The American Conservative


Yesterday’s mail greeted me with the long awaited return of The American Conservative to print.  It was truly a day worth noting, for TAC is one of the premiere “little magazines” of our time.  The latest issue includes the following:

  • Justin Raimondo’s obituary for the Obama Left that concludes with something that ought to stir Front Porcher hearts everywhere: “That neither party is consistently able to satisfy its base—let alone the broader American public—suggests that conditions are ripe for an upheaval in American politics. In some ways, the climate today resembles the one that brought forth the New Left in the 1960s. Support for the war in Afghanistan is at an all-time low: according to a recent CNN poll, a mere 37 percent support it, while 53 percent say it’s ‘another Vietnam.’ At the same time, the scene also resembles the one that fostered the anti-tax revolts and New Right of the 1970s. All of this could give rise to a new majority coalition, perhaps one emcompassing the best of the Tea Partiers, Ron Paul Republicans, Pat Buchanan brigades, and the long-quiescent Perot voters.  One thing is certain: thanks to Barack Obama, the change this country seeks will not come from the Left.”
  • My friend Michael Brendan Dougherty’s wonderful deconstruction of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his new “New Deal.”  Dougherty makes complex economic theory and thorny policy questions accessible and understandable while never losing sight of the fact that economics is never about science, much less math, but is always about power.
  • Chase Madar channels David Frum brilliantly: “What could be more practical, more moderate, than ridding the world of evil with Operation Cakewalk?  Of course some wing-nuts and Paulestinians will have to be dragged on board kicking and screaming.  You can’t make this stuff up: recently Rand Paul said he would have voted against the Iraq War!  You heard me: against.  The sheer treason of these people makes me ill.  (Just to clarify, by treason I mean treason against the U.S., not Canada.)
  • George Scialabba writes about T.S. Eliot’s traditional radicalism as a critic and poet.  He recites Eliot’s masterful definition of “tradition” that might just as well grace the banner at the top of this page: Tradition is “all the actions, habits, and customs [that] represent the blood kinship of the same people living in the same place.”  Scialabba highlights the insight that cemented my affinity with Eliot from my earliest encounters with him—that Eliot “understood that what really matters is Sin and Redemption.”  Moreover, he notes a line from Eliot I have never seen before: “The possibility of damnation is so immense a relief in a world of electoral reform, plebiscites, sex reform, and dress reform that damnation itself is an immediate form of salvation—of salvation from the ennui of modern life, because it gives some significance to the living.”  This fits well with and reminds me of something I wrote many years back: “The virtuous vices are virtuous because they carry within them the seed of redemption: a recognition of the truth that human beings are not merely materialistic beings, not just a collection of elements, but spiritual beings capable of a meaningful annihilation. … The success of enlightened democracy is also its greatest bane: it imposes onto every area of human life the calculus of utilitarian efficiency. PornographyI am using the term in its most general sense—is simply the imposition of this calculus on the fact of human sin. It is sin carefully processed, packaged, marketed, shopped for, and stored away in the cupboard, ready to satisfy any late night craving we may have. The attraction of the midnight snack is that it perpetuates the illusion of free and responsible adulthood while all the while allowing us to submit completely to the slavery of desire. The culture of porn is modernity’s answer to a Puritan inheritance which declares all men sinners and demands that no man should sin. … We need virtuous vice and bold sinners. Such vice affirms our humanity and tends to either burn a person up, or burn him into a saint. Outbreaks are violent and ugly, but can usually be contained. The culture of porn, on the other hand, operates like a deadly but patient virus: it lurks in the blood and succeeds by maintaining in its host the illusion of health. It creates simpering, self-justifying, and machine-like sins; outbreaks are prettified, and devastation seeps into society like a water into a sponge, mostly unnoticed.”
  • FPR’s own James Wilson adds a much needed review of the lasting importance of George Santayana.  Though there is much much more to say than Wilson is able to say, the effort is worthwhile, and particularly meaningful to me, as Santayana is one of those few thinkers who by grace “came along” at just the right time in my own development to credibly be said to have “saved” me in the mundane sense.  My most treasured literary possession is a first edition volume of Santayana’s The Idea of Christ in the Gospels.  If anyone says this is not the finest modern commentary on the Gospels, well, they will simply be wrong.  I re-read Santayana’s discussion of the miracle of the fig tree regularly simply to experience the sheer weight of its spiritual luminocity.  Pictured above is a scan of the inside flap of my first edition copy, and as you can see, I saved it from the discard bin of the First Unitarian Church Library of Rochester, NY.  That picture says more about the tragic declension of New England transcendentalism, and says it more profoundly, than any two-thousand words I could muster.
  • FPR’s Bill Kauffman liberally quotes Patrick Deneen and “reprobate wit” Peters from this site in the course of a typical side-busting donnybrook at the expense of clueless placeless denizens of global “society.”
  • And there is much much more …

Where else can one find such a wide ranging, wise, witty, and downright winsome collection of thinkers and writers in one tactile, fold-over-double, take-to-the-porcelain-throne, nap-with-on-the-couch, 100-percent-carpal-tunnel-free place?  You know the answer.  Go subscribe.


  1. Any magazine that runs reviews by George Scialabba is worth supporting. (Of course, it’s also arguable that the fact TAC runs stuff by the wonderfully contrarian Laschian left-anarchist-communitarian Scialabba suggests that Raimondo’s polishing off of the Left can’t really be the whole story.)

  2. I’ve been an AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE subscriber for some time and always enjoy the issues, even if occasionally – but only occasionally – I am tempted to chuck it across the room. Thanks for your wonderful summary and appreciation of what is an especially good edition…..And the first print edition since they emerged from their budgetary problems.

  3. The American Conservative “blew my mind,” as the kids say, when I found it. I found that issues such as animal welfare, peak oil, anti-war, food quality, localism, and anti-big business could all be conservative issues, and actually made more sense as conservative issues. I had been subject to the leftist caricature of the right and it was eye-opening to find something other than the neo-cons who fit that caricature. But I wonder if the magazines association with Pat Buchanan will forever be a problem with public perception.

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