Interview: Mallory Factor on Big Tent Conservatism
“I'm a professor at the Citadel; it's a military college in South Carolina, which is a very conservative college to begin with. And my students had no idea what conservatism was. Some thought it was being religious; others thought it was being a member of the Republican Party; and I can go on from there,” author, professor, and Fox News contributor Mallory Factor tells me during our latest interview. “So I decided on putting together a course on what conservatism is, where it came from, how it came about, what are its pillars. And I found out that I knew very little about it.”
However, Factor knew 17 people, all of whom had lectured on conservatism at the Citadel, who knew quite a bit about the topic, and asked them to contribute the essays that make up the new book, Big Tent: The Story of the Conservative Revolution--As Told by the Thinkers and Doers Who Made It Happen. Such people who make conservatism happen as Michael Barone, Newt Gingrich, Ed Meese, Rand Paul, Donald Rumsfeld, frequent PJTV contributor Yaron Brook, Phyllis Schlafly, and others.
During our interview, Mallory will discuss:
● How the philosophy of conservatism was born.
● How William F. Buckley crafted a post-World War II, Cold War vision of conservatism.
● How neoconservatism began.
● How do the various strains of social conservatism, neoconservatism and libertarian conservatism coexist?
● Which vision of conservatism will ultimately prevail for the foreseeable future?
And much more. Click here to listen:
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Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.
MR. DRISCOLL: This is Ed Driscoll for PJ Media.com, and we’re talking today with Mallory Factor, the editor of the new book Big Tent: The Story of the Conservative Revolution--As Told by the Thinkers and Doers Who Made It Happen, featuring contributions from Michael Barone, Newt Gingrich, Ed Meese, Rand Paul, Donald Rumsfeld, and frequent PJTV contributor Yaron Brook, among many others. Sean Hannity writes that “Big Tent is the definitive book on what it means to be a conservative.” It’s published by Broadside Books, and available from Amazon.com and your local bookstore. And Mallory, thanks for stopping by today.
MR. FACTOR: Wow, thanks for having me. That was quite an introduction. I'm thrilled.
MR. DRISCOLL: Well, that's quite a collection of names you've assembled, and there are actually several that I've left out. Could you talk about how you rounded them up and the goal in assembling the essays and the personalities that are, if you'll pardon the pun, inside the big tent?
MR. FACTOR: I'm a professor at the Citadel; it's a military college in South Carolina, which is a very conservative college to begin with. And my students had no idea what conservatism was. Some thought it was being religious; others thought it was being a member of the Republican Party; and I can go on from there.
So I decided on putting together a course on what conservatism is, where it came from, how it came about, what are its pillars. And I found out that I knew very little about it.
So I got a hold of the people that actually were there making the modern conservative movement. And I asked them to give a lecture at the school. There are seventeen people in the book, and they all came from lectures given at the school, the Citadel.
It's fabulous. We came up with a couple of interesting ideas. There are core principles to being a conservative. There are four core principles that go through all of the different wings of the Conservative Party. One is the respect for wisdom of past generations and traditions. Two is the maintenance of the rule of law. Three is the protection of individual rights and freedoms. And four is belief in a law higher than man's law.
And you see that thread going through all the different types of and groups in, the movement: from the Paleocons to the Neocons, from the evangelicals to the atheists, from the traditionalists to the libertarians, and the foreign policy hawks to the isolationists, from the Tea Partiers even to the establishment Republicans, just to name a few.
MR. DRISCOLL: For those who think that conservatism started with William F. Buckley, or Barry Goldwater, or Ronald Reagan, could you talk about the origins of conservatism, and how far the philosophy dates back?
MR. FACTOR: Well, conservatism really starts in four cities. And those cities are ancient cities: Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London. And it culminates in Philadelphia with the American experiment.
Jerusalem gives us that true law is divine, which is a higher law than man's law; Athens give us the concept of social order; Rome, a republic with separation of powers; and London, the concept of the universality
of law, meaning that law apply equally to everyone. And it culminates in the Great Experiment in Philadelphia, the American Experiment. And that's really what conservatism is.
MR. DRISCOLL: Mallory, let’s flash-forward to 20th century conservatism, which I tend to view as having two distinct eras: before William F. Buckley and National Review magazine and after Buckley. Could you talk about how Buckley crafted a post-World War II, Cold War vision of the philosophy?
MR. FACTOR: He put together three groups. He put together the group that was fighting communism, which later became the Neocons. He put together the social conservatives, and he put together the libertarians. And those became the three legs of the Buckley stool called Fusionism. And in Big Tent, in the book, it goes into that in great detail, and it shows you how it -- how it actually comes together.
But remember, in '64, the Buckleyites and the conservative movement got Goldwater the nomination, and he got creamed in the election. And everybody thought conservatism was dead, that it -- once again, they had talked about how it died. Sixteen years later, Ronald Reagan.
MR. DRISCOLL: Barry Goldwater’s defeat gave rise to LBJ’s disastrous Great Society. The post-Great Society era a saw the rise of neoconservatives, who were viewed by many on the left as the good, sane conservatives, until they began influencing President Bush’s foreign policy in the post-9/11 era. And then for a time, everybody who was conservative was called a neoconservative, largely by people who had no idea what the term meant. My favorite example was from 2004, when Tina Brown, who would go on to edit, until recently, the Daily Beast, referenced the angry neoconservatives who opposed Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. For those like Tina who need a refresher on the history of neoconservatism, could you talk about how this element of conservatism was formed and its philosophical underpinnings?
