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The Right We Need

J.D. Vance, from his 2016 TED talk, about what the US working class needs

I have really smart readers. One of them — a conservative embedded in the Deep State — writes:

I just wanted to offer up the following observations from Douthat’s column as far as what the future is likely to hold. Douthat writes:

Yes, conservatives have Fox News and talk radio, the Republican Party has its business-class support and Trump had Michael Flynn and the MyPillow C.E.O. and Jerry Falwell Jr. But our generals are mostly allergic to politics and the military’s most recent political intervention was a counterstrike against a critique from Tucker Carlson. Our corporations dislike socialism but their main strategy for keeping it at bay is to go all in on cultural-left politics. Our churches are fractured, scandal-ridden and declining. Our aristocracy — sorry, meritocracy — is divided between hand-wringing liberals and militant progressives. And our conservative party isn’t eager to tear our constitution up and start anew: Instead it’s hyper-constitutionalist, because its current share of power depends on some of the Constitution’s most antique instruments.

… Under Weimar’s conditions, the right’s radicalization threatened, and eventually delivered, the outright destruction of German liberalism and the German left. (And then much, much more destruction beyond that.)

But under contemporary American conditions, further right-wing radicalization seem more likely to be a suicide weapon — a way for a weakened movement to instigate a period of crisis, maybe, but one that would probably only hasten its marginalization and defeat.

This is something that needs to be understood regarding a right-wing backlash and any discussion of Weimar America. Much of the security state is itching to go after a right-wing domestic terrorist threat and the most likely outcome of any right-wing action would not be Weimar Germany but rather a repeat of 6 January to the enthusiastic clapping of our social betters in the press and on social media.

I think this is very much on-point and something that cultural conservatives really need to internalize as fusionism continues to circle the drain as they consider the political future.

The backlash against wokeness from the right is definitely coming, but it isn’t going to resemble anything like 1930s Germany because the left controls the high and the low ground through its cultural power, particularly the controlling interest over the credentialing organs that determine who gets credentialed for participation into our non-hereditary aristocracy. The key test for whether or not the right is actually prepared to internalize the hard lesson of how weak their hand is and learn for it is going to be an important one, especially since it will determine whether or not more Trump-style grifting and blood and soil win out over the saner models.

As Douthat notes, the entire woke capital phenomenon is a cynical cost-benefit calculation by big business to concede on all cultural issues to the left in return for immunity on all economic issues. If the right wants to change that dynamic then it has to be prepared to inflict economic costs on big business, including antitrust action, regulation, support for big labor, ending tax breaks, and a whole host of issues. This is a complete anathema to the fusionist, business, and donor class of the party but if implemented it would be highly effective. If conservatives are actually concerned about wokeness in the military and its detrimental impact then the solution is not to wring hands over it but to identify the general officers and senior civilians who are pushing it and to stop confirming them through Congress to send a clear message that general officers are not owed a promotion.

Again, these solutions are not difficult or even impossible, but so far as I can determine they have never been attempted because the leadership class of the GOP is so captive to the donor, think tank, and activist classes on these issues.

One of the main problems that now exists is not that you don’t have a lot of people who are concerned and looking to take action — you do — but that their only conception of how to do so basically amounts to “voting Republican,” which serves to either empower the existing leadership class that holds them in contempt as rubes or Trump-style grifters who see them as suckers. Hawley, who was a big hope in intellectual circles as a thinking man’s populist has likely been discredited in the near-term by the events of 6 January and his Pyrrhic quest to gain access to Trump’s fanbase, leaving Tucker Carlson as one of the few voices who is willing to challenge the status quo.

I actually think that Trump shattering the existing GOP power structures and showing the leadership and donor class for the ineffectual empty suits who were happy to grovel at his feet was a good thing. He just decided to throw it all away by embracing first COVID denialism and then election conspiracy theories. My assumption for a long time has been that the decaying state of the right was a vacuum that is going to be filled sooner or later, it is just a matter of what ends up emerging, just as the far-right has emerged in Europe due to the decline of the “respectable” conservative parties.

Interesting observations. I share this reader’s deep doubts about the Right, given the inability of either the leadership class or the vast followership class to get beyond obsession with Trump, whose resistance was entirely performative — meaning that he made a big show of fighting, but didn’t actually accomplish a lot, because he was so undisciplined. The MyPillow dude is now claiming that Trump will be re-installed in the White House in August. These are ridiculous people, and the longer conservatives listen to them, the harder it is going to be to build effective resistance to the Left.

I hope that J.D. Vance’s likely US Senate bid in 2022 becomes an opportunity to test this reader’s thesis. I hope J.D. runs against woke capital from the Right.  You might recall that back in 2016, when Hillbilly Elegy came out, he he was openly supportive of Trumpist themes, but said Trump was the wrong person to get things done (in the sense that he didn’t have what it took to follow through). He was right about that, as we now know. He seems to be positioning himself as a populist who takes it seriously.

To sum up the reader’s critique, voting Republican is not enough. Conservatives, in his view, have to vote for Republicans who are willing to take on Woke Capital and other left-captured institutions, even the US military — and not just take them on symbolically, but really make them pay a price.

I see this morning that Woke Capital is lining up against the state of Georgia over its new voting law. At least one prominent Georgia Republican gets what’s happening:

The CEOs’ comments triggered threats of backlash from Republican legislators who embraced the contentious election overhaul as a necessary measure to restore confidence.

Kemp and other GOP leaders say they were caught off guard by the opposition, and the Georgia House retaliated by narrowly voting to end a lucrative tax break on jet fuel during the final, frenzied day of the legislative session. The measure never came up for a final vote in the Senate, where leaders are more lukewarm on overtly punishing Delta.

“They like our public policy when we’re doing things that benefit them,” said House Speaker David Ralston, adding: “You don’t feed a dog that bites your hand. You got to keep that in mind sometimes.”

Leaving aside the merits or demerits of the Georgia law, this is once again Big Business throwing its weight around on legislation that has nothing to do with it. This is what they did in 2015, with the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, bullying state lawmakers into repealing it. Whether or not the new Georgia law is good or bad, I resent the hell out of corporations pushing the state around like that. It is long past time for conservative voters to wake up and realize that Big Business is not our friend, and is in some cases our enemy.

Oh, even before I finished writing this, I checked Twitter, and it seems that J.D. Vance has declared himself:

Great! More populist Republicans with spine, please!

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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