C. Bradley Thompson on the Merging of the American Left … and Right

Writes Professor Thompson in The Pajama-Boy Nietzscheans: A Critique of the Dissident Right:

The publication of my new book, America’s Revolutionary Mind: A Moral History of the American revolution and the Declaration that Defined It, comes at a crucial moment in American history. Academic study of the American revolution is dying on our college campuses, and the principles and institutions of the American Founding are now under assault from the nattering nabobs of both the progressive Left and the reactionary Right. These two ideological antipodes share little in common other than a mutually-assured desire to purge 21st-century American life of the founders’ philosophy of classical liberalism.

On this point, the radical Left and Right have merged.

The philosophy of Americanism is, as I have argued in my book and elsewhere, synonymous with the founders’ ideas, actions, and institutions. Its core tenets can be summed up as: the moral laws and rights of nature, ethical individualism, self-interest rightly understood, self-rule, constitutionalism, rule of law, limited government, and laissez-faire capitalism.

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There was a time, of course, when most Americans (especially conservatives and libertarians) agreed with this assessment. Sadly, that is no longer true.

The anti-Americanism of the radical Left is well known and long established. Its most recent and most virulent incarnation comes in the form of the New York Times’s “1619 Project,” which claims that the founders’ principles and institutions were disingenuous in 1776 and immoral today.

Much more interesting than the ho-hum anti-Americanism of the progressive Left, though, is the rise in recent years of a rump faction of former Paleo or Tradcons, who have come out of their ideological closet and transitioned from pro- to anti-Americanism. The recent rise of the radical Right in America is distinguished from all previous forms of conservatism and libertarianism by its explicit rejection of the founders’ liberalism.

A new generation of neo-reactionary ideologues looks at contemporary America and sees nothing but moral, cultural, and political decay, which they blame on the soullessness of the founders’ Americanism. Remarkably, just like the radical Left, the radical Right condemns the philosophy of 18th-century liberalism as untrue and therefore immoral. It is the source, they claim, of all our present discontents.

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