In the Tradition of William F. Buckley, the Conservative Movement Must Drive Out Its Anti-Semites

August 18, 2023 | Natan Ehrenreich
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Considering the dangerous anti-Semitic trends that have recently emerged from certain dark corners of the American right, Natan Ehrenreich looks to the precedent set by William F. Buckley, the founding editor of National Review who, more than anyone, created U.S. conservatism in its present form. Buckley, in his long career, more than once anathematized conservative writers—including those with whom he had close personal and professional relationships—who developed unhealthy fixations on the Jews. Ehrenreich hopes contemporary rightwing leaders will learn from his example:

I was taken aback by the recently leaked messages from the conservative influencer and [former fellow at the prestigious rightwing thinktank] the Claremont Institute, Pedro Gonzalez. That Gonzalez was an ardent anti-Semite was not that surprising; he has publicly tweeted about “Rothschild physiognomy.” But the sheer hatred displayed toward Jews, especially from someone who dwells in lofty intellectual circles, is nothing less than astounding.

A few samples: “Yeah like not every Jew is problematic, but the sad fact is that most are.” [Of the alt-right Holocaust denier and social-media personality Nick Fuentes]: “Fuentes does one good thing when he trolls Jews: He shows people how subversive they can be.”

What’s most pertinent to our moment, though, is the fact that today’s popular conservatism has shifted closer to the “paleoconservatism,” [an analogue to neoconservatism], that Buckley thought relatively more likely to produce anti-Semites than the popular conservatism of the 90s. As he notes in [his In Search of Anti-Semitism], the great Irving Kristol predicted this shift, and he was far less confident that Buckley’s crusade against conservative Jew-hatred was complete.

History, it seems, has proved Kristol right (though it would, of course, be a terrible mistake to label most paleoconservatives as inherently anti-Semitic). . . . It is becoming rather obvious that if modern conservatism is to thrive, the work Buckley began must persist as well. Conservative leaders can look to In Search of Anti-Semitism for inspiration that such work can succeed, but also to see why it is necessary.

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