Victor Davis Hanson, in an interview with Tucker Carlson, explains why he longer works for the magazine of William F. Buckley:
I think there were certain people in the Republican movement, or establishment, who felt it is their duty to internally police their own, and that’s kind of a virtue signal to the left.
We are just part of your class, we share the same values as you do, and we keep our crazies. And they are not empirical.
Empiricism is hardly a growth industry, but clinging to tradition has its charms, especially if doing so allows you to strike down your rivals. There’s a long history of keeping crazies at National Review. During his long reign at NR, Buckley famously put paid to the Birchers and anarcho-capitalists like Murray Rothbard, casting them to the outer darkness. Later on, Buckley cast out writers he had championed, including Joseph Sobran and Pat Buchanan, both for anti-Semitism. My father subscribed to NR and I would read it cover to cover in my youth. Once I set up my own household, I subscribed for over a decade, but after a while the value proposition wasn’t there.
Buckley has been gone for over a decade now, and while his beloved NR is still in operation, it hasn’t been a serious enterprise for a long time. Back in 2016, NR tried to cast the Bad Orange Man to the outer darkness, marshaling dozens of arguments against the Dread Pirate Drumpf, but all their sound and fury signified, well, nothing. Why was that? No one really took NR seriously any more.
While Victor Davis Hanson doesn’t need a particular platform to be heard, his departure from NR means the cupboard is bare. It’s not surprising, truth be told — Republicanism generally signifies nothing. Hanson knows why:
I think there’s an image that a lot of Republicans have, both in politics and they sort of represent a sober and judicious way of looking at the world, and we are the adults in the room.
And it’s more about a culture than it is an ideology.
I’m not convinced it’s even a culture. From our perch in flyoverland, the conservative movement NR embodies is a pose rather than an attempt at understanding, let alone defending, a culture. Back to Hanson:
The original Republican conservative movement, I thought, was going to go back and look at the Constitution, when Jefferson said it won’t work if you pile up everybody in the cities because they will be subject to mass hysteria. Or de Tocqueville, and you look at certain ideas, I thought that’s what we were.
I thought they would be champions of the middle class, but I don’t think they were. I don’t think they wanted to be.
Hanson is clearly disillusioned, but he had to know the truth — any classicist of his erudition understands that grandeur and the trappings of the elite are powerful intoxicants. And currying favor with our betters is lucrative.