Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of an 11 part series detailing the ways that the alt-right violates the 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative as laid out by Dr. Paul Kengor. Read part 1 here.
A belief in the sanctity and dignity of human life at every stage of development is one of the most distinctive parts of Reagan-style American conservatism. Reagan’s pro-life stance gained him the support of evangelical and Catholic voters, and continues to play a role in retaining many of those people in the Republican coalition to this day.
Ronald Reagan famously asked, “What single issue could be of greater importance?” He also supported a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution which would have recognized a right to life for every human being “without regard to age, health or condition of dependency” from the moment of fertilization. This respect for the infinite value of every human person, by simple virtue of them being human, completely opposes the values of the alt-right and other collectivist groups.
This belief in the special, immutable, infinite value of the human being guides many other conservative positions. Our support for individual rights like free speech, the right to protect yourself with weapons, and the right to a fair trial all stem from the fact that people matter because they’re people. There’s never any question.
While most conservatives would say that our rights and value come from God, because we are made in His image, this is not a necessary part of conservative thought. Believe it or not, it is not an explictly religious idea to affirm that people are valuable.
To Richard Spencer, who is as close to a spokesman for the whole alt-right as one can be, our rights do not come from God, and human beings are not inherently valuable. To Richard Spencer and his collectivist minions, the value of a human person comes from their place within a family, society, racial or ethnic group, or some other community.
This perspective is, quite frankly, horrifying. If our value comes from our membership in a community, then that value can be taken away if the community, the collective, decides that our membership isn’t beneficial anymore. Believers in human beings’ inherent dignity would never consider that someone is less deserving of protection, or has less moral worth, because they are young, disabled, sick, old, or a member of a different racial group.
Lest one may claim that Richard Spencer is not in fact a spokesman for the whole movement (a somewhat strange proposition, but I’ll allow it), take Aylmer Fisher, exhorting their fellow alt-righters to “not fall prey to the pro-life temptation,” who observed (quite accurately, I would add) that the alt-right views “abortion—and contraception more generally” as “about the only things keeping our societies from falling into complete idiocracy.” Or later in the article, the assessment that the alt-right is “skeptical” of “concepts like ‘equality’ and ‘human rights.’” The narrative is clear: to the alt-right, humanity has no inherent value, no inherent dignity, no inherent worth of any kind. A person is valuable not because he or she is a person, but because of their place in the collective and what they can contribute to that collective. To the alt-right, you or I are only valuable because other people seem to think we are. It’s like fiat currency with human lives.
This identitarian point of view is problematic to pro-life conservatives on its own, and that’s even excluding blatantly racist comments made by those on the alt-right, or Richard Spencer’s claims that they “want to be eugenic in the deepest sense of the word.” Pro-lifers do not. We celebrate every human life, no matter their physical or mental ability, race, family background, income, or any other label that collectivists may try to place on someone.