Contra: Under the Black Flag 🏴
“Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” - H.L. Mencken
|Pedro L. Gonzalez||May 1||4||1|
This issue is a little shorter than usual, and a day late as usual.
I’ll start with an announcement: I’ll be joining the Claremont Institute for the Lincoln Fellowship this year. My cohort includes Charlie Kirk, Nick Short, and Jack Murphy, so I’m sure this will be fun.
As for the rest, I’ve got three articles and two media hits this week. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on the warpath against the Republican Party and conservatism from the right.
Conserving Conservatism Is Conserving Defeat
For American Greatness, I wrote about the catastrophic failure of movement conservatism to conserve anything.
The first thing we have to accept about the culture war is that the Republican Party and the conservative movement have lost. As it is for a battered alcoholic with bottles clinking about his heels, the first step toward recovery is admitting we have a problem. Nowhere is this more evident than in the battle of the biological sexes, lost without a shot fired.
Even before the gubernatorial candidacy of Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner in California became official, rumors swirled that Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale would lend Jenner a hand. Sure enough, Parscale, currently one of Trump’s “top political lieutenants,” helped Jenner assemble a team, which reportedly includes Trump’s former pollster Tony Fabrizio and former White House communications aide Stephen Cheung. Jenner’s campaign’s website is now live and accepting donations without so much as a single policy issue listed—not that it would matter. The new GOP appears much the same as the old GOP.
Is the GOP Marching Toward Irrelevancy?
For the American Interest, I reviewed Joe Biden’s congressional address, and touched on how Tim Scott’s rebuttal fell flat.
Suppose Republicans want to win without merely relying on voters getting fed up with the Democratic Party’s behavior. In that case, the response to Biden’s Rooseveltianism may be something along the lines of Huey Long, who served as governor of Louisiana and as a U.S. senator until he was assassinated in 1935. Along with Gen. Douglas MacArthur, former president Franklin Roosevelt considered him “one of the two most dangerous men in America,” and regarded his death as a “providential occurrence” because of the threat Long’s presidential challenge posed. Even if the GOP did want to crack up parts of the federal bureaucracy, it would, ironically, require governing like Long rather than the preferred quasi-laissez-faire approach.
The hard truth is that U.S. politics has evolved into an arms race to give people benefits with the power they confer upon elected representatives. The GOP can accept this fact or continue its march toward irrelevancy, winning only when Americans are momentarily fed up with the Democratic Party.
Tim Scott’s Rebuttal Marches the GOP Towards Obscurity
For The Spectator, picking up where my piece for The National Interest ended, I focused primarily on Tim Scott’s rebuttal to Biden and how it reflects the Republican Party’s complete disregard for what its voters actually want.
Before the bombs and bullets of World War One reshaped life as we know it, for ‘the vast majority of Americans, from east to west, north to south, the principal, if not sole, link with the national government was the postal system,’ Robert Nisbet wrote.
It’s hard to imagine life without the megastate now. Frustration with it will occasionally spark the call for a return to limited government, but there is no going back. The vast majority of Americans are dependent on it to some extent or another, from the loans they use to purchase homes, farm subsidies, and the regulations with which they try to tame corporations and protect small businesses. Working-age whites without a college degree — the beating heart of the GOP’s base — are the primary beneficiaries of federal anti-poverty programs.
But the GOP still hasn’t received this message — and it doesn’t seem like they care to take the call from Middle America anyway. Republicans made that clear in South Carolina senator Tim Scott’s response to President Biden’s Wednesday night congressional address.
I’ve got two media hits this week.
First, I joined the Buck Sexton Show to discuss why everything is liberal and why conservatism sets itself up to lose by defaulting to a defensive position. If the right wants to win, it needs to learn from the left. The segment starts at 41:00.
Second, Tucker Carlson invited me onto his show last night to burn down the GOP. The Columbia Bugle tweeted out my segment in the thread below.
The American Right Is the New Target of Washington's "War on Terror"
Tho Bishop writes for the Mises Institute:
The state will always treat those who seriously threaten its perceived legitimacy with greater zeal than those guilty of simply destroying the livelihoods of its citizens.
This also highlights the self-defeating nature of the modern American conservative movement.
For decades now, the same political party that often gives lip service to “federalism” has often been the party directly responsible for the growth of federal power. As noted earlier, it took exactly one administration before the Department of Homeland Security, created by the Bush administration, began to target the very voters who elected him to office. It was just two election cycles before the PATRIOT Act was used to target a Republican presidential campaign.
