Oh Goodie, More NeverTrump Zines
So we learn that two new anti-Trump outlets are opening up. One is Bill Kristol’s The Bulwark. (The new pub distinguished itself by sending a pro-abortion liberal to “cover” CPAC and sneer at prolifers.)
The other venue’s a newsletter or something run by Steve Hayes and Jonah Goldberg. They claim to be on “the Right.” To the right, that is, of the Center. Which in fact, no longer holds. It dropped into the Memory Hole. It died with Bill Clinton’s “safe, legal, rare” abortions. Disappeared with “your doctor,” whom Obama promised to let you keep. Scampered off, with Harry Reid’s border patrol.
So these Never Trump newletters, or websites, or zines, or Twitter feeds, will be to the left, I guess, of Trump. That’s if we let a mere man, with his quirks and his son-in-law, define our political spectrum.
Or perhaps, as some Never-Trumpers claim, they are really to the right of Trump’s supporters. Insofar as they cleave to principles which they accuse Trump backers of abandoning. Or “norms” which these Beltway brahmans harrumph are essential to the maintenance of the Republic. By which they mean, mostly, the rules of the Acela Quiet Car.
Since Trump burst on the scene, the thin-lipped guardians of norms have been waving at the conductor. They’re still whispering, trying to get the Deplorables sent back to the coach seats where they belong.
Settling Scores for a Faction
What a yawn. In fact, what is going on, and all that is going on, is this. Some GOP donors, scribblers, and talking heads bet on the wrong horse in 2016. They blundered out of hubris. Since 1996, these people have been coasting. That’s when they deputized a few bought and paid for doyens of the Christian Right to back Bob Dole over Pat Buchanan. Then conned us with “Texan” “evangelical” George W. Bush. For twenty fat years, they ruled the GOP. They counted on a few pious phrases and empty promises, plus those same rented Evangelical and Catholic “leaders,” to keep the Party firmly under control.
No one but employees of lobbying firms, military contractors, or other intestinal parasites in the GOP body will read these new publications.
It would deliver upper-income tax cuts. Cheap immigrant labor. And periodic, cathartic wars which blue-collar kids would fight against distant “existential enemies.” (Never mind whether they’d actually attacked us. Or whether toppling them would leave a howling chaos. And leave helpless local Christians to the tender mercies of ISIS.)
I will never forget a 2003 column by Jonah Goldberg. He explained that resistance to gay activism was pointless. Of course, he elsewhere urged us on to winning electoral issues. You know, like the invasion and “democratic transformation” of Iraq. Which, along with Bush’s reckless housing policy and bank bailout, gave us eight years of Obama, and his legacies on SCOTUS.
Recently we learned that defender of “conservative principles” William Kristol gave money to Virginia’s pro-infanticide governor Ralph Northam.
The Center Right Elite Quota
The GOP would not move the needle on protecting unborn children. Or resisting state-coerced multiculturalism. Or restraining global jihad. It wouldn’t protect blue-collar or rural American jobs. Or mores. Or churches. It wouldn’t resist the rise of an economically parasitic, profoundly anti-American cognitive and cultural elite. Those concerns belonged in the “fever swamp.” They were toxic residues of a shabby cultural past.
But the new GOP would make sure of a few things. It would keep a certain quota of self-styled “moderate conservatives” as members of the new ruling elite. There’d be a right of center quota, if you will. And you could count on David Frum, William Kristol, William Bennett or Michael Gerson to bravely step forward and boldly cash the check.
Forget the Left/Right Spectrum
I’ve never had much patience for the Left/Right spectrum. It’s mostly a waste of time to argue that “No true conservative” (or Scotsman) would adopt x position or y. I wrote about this 17 long years ago.
[T]he 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.
In the absence of Communism as an armed force in world politics, with Marxism utterly discredited in its native field of economics, the old one-dimensional spectrum has lost its anchor on the Left. And the king being dead, there is no throne to anchor it on the Right. We could try to craft a new spectrum by defining — arbitrarily — American secularist mass democracy as one pole, and fundamentalist Islam as the other. But which one would we posit as “Left,” and which as “Right?” Should the more religious worldview sit at the right, or the most pro-Western? The most individualist, or the most traditional? Who’s right-wing anymore — Pym Fortyn or Pat Buchanan?Please Support The Stream: Equipping Christians to Think Clearly About the Political, Economic, and Moral Issues of Our Day.
The confrontation between extremist Islam and the post-Christian West makes nonsense of the old Left-Right distinction, revealing it as a cheap intellectual shortcut, of dubious usefulness, which it’s time to abandon altogether. There simply is no one governing value around which every combination of ideology and theology can be grouped. Instead of shoehorning complex philosophies of life, the afterlife, human self-governance and social organization into niches on a prefabricated line graph, much better that we simply identify political positions by their governing values and cultural origins. Thus George Bush could be meaningfully called a “Protestant pro-business interventionist,” Al Gore a “Pantheist Bureaucratic Globalist,” and Pat Buchanan a “Catholic Populist Isolationist.”
More Clarity, Less Charity
And now the world has mostly caught up with me. People are actually calling themselves “nationalists” or “internationalists.” They’re using the word “liberal” in its original, meaningful sense — as the impulse to increase the freedom of groups and individuals, against the coercive State. We’re seeing sharper conflicts between opposing principles, and that is clarifying. It’s also divisive and sometimes dangerous.
We most of us don’t actually want our country governed according to just one governing value. Nor do we want that value cast onto history’s trash heap. But the problem with highly principled people is that they tend to present those as your binary choices.
- Either you value “Liberty” or you don’t. If you do, you’ll agree that parents have the right to starve their kids to death. If you don’t, you clearly want collective farms and prison camps in Alaska.
- Either you think that America is a propositional nation, which could equally have prospered under the Declaration and Constitution if our whole population had been made up of Muslim Somali tribesmen. Or you don’t, which means that you want to purge the nation of non-whites and even non-Anglos. Or create some white separatist “homeland” in Idaho.
- Either you believe in your church or you don’t. If you do, and you’re a Catholic, you reject the American Founding. Instead, you want an “Integralist” state that hunts down heretics. If you don’t, you’re clearly a “liberal” who favors abortion and transgender surgery.
As I said, there’s a downside to people focusing exclusively on single principles. They tend to follow them over a cliff, down to madness.
Down with Tribalism and the Leader Fetish
Still, I find it useful and interesting to argue with people who align themselves by principles. I prefer those willing to admit that more than one principle matters, and that reconciling the many things we value in society is in fact the art of politics.
Thus George Bush could be meaningfully called a “Protestant pro-business interventionist,” Al Gore a “Pantheist Bureaucratic Globalist,” and Pat Buchanan a “Catholic Populist Isolationist.”
Those I really don’t care to hear from? People who tribally cling to (or fanatically hate) some politician. Back in the 1990s, some conservatives wasted enormous efforts and energy in demonizing Bill Clinton as a person — instead of debunking his views. (Likewise those who obsessed over Barack Obama’s birth certificate or disreputable African dad.) That’s what the left is doing now to Trump. And what the Acela Quiet Car faction of the GOP intends now to keep doing in its brand-new anti-Trump venues.
No one but employees of lobbying firms, military contractors, or other intestinal parasites in the GOP body will read these new publications. Nor should anyone bother with venues that are mindlessly pro-Trump. Though few exist, to be honest. Trump’s loudest partisans like Ann Coulter are willing to sharply criticize him.
Yawn, pass the peanuts. I prefer it here in the noisy bar car — don’t you?