Gottfried in this piece at Taki's Top Drawer, writes about the fortunes of conservatism, notably about the split between the 'neocon' faction, which has been dominant for some time now, and the paleo right. He warns against the tendency which is evident among many on the right to proclaim that neoconservatism is dying away, that its influence is waning steadily. According to this school of 'thought', the left, or portions of it, will be so appalled by the neocons' excesses that they will make common cause with the paleo right, with their common enemy, neoconservatism, in the crosshairs. Gottfried, however, warns against this complacency:
Among the instructions I would give the real Right is the following well-considered advice. Prepare for a fight that will last generations and don’t expect your liberal or neocon enemies to give you any quarter. They won’t for they dislike your side far more than they dislike each other. And, for Heaven’s sake, don’t fight with each other. For years I’ve been watching the leadership of the Old Right bickering and splitting into ever smaller sects.
The Right must imitate its enemies in the pursuit of unity within its ranks, but without requiring the zombie-like traits that the neocons have imposed on their paid or intimidated followers.
Another source of dissension on the right is the violent objection expressed by some traditionalists to any attempt to explore genetic endowment in the forming of character or intelligence. Although this attitude is at least partly prompted by the fear of being called a racist, the obscurantist behavior I have observed has another basis as well. It reflects a non-corporeal, angelic notion of human existence, in which any attention given to physical factors in explaining virtue or cognitive superiority is treated dismissively as “naturalistic.” Having encountered with some regularity this view among traditionalist colleagues, its persistence may signal trouble if paleos wish to be taken seriously as truth-seekers.''
This last paragraph, seems straightforward enough, to me. Gottfried seems to be talking about the tendency of some traditionalists to try to focus on 'culture' rather than on genetics, or race if you will, seeing this latter aspect of the debate as a minefield which it would be better to avoid. Or maybe, in more blatant terms, the genetic aspects are denied out of a fear of being called the 'r-word', although Gottfried says that this fear is not the main factor. Better then to pretend that 'culture' is at the root of disparities among groups of people; it sounds so much more respectable, and it is something that can be gotten around. We can change someone's culture, supposedly; we can assimilate immigrants, no matter how alien or distant their origins, by means of acculturating them. But if we accept that genetics plays a significant part in who people are and what they are capable of, this is seen as oh-so-undemocratic, and it also means that there are limits to assimilability of immigrants, and that maybe our nativist forebears were correct in wanting to limit immigration to those from more compatible strains of humanity.
I may be broadening Gottfried's point about genetics; I think he was making a narrower point about say, intelligence and educability. The idea of the 'achievement gap', which I harp on periodically, is based on the wishful-thinking notion that all groups are equally capable of learning and academic achievement, and when they inevitably fall short, there is the flurry of statements expressing deep concern about 'leveling the playing field' and erasing the gaps in achievement -- which, of course, without the willingness to believe in differing potentials, must be blamed only on 'racism' and perhaps 'poverty.' Thus, round and round we go: no matter how many dollars are spent on closing the achievement gap, more dollars are needed; more studies and more programs and more speeches and more indoctrination about 'tolerance' and more dumbing down of the curriculum. Thus nobody is raised up and standards are ever lowered, in hopes that an equilibrium will be reached. As some wry commenter has said, no child left behind really means no child gets ahead.
Yet please notice that despite the sensible nature of Gottfried's comment about 'exploring genetic endowment', the comments following the article turn that statement into something rather malevolent, with some commenters throwing the r-word, or at least a variant of it, 'racialism', around.
The comment thread is interesting; there are some good and useful comments, and even the not-so-good comments illustrate beautifully the very subject of the divide among conservatives. As long as this kind of squabbling, with Gottfried pleads against, reigns among those on the 'right', we will hardly be in a position to dethrone the regnant neocons or their more obnoxious counterparts on the left end of the liberal spectrum.
In all, I agree with Gottfried that this is no time for complacency on the right; there is scant evidence that neoconservatism is on the ropes; as he says, witness the suppport for Giuliani (or Fred Thompson, more ominously) and tell me that neoconservatism is moribund. No, we can't rely on neoconservatism wasting away of natural causes, and real conservatism can only prevail if we unite.
But the greatest divide on the right, I would say, is between those who are still somewhat in thrall to the prevailing liberal orthodoxies of the day: the political correctness which causes so many to court respectability and to fret about what 'the liberals' or 'the media' will say about us if we don't toe the line. The reluctance of many to simply return to the pre-PC common sense which prevailed until a few decades ago is a big part of what is holding us back. The respectable right, or the castrated conservatives, as my distant cousin Carleton Putnam was wont to call them, will have to realize that we can't cling to remnants of this present PC order of things and lay any claim to real conservatism.