Fr. Dwight Longenecker is telling his readers to “Prepare for the Rise of the Right.” To be frank, I don’t know what to make of it. By describing a potential trajectory of ascent for a political leader of the Right, is Longenecker merely making a positive analysis or is he longing for such a figure himself? He wants his readers to “watch and be alert,” though not for the purposes of resisting the Right. In fact, the only warning Longenecker gives runs as follows:
If such a leader brought in a police state at home would the right wing citizens, the fuming and frightened–mind so much? Wouldn’t they say about the increased police presence “If you haven’t done anything wrong there is nothing to worry about?”
Right wing Christians have to beware any kind of totalitarianism.
An extreme right wing “security and safety” man, if he does not also have a sense of proportion, balance and wisdom, could also be dangerous to the cause of freedom, peace and justice.
So, really, it’s not so much that we have to be concerned about the rise of the Right per se, just the exercise of certain policies commonly associated with the Right which may “be dangerous to the cause of freedom, peace, and justice.” I assume Longenecker means American-style freedom, peace, and justice, none of which of course would sit well with an authentic man of the Right. Perhaps that is why the United States has never had an authentically Right-wing movement. Sure, some people define certain wings of the Republican Party, not to mention “Tea Party” folks and libertarians, as “extreme Right” or “Right-wing,” but at the end of they day they’re just liberals of a different variety. The political economy of the Right is not the utopian dreamland of “free markets” and the Right’s idea of the state — the great demon of the libertarian religion — is vastly more expansive than many American conservatives would be comfortable with. This is not to say that the principles of the Right are absolutely statist (whatever that means), nor that they can’t be applied in accordance with subsidiarity. The deeper concern — for Catholics at least — is that the principles of the Right are true principles rather than artful constructs drawn from a potentially mythologized past. For more thoughts in this area, let me suggest my piece at The Josias, “Have the Principles of the Right Been Discredited? Leo Strauss’s Rome and Ours.”
I must admit that I am not entirely comfortable with the emergence of any Right-wing political movement which takes its bearings from fear of “Muslim barbarians.” Yes, the influx of immigrants in both Europe and the United States carrying radical Islamic ideals is a cause for concern. No, responsible polities should not allow such individuals into their lands. However, a Right which is merely reactionary and, by extension, obsessed with security won’t have a long shelf life. Without renewal and growth at the socio-cultural level, a Right-wing movement devolves quickly into a liberalism by other means where, following Hobbes, the “greatest good” becomes little more than keeping people safe from violent death. Can there be any sense of the common good in such a scenario? I’m skeptical.
Of course I really don’t expect for there to be an authentic rise of the Right in the United States. Europe is a different story. For beyond any fears which might exist about the “barbarians at the gate” is a much larger set of concerns over the loss of national identity due to increased integration, to say nothing of Europe’s ongoing economic and political problems. Sure, the U.S. is not totally free of the so-called “culture wars,” but we like our “stuff” too much. Ours is a “culture” predicated on entertainment; distraction is a way of life. Longenecker thinks there are “ordinary people” out there who are “fed up.” I don’t doubt that there are. What I doubt very much is that their discontent can’t be “cured” by some streaming videos and Internet memes.