MR. FACTOR: Well, one of the most interesting and one of the most enlightening chapters in the book is a chapter by Doug Feith. I mean, it was eye opening to me. He actually lays it out, probably better than I will ever be able to do it, where he talks about how these were socialists who really got mugged by reality and they became neocons to fight communism. And they were mostly Jewish, he says in the book, and that they later went on to broaden out, to become the national security hawks. And that's one of the core groups of today's conservative movement.
MR. DRISCOLL: And following that chapter, there's a chapter from Ralph Reed titled “How Social Conservatism Can Win.” How do the various strains of social conservatism, neoconservatism and libertarian conservatism coexist?
MR. FACTOR: Not well! Not well at all! [Laughter] That is one of the key points you get from the book, particularly when you read some of the stuff that Haley Barbour writes in it. The fact is that people in the conservative movement would rather burn heretics from other wings of the movement than actually unite and fight the infidels that are trying to tear down our country. That's the big problem of the conservative movement. It's a noble movement in many ways, but it falls short there.
One of the things you learn from the book that I find just fascinating is that conservatism is an ideology. Republican and Democrats, that's a team sport today. Interestingly enough, 19 percent of Democrats self-identify as conservatives. 35 percent of Independents self-identify as conservatives. And 30 percent of Republicans don't self-identify as conservatives, because they don't believe they're conservative.
So what you have is you have a very uneasy relationship between conservatives and between the Republican Party. But the conservatives use the Republican Party to elect conservatives. The Republican Party uses conservatives to elect Republicans. So they both need each other today, unless there becomes a realignment, which I don't see coming.
So it's a very uneasy relationship. One of the big problems that a lot of establishment, particularly Northeastern Republicans, find is, evangelicals. They find that that's a big problem. But evangelicals today, social conservatives, constitute a whopping 27 percent of the electorate with other types of religious conservatives contributing ten to 12 additional percent. Republicans today, with the way the party's constructed, cannot win without the social conservative vote.
MR. DRISCOLL: Mallory, you touched upon the left, and we’d be remiss without talking about them during this interview. Where do they go in the post-Obama era -- and as it continues to transformed endlessly like Play-Doh -- arguably the post-ObamaCare era as well?
MR. FACTOR: Where does the left go?
MR. DRISCOLL: Yes.
MR. FACTOR: Well, I don't know what the left really is. I mean, if ‑‑ let's take an example of what the left is. Would you think that Berkeley's a pretty leftist campus in the United States?
MR. DRISCOLL: Well, I did before they gave Rand Paul a big cheer.
MR. FACTOR: That’s the point I was going to make; a standing ovation. You know, it's ‑‑ but if you listen to that speech, which you can listen to online, and you listen to the speech he gave at CPAC, it's the same speech almost. That's telling you something. There is some realignment going on. And Obama is causing some of that realignment.
MR. DRISCOLL: Mallory, before the interview began, we were talking about how the Big Tent was doing on the Amazon and the Barnes & Noble charts. How is it doing, and where are the proceeds from the book going?
MR. FACTOR: It's doing terrific. We were in number two on Amazon; we were number one at the release on Barnes & Noble. And all of these lectures took place at the Citadel; they were part of a course I taught and still teach. And what we decided on doing because of the Citadel's contribution to the book and its contribution to America, all the proceeds are going to the Citadel Foundation which helps our young cadets.
MR. DRISCOLL: Mallory, last question: Big Tent ends with a chapter from Rand Paul titled, “Toward a More Libertarian Conservatism,” and an epilogue from Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi, and in the 1990s, the chairman of the Republican Party during the era of the 1994 Contract with America. Those men offer two different visions of a conservative Republican Party; going into November and heading towards 2016 and beyond, which vision of conservatism will ultimately prevail for the foreseeable future?
MR. FACTOR: Well, those visions aren't as different as you may think. Both, I think, would agree with the Reagan 80-20 rule, and that's the person who agrees with you eighty percent of the time is a friend and ally, not a twenty-percent traitor. So I think there's that.
And the second point is, I think if you talk to Senator Paul as well as to Governor Barbour, Haley Barbour, you would find that to do anything, to bring freedom, prosperity, to bring these conservative ideals to America, you have to win the right to govern. And winning the right to govern is vital. And sometimes, you have to compromise on policy. But you can't compromise on those four pillars I talked about earlier, or the big tent will fall down.
MR. DRISCOLL: This is Ed Driscoll, and we’ve been speaking today with Mallory Factor, the editor of the new book Big Tent: The Story of the Conservative Revolution--As Told by the Thinkers and Doers Who Made It Happen. It’s published by Broadside Books, and available from Amazon.com and your local bookstore. And Mallory, thank you for stopping by PJ Media.com today.
MR. FACTOR: We love PJ Media and thanks for having me.
(End of recording; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.)
Transcribed by eScribers.net, with minor revisions (including hyperlinks) by Ed Driscoll. Artwork created using elements from Shutterstock.com.