This year The American Conservative turns 15. In a lengthy piece in the May/June issue, Scott McConnell, the magazine’s founding editor, explains its history and purpose. McConnell writes that back in 2002 and 2003, “what passed for conservatism in the United States wasn’t conserving much of anything.”
Gung-ho forays into forever wars in the Middle East, built on the faulty notions of regime change and counter insurgency alienated many conservatives who never signed on to the neocon master plan of rebuilding the Earth in America’s image, with U.S. taxpayer money. Many conservatives were left twisting in the wind with no philosophical home in publications like The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard or Commentary.
So McConnell, along with Taki Theodoracopulos and Patrick Buchanan created what has become America’s best conservative magazine.
McConnell recounts the history here(abridged):
The American Conservative at its conception was a fighting countercultural magazine. Its founders and early contributors believed, in different but compatible ways, that what passed for conservatism in the United States wasn’t conserving much of anything. We were at odds with both liberalism and the conservative mainstream. The Republican Party in 2002 was nearly unanimous in gearing up for the Iraq war, and respected conservative commentators were calling for a whole series of “regime change” invasions throughout the Middle East.
Further, the GOP had no reservations about the increasingly visible downside to economic globalization, which was beginning to rip the guts out of many American working class communities. High and growing rates of immigration were having an unsettling effect on many Americans, economically and culturally.
TAC became possible because I knew Taki Theodoracopulos. John O’Sullivan had introduced us, and I had been writing for a section he ran in the New York Press, an interesting free weekly. I also knew Pat Buchanan, having worked in his 2000 campaign.
Taki had long wanted to start a magazine. I’m not sure he knew exactly what he wanted it to be or how much money it would cost relative to his substantial but not vast fortune.
So it was fairly straightforward: Taki and I flew down from New York in the spring of 2002, met for half an hour with PJB in his living room, came to a simple agreement, and I set to work hiring a staff and figuring out how to put out a magazine. Why call it The American Conservative?
Over the next six months we hit regularly on the war and its dubious rationales. But I wish to note another important piece—“Whose War?”
But Buchanan’s piece was a powerhouse of research and unsparing polemic that other writers couldn’t match. …Pat concluded, “America is about to make a momentous decision: whether to launch a series of wars in the Middle East that could ignite the Clash of Civilizations against which Samuel Huntington warned, a war we believe would be a tragedy and a disaster for the Republic… We charge that a cabal of polemicists seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interests.
The present-day TAC, like most media organizations, is an institution in flux. There is, of course, a different tone today: the neocons and their war plans, while an ongoing danger for the Republic, are seldom perceived as the greatest national problem right now.
There remains a good deal of the early TAC in the current magazine. Andy Bacevich, whose writing I had first read in The National Interest and whose contributions I pursued, with some success, in TAC’s first months now writes regularly for us on American foreign policy. Pat Buchanan’s columns continue to be an anchor and big reader draw on the website.
But of course we live in a different media environment. The Internet has far surpassed print journalism as a means of disseminating written words, and far more readers see pieces on the web than they do in print.
Other journals have come to share much of our perspective. National Review in particular is not nearly as uniformly enthusiastic about war as it was when we began publishing. I consider that a huge plus, for NR and for American public opinion in general. So too are there now highly prominent voices in the conservative media—Ann Coulter, Tucker Carlson, and Ross Douthat, for example—who manifest a fair number of TACish attitudes, most particularly in their reluctance to automatically endorse neoconservative foreign policies. This is new—and worthy of celebration.
Read more here.