“How the Right Can Win Again,” Part I: The Problem
Looking inwards from the outside, one might assume the American Right is winning nowadays. On the face of it, things seem to be going our way. The Republican Party controls the Presidency, both houses of Congress, and most state governorships and legislatures. Any new Supreme Court justices are likely to be conservatives, meaning that even if the Left regains control of the rest of government, the Supreme Court will remain right-wing for many decades. The Republican Party is in its best position since the 1920s. In contrast, the Democratic Party is in disarray. Since November 9, the American Left has been throwing a collective temper tantrum. This has driven many formerly on the fence into the arms of the Right, and even many liberals are embarrassed by their own kind.
Nonetheless, the Right’s apparent rise to power is only an illusion. The Republican Party is not the same as the Right, and almost all of its leaders are weak and incompetent. The Republican establishment can’t accomplish anything, even when it controls all three branches of government. In addition, it is only elected government officials who are Republican. The unelected bureaucracy, where the real power resides, is mostly comprised of Leftists who despise Donald Trump and will do anything to sabotage his presidency. They seem to be succeeding. Although it is over a year since his inauguration, Trump has got very little done, with the notable exception of the successful nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Why has the populist nationalist Right scored so few policy victories? The short answer is not many right-wingers are in positions of power, and the few who are tend to be neoconservatives. The Left has control of the Banks, large Corporations, Education system, Entertainment industry, Government bureaucracy, and mainstream Media. What does the Right have, talk radio? a handful of YouTube channels? Not much when compared to the entire power structure. If the Right wants real power, it will have to imitate what the Left did in order to acquire that power. The methods Leftists have been using to advance their agenda for the past several decades work. It would do us good to copy them.
First of all, the Right should stop labelling itself as “conservative.” Most on the Left don’t refer to themselves as “liberal.” When was the last time you heard Jon Stewart describe himself as liberal? or Stephen Colbert? or John Oliver? or Trevor Noah? Leftists often deny they are Leftists, or at least don’t often mention their position on the political spectrum. This deceitful tactic allows Leftists to portray themselves as Centrists while pushing the Overton window leftwards. This tactic is nothing new. From the 1960s onwards, the civil rights, feminist, and gay rights movements painted themselves as within the realm of accepted thought, despite originating from the far left. By depicting themselves as such, combined with constant propaganda, these movements and the ideals they held moved from the fringe to the mainstream. In stark contrast, right-wingers have always proudly referred to themselves as conservatives. Overtly political labels are to be avoided. By calling yourself a conservative, you are drawing a distinction between yourself and the rest of Americans. Some may be reluctant to no longer identify as conservative for nostalgic reasons. But at the end of the day, it’s all just semantics. Winning is more important. And it is Trump’s reluctance to use labels such as “conservative,” in addition to his willingness to break with conservative orthodoxy on subjects such as free trade, which won him support among traditionally Democratic constituencies such as the white working class. This is also why the powers that be hate Trump with such as passion, as opposed to someone such as Mitt Romney. Movement conservatism is not a threat to the ruling class, populist nationalism is.
At this point, movement conservatism is more a burden than a benefit. What have these so-called conservatives actually conserved? They failed to prevent either abortion or same-sex marriage from being legalized. And the few good things they have accomplished, such as keeping taxes relatively low and preventing gun control, will surely be erased when demographic winter arrives and the Republican Party no longer has enough votes to retain power. There is no shortage of conservative think tanks and experts. And what have all these think tanks and experts done? Besides wasting millions of dollars raised from well-meaning people, not much. Most were opposed to Trump before his election, and many still continue to oppose him and what he stands for.
On election night, and again with the election of Greg Gianforte and the initial success of Roy Moore, they were shocked to find that outside the Beltway, no one really cares about their worldview. Movement conservatives are total failures; useless at best, and a hindrance at worst. When it comes to defending our borders, they are nowhere to be found. But when it comes to starting expensive wars in the Middle East, they are the first in line. They deserve nothing but contempt, and to be tossed onto the ash heap of history. They do not understand that we are at war. Either movement conservatives act like it, or else they must step aside, and let those willing to fight do so.
The Right should avoid, unless absolutely necessary, punching rightwards. This is not to say the Right should tolerate or encourage its extremists. Rather, we should recognize that the true enemy is the Left, and not concern ourselves with the small number of people on the far right. They are neither numerous nor influential, and are only useful as boogeymen for the Left to frighten people. If you are asked to condemn the far right, then by all means do so, just keep in mind who the real enemy is. We should take a similar approach towards our extremists that the Left takes towards their extremists. In other words, don’t associate with them, but don’t condemn them unless you really need to. When was the last time you heard a liberal speak out against Communism, except when pressed on the matter? In contrast, the mainstream Right seems to hate the far right as much as the far left, if not more so. Extremists can sometimes have their uses. In the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement adopted a “good cop, bad cop” strategy for moving its ideals into the mainstream. The Right at the time didn’t like Martin Luther King, Jr., but were more willing to listen to him if Malcolm X’s views stood a chance of prevailing. Today the Left may dislike Steve Bannon, but faced with the possibility of Richard Spencer’s views gaining mainstream acceptance, they may be more willing to listen to Bannon.