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David Brooks And Other Denisovan Conservatives

Students of the theory of human evolution and the human genome will likely recognize Denisova hominins or Denisovans as an extinct species or subspecies of humans known from a few fossils discovered in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Russia and Baishiya Karst cave on the Tibetan plateau.

Denisovans were a dead end in human evolution: The percentage of Denisovan DNA in modern humans is highest in the Melanesian population (4 to 6 percent), lower in other Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander populations, and very low or undetectable elsewhere in the world.

Whether Denisovans were killed off by modern humans or outcompeted for scarce resources or extinguished through interbreeding with modern humans is unknown, but by about 30,000 years ago they were gone as a separate population.

We were put in mind of the Denisovan contribution to the DNA of modern humans when we read a recent article in The Atlantic by David Brooks, the resident “conservative” at The New York Times.

In “The Terrifying Future of the American Right” Mr. Brooks complains that the conservatives attending the "National Conservatism Conference, which was held earlier this month in a bland hotel alongside theme parks in Orlando" have abandoned the voter-free conservatism of the old Republican establishment and forged a new and vigorous political movement with its roots in Donald Trump’s critique of how the American political, cultural and economic elite’s stewardship of our institutions has failed to serve the interests of the American people.

“The NatCons are wrong to think there is a unified thing called ‘the left’ that hates America,” said Mr. Brooks. “This is just the apocalyptic menace many of them had to invent in order to justify their decision to vote for Donald Trump.”

OK, Arabella Advisors is just a figment of our imagination.

Mr. Brooks seems to have a special animus for the female proponents of this vigorous new conception of conservatism, and in comments dripping with elite condescension singled out our friends Rachel Bovard and Amanda Milieus for special criticism as dumb and lacking in intellectual heft for articulating an apocalyptic view of today’s political, cultural, and economic environment and suggesting that the great myths of the frontier and our westward expansion have a role to play in the battle against “wokeness.”

And he seemed particularly disturbed by the notion, pervasive at the conference, that America is at a political, cultural, and economic tipping point, that requires drastic corrective action.

Complained Mr. Brooks:

Over the past few decades there have been various efforts to replace the Reagan Paradigm: the national-greatness conservatism of John McCain; the compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush; the Reformicon conservatism of the D.C. think tanks in the 21st century. But the Trumpian onslaught succeeded where these movements have so far fizzled because Trump understood better than they did the coalescence of the new American cultural/corporate elite and the potency of populist anger against it. Thus the display of Ivy League populism I witnessed in Orlando might well represent the alarming future of the American right: the fusing of the culture war and the class war into one epic Marxist Götterdämmerung.

Mr. Brooks apparently fails to understand in ticking through the various attempts to “replace the Reagan Paradigm” that what Republicans were trying to do, and largely failing to achieve until Trump came along, was recapture the Blue Collar Reagan Democrat voters who powered Reagan to two victories – and the issues that won their votes were both economic and cultural.

And this is not new.

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching which unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people, until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the republic destroyed." - Abraham Lincoln (21st November 1864)

With roots in Republican politics going back to the Republican Convention of 1860 that nominated Abraham Lincoln I remind Mr. Brooks that the Republican Party in its most successful iterations has been the party opposed to the concentration of economic power and the party of the individual, the entrepreneur, the Heartland small businessman and farmer – it was Teddy Roosevelt who busted the trusts and Dwight Eisenhower who warned us against the military industrial complex, not the Democrats and certainly not the globalist Republicans, like the two presidents Bush.

That National Conservative Conference attendees should embrace Donald Trump’s profound indictment of America’s ruling elite as the foundation of a recovered conservatism should not have been so surprising or disappointing to Mr. Brooks, because it is hardly outside the mainstream of conservative thought – especially Reaganism as articulated in 1980 when Ronald Reagan took the Republican National Convention stage to say this:

The major issue of this campaign is the direct political, personal and moral responsibility of Democratic Party leadership--in the White House and in Congress--for this unprecedented calamity which has befallen us. They tell us they have done the most that humanly could be done. They say that the United States has had its day in the sun; that our nation has passed its zenith. They expect you to tell your children that the American people no longer have the will to cope with their problems; that the future will be one of sacrifice and few opportunities.

My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view. The American people, the most generous on earth, who created the highest standard of living, are not going to accept the notion that we can only make a better world for others by moving backwards ourselves. Those who believe we can have no business leading the nation.

In Donald Trump’s formulation the crisis of the 21st century and its authors are similar, as he said in his first economic policy speech in Monessen, Pennsylvania:

But if we are going to deliver real change, we’re going to have to reject the campaign of fear and intimidation being pursued by powerful corporations, media leaks and political dynasties. The people who rigged the system for their benefit will do anything and say anything to keep things exactly the way they are.

The people who rigged the system are supporting Hillary Clinton because they know as long as she is in charge, nothing is going to change. The inner cities will remain poor. The factories will remain closed. The borders will remain open. The special interests will remain firmly in control. Hillary Clinton and her friends in global finance want to scare America into thinking small.

And later:

We allowed foreign countries to subsidize their goods, devalue their currencies, violate their agreements and cheat in every way imaginable, and our politicians did nothing about it. Trillions of our dollars and millions of our jobs flowed overseas as a result. I have visited cities and towns across this country where one-third or even half of manufacturing jobs have been wiped out in the last 20 years. Today, we import nearly $800 billion more in goods than we export. We can’t continue to do that. This is not some natural disaster, it’s a political and politician-made disaster.

Donald Trump had it exactly right – the economic and cultural disaster visited on America’s working families wasn’t some natural disaster, it was a political and politician-made disaster, and what powered the National Conservatism Conference, and apparently dismayed Mr. Brooks, was recognition of the accuracy of Trump’s analysis and its appeal to millions of voters.

Just as a species needs a healthy population to reproduce and survive, so a political movement needs voters and activists to contribute their intellectual DNA and vigor to grow the movement and power it to electoral victory.

Today, the modern conservative movement is comprised of four great strands of thought and activism, contributing their DNA if you will, to a new conservative coalition. National security conservatives, economic conservatives, cultural conservatives, and constitutional conservatives have coalesced into a new more aggressive species that, as homo sapiens did 30,000 years ago, is rapidly outcompeting Denisovan conservatives, such as Mr. Brooks.

As a largely voter-free movement, I’m not sure how much Denisovan conservative DNA will be transferred to a future conservatism. I’m guessing that in a few places, such as Manhattan and Melanesian Island-like suburbs in the Acela-corridor, Denisovans might hold out a little longer. However, without ideas that attract voters it won’t be long until they are known only from a handful of fossils and a faint trace of DNA found in isolated populations on the periphery of the great continent that is the 21st century conservative movement.

George Rasley is editor of Richard Viguerie's A veteran of over 300 political campaigns, including every Republican presidential campaign from 1976 to 2004, he served as a staff member or advance representative for some of America’s most recognized conservative political figures, including Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin and Jack Kemp. A member of American MENSA, he served on the House and Senate staff and on the staff of Vice President Dan Quayle. Rasley is a graduate of Hanover College and studied international affairs at Oxford University's Worcester College.

  • David Brooks

  • Never Trump

  • Denisova hominins or Denisovans

  • Denisovan DNA

  • Donald Trump

  • MAGA

  • Rachel Bovard

  • Amanda Milieus

  • culture war

  • 2016 election

  • conservative populism

  • National Conservatism Conference

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...And hopefully those traces of DNA will be difficult to find.

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