The biggest question that now lies in American politics is whether conservatives are capable of learning from these examples. If the American right is capable of fully absorbing the reality that the greatest threat to their lives, liberty, and prosperity lies domestically—and not abroad—perhaps there is potential for a political rollback of the American empire.
The Unenlightenment: Liberalism Comes at a Cost
Sohrab Ahmari has a great piece in The Spectator on the meaning and destiny liberalism.
Anyone, left or right, calling today’s progressive order into question—or daring to propose alternatives—is first asked to apologise for these horrors, stretching from antiquity to whenever enlightened time began (which may be as recently as a couple of years ago). This is a type of intellectual blackmail, and the best defence against it is to go on the offence: no, it’s the actually existing present that increasingly resembles a dystopia, and the onus is on the liberal to give account and apology. The non-liberal’s rejoinder can be summed up with three simple words: look around you.
Look around you: has liberalism delivered on its own terms, on its promise of neutrality between world views?
Deconstructing the Decolonizers
The "decolonizers," writes Anthony Esolen, are actually the colonizers, and in "one area of life after another, the colonizers have slandered or smothered a noble moral vision, substituting for this what is petty and vicious."
For the one-flesh union of man and woman in marriage, we have celebrations of the casual, the selfish, and the perverse; nothing for boys but scorn, nothing for girls but vanity and ambition, and not one public policy to promote and protect the natural family. Instead of courage, instead of forthrightness in speech, instead of affirming truth and not sentiments, they teach cowardice: hiding behind hurt feelings, evading the issue, shouting with the mob, and wailing like spoiled children should anyone dare to laugh at them or suggest that they are doing wrong.
Read this, read Chronicles.
The Republican Party's Woke Capital Awakening
Josh Hammer writes about the need to divorce the GOP from corporations. I agree, of course, but the onus is largely on the base—on Republican voters—to demand that from the party.
Republicans are right to stand up and solemnly declare that enough is enough, already. There is no compelling reason to suffer through the humiliating bromance with woke capitalists, "battered woman syndrome"-style, while corporate America makes itself clearer than ever before that it hates Republican voters' guts. Whether it is on human sexuality, the right to life for unborn children, gun rights, immigration sanity or a host of other issues, woke capital treats the Republican Party as more of an enemy than it would ever dream of treating sadistic detention facility managers in Xinjiang, China.
Republicans should stop trying to prevent the unpreventable and permit its amicable divorce from corporate America to continue apace.
Who Does Joe Biden Remind You Of?
Declan Leary compares Joe Biden to Donald Trump in The American Conservative.
The reasons for the failure are generally the same, too. Both men are ancient, though Biden shows it far more than his predecessor. Neither is particularly bright. But more importantly than anything, neither has actually had the support of his party for his governing agenda. Both men have been pushed leftward by the establishment—Trump toward the impotent center, Biden away from it. Thus we end up, for instance, with two presidents who are instinctively doves, but practically hawks (albeit moderate ones). We end up with a Republican who campaigned as a populist but can’t deliver anything better than a hefty corporate tax cut, and a Democrat who campaigned on just getting through the COVID crisis and wound up delivering a so-called relief package that made all the comrades, a number of powerful special interests, and a couple foreign entities positively giddy.
I made a similar point in Newsweek.
For quite some time now we’ve wondered what’s going on with congressional Republicans. There are a lot of nice people in the Republican Party, but the point of a political party is not to be nice, it is to represent the interests of its voters. That’s the only reason political parties exist. There is no other reason to have them except to represent their voters.
Yet year after year, on issue after issue, the leadership of the Republican Party fails to do that. We’re not guessing about this. We know what Republican voters care about. They tell pollsters all the time. Since they kept getting ignored, in 2016 they elected Donald Trump, just to make it incredibly clear what they cared about. If that wasn’t a wake-up call, nothing would be.
However, it remains true that the priorities of the people who run the Republican Party are very different—in some cases, completely different—from the priorities of the people who vote Republican. Why is that? Well, there are lots of reasons, probably, but Frank Luntz is definitely one of them.
You really need to read or watch this monologue if you haven’t already.
Sen. Mitt Romney was showered with loud boos by a Republican audience in Utah as he attempted to slam President Joe Biden’s agenda.
“I’m a man who says what he means, and you know I was not a fan of our last president’s character issues,” Romney said Saturday as delegates at Utah’s Republican convention shouted their disapproval, with some calling him a “traitor” and a “communist.”
“Aren’t you embarrassed?” Romney asked the crowd at one point.
Romney also touted his Republican credentials and told the crowd that the boos don’t bother him.