‘The Bulwark’ Is a Voice for the Forgotten Minority: Insufferable-Americans
Along with Al Perrotta, last year I wrote The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration. In an early draft, I proposed a replacement for our worn-out left-right spectrum. You’ll have to admit that a one-dimensional, single-axis mode of describing human politics is pretty … inadequate. As I wrote back in 2002:
The Left/Right spectrum made sense in its original context — in the seating plan of the deputies in the French National Assembly during the Revolution. There, Royalists sat grouped to the right, and Jacobins to the left. The single issue at hand — the question of the monarchy — defined their positions, and made other concerns secondary. In the absence of the monarchy, one’s attitude towards the Church became the governing issue of French politics. …
Eventually, as Marxism in various forms came to dominate the politics of self-styled reformers, it began to define the political spectrum. Marx replaced the monarch as the governing figure in politics. Were you for or against the workers’ revolution? How quickly did you want it to happen, or how ruthlessly were you willing to oppose it — such questions, from the end of World War I until the Cold War’s end, shaped the politics of Left and Right. And they made a kind of sense, at a time when the most dynamic force in world politics was the revolutionary Left, later supported by a massive, thermonuclear-armed superpower.
But the Left-Right spectrum was always a ham-handed simplification of the complex political responses to modernity. What sense did it make, for instance, to group both revolutionary anarchists and centralizing Stalinists together on the Left, and neo-pagan racial collectivist National Socialists together with Catholic monarchists on the Right? Groups that hated each other, shared few or no common values, and actively sought each others’ destruction were thus unceremoniously dumped in categories that became so broad as to be virtually meaningless.
How to replace this clunky, misleading prescriptive scheme? I offered something more empirical. One based on what actually exists out there in our political world. Then categorizing that. I boiled down the vocal factions in American politics to three rough categories:
American nationalists. Conservative Christians. Gun fans. And those suspicious of government as a threat to our basic freedoms. These are the people whom Hillary Clinton sneered at just a tad too enthusiastically and publicly. That’s the reason she isn’t sitting in the White House right now. Why she isn’t reading the transcripts of James Comey wiretaps of the Trump family’s phones. And trying to imprison each of them, right down to Baron. These are the people who are conservatives because there’s actually something substantive in this country which they’d like to … conserve.
Rabid advocates of abortion rights and infanticide. Of transgender surgery and puberty blockers. Of open borders and apocalypse-fueled takeovers of the economy by the government. Their program is essentially to take all the things you couldn’t even talk about in mixed company in 1965, and enforce them via the government. The ideology which drives the Unspeakables is a blend of several poisons.
- Intersectionalism. That’s a new and fanatical religion based on Victimism. Boiled down from academic jargon it translates to “White men, him bad. Christian, him worse. We loot them now.” Intersectionalists want to gather a pack of angry piranhas. Then feed them the corpse of what was once a cohesive America.
- The second toxin is crony socialism. It fuels the whole Democrat machine. Look at the revolving door between Goldman Sachs (beneficiary of the 2008 bailout) and the Federal Reserve. Or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez manufacturing boondoggle jobs for her slacker boyfriend and crackpot pals. The goal here is to keep just enough private business going to pay for massive government programs. That buys the votes of sullen hordes who live in government housing. Who can always be supplemented or replaced with foreigners who sneak across the border.
- Totalitarian libertinism. This is the curious political philosophy which says that liberty exists only in the bedroom. The government may micromanage every sphere of life. Really, from the wages we pay to the ethnic and sexual composition of every private organization or business. But that stops when sex is involved. When the question is sexual autonomy or enjoyment? An absolute, sophomoric libertarianism kicks in. So you can sell your body as a “sex worker.” But you can’t work for less than minimum wage. You can (and perhaps we will force you to) help your 12-year-old change his sex. But you can’t try to nudge his sexual orientation. Immigrants who sneak across our borders deserve protection. But newborn infants don’t. You can’t sell your labor as an Uber driver if the taxi union objects. But you can sell unborn babies organs in Styrofoam coolers.
