Culture Wars, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Top Stories
comments 139

The Rise of the Illiberal Right

In recent days, American right-of-center Internet has been consumed by an often acrimonious and sometimes comical public drama: a polemical battle over an essay by author and New York Post oped editor Sohrab Ahmari entitled “Against David French-ism.” The subject of this philippic, published in the religious conservative magazine First Things, is National Review writer David French, who Ahmari considers to be emblematic of a conservatism too weak and effete for the modern-day culture wars. Some of this quarrel is plainly over the simple matter of allegiance to Donald Trump: French is a staunch “Never Trumper,” while Ahmari is a former Never Trumper who, depending on where you stand, either saw the light or surrendered to the dark side. However, it is also a dispute about more fundamental issues related to the future of American conservatism, and the future of liberal democracy.

French, like Ahmari, is a Christian who subscribes to traditional sexual morality. But Ahmari’s quarrel with him is twofold. One, “Though culturally conservative, French is a political liberal, which means that individual autonomy is his lodestar: He sees ‘protecting individual liberty’ as the main, if not sole, purpose of government.” Two, French is a naïve believer in pluralism and civil engagement who refuses to see politics as “war and enmity”: he wants to persuade, rather than “fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.”

One piquant detail of the Ahmari-French row is that Ahmari himself is a lapsed “David French-ist.” In an essay for Commentary a mere three years ago, he sounded the alarm about the imperiled state of liberalism—not in the common American sense of left-of-center politics, but in the classic sense of commitment to individual rights and political pluralism—and about the ascendancy of “illiberal movements” on the Left and the Right, including Trumpism. But that was then. Now, Ahmari believes the liberal approach simply can’t work for cultural conservatives besieged by an increasingly militant progressivism—not only because the other side seeks total war and total capitulation, but also because valorizing individual freedom and autonomy empowers the enemy.

According to Ahmari, “The movement we are up against prizes autonomy above all, too; indeed, its ultimate aim is to give the individual will the widest possible berth to define what is true and good and beautiful, against the authority of tradition.” Progressives take this autonomy-maximizing quest to the “logical terminus” of demanding that individual choices receive full acceptance from all: Thus, traditional Christians and Jews must use preferred pronouns for transgender people, assist in same-sex weddings if they work as bakers or florists, allow people in same-sex relationships to hold posts in religious groups on college campuses, and acquiesce in “Drag Queen Story Time” at the local public library. (It was precisely such an event in Sacramento that occasioned Ahmari’s anti-Frenchist outburst.) Conservatives who embrace individual liberty as the highest political value, Ahmari argues, are defenseless before that logic.

While Ahmari allows that French has tirelessly advocated for freedom of conscience as a writer, activist, and attorney, he believes it’s clearly not enough. He sees Trump as an unlikely champion of that goal—a natural fighter whose “instinct has been to shift the cultural and political mix, ever so slightly, away from autonomy-above-all toward order, continuity, and social cohesion.” Thus, French’s Never Trumpism, along with his squishy insistence on “civility and decency,” amounts to sabotage of the culture-war effort. (To paraphrase the spymaster in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, “War is hell, Mr. French, even when it’s a cultural one.”)

Aside from the Trump question, Ahmari’s screed is part of a trend increasingly evident in recent years on the American Right: an explicit rejection of liberalism. The most prominent exponent of this position is University of Notre Dame political scientist Patrick Deneen, whose book Why Liberalism Failed received considerable mainstream attention last year. Deneen is upfront about the fact that he is challenging America’s foundational values. In his view, the American Founding, rooted in Enlightenment liberalism and in Lockean individualism, should be regarded as a failed experiment: social atomization, moral nihilism, and cultural decline are not perversions of the liberal idea but its inevitable outcomes.

Some conservative Catholics who have jettisoned liberalism now embrace “integralism,” a doctrine advocating the full integration of spiritual and political authority—not exactly the fusion of church and state but, in essence, the subordination of the latter to the former, at least in everything concerning moral issues. This might seem like a fringe view in modern Western society, especially in the United States. Indeed, during a debate on “Catholicism and the American Project” at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture last November, Deneen remarked half-facetiously that he doesn’t consider himself an integralist because “they’re kind of crazy.” Yet, notably, the four-person Notre Dame panel featured two integralists—Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule and University of Dallas assistant professor of politics Gladden Pappin—and only one pro-liberalism speaker.

First Things has fairly clear integralist sympathies. Does Ahmari, a onetime atheist who converted to Catholicism three years ago? In a Twitter thread posted shortly after the publication of his article, Ahmari denied being an integralist and even asserted that he still considers himself “broadly a liberal.”

However, the “liberalism” he now envisions is one that allows “autonomy in appropriate spheres” but requires “submission to establishments and authority where freedom of thought doesn’t belong.” Who gets to define those respective spheres is left unclear.

The anti-liberal trend on the Right is not limited to Catholics, though it does appear to be strongly linked to religious traditionalism. Another notable anti-liberal manifesto published in First Things this year was the essay “Conservative Democracy” by Israeli (and Jewish Orthodox) political scientist Yoram Hazony, author of the much-discussed 2018 book The Virtue of Nationalism. Hazony not only proclaims the failure of liberalism but proposes an alternative vision of democratic government: one that explicitly repudiates the liberal Enlightenment tradition linked to political philosophers like John Locke and Immanuel Kant, with its creed of reason, “the free and equal individual,” and obligations arising from choice.

