You Heard It First From… Jerry Salyer

“The great successes of American conservatism before Reagan were due to the intellectual or imaginative power of a few outstanding men,” Dr. Thomas Fleming observed back in July 1987, just as Reagan’s second term was winding down. Unfortunately, Dr. Fleming continued, too many conservatives allowed Reagan’s election to go to their heads, even as opportunists and careerists swarmed the seemingly victorious movement, turning it into a racket. So the chest-thumping self-congratulation of the Reagan Era concealed a fatal inner weakness, a weakness which would bode ill for the American future: “In the heat of the moment, many conservatives have forgotten that their real source of strength did not lie in resentment against the welfare state or the million and one little pamphlets on SDI or Central America that are choking the US Postal System. Under President Joe Biden, we shall have the leisure to remember.”

Just in case the reader missed that last line, which indeed dates back to the Year of Our Lord 1987, let it be repeated: Under President Joe Biden, we shall have the leisure to remember.

Well, now that we really are under President Joe Biden, there is certainly a lot to remember, such as Fleming’s assessment of the Reagan administration: “For all the great successes of the administration, the important fact remains that the enemy is still in undisputed possession of the major institutions that control the formation of attitudes and the building of character: churches, schools, ‘the arts,’ the press are all enemy territory.” This is, quite frankly, another eerie note.  About whose administration was Dr. Fleming writing, back then? Reagan’s? Trump’s? Both?

Likewise, when he comments skeptically upon the “attempt to rebuild a conservative ideology out of the rubble of New Right populism and the disarray of Neoconservative ideology,” it seems as if he is peering forward to the rise of Trumpian populism and its co-opting by the establishment. For the benefit of readers too young to remember, let us recall that immediately following the election of the 40th president, neoconservatives appropriated that victory, using their influence to elbow out all the Southerners, conservative Democrats, Christian traditionalists, anti-war libertarians, and Old Rightists who had formed the only real resistance to liberalism in American culture.

More recently, following the election of the 45th president, egalitarian nationalists once again appropriated the victory, and just as before they used their newfound leverage to pursue exactly the same course as their predecessors. What should we recognize as one of the greatest threats to American liberty in this age of Silicon Valley machinations, Deep State manipulation, and post-human globalization? Why, according to The 1776 Report, it is John C. Calhoun and his terrifying doctrine of local government. Under Reagan, Mel Bradford was subjected to a character assassination so we could get neocon ally Bill Bennett as Assistant Secretary of Education; under Trump, we got the execrable John Bolton as National Security Advisor, and Pat Buchanan’s name never even came up. (To be fair to Trump, of course, he never appointed anyone like Anthony Kennedy or Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court, and his impact as a catalyst should not be underrated.)

In any case, there was nothing magic about Fleming’s prediction, unless we equate magic with reason. Biden has been in politics for a long time, angling for power all the while, and as the conservative establishment has never tried to resist the left, seriously defend American culture, or address core conservative concerns, it was inevitable that Biden’s party would recover the initiative sooner or later. Clinton and Obama merely cut in line ahead of him.  So the secret of Dr. Fleming’s precognitive ability is simply that he was willing to stare grim reality in the face. Well in advance of Big Tech censorship, antifa violence, and BLM arson, the cold truth was there for those with eyes to see:

   "Cultural conservatives are not alone in believing that the current Kulturkampf is being waged by  friendly parties who have fallen out over a misunderstanding. All we have to do is explain to the other side, politely, of course, that their views are undermining the status quo, and they will apologize and help us to set things right. But the revolutionaries who have been reconstructing society since the 1790’s are not misguided defenders of civilization. They loathe our cultural traditions and moral principles precisely because they are bulwarks and foundation of everything the revolutionaries seek to destroy: the family, individual freedom and responsibility, social stability. Our enemies have their own traditions, their own principles, their own culture. Not only that, they have their own gods on their side – Social Justice, Equality, and, above all, the Future."

Those who have been “redpilled” by events are of course welcome to join the struggle to preserve Western civilization. But before they can expect any trust or credence from the dissident right, such neophytes should take a seat and listen to those who were in the right all along. Paleoconservatives were identifying the deeper threat back when delusional Republicans were doing victory laps; Dr. Fleming was warning us of President Biden even before Bush II tried to sell out the pro-life movement on behalf of Harriet Miers.


The Fleming Foundation

2 Responses

  1. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Thanks for reminding us of this blast from the past, Mr. Salyer.

  2. Robert Reavis says:

    Thank you, J.D.. There has been a handful of thoughtful men I have known , probably not more than a baker’s dozen, who kept their heads and really tried to speak, teach, write and live well until the end while respecting enemies, loving their own and courageously carrying on in the face of great odds . Tom was one who saw the storm gathering earlier than most and therefore had to endure its full effects longer than most. But he had good friends and also was one, so redeemed the tears and joy in all of it into a great tale that will be re-told and remembered for some time. And as you rightly indicate, it should be.