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Since the middle of the 20th century, The United States has seen no fewer than three political movements widely described as “the new right.” There was the first new right of William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, and conservative student groups with their right-wing libertarianism, anti-communism, and emphasis on social values. The second generation that got the name – Ronald Reagans, Jerry Falwells and both George Bushes’ new right – leaned harder into conservative Christianity, populism and free markets.
These New Right waves were very different in tone and presentation; there was considerable overlap in ideology and even staff. A Buckley’s high-minded conservatism and a Bush’s widespread populism have never been oppositional approaches, despite attempts to explain them in this way. Each version of the New Right has been driven by more or less explicit white supremacy setbacks and robust funding.
Now, in our era of Trump’s reaction, we’re seeing reports of a new right. Like the new rights that came before it, it is a loose constellation of self-identifying anti-establishment, supposedly heterodox reactionaries. The latest of the rights is similarly driven by dissatisfaction with liberal progress myths and united by white supremacy reactions – this time with funding mainly from billionaire Peter Thiel.
The new New Right has been making headlines in recent weeks. In particular, Vanity Fair published a thoroughly and thoughtfully reported feature describing the emergence of a growing right wing made up of highly educated Twitter posters, podcasters, artists and even “online philosophers”, most notably the neo-monarchist blogger Curtis Yarvin. And the New York Times dedicated a fluffy feature to the founding of the niche online magazine Compact, which claims to contain heterodox thinking but instead offers predictable counterarism and tired social conservatism.
Along with GOP candidates for office like JD Vance and the Blake Masters, this motley scene follows the ideological shot and distortion of Trumpist nationalism, alluding to greater intellectual and revolutionary ambitions, sometimes wearing cooler clothes and receiving money from Thiel.
The turn to the New Right is a choice, of people with privileges and opportunities, in favor of white status, patriarchy and – all-important – money.
Focus on these groups is in order: Why should not the media make a fair report on a burgeoning political trend? Yet there is a risk of materializing a ragtag vintage into a cultural-political force with more power than it would otherwise have.
More crucial is that there is a conspicuous omission in the coverage. Today’s New Conservatives present themselves as the only force currently willing to fight against the “regime”, as Vance calls it, of the founding power of liberal capitalism and the narratives that underlie it. “The basic premise of liberalism,” Yarvin told Vanity Fair’s James Pogue, “is that there is this relentless march toward progress. I disagree with that premise.”
The problem is that characters like Yarvin had a different choice; the march to the far right is no more relentless than misplaced belief in liberal progress. There is quite a bit of the contemporary left that also completely rejects liberal establishment powers, the logic of the capitalist state, and the progressive myths of liberalism. Rejection of liberal progress propaganda has been a theme of left-wing writing, including mine, for years, and I am hardly alone. Such attitudes are definitive for a radical, anti-fascist, anti-racist left.
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These leftists, liberators Trends may not be empowered in the Democratic Party, even on its left flank, but they are still present and active throughout the United States. They exist, they are accessible, and they have raged against the “regime” of contemporary power long before the present New Right entered its embryonic form.
This means something when you think about the forces of the new reaction, because it clarifies what type of choice members of the New Right make. While new reaction is in fact often based on the rejection of the liberal mainstream and its hollow promises, this rejection does not in itself push anyone into the new right; movements to the anti-racist far left can begin in exactly the same way.
So what characterizes the new right turn? It is a choice, of people with privileges and opportunities, in favor of white status, patriarchy and – paramount – money. You Can’t Deny Cash: There’s serious money to be made as long as your illiberalism maintains all the other oppressive hierarchies. And it is noteworthy that the key source of funding – Thiel’s fortunes – has risen because of President Donald Trump’s racist immigration policy, which remains almost exclusively in place under the Biden administration. Ethnocentrism is central to Vances and Masters platforms now.
The Vanity Fair play highlights the irony that these so-called New Right-wing anti-authoritarianists, as they are obsessed with dystopianism in the contemporary United States, completely overlook “the most dystopian aspects of American life: our enormous apparatus of prisons and police.”
Pogue is far from gullible and has said in interviews that the topics in his story – no matter how heterogeneous they claim to be – share an investment in authoritarianism. Yet the inability of New Right figures to talk about prisons and police is no oblivion: it is a proof of a white supremacy that should not be explicitly declared to run through this movement. After all, this reactionary burden comes in the wake of the greatest anti-racist uprisings of a generation that can not be dismissed as liberal achievement. The timing reveals how this new right fits into the country’s unbroken history with white backlash.
The dissatisfied decisions to join the forces of reaction may seem understandable when presented as the only way for those willing to challenge the yoke of liberal capitalism and its piety. This is more difficult to justify on the terms once it has been clarified that an anti-capitalist left exists. The difference is that the far left, in contrast to the new right, abhors white supremacy and rejects the obvious misconception that there is something pro-worker or anti-capitalist in border control and labor segmentation.
The issue of money should not be underestimated. Radical left-wing movements, unlike the new right, are not popular with billionaire financiers; that is what happens when one challenges the actual “regime” of capital. To highlight the path that the New Right has not chosen is to show their active desire not for liberation, but for domination – which is nothing new on the right wing at all.