by many conservatives --the man who got out to his alger hiss. because of that, conservatives forgave richard nixon again and again.
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being able to do that, that is such a key issue. if he had survived, that would have done a blow to the cause of anti-communism. with his conviction, with his going to jail, it showed it was possible to be an anti-communist and to be part of the coalition, which ultimately became the fusionistto -- conservatism. >> thank you for the question, i don't have a great opinion on nixon one way or the other, but i did something when i was working with russell kirk. i found this great letter about a guy from general motors raising money for goldwater. he said the problem with raising money for goldwater is you can -- when he would take goldwater and nixon around to various
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groups, nixon would say yes, whatever it was the group wanted. goldwater would lecture them on why they were wrong. they could never raise money for goldwater. i always thought it was a great story to compare them. [laughter] >> please. >> i just wanted to say, when reagan ran for president, he didn't have much conservative infrastructure. there was no washington times, no talk radio, no internet, no leadership institute. now, i am hopeful there is a huge conservative infrastructure in place in the country with a lot of information, you can now research and see videos on youtube. with that in mind, do you have a greater hope that conservatives can do better?
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>> i love earlier when rod was saying when you to think about all of this decentralization. part of bob saying you have this populism, i think i would use the term charisma. i understand what you're saying. i think that makes a lot of sense. i have not had the experience that rod had at this christian school. i will say that they come in fully formed because they are 18th, but it is amazing. they dazzle me every year. i am humbled by them every year. i find them impressive, now i am in a place that is probably weird and unusual. [laughter] >> i do think there is a hunger. i have seen a lot of great scholars, lauren hall, abby hall, alex salter.
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if you think of the number of people in their late 20's, early 30's who are doing fantastic things in political science, economics, and so forth. i think there is a lot of possibility. i think this decentralization, problem,is always a always has opportunities. as long as we can find someone to find a voice to give us one like reagan did, goldwater in between. i think there is always a possibility of someone coming forward and being able to grab the imagination of a generation. i don't want to pontificate, but my own experience has been as students contrary to being immoral or watched, they want stories of truth. they want stories of heroism, they want exemplars. as theyt these things are looking for those answers.
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they are not as subjective as we think they are when we look at them from age 50, or whatever we are. >> i will say very briefly. i have a love-hate relationship with the conservative industrial complex. on the one hand, i absolutely know that institutions are critical for the formation of the next generation. that's one of the reasons i believe so strongly the -- that republicans have gotten religiousfight for liberty because we have to protect the ability of our institutions to educate and form the next generation. that is what is under threat right now. at the same time, having lived in washington and enjoyed working in washington, but also having seen how some young people come to washington very idealistic about conservatism. they become part of the board -- borg.
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they lose the idealism that originally brought them here. they become enamored of the holding onto power. this is one of the things the republican party has lost its -- lost along its way. i think a genuine renewal of conservatism will need to have this infrastructure in place. i am glad we have it, it will need to nurture these ideas outside the imperial city. to bring the renewal in from the outside of the system. >> did you say borg from star trek? i did. >> i wonder where you see the shallenges for conservative from rising nationalism. >> i think it is a huge problem and danger. i don't think naturalism -- outside of poland and ireland, i
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don't see any good examples of how it could be healthy. i find it very problematic. it is tribal, dangerous, exclusive. i think it is anti-liberal, i think it is anti-western traditionally. >> on the other hand, what do nations like poland, hungary and czech republic have to defend themselves of the eu and globalism? i don't like nationalism either, but it is all they had. >> it seems to me that the nation's state has been written off and saying saying it is in its last throw. yet it keeps coming back. as long as that nationalism is balanced, i think there is a place for it. after all, we are an exceptional nation.
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it seems to me that that is something that should be honored. >> every nation thinks they are an exceptional nation, every nation is right about that. when i go to france, i love france, i want france to be friends. i don't want it to be absorbed into this generic shopping mall federation. >> it goes right back to my point that the nationstate is important, whether it is france or america. >> one last question. >> thanks. i have spent my career studying the soviet union and russia. i wanted to ask about the relationship between liberty and virtue, something you had brought up in the discussion. that has been a very prominent question for me looking at that part of the world. the soviet union was a good example of a country that had neither liberty nor virtue. it makes it very easy for unite around to
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anti-soviet is some -- anti-sovietism. russia had liberty but no virtue in the 1990's. today, i think we have another very specific case of an area where there is liberty and not very much virtue. that is silicon valley. a part of our country that seems to believe very much in liberty, but is pairing it with what you might call liberteenism. this doesn't seem to be working out in a lot of ways. i'm wondering if you can comment about how conservatives can approach that very specific topic of social media, internet freedom, large, almost monopoly business practices, and virtue. how do we approach that vexing problem?
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>> i actually think there is a solution to it. if you look at the trajectory of the west, you have to conclude that the west is in decline. it is in decline in a host of ways. one of those ways have to do with the disciplines of life, the pursuit of virtue that was partial of our civil relations in an earlier time, now it isn't. really, through the elite intellectual -- intellectual elites in the 19th century in europe for example. what is interesting is other people look down on ordinary people, on middle classes, emerging middle classes.
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without any conception that conviction -- conviction, that someday they will be absorbing all of that and become part of the popular culture. it is a progressive degradation. silicon valley, i agree. it seems to be part of an ongoing trend that rod has been grapping with-- so brilliantly and helplessly for a long time. [laughter] >> you are right. it is really hard to know where we stand. and where to stand. the effect of this technology on everything on the way we live is immense, and it will get more immense. there is a guy i follow on twitter, he used to work for facebook. he is doing a piece for wired magazine on virtual-reality pornography. he said he had to look at some for the story and said it is
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over. something to that effect. meaning how in the world do people, once they have given themselves over to this sort of technology, how do they find the strength to do anything? it is not really a joke. he was being snarky, that it is not really a joke. i don't know how we deal with it. i don't believe silicon valley is in favor of liberty, as much as liberteenism. there is a really interesting book by historian noah o'reilly, that came out last year. he talks with great excitement about technology and silicon valley, the promised land of the that the kind of power is going to give us to even reengineer what it means to be a human being.
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i don't know there is any way politics can stop this at all. individually, we don't have to surrender to it. when i give talks about the benedict option, people say what is the first thing we can do? they take smart phones away from your kid. don't get caught up in that, either. once you go down that road, it is hard to get out of it. you will lose any sense of virtue. you will become so disassociated or disconnected with the real world. there may be no coming back. i am thinking direly about it, because i talked to people in college campuses who are seein whathipeople and their inabilito focus or know of anything beyond their immediate desires. think of someone who makes his
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living off of the internet and loves the good things that technology has brought us. i believe we have to work very hard to be the master of it, not let it become our masters. i don't know this thought occurs to most people. >> i had a talk from my own experience. i am fortunate enough to have been a professor at catholic university for 31 years. in part because the standards were not lowered and i had to work my fanny off. i say to my students put away the iphone. put away the pads and the other things. we are going to have a discussion and lecture for 1.5 hours. that's the way it is. every now and then i look down and see somebody has their head lowered and are doing this. i know he is cheating. there are so many wonderful
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young people, and i see the interns, 250 of them will come through every single year. i know the work of isi and the studies institute. they fund for american studies. young americans are free to manage a student for liberty, to o not just conservative , organizations. also the leadership institute, hundreds, maybe thousands of young people, are being educated and influenced that way. i am an optimist, i have always been. if you can capture a little bit of that, along with some very good, solid, and even brilliant analysis. please join me. [applause]
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-- beer?beer reppo >> let's get some right now. [laughter] announcer: on c-span this week in primetime, tonight at 8:00 eastern, a look at how the criminal justice system handles
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people suffering from mental illness. >> since 1980, the number of people going to jail has tripled , and their sentences have increased by 166%. as you peel back the onion, you try to figure out what in the heck has happened. thisill find that most of is due to untreated mental illness and substance use disorders. announcer: this week in primetime on c-span. live sunday morning on "1968: america in turmoil," we look at the impact of the vietnam war at home. student marches and acts of civil disobedience dominated u.s. headlines. joining us to talk about that turbulent time are doug stanton, author of "the odyssey of i go


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