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Kristol: ACU Thinks 'American Conservatism is European-Style Nativism'

Appearing on "Morning Joe," Bill Kristol was his usual uninformed self, telling the host that the American Conservative Union has embraced "European-style nativism" while eschewing "recognizably American conservatism."

SCARBOROUGH: People like you and me horrified by what’s going on over there. They’re turning it over to the nationalist front leaders who are for lowering the retirement age to 60 and socializing medicine and doing all of these very French things. Joking there, but it’s unrecognizable from the time that I first went to CPAC, from the time you were going to CPAC when Ronald Reagan made CPAC a must stop for Bill Buckley small government conservatives.

KRISTOL: It’s been — it’s always had its fringy elements, it's kind of college kid party elements and all of it, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it — yeah, I think it’s very indicative. CPAC is run by the American Conservative Union and what they now think American conservatism is is European-style nativism —

SCARBOROUGH: And, by the way, funded by the NRA in large part.

KRISTOL: Yes. And we now have moved from something recognizably American conservatism — and what was distinctive about American conservatism? It believed in limited government, constitutionalism. It shunned, mostly, not always, but mostly shunned and its leaders tried to shun even more ethnonationalism, racialism, tribalism, all that sort of stuff. It believed in the Constitution, the Declaration and so forth. And now we have Marine Le Pen there from the National Front. We have LaPierre giving this kind of speech.

The American right has always had its "Know Nothing" faction and "tribalism" is hardly unique to conservatives. But "ethnonationalism" as a dominant force on the right?

This is nonsense, of course, but it reveals an interesting point of view among elites on the right. They don't think "compassionate conservatism" or "big government conservatism" has European roots? Neither of those two political constructs is an outgrowth of American conservatism in any way. You can draw a  line from British Tories to George W. Bush and find a lot of interconnectedness.

Kristol is closer to the mark on the tribalism and racism that some of these "alt-right" people are bringing to the table. But the ACU has only itself to blame because they have allowed all sorts of fruit and nutcakes to gain a foot in the door at CPAC. Birchers, ultranationalists, and anti-immigrationists -- in the most extreme sense of that term -- have been allowed to spew their poison and gain an audience of young, susceptible minds.

This too, from Kristol, is interesting:

 [Y]ou've got lot of your college students there and they are being taught the future, their political future is to pick a tribe, demonize the other side as much as you can, pick on any weakness in other people’s background—background of people on the other side or whatever, believe half-baked or quarter-baked or totally fake news stories, believe conspiracy theories, assume the absolute worse about anyone you disagree with. And Trump is a large part of that, I think, of legitimizing tha,t and there I do really worry about the political culture. I think the institutions have held up pretty well, we've discussed this before, under Trump, you know, the rule of law, the Justice Department, the military acts in a responsible way, but the degree to which this becomes the message of this is how American politics is going to be conducted in the future is very dangerous, I think.