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Neoconservatism, Nationalism and Liberalism – Econlib



Neoconservatism, nationalism and liberalism

In recent years, the Republican Party has drifted toward authoritarian nationalism. The globalists within the party are heading toward retirement, and younger people deeply skeptical of the party’s previously dominant neoconservative wing are replacing them. I’m also skeptical of neoconservativism, but I don’t believe authoritarian nationalism is the answer.

Think about the kind rhetoric which is becoming more and more widespread:

Republican leaders in Congress are divided over what to do about Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene after the congresswoman spoke at a weekend event organized by a white nationalist who marveled at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the crowd erupted in chants of “Putin!”

Republican leader Kevin McCarthy called the congressman’s speech at the same stage “unacceptable.” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said: “There is no place in the Republican Party for white supremacists.”

There is clearly a place within the Republican Party for white nationalists, although Greene is certainly an extreme case. But much more influential figures use rhetoric that is almost as inflammatory:

The House of Representatives has passed legislation in support of three US allies: Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Senator Mike Lee, the Utah Republican, has called this “the warmongering wish list pushed by Speaker Johnson.”

I wonder how Senator Lee would have felt if the US provided aid to countries defending themselves against Hitler.

To be clear, I have no problem with people opposing providing aid to Ukraine. Maybe it will end up being a waste of money. But Lee goes too far when he suggests that those who help a small country fight for its survival are somehow “warmongers.” Putin is the one who launched the invasion.

You hear similar opinions from influential experts:

Tucker Carlson is not an official of the Republican Party, but he is an influential Trump supporter, and Carlson has done so many times repeated the Russian propaganda. At least once he went so far as to say he hoped Russia would win the war against Ukraine.

Last month, Carlson aired a two-hour interview with Putin, in which Putin made false claims about Ukraine, Zelensky and Western leaders, without any resistance from Carlson. In a separate video recorded in a Russian supermarket, Carlson suggested that life in Russia was better than in the US

And the most influential figure in the Republican Party is clearly ambivalent about Putin:

Trump has also avoided criticizing Putin over the mysterious death this month of his most prominent domestic critic, Alexei Navalny, and has repeatedly praised Putin as a strong and smart leader. Last year at a town hall, Trump declined to say whether he wanted Ukraine or Russia to win the war.

All this has echoes of the ‘America First’ movement in the run-up to US entry into World War II. An important difference is that in 1940 neither major party nominated Charles Lindbergh as a candidate for president.

Where did the nationalist wing of the Republican Party start to lose its way? I don’t believe the problem lies in their rejection of neoconservatism; American foreign policy has made some serious mistakes in its efforts to reshape the world in our image. Rather, they appear to have misinterpreted the nature of Putin’s regime. Conservative fans of Putin often point to his opposition to woke forms of liberalism, such as gay rights. He is seen as someone who defends traditional (religious) values. But Putin is not just opposed to left-wing forms of liberalism; he rejects all forms of liberalism, including classical liberalism. Republican fans of Putin do not seem to understand that he also opposes liberal values ​​such as pluralism, freedom of speech and assembly, and free elections. They make the classic mistake of assuming that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.