At the end of Garet Garrett’s Rise of Empire, the grizzled old prophet of the dystopia we’re living in held out hope to his conservative comrades and their intellectual descendants. Although pessimistic by nature (at least so it seems to me), the Old Right journalist, novelist, and peerless polemicist ended his philippic against empire this way:
No doubt the people know they can have their Republic back if they want it enough to fight for it and to pay the price. The only point is that no leader has yet appeared with the courage to make them choose.
This question of leadership has been the central weakness of the conservative movement since Garrett’s day. Bob Taft, the leader of the old Republican “isolationists,” was always the most moderate member of his faction, which may have something to do with his thrice-failed presidential campaigns. After that, the field of Old Right politicians was considerably thinned, and shortly nonexistent, as the Buckleyite “New Right” took the reins and the Goldwater era dawned.
It wasn’t until the long nightmare known as the Cold War ended, and the idols of neoconservative orthodoxy were debunked as false gods, that the spirit of the Old Right awakened and the dear old slogan “America First!” was once again heard in the land. Trump’s victory is clear evidence...