In This Review

America First! Its History, Culture, and Politics
America First! Its History, Culture, and Politics
By Bill Kauffman
Prometheus Books, 1995, 296 pp.

An enjoyable portrait of the "little Americans." Kauffman is a writer for Chronicles, the flagship journal of the paleoconservatives. He has "the free swinging wit of a man who knows he's a fanatic and can't help it," as he says of one of his heroes, Amos R. E. Pinchot. His "ardent and anachronistic" love is for "the perishing republic," the old America of small towns and local liberties that was eclipsed by the Second World War and the engorged imperial leviathan that followed. His aim is a renovation constructed on the axis of the nativist right and the isolationist left, which he believes are "morally and politically coordinate" and whose exemplars today are Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot, and Jerry Brown. There is a lot to quarrel with in this populist tract: the author, intent on defending his men and women against the scurrilous charges of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism leveled against them, resorts to an exactly parallel technique in lambasting his enemies. And he does not understand that on the very principle of "subsidiarity" he cherishes there is room for a limited internationalism (every variety of which he denounces). In consideration, however, of the author's deft portraits, and his alternating tone of wicked hilarity and sweet sorrow, absolution for these sins ought to be conditionally extended.