Principalities & Powers

Politics Without a Right

It took only a few days after the rout of the Republicans in their battle to drive Bill Clinton from office for the leaders of the Beltway Right to decide that the war was over and the only thing left to do was announce surrender. Four days after the Senate "acquitted" the President of the two charges on which he had been impeached, the grand marshal of the Beltway Right himself, Paul Weyrich, seemed ready to limp toward Appomattox. In a letter privately circulated to friends and allies, Mr. Weyrich declared that the political conservatism he has led since the 1970's has been a failure and that the premises on which it was founded are now (if they had not always been) wrong. The news that Mr. Weyrich had given up was in fact somewhat exaggerated, but that was the conclusion to which the left and not a few on the right immediately leapt, and frankly there was not very much in Mr. Weyrich's letter to contradict it.

Paul Weyrich, of course, was a major founder and leader of the "New Right" of the 1970's, a movement that sought to differentiate itself from the "Old Right" by devising a populist political strategy, invoking explicit moral and religious issues, shunning (or at least de-emphasizing) philosophical rigor and sophistication, and insisting that political victory was not only possible but also necessary and sufficient for the achievement of conservative goals.

Under Mr. Weyrich's...

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