But there’s a Third Force in American Politics. It doesn’t represent many voters. But it speaks for much of the money that sloshes around behind the scenes in Republican circles. It long set the boundaries for acceptable discourse in conservative magazines.
This group is the Insufferables. Because they won’t suffer fools gladly, and they think that applies to most of us. This is the type of person who claims to be conservative. But he is more concerned about courting the respect and esteem of Unspeakables on the left than beating them. (Much less solving actual problems.)
An Insufferable will not face deplorable facts, even if it means that the policies he promotes stand detached from reality and likely counterproductive. Insufferables in the GOP include Jeb Bush, the late John McCain, Mitt Romney, and John Kasich. Plus a long list of other “establishment” politicians — who sniffed at Trump and his voters with scorn, and seek even now to co-opt his presidency as the third term of George W. Bush.
The Bulwark: Harrumphing at the Conductor in the Acela Quiet Car
William Kristol has just helped start a publication to offer the Insufferable party line. It preens as the voice of endangered conservative principles. But you can get the real flavor from The Bulwark’s “About Us” section.
George Orwell once observed that “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” And what is in front of our nose at the moment is that the president of the United States is a serial liar, a narcissist and a bully, a con man who mocks the disabled and women, a man with no fixed principles who has the vocabulary of an emotionally insecure 9-year-old.
We face an even more complicated challenge today: not merely resisting the pressures of the Left, but also a conservative movement that is being driven by grifters and mountebanks into a dark hole of nativism, protectionism, isolationism, and fabulism.
The Bulwark will stand in the breach and shout, “You can’t be serious?”
So apparently a movement based on outrage that your faction lost a single Republican presidential contest to someone you don’t respect will define conservative thought for us. A prolonged sulk as your organizing principle. Standing athwart the march of history, shouting, “They’re my marbles, and I’m going home!”
But wait, there’s something else that The Bulwark wants to say to the Progressives as they march us off the cliff. It’s this, “Hey, slow down — wait for me!”
I say this not just because one of The Bulwark’s first articles was a prolonged sneer at pro-lifers at CPAC. That’s just distasteful. You’d think that these neocons would have waited a little bit longer before admitting that they were never terribly pro-life anyway. Imagine if critics of the Iraq war who founded The American Conservative had in their premiere issue shrugged at the destruction of Israel. Just by way of comparison.
Evangelicals Need to Learn from Clueless College Students
No, the piece I have in mind is one by Rachel Larimore. It bears the charmingly condescending title, “Darwin Is Coming for the GOP.” That’s a borderline smear against Evangelical Christians, of course. It positions The Bulwark as H.L. Mencken, sniggering at all the “rubes” through the Scopes Monkey Trial. (Never mind that William Jennings Bryan took on that case because the textbook in question was virulently racist. It suggested, as most early Darwinists did, that non-whites were a kind of “missing link” between higher primates and white people.)
What I really object to in the article is the political principle it sets forth. For the sake of clarity, I’ll present it as a syllogism.
- Young people, especially college students, have imbibed a long series of leftist prejudices and irrational policy preferences. These range from the delusion that America is a deeply racist country to an embrace of same sex marriage.
- The Republican party mostly rejects these prejudices and policies. Therefore:
- The GOP must not try to resist these views or educate those who hold them. Instead it must quickly adopt the stances of these clueless young people. Before it’s too late.
Go skim the article quickly. (I’ve too much respect for your time to suggest reading it slowly.) That’s all it has to say.
In other words, Mr. Kristol and his team propose to march us off the very same cliff toward which the Democrats are leading us. They just want the death march to move a little more slowly, with some stately dignity. They want our national life to be one, long extended John McCain funeral, with Bushes holding hands with Obamas, and everybody smirking. Because only the best people got invited.