Unlike Deneen, Hazony enlists American constitutionalism (at least pre-World War II) in the conservative political tradition he wants to restore; but he accomplishes this by reducing the Lockean roots of the American founding to some unfortunate “Enlightenment-rationalist phrases in the Declaration of Independence.” The conservative democracy he advocates is based on a prominent public role for the majority religion (“The state upholds and honors the biblical God and religious practices common to the nation” which are deemed “indispensable for justice and public morals”) and an understanding of rights and liberties as deriving from national history and culture rather than universal principles.

*     *     *

From my vantage point as a thoroughly secular Jewish agnostic, I share many of the concerns about militant progressivism voiced by cultural conservatives like Ahmari. I’m not especially horrified by “Drag Queen Story Hour” (parents can choose whether or not to bring their kids, and while these events are obviously intended to promote acceptance of “gender fluidity,” they don’t seem to be particularly sexualized). However, I have serious reservations about aspects of the transgender rights revolution, particularly as it pertains to children. I believe the tendency to brand sexual traditionalists as bigots is bad for both practical and moral reasons, even though I have strong disagreements with their beliefs. More generally, I think it should be obvious that the far Left’s take-no-prisoners style of culture warfare invites similar extremism from the Right, of which Ahmari’s essay is an illustrative example.

But Ahmari gets modern progressivism completely wrong. For one thing, it is not individualistic or classically liberal but quite the opposite; its central value is collective identity. Just recently, reports on anti-racism training in New York City schools highlighted the fact that a slide presentation at one workshop listed “individualism” as a part of “white supremacy culture”—a fairly standard claim in social justice circles. Other Enlightenment values such as rationality are viewed a similarly negative light. Indeed, the Enlightenment itself has been under fire from the Left, accused of nothing less than spawning racism. (In some cases, right-wing and left-wing attacks on the Enlightenment are mere variations on a theme: progressives deride Enlightenment philosophers as white men whose individualism was a product of privilege, while Hazony derides them as unmarried, childless men whose individualism was a product of disconnection from family life.)

The progressive Left’s commitment to the autonomy principle is highly questionable as well—or at least highly selective: it more or less begins and ends with the right to choose abortion and the right to choose one’s gender from dozens of options. Yes to drag; no to kimonos.

Ahmari also vastly oversimplifies the culture wars as a clash between beleaguered cultural conservatives and a monolithic progressive army. In reality, gay white males are under attack as too privileged; the feminist movement has been tearing itself apart over “intersectionality”; and transgender activists have been clashing not only with radical feminists but sometimes with drag queens, whom they see as having reactionary attitudes toward gender. (“Drag Queen Story Hour” may yet get shut down by culture warriors from the Left, not the Right.) Meanwhile, plenty of liberals detest the absurd and authoritarian excesses of “political correctness.”

Principled liberalism can be an ally against militant progressivism—whether in defense of free speech or of other values. Last year, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Christian baker who had refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, accepting his argument that his religious liberty was violated when the Colorado Commission for Civil Rights rejected his faith-based objection as a mere cover for prejudice. (The ruling was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom many social conservatives have singled out for special scorn because of his argument, with regard to abortion and same-sex marriage, that constitutional liberties protect the individual’s ability to make his or her own decisions about morality and meaning.) National Review editor Charles Cooke has pointed out that, while Ahmari has mentioned the sexual assault accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as his breaking point, Kavanaugh was successfully defended on the grounds of the presumption of innocence, a basic liberal tenet. (And French was one of his most vocal defenders.)

Of course liberalism is not flawless, and liberal democracy has its built-in conflicts and tensions that can sometimes, as I myself have argued, make it a victim of its own success. The demand for equal rights and dignity for groups that have been subjected to historical discrimination or even dehumanization—women, racial and religious minorities, the LGBT community, the disabled—is a welcome and necessary extension, or fulfilment, of the liberal idea. But when this demand focuses on rooting out (actually or allegedly) demeaning language, images, “tropes,” or ideas, it inevitably infringes on freedom of speech; and when it demands full, state-enforced acceptance of behavior many religions regard as morally wrong, whether it’s birth control usage or same-sex relationships, it is likely to trample on religious liberty. (Before his recent anti-liberal turn, Ahmari rightly labeled this “illiberal liberalism.”) The demand for absolute equality can also, as we have seen, shape-shift into a politics of identity that is the exact opposite of individualism.

Liberal democracy has other inherent paradoxes, from the democratic over-expansion of the welfare state to costly military adventures driven by a perceived imperative to support universal human rights abroad. When affluent liberal societies become a magnet for immigration from less developed countries, migrants who do not share these societies’ values can have a disruptive effect if their numbers are large enough. Many of these conflicts and tensions have reached boiling point in recent years, which explains the perception of liberalism in crisis.

However, I suspect that the death or even failure of liberalism is as exaggerated as liberalism’s impending global triumph was at the end of the Cold War. Meanwhile, the anti-liberals have yet to offer a remotely plausible or attractive alternative. Deneen, who stresses that the road from liberalism must go forward and not back and that liberalism’s genuine gains in freedom and equality must not be lost, envisions the growth of small communities committed to conservative cultural values and left to their own devices by the state. However, given that his model for such cultural change is the Amish community, which lives in extreme isolation from the larger society and shuns modern technology, it’s unlikely that this idea can work on a larger scale.

Hazony’s “conservative democracy” is a far more political project, and one with some troubling overtones. Thus, he argues that the state which upholds the majority religion should also offer “wide toleration of [other] religious and social views”—but only as long as they “do not endanger the integrity and well-being of the nation as a whole.” Ahmari is vague about the ways the public square would be “re-ordered” to moral purposes, but he makes it clear that the state must not remain neutral between traditional morality and modern-day licentiousness. Some hardcore integralists follow the logic of their beliefs to a much darker conclusion. Earlier this year, First Things ran an essay defending Pope Pius IX’s decision, in a notorious 1858 case, to remove a Jewish boy secretly baptized by his Christian nursemaid from his Jewish family and have him raised as a ward of the Church—on the grounds that “putative civil liberties” should not “trump the requirements of faith.” Also in First Things, integralist philosopher Thomas Pink has criticized the Catholic Church for abandoning its erstwhile belief in “religious coercion”—i.e., the use of state power to restrict the practice and preaching of “false religions” including Protestantism.

Theocratic restoration in the West is a febrile fantasy. But in practice, the governments often held up as current models of anti-liberal democracy—in Hungary and Poland—do have distinct authoritarian leanings. Hungary was recently downgraded by Freedom House, hardly a left-wing outfit, from “free” to “partly free” because of state assaults on the press, academic institutions, and minority religions. These encroachments include discrimination against evangelical churches as well as increasing state control over the press—and laws requiring all state entities to protect “Christian culture.” While the situation in Poland is better, troubling recent news stories include a lesbian activist’s arrest on blasphemy charges for putting up posters of the country’s famous “Black Madonna” icon sporting a rainbow halo.

Whatever one thinks of the merits of government-backed Catholic traditionalism, National Review’s Rich Lowry correctly points out that it’s simply not going to happen in the U.S. Ahmari’s only specific proposal, and the crux of his disagreement with French, is to stop worrying and learn to love Trump. But while Trump can shift some policies—and perhaps even achieve the social conservatives’ dream of a repeal of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that protects abortion rights nationwide—it hardly follows that he can shift the culture. The President of the United States doesn’t get to cancel Drag Queen Story Hour at a local public library. (And when public libraries do cancel such events as a result of protests, progressive churches sometimes step up to host them instead.) So far, at least, Trump’s effect on public opinion seems to be to shift it away from whatever he’s advocating: pro-immigration sentiment in America, for instance, is at a record high.

*     *     *

It is safe to say that I disagree with David French—often strongly—on most issues pertaining to religious and sexual morality. But I also believe that the presence of his brand of faith-based social conservatism is essential in a free, secular, liberal society—as a necessary check on, and counterpoint to, permissive values. This conservative role depends on persuasion and dialogue, and on decency and civility. Progressives who see social conservatives as the enemy find this unacceptable; Ahmari wants to fight the culture war on their terms.

Of course liberalism is not perfect, and it may well be in need of a course correction. But for the foreseeable future, there is no better way. In that sense, we should all be Frenchists.

 

Cathy Young is a Russian-born American journalist and author. She is a columnist for Newsday, an associate editor for ArcDigital, and a contributing editor for Reason magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @CathyYoung63

Filed under: Culture Wars, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Top Stories

by

Cathy Young is a Russian-born American journalist and author. She is a columnist for Newsday and a contributing editor for Reason magazine. Her work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Weekly Standard, Foreign Policy, and Slate.

139 Comments

  1. Andrew Elsey says

    Your daily reminder that Google funds National Review, and that they do not represent the right any more than the Koch Brothers or “conservative columnist” Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post. With that in mind, I would consider the rest of this article a moot consideration

    • Corey Christensen says

      I enjoy National Review and subscribe to their magazine. I often disagree because it’s aggressively anti trump but it’s refreshingly undogmatic and frequently insightful.

      • b396863 says

        You say “aggressively anti-Trump” like it’s a bad thing. The man’s endless torrent of lies alone should disqualify him from holding any office, let alone the highest one in the land.

    • Heike says

      It’s not the National Review of William F. Buckley Jr. and hasn’t been for quite some time. It’s just another rag now. It doesn’t bear the standard of conservatism and anyone who claims so is badly out of touch.

  2. Corey Christensen says

    Oh my god i’m So bored of this topic. It’s all i’m hearing about today and literally neither of these two people matter. I never even heard of them until today and don’t intend to ever pay attention to them again. Who cares?

    Also, the title of this article could not be more hyperbolic. I thought I was in for a fascinating treat but instead I got yet another article about two nobodies fighting over nothing.

    • Andrew Scott says

      But someone got modern progressivism completely wrong, and didn’t you see the tweet about Locke not having chiidren? You’re either for or against anti-Frenchism, and it matters… to someone.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      Ms. Young said: ‘……..First Things has fairly clear integralist sympathies. Does Ahmari, a onetime atheist who converted to Catholicism three years ago?……’

      That greatly oversimplifies Ahmari’s background. Born after the 1979 revolution into a wealthy, Westernized Iranian family [his father secretly drank alcohol and watched American movies], Ahmari somehow ended up in a Utah trailer park with his mother after his parents’ marriage broke up. Disillusioned with the America that his family had idealized from afar, Ahmari drifted through a Nietzschean period, then a Marxist interval [he became a hardcore Trotskyite] before becoming a militant Catholic.
      Source – https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/sohrab-ahmari-conversion-catholicism/

      Ahmari’s intellectual path is similar to that trod by David Horowitz, Peter Collier, Eldridge Cleaver and others who have migrated from the far left to the far right without spending even a single day living in the political center.
      Source – https://alumni.berkeley.edu/california-magazine/spring-2019/strange-case-of-ex-radical-david-horowitz

      • Peter from Oz says

        JBN
        That is a good point. The right has many people in it who want to use the same leftist tactics they used when they were on the left themselves.

      • Kencathedrus says

        @Jack B. Nimble: ‘[…] who have migrated from the far left to the far right without spending even a single day living in the political center.’

        The far left and the far right are basically the same. Today’s social justice warriors are tomorrow’s fascists. Their transition is usually at the point where they realize the ‘left’ has abandoned or cheated them. Their pent-up self-hatred can now be released at others.

        We’re living in a time when people are becoming increasingly uneasy about living with ambiguities. This is because we no longer have a cohesive world view. An example of this is gay rights activism. What used to be a fringe movement is now a defining characteristic of the West. What’s turned people against it is the transgender element which many find hard to integrate into their belief system as this demands a suspension of logic and reason so as not to offend someone’s feelings. In Canada and the US this is being enshrined in law. I think issues like this is why the political center isn’t holding. The political center usually consists of people with a ‘live and let live’ attitude, but recent social justice issues have attacked this mentality as being complicit in racist bigotry. In doing so the far-left has actually produced the far-right. It’s a classic example of Henry James’ ‘The Turn of the Screw’ where the main character sees monsters everywhere without realizing she is the biggest monster.

      • C Young says

        thers who have migrated from the far left to the far right without spending even a single day living in the political center.

        Not to mention the neo-conservative Republican faction, who retain the vices of their trotskyite forebears.

      • macshush says

        You call Ahmari militant and far right and the article calls his article a screed. I suppose the use of hyperbole and smearing are examples of liberal civility?

    • Jeremiah says

      You subscribe to National Review yet you’ve never heard of David French?

  3. Anonymous says

    “But Ahmari gets modern progressivism completely wrong. For one thing, it is not individualistic or classically liberal but quite the opposite; its central value is collective identity.”

    Maybe for the rank and file. But the modern progressive elite activate selective identities for the larger purpose of breaking down communal chains so that its superior morality can make way. Activating a “faith” identity does nothing for that goal”.

    “Indeed, the Enlightenment itself has been under fire from the Left, accused of nothing less than spawning racism”

    They were racist after all. And as we well know that now makes their views suspect, no matter how closely held.

  4. Denny Sinnoh says

    Yet another brilliant author who is unable to distinguish between immigrants and illegal immigrants.

    • Victoria says

      Young’s relentless dishonesty on that point proves the conservative contention that classical liberalism becomes a destructive force to societal bonds and the rule of law after a certain point.

    • Anonymous says

      Speaking of, the right is so myopic on immigration

      “When affluent liberal societies become a magnet for immigration from less developed countries, migrants who do not share these societies’ values can have a disruptive effect if their numbers are large enough”

      Do not share their secular values. Do we really think, culturally, an immigrant from Guatemala is all that different from an evangelical Christian in Iowa? The Left’s critique of the Right, that they have no clue about communities of color, and see them as largely one block of people worldwide is largely correct. I would contend that if the center right, Trump and right wing Christianity decided tomorrow to support a full national mobilization on the border to support migrants and their families, and finally completely marginalized the white nativist elements in their coalition it would completely transform American politics.

      In this particular instance of public policy the state could support a faith led civic effort to engage at the border. Someone volunteering for a Catholic relief agency could receive a $3,000 a month stipend to go to the border and assist in efforts, or to sponsor a family in their home. The effort would feel truly organic organized at the community level, not imposed by a bureaucracy. A scary “theocratic restoration” indeed.

      • Owntown Darts Scene says

        “Do we really think, culturally, an immigrant from Guatemala is all that different from an evangelical Christian in Iowa?”

        Is this a trick question?

        Also, an interesting view that the Right are clueless about “communities of color”. What, they don’t get that it’s all “Black & Brown bodies” everywhere?

        • Anonymous says

          What I mean is that the nativist elements of the right tend to conflate non-whites culturally, such as Muslims fleeing to Europe = Central Americans fleeing to the U.S. It is largely Christians that are trying to enter the U.S currently, and they are certainly feeling the full force of our secular morality/neutral state.

          I think it boils down to this. The secular left on immigration: “Look at these marginalized communities, people of color dying at our border. It’s a moral travesty and the people involved with it (such as DHS officers) are racist for enforcing such rules. So what we need is a big government program to address this with lots of money, and, i assume, somewhere someone, people maybe, will do the actual work of bringing refugees into their communities, teaching them English, teaching them how to participate in American civic life. I don’t know any of them, but I assume people somewhere will want to do that. I read about it once in the NY Times”.

          The secular right on immigration: Look we’re super Christian everyone and not racist at all, and we’re all about helping people in need. But these “refugees”. Are they really “refugees”? Do they really need our help? I mean, some of them look like they have iPhones and stuff. And look, I see drugs! Do you really want these people in your communities just asking for a hand-out?

          • Jeremiah says

            No they’re absolutely not refugees under the UN definition. Theyre just migrants. Syrians trying to get to Europe actually were refugees because of the very bloody civil war, but not Central Americans coming to the US.

          • d a says

            @Anonymous,
            I used to be super liberal and now I am right-leaning libertarian. I am also a legal immigrant from Honduras. Went to university in rural Arkansas. Most people I met there were blue-collar, white, Christian conservatives. They were not at all opposed to LEGAL immigration and many in fact has Hispanic spouses. And I can tell you that the CA “refugees” are in fact economic migrants. I still have family in Honduras- everyone knows you just bring a kid, play the gangs are going to kill me to seek asylum. It’s a joke in Honduras how stupid gringos are for believing these people. wake up!

        • russellseitz says

          Since Guatemala has been massively and sucessfully catechized by American evangelicals, Iowans included, it is a very tricky question indeed.

          • Catholics are evangelicals? I am seriously asking because I don’t know what evangelical means anymore.

      • asdf says

        “Do we really think, culturally, an immigrant from Guatemala is all that different from an evangelical Christian in Iowa?”

        Yes. Blacks and white Christians express similar opinions on abortion, but one votes based on abortion and one votes based on affirmative action and welfare. One tries to lead a life of responsibility and support their own family, the other has record high rates of single motherhood and wants others to support their family.

        It takes a very superficial view of religion to think a surface level similarity on a few political bullet points means these people are the same.

      • peanut gallery says

        “Do we really think, culturally, an immigrant from Guatemala is all that different from an evangelical Christian in Iowa?” I don’t know much about Guatemala culture, but possibly yes. I’ve traveled a lot and I think that Americans, not traveling much and having few foreign neighbors, really don’t appreciate how different cultures from other countries can be. There can be completely different way of thinking about things you may not realize. Sure, as HUMANS, we all basically want to fulfill a few basic needs, but culturally how things are viewed and thought about can vary quite a lot. I know from lots of travel abroad and having a wife that is not from the US. This idea that you can just throw everyone together and automatically get along is a naive notion held by people that haven’t done much. YMMV. If everyone wants to be X nationality and that is their unifying idea, then you can make it work, but progressiveness actually works against this by design.

        • dirk says

          Agree fully here, peanut, and saw some examples of American tourists in Slovakia, really flabbergasted when hearing from the Slovakian guide that free market and democracy was not in all aspects so benign for the once Sovjet Slovakia, as it sometimes seemed, and amply described in the media.- But, but, but…., aren’t you all very happy then that it’s all over now???- one of them exploded. She could not convince the group, as flabbergasted as they were themselves

          Another thing: most larger European nations had colonies until rather recently, and had to cope (in law system, education, policy, ethics, work situations) with people rather different as they themselves were. I wonder, this must also have a big influence on, for example, problems with inclusion, diversity, open or silent racism and desegregation now in the US and Europe. Just look alone at Sweden, a smaller nation without that history of the larger nations.

    • Stephanie says

      “So far, at least, Trump’s effect on public opinion seems to be to shift it away from whatever he’s advocating: pro-immigration sentiment in America, for instance, is at a record high.”

      This is American sentiment following Trump. H1B visas are being approved like never before.

      It’s illegal immigration that Trump, and most Americans, have a problem with. It is an insult to everyone who comes in legally that some think they are entitled to skip the line. Without being able to make sure they aren’t trafficking drugs or children, that they aren’t felons, that they aren’t involved with gangs, the immigration system becomes a joke. Anyone can come back after you’ve deported them. This is a situation that Americans need to get control of.

      Build the wall, get rid of birthright citizenship, restrict the social safety net to citizens, and other common sense measures countries like Australia already employ, and you won’t have a problem. That does not need to be incompatible with a welcoming attitude towards immigrants.

      • Anonymous says

        Why does there need to be a line?

        In my mind this is the perfect example of an arena where the state could work directly with faith communities. I remember in the 90s and 00s it was ‘faith based initiatives’ we had to fear because they were bigoted and anti-science.

        Assisting refugees, at least from a Catholic perspective is a fundamental tenet of faith. In this vein the state could work with faith communities directly, provide cash money to sponsor jobs among people who want to assist immigrants, house them and integrate them into communities. The state would assist by providing a vetting process and holding sponsors and others accountable. This is but one idea. In this scenario immigration is more organic, organized and validated at the community level, not imposed by people that live thousands of miles away.

        It is not bigoted to raise a solid truth here: Christianity at its core has the best prescription for this particular problem, but the state and secular society puts a wall and/or border between Christians. But this type pf prescription is beyond the grasp of liberals because they believe their morality has won the war over religion and faith. In Europe they believed this sooner than here. Some of their leaders were so arrogant in the superiority of their morality that they invited hundreds of thousands of people with an entirely different faith tradition and culture into their communities, and assumed that all would be well. They assume their ‘faith’ was the same as everyone else. This isn’t to validate an argument that we should ban Muslins, but to argue that communities placing sensible boundaries around the flow of people into their community seems to be a pretty fundamental right.

        • Anon, Catholic Charities and its Lutheran counterpart are too busy helping settle muslims and have little time or incentive to help Christian “refugees”; and they’re earning cold hard big government cash in the process.

          Maybe they could focus on our communities in crisis – opioids, absent fathers, violence in schools, etc., and stop importing yet more people with massive problems to overwhelm scarce resources.

          • Benita, Bingo. Big UN/Federal money in it. I spent a year volunteering with Catholic Charities on resettlement back in the 90’s. They have quite the scam going on and locals have NO say. Federal housing, etc. I finally caught on to all the polygamous marriages that went on our welfare system. That and every kid had a birthday of Jan 1. Too backward to know when they were born.

    • James says

      Noted along with one or two other points she seems to take for granted. Otherwise a thoughtful deliberation of the juxtaposition of the basic sides of the very real culture war.

  5. WRS says

    This article provides a lot to chew on.

    Regardless of the individuals referenced, I think the important take away is the blossoming of these socio-cultural movements and their implications for liberal societies. Will liberal societies disintegrate as a result of cultural fragmentation? How do we navigate the growing divide between the cultural authoritarianism of the left and now the right (and should the right have responded this way)? Can we at all?

    Seems to me that a society with increasingly disparate values between political parties will be unsustainable. It’s one thing to disagree about foreign policy and who’s too rich, quite another when it’s different visions of who we are as a people, past and present.

    While it’s a shit show now, i’m more concerned it’ll be a tyrannical one, of one kind or another.

    • R O says

      Hold your horses! “Cultural authoritarianism of the … right (and should the right have responded this way?” assumes that the right is all on board with Ahmari. Not nearly. Even on First Things, there are many commenters on his article that disagree. David French has responded vigorously, and is supported by many on the right. This “discussion” on the Right is far from concluded, and I doubt it will for years, if ever.

  6. Carl Geier says

    I wonder which side Andrew Breitbart would take? Arguments among conservatives such as this make me miss him all the more.

  7. Anonymous says

    “Principled liberalism can be an ally against militant progressivism—whether in defense of free speech or of other values”

    But not if that principled liberalism is completely silenced on the Left, and that is what I see as today’s challenge. It could have been Biden as he was someone with the mainstream credibility to make the argument. The mainstream gasps for the Justin Amash’s of the world to stand up and put the brakes on Trump but no one on the Progressive left are willing to call this out and suffer similar ostracizing (maybe they don’t exist).

    “But when this demand focuses on rooting out (actually or allegedly) demeaning language, images, “tropes,” or ideas, it inevitably infringes on freedom of speech; and when it demands full, state-enforced acceptance of behavior many religions regard as morally wrong, whether it’s birth control usage or same-sex relationships, it is likely to trample on religious liberty.

    What if they start regarding faith itself as morally wrong: https://twitter.com/jeffcimmino/status/1138458413283860482. What if religious teaching itself is becomes demeaning language to the elite? What becomes the appropriate square for people of faith to address their social grievances?

    • Victoria says

      Amash, the man who co-owns a business in China and conveniently took a stand on tendentious ‘obstruction of justice’ claims weeks late, only when the issue of tariffs on China was dominating policy talks?

      My, my so “principled.”

    • Peter from Oz says

      What if they start regarding fifth itself as morally wrong?
      It’s already happening. Look up Israel Folau.

  8. Owntown Darts Scene says

    Well, there is a choice to be made in these matters, but it’s not necessarily between “decency and civility” on the one hand and “learning to love Trump” on the other. We don’t live in a world of optimal choices. So, you might find Trump ever so uncouth and even somewhat unhinged, but still consider that one unhinged guy is better than the ruthless machinery seeking to embed its reality-bending caste system into the very law of the land that ran against him. People generally don’t love the foam that comes out of a fire extinguisher either, but they’ll use it to put out a fire if and when it comes to that.

    To put it bluntly, the whole “Never-Trump” business strikes me as narcissistically preoccupied with a pristine, ivory tower remove from the perceived vulgarity of the man. But you don’t have to embrace him or his ways in order to recognize there is a bigger game afoot, nor do you have to become a shrieking hysteric akin to the Special Justice enthusiasts in order to oppose their depredations. By all means, do it with all the grace and honesty you can manage. Only, you need to do it firmly, not indulging their peculiar distortions in the hopes of “common ground”. That’s a misconception of “decency and civility”, exemplified by the sorry equivocations about the “intellectualism” of Vox and Guardian hacks that fellow Uri Harris saw fit to produce for this publication a short while ago.

    • Anonymous says

      I largely understand this, but there are those of us within the “ivory tower” so to speak who if we do speak out will likely be ostracized. And i’m not talking about Twitter. I’m not on Twitter. Its tied up in some of the very work I do, work that I continue to need to draw an income on. That doesn’t make it better, and is entirely my problem, but nonetheless…

      • Peter from Oz says

        Rubbish. You won’t be ostracised. You will actually win over a majority to your side, because only a tiny percentage of people agree with the progressive claptrap and they are all intellectual light weights.

        • asdf says

          “tiny percentage of people agree with the progressive claptrap and they are all intellectual light weights”

          Really? I’ve seen them win every cultural battle for fifty years, win a majority of the electorate in the last presidential election, have firm control of all major cities, companies, and most of the 1%. They have a lock on brown people simply by virtue of giving them welfare, and brown people will soon be a majority.

  9. Victoria says

    The notion NeverTrumpers, who have spent most of the past three years in non-stop vituperation of Trump voters and the man himself, including pushing the notion he perpetrated treason, an offense subject to the death penalty, are “civil,” is hypocrisy of the highest order.

    David French is a Pharisee, like the one who said “I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers.”

    Young is an ingrate, who after being taken in by the U.S. as a legitimate refugee, spends much of her effort promoting reckless mass migration, in which only a small portion legally qualify as refugees. Who needs the rule of law anyway?

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Victoria: What you are saying about immigration is explained by Kevin MacDonald’s ‘Culture of Critique’. I bought it days before it got banned from Amazon. I wasn’t sure at first about what he was saying, but because it got banned, it’s starting to make me wonder. It certainly didn’t contain anything hateful or offensive, as far as I could tell. It just made links between modern ideas and their creators.

  10. E. Olson says

    With the exception of Victor Davis Hansen, National Review has gone so Never-Trump that they are almost as crazy as Pelosi, Waters, and Nadler. NR bet their whole audience on Trump losing and they lost the election and much of their audience in not accepting the results and continuing to turn every Trump policy victory (that they should be happy about) into something negative. French is probably the worst of the NR bunch in that regard, and his analysis of the Mueller investigation was so over-the-top anti-Trump that is was almost funny. He never once doubted Trump’s guilt or the sanctity of the FBI or Mueller team, and continues to harp about Trump’s “obstruction” of an investigation into a crime that never happened. Andy McCarthy was also an anti-Trumper, but unlike French his analysis of Mueller eventually came around to the understanding that it was a total political frame-job by the corrupt Obama administration and DC swamp creatures. I used to enjoy reading French’s point of view even if I didn’t always agree, but he has become so unhinged by Trump I can’t stand to read him anymore.

  11. Constantin says

    If you did not read Cathy Young’s essay on Nabokov- find it now on Quillette because it is simply awesome! I think, however, that she is missing the mark in this one. I recommend following the links for the intellectual disputes among modern conservatives.
    While recognizing that identity politics pushed to the extreme by the radical left create tension between fundamental rights recognized by classical liberalism (radical equality demands conflicting with religious freedom and the most fundamental aspect of liberalism – which is freedom of speech), the author appears to believe that the conflict is not one of fundamental values but rather one of demands to root out “demeaning language, images, “tropes,” or ideas”. I am not sure what she means by it, but my interpretation of it is that she sees such a conflict as a marginal and insignificant aberration that does not threaten in any significant way the march of Enlightenment. The story of the Tower of Babel – one of the absolute foundational myths of our cultural heritage contains a serious warning against the cultural atomization of societies to a point beyond which only the abyss looms large. I note that, at least within the experience that I am sure I share with Ms. Young, liberalism has never really been experienced and tried within cultures and nations not characterized by very clear homogeneity of beliefs and customs. I would point out that I do not view the American experience as deviating from that model, as the American integration model, while extremely tolerant in some respects, has also been particularly ruthless in others. Perhaps the crisis that we are facing is not one of liberalism – per se – but rather one of fundamentally altering the foundation on which it has functioned relatively well historically. I think that only absolute naiveté could support a belief that liberalism could be only remaining unifying principle among people. I believe that it is a very useful construction but only for people united at a much deeper level by shared values, beliefs and even language. Seriously – who in his right mind would believe that the type of civic engagement needed to support a liberal democracy can be achieved among groups that cannot communicate with each other? The most fundamental thing about reality is that it is unavoidable. Sooner or later utopian and/or self-contradictory world views hit the wall. I do not think that the debate between David French, Sohrab Amhari, Yoram Hazony and others will impact in any significant way the march of history. The rise of populist nationalism in Europe did not follow an intellectual blue print. Nor did Donald Trump and 62,984,825 Americans who voted for him in 2016. In my view the intellectuals noted above merely squabble on the margins of phenomena they are grasping to understand like the rest of us. What I believe is truly remarkable, is that the backlash against illiberal impositions largely originating with the radicalized political Left, has not deviated in any significant way from the fundamental liberal template although the resulting anger is quite palpable. Trump has not dismantled courts yet, Hungary still held elections, etc. But, in my humble opinion, some worrisome signs point to the inevitable conclusion that the masses of people rattled by and dissatisfied with the post-modern intelligentsia’s project are willing to give some temporary dispensation from established democratic practice. Thus, in Poland, the population largely supported the forced retirement of an ideological cabal controlling their Supreme Court, while the Hungarians, Romanians and others in Eastern Europe grew wary of the pernicious effects of Soros funded NGO’s and wanted them evicted unceremoniously. The way I look at it is that the cup is still half full – but only if these populations continue to believe that they can rid themselves of these profoundly reviled influences by democratic means (by electing populists). I think it would be a grave mistake to sabotage that belief because democracy may suffer as a result and said dissatisfaction may find other and much graver ways of expression. I do not view any of these thinkers as “illiberal”. On the contrary, I think a timely and necessary discussion is starting concerning the foundation on which liberalism can thrive and whether exaggerating and amplifying beyond measure poorly grasped concepts may not imperil that very foundation. A good question is whether a national drive to preserve the Christian foundation of Hungary is a move towards “Theocratic restoration” or resistance in the face of it becoming a real threat from an unexpected direction? The answer seems to me much less clear than Ms. Young seems to think. The “theocracy” Hungarians cling to made Budapest the gay capital of the world. The one pushing at its borders still executes gays without mercy. Are they “jus dem farinae”, or one underwent an Enlightenment and the other did not? Unlike the author, I do not perceive the populist movements in Europe is illiberal. Instead, I believe them to be concerned with preserving a sustainable liberal model of governance, while also recognizing that it is a fragile construct largely dependent on a much deeper commonality of values and beliefs. Time will tell….

    • northernobserver says

      This is the point I wanted to make. Ms Young does not appreciate that there was an integral-ist backing to the liberal order we once lived in as recently as the 1990s. That backing was traditional Mainline Protestantism. As the Protestant churches of America have collapsed in attendance and divided into rainbow and pink/blue factions, a large cultural vacuum has opened up in North American society, a vacuum that has been largely filled by left wing revolutionary values, pushed by the Academe and their bastard children in the Media and NGO sphere. New Traditionalist Nationalism with its neo-integralism is a reaction to the successful seizure of The Culture by the Revolutionary Left. If Liberalism had the force or the energy to stop the revolutionary take over, it would have done so by now, it is the failure of the center, and frankly their destruction at the hands of the revolutionary mob – Ian Burma, Bret Weinstein, Al Franken, etc.. that calls out for a change in how we see the battle and how we fight it.

  12. Chris says

    It is frankly no consolation that Progressives will still be fighting each other in the ruins. The Kavanaugh and Covington events are enough to show that repeatedly winning by the skin of the teeth or successfully shooting endless rapids is not ok as a strategy.
    Civilisation is falling, and whose religious arms do you want it to fall into? Its not even a question of picking a poison – civilisation needs a backstop, otherwise it can get pushed anywhere. It will be religious. A rigorous Christianity looks the most liberal option

  13. bumble bee says

    “I’m not especially horrified by “Drag Queen Story Hour” (parents can choose whether or not to bring their kids, and while these events are obviously intended to promote acceptance of “gender fluidity,” they don’t seem to be particularly sexualized).”

    This little acorn of a statement holds the key to understanding the whole social dynamic we face as a society, and how dysfunctional it has become.

    So we have Drag Queen Story Hour being held at public libraries here and there across the country. Their purpose is to desensitize the very young to a group of citizens that the left feels has been maligned and marginalized.

    Their whole purpose of having this story hour is to show young children that those who are different from themselves are not to be feared, but are just like them. This follows the deep seated liberal tenet that people who look different really are not that different from you and me. That choosing to dress and present oneself as the opposite sex is nothing to be afraid of, they are nice people who just chose to live differently than what these young children are used to seeing.

    Now this liberal tenet has worked well is dispelling racial differences to fight racism, so why not use it for cross dressing individuals and by extension transgenders. The goal is to teach the very young early on so that as a society we will be accepting of others who do not conform to the traditional models of identity.

    What the supporters of this story telling cannot see, refuse to see, or perhaps just don’t care, is that those who are telling the story are not dressed in attire that even remotely resembles the opposite sex. The drag queens in question are not dressed in appropriate clothing that one may find any other person wearing. Instead, they are dressed in costumes that are quite terrorizing. Some look like they are actual demons with horns, scary makeup, clothing that looks like a Halloween costume. So rather than have a person who is a drag queen dress in a manner that is nonthreatening, customary, or as a celebrity knockoff, they invite those who look like they just came from the pit of Hell. These are not RuPaul drag queens, these are highly inappropriate people who have no concern for their “audience”, or the fact that they are young children. Why?

    We have people in decision making positions who lack any ability to make sound decisions allowing this to happen. We have irresponsible adults, including the parents, who are either so ignorant, afraid, or again just do not care, that they will put YOUNG children into a position to have to deal with seeing someone dressed in a manner that is so beyond the norm of their own lives. If they truly wanted to teach young children about those in society that are different, then why are they allowing something so outrageous that could actually damage young children.

    There are those who oppose these story times, but again they have been accused of being “dragphobic?”, of marginalizing and causing hatred to spread because what they see is not only devoid of what it was meant to be, but is being presented to young children who have zero concept of what is going on. In what universe is it acceptable to read The Giving Tree to those not even old enough to be in school by a person who has a face painted totally white with black lipstick and eye makeup, a purple wig with horns coming out, and a recycled gown who looks like the bride of satan.

    So this is not about story time where a carefully chosen book is read, but is a vehicle to desensitize young children to be just like them. It’s like a chicken pox party irresponsible parents hold to infect their child so they can get it out of the way, because it’s the latest fade to do. Where mommy will explain why so-and-so looks the way they do.

    We can see that there is a movement by liberals to get children younger and younger to accept things that on the surface seems noble, but they do not have the intelligence to see what they are actually doing and how they are doing it. These children are nothing more than pawns and they have zero regard for their well being becasue they are so tied up in their agenda. Then when you factor in low IQ parents who think they are doing good for their children, you have another instance of a failed liberal attempt to create future SJW. Anyone who speaks up is labeled as a hater.

    • Peter from Oz says

      I really wonder whether all this desenstising crap that the left goes on about has any value at all.
      My problem with the progressives is that they can’t take yes for an answer. They are so busy projecting their own inner bigotry on the right, that they have completely missed the fact that we just don’t care. We are not really offended by blokes in dresses, women on boards or homosexuals having a parade, what offends us is the self-righteousness of the activists who tell us they are doing these things to overcome our bigotry.
      For the last time, activist loonies, we don’t hate you because your gay, lesbian, female, trans,”of colour” or whatever, we hate you because your politics are evil and need to be rejected as the road to serfdom.

      • ga gamba says

        I really wonder whether all this desenstising crap that the left goes on about has any value at all.

        We’re a couple decades into this “desenstising crap” and given the great difficulty many of the beneficiaries have with uni lecture topics, course subjects, book contents, and words themselves, apparently it’s been a flop.

  14. Progressives do not demand acceptance, but total and complete acquiescence to a worldview that demands everyone but the responsible party must pay the price of an individual’s choices. As a reformed libertarian, I have no intention to vacate my foxhole.

    • TarsTarkas says

      HS:
      If you read the social mobbing knitting circle articles on this site, you will see acquiescence isn’t enough for Progressive Tyrannists, they want enthusiastic affirmation and support. It’s like they are Stalin and his henchman standing in front of an assembly watching cowed subjects cheer wildly, waiting to see which of them first falter in their frenzied clapping. And when they do . .

      • Nakatomi Plaza says

        Stalin? Why not Hitler? Throw in some Mao and a little Pol Pot while you’re at it.

        I really don’t get how you guys can be this stupid. You complain about how horrible and judgmental progressives are, while you compare them to Stalin! Quillette: the internet’s premiere provider of irony.

        • Kencathedrus says

          @Nakatomi Plaza: every time you post, you prove their point (ie by being ‘horrible and judgmental’). It’s good to provide counter-arguments to an article or comment, but you never do. You simply add fuel to the fire.

        • Chris says

          NP…I don’t get it. Really I don’t. You blow all this hot air about have stupid everyone here at Quillette is and how shallow the commenters are etc. and yet here you are once again.

          Why not just go somewhere else. Seriously, go away. Or at least make an attempt at a counter argument.

      • Rather like their concept of compromise. Perfect example their gun control pitches. The NRA won’t compromise they say. But what they mean is the NRA won’t give us what we want. They never offer anything in return. It is always what they want. They retort but we aren’t asking for everything,just this little thing. But it’s never enough. They always ask for more and more. And never give anything in return. Obama was great at this, he’d accuse his opponents of not compromising while offering them nothing. When the left says compromise they mean capitulation.

    • H3artless Tinman says

      The irony being that this sounds exactly like leftist complaints about the Christian right.

      • @H3artless Tinman
        The left learned long ago that subverting society’s rules was far more effective than playing by them. Don’t blame me for noticing their success and adapting accordingly.

  15. Sean Leith says

    I don’t care what you believe. If you are never Trumper, I will call you stupid. I am that arrogant. Donald Trump is probably one of greatest US Presidents statistically. I mean factually. I don’t think you can say, I just don’t like him no matter how great he is.

    • TarsTarkas says

      I never liked Trump and still don’t. I dislike his coarse discