Editor’s Note: Adapted from an address to NPI’s 2016 Conference by F. Roger Devlin
I also wanted to speak about the current political situation, since we are all thinking about Trump’s victory. The main point I wanted to make was the necessity of prompt and decisive action on the part of the incoming administration, especially on immigration related issues. But everyone else I have read on our side has been making the same point. So rather than repeat them, I will limit myself to a brief cautionary tale about the consequences of delaying action on those fleeting occasions when all the political stars align perfectly.
It concerns Ronald Reagan. I am pleased that we have a fairly young audience here, but that means many of you are likely to have a distorted view of Reagan and his presidency. It is stunning how quickly the history of a single generation ago has been spun, rewritten and in parts forgotten: a process which began as the events were still unfolding. The failure of Ronald Reagan’s presidency—by its own declared standard of judgment—is the single best-kept secret of the American Right.
This is what actually happened. Reagan the candidate was analogous in many ways to Donald Trump, a political outsider distrusted by the elites but popular with the plain men and women of the United States. He began his march to the White House in 1976 by challenging an incumbent Republican president, thereby earning the hostility of the party establishment.
In 1980, they would have greatly preferred to nominate George Bush, Sr. When they were unable to do so, they presented Reagan with an ultimatum: put Bush on the ticket or we will not support your candidacy. Thus, the disastrous Bush dynasty was foisted upon our country. I have sometimes wondered what would have happened if Reagan had just said “screw you” and gone on to run without the party’s support. Trump certainly showed it can be done.
In any case, Reagan’s message resonated powerfully with ordinary Americans, many of whom crossed over from the democratic party to vote for him. In part this is because his campaign rhetoric was almost as radical as Trump’s talk of “draining the swamp.” Reagan aptly summarized his politics in the aphorism that “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” He vowed to cut the size of the Federal government drastically. Two departments he promised to abolish outright: transportation and education.
Immediately after taking office, Reagan made a few inconsequential cuts to the federal payroll, after which the Federal government resumed its previous rate of growth, and nothing was ever heard again about cutting it. At the end of eight years, Reagan left the Federal Behemoth significantly larger than when he had found it—including the departments of transportation and education.
He bore responsibility for other egregious failures as well, such as the 1986 Amnesty. That was supposed to combine legalization for a million or so aliens with strict enforcement ever after. What we got instead was legalization of over four million and no enforcement. Hence the precarious situation we are in today.
Columnist Joe Sobran got it right when he wrote that the Reagan administration had in reality marked an historic failure of nerve. Placed at the levers of power, Reagan flinched from the radicalism of his own campaign rhetoric. He satisfied himself with administering the welfare state he had promised to go at with hammer and tongs.
But perhaps even more disturbing than this failure itself was that it did not really matter to his followers. Having gotten a self-described “conservative” elected turned out to be enough for them. To true believers, Reagan’s whole presidency was like an eight-year- long inaugural ball. Some of them are celebrating to this day.
And after Reagan, the right would never get a second chance to go after the welfare state. We would never—until now, when it is almost too late—get another chance to go after mass immigration. By the Obama years, if not before, the Reagan presidency could just as well never have happened.
We cannot afford a failure of nerve today. We are no longer talking about overregulation hampering economic growth, as in Reagan’s time, but about whether we shall survive as a people at all. And it is easy for those who remember the excitement over Reagan to imagine a future in which every hack politician operating in the dwindling White enclaves of what used to be America will be fishing for votes by piously describing himself as a “Trump conservative.” If this happens, it will mean we have failed. I don’t say this is going to happen, but preventing it is our task for the next four years.
Now, to conclude my remarks I want to offer some thoughts to our younger followers and those who have joined us recently. Popular accounts of the Alt Right highlight the phenomenon of “trolling,” in other words saying things in order to shock or provoke our enemies. We’ve seen a lot of this since the election, especially. In my view, trolling is not a worthwhile activity and does nothing to advance our cause. It may have been more excusable when the anti-White Left’s grip on power seemed unassailable. But we have just won a great victory, and we need to raise our sights. We need to understand that the kind of people we may be tempted to troll are simply not worth your time. Let’s leave them to talk only with one another. We have more important work to do.
Much of this work involves educating ourselves and others. If you wish to play an active role in the transformation we are trying to effect, you must go beyond tweets and blogs. The section of the Radix site called “The Red Pill” is a good place to start, and we are going to be adding to it in the coming months. When you do speak to those outside our movement, ignore declared enemies and concentrate your efforts on ordinary Whites : “normies,” as we call them. Remember that you will catch more flies with honey than with gall.
Our movement sometimes gets into internal disputes over how best to label itself: Alt Right, nationalism, White advocacy, and so forth. Past a certain point, such disputes can become unprofitable. But if we must bear a label, my personal favorite is “the Reality Based Community.”
The universalistic liberalism we oppose is forced by its very nature to ignore or deny certain realities: human differentiation by race and by sex, the universality of the tribal instinct and ethnic conflict. We are simply people who strive conscientiously to study these realities objectively and to shape prudent policy with a view of them. We believe this will benefit our own people without doing any injustice to others. And it is an infinitely more rewarding and profitable activity than attempting to rivet any ideological mold upon the living reality of human society.