“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.

Thomas O'Malley

Thomas O'Malley

8 Responses

  1. Ken Rosenberger says:

    A fine piece, Mr O’Malley. Indeed: No enemies to the right. After Charlottesville, most Republicans went out of their way to virtue-signal over chimerical Neo-Nazis, while either disregarding Antifa thugs or canonizing them as bravely countering the forces of intolerance. Never once did they address the evisceration of history, in the form of Confederate monuments, the putative point of the rally.

  2. Roger McGrath says:

    Outstanding essay by Thomas O’Malley–and Ken Rosenberger’s comments are right on the mark. I especially like O’Malley’s description of movement conservatives, “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.” I’d like to add they are also nowhere to be found when it comes to putting on a uniform to fight those wars. O’Malley is also right about the establishment conservatives not understanding we are at war here at home. I suspect most of them are insulated by virtue of money or geography from the demographic assault suffered by many Americans. However, I also suspect a sizeable number of them fully comprehend the nature and meaning of the assault but lack the courage to honestly address it for fear of being expelled from the establishment, especially from well funded think tanks, and attacked by the media. Meanwhile, here in California, the demographic assault continues unabated while “respectable” types are struck blind and dumb.

  3. Dan Bartolo says:

    Why say no enemies to the right? You really think LEE would’ve wanted a bunch of buttoned up race baiters defending him? Rick Spenser and his ilk don’t give a rat’s behind about our old Cause or the real men who fought for it. They just want to get punched in the face for the TV cameras so they can whine to their donors. You need these dopes to win? What are you winning.

  4. Thomas Fleming says:

    Remember, this is only the first part of three.

  5. Robert Peters says:

    The Left constitutes the North Pole. From that perspective every direction is south, i.e. radical right or alt-right, whatever “alt-right” actually means. They embody the will to power as a means of historical revenge for the abstract wrongs which have been committed against them.

    The Republican Party at its core has never been conservative; from its inception, it has been bourgeois – an entanglement of capitalists, corporatists, , speculators and usurpers with no metaphysical or ideological stand point. They embody the will to power with profit to boot.

    The neo-cons are Trotskyites and Straussians, an atheist/Gnostic hybrid who on the one hand embody the pathogens of the West, yet hate the West and whose real allegiances lie outside the United States and outside the West.

    Those who are Darwinian racists, neo-pagan and who advocate violence as the first response to confrontation are not “to the right” of me, they are to “the other of me,” assuming that my own metaphysical standpoint, which informs my principles, which in turn inform my position on issues can be said to be “at the right” or “on the right.”

    I do not consider myself a nationalist. I have pre-modern sensibilities – a traditional subsidiarian and agrarian; yet, I do understand, that nationalism must be the default position if we are to extricate ourselves from globalism.

  6. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Mr. Peters – Globalism has been achieved. It will always exist. The only way to extricate ourselves is through voluntary associations with like-minded people for mutual support. I believe some are already moving in that direction.

    Many years ago, I was part of a small Church community. Many of the members were establishing homes in the neighborhood where the Church was located. Unfortunately I was not in a position to do that. But something like that is necessary (but not sufficient).

  7. Robert Peters says:

    Mr. Van Sant, I grew up in a hamlet which approached what you have described. I recently wrote the following to some friends of mine who still live there.

    Saturday Night Sentiments

    Tonight, my sentiments, to be briefly stated, are on Pollock. Pollock is a location which embodies place. Location and place are as far apart as are house and home.

    Pollock is a place where people have homes. It is not a disembodied location in which fractured families live in houses.

    Pollock, of course, was never perfectly a place. The families dwelling there were never perfectly in homes. The abstract pathogens of location and house always haunt the best of places and homes. I also suspect that the assault of location on place and the assault of house on home is moving apace in the Pollock of today as it is elsewhere.

    However, the Pollock of our generation was predominately place, and families honored the sacred places of the sanctity of the marriage bed and the sanctity of the supper table such that where they gathered could be called home.

    It is the purpose of this piece to honor those men and women of Pollock in the generations of our parents, our grandparents and our great grandparents who sacrificed in so many ways so that Pollock was a place in which homes could thrive.

    There are still some, some of the much younger of those generations, who are alive. I express my thanks, gratitude and appreciation for what you did for my generation. You were teachers, Sunday school teachers, deputy sheriffs, foresters, laborers, store owners, postmen, homemakers and commercial fishermen.

    Although the good that any of us may be ultimately originates with our Creator, the good folks of Pollock, at least for my generation, were the sacrificial vessels of mediation for that good.

    I salute those who made Pollock a place and who thereby enable our parents in creating homes in which we, with all of our faults, could nevertheless thrive!

  8. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Mr. Peters – I grew up in a larger city, but in a small neighborhood with many children. Almost all of our mothers did not work and helped each other while our fathers were working. When we were too young to be outside by ourselves, the mothers would gather on the front porch of the home where we were playing to keep an eye on us, have some coffee, and visit with each other. Under this arrangement, the mothers could get away, one or two at a time, to get some housework done while one or more of the other mothers watched us. It was a good arrangement that resulted in a close-knit group of neighbors who knew and watched out for each other. I think that is the exception today because our neighborhoods constantly change as people move in and out.

    My wife and I have lived in the home we built when I left active duty with the Navy for 41 years now. I have lost track of the number of neighbors who lived on either side of us but later moved away. We have kept in contact with one family whose children grew up with ours. They moved to Vermont and we sometimes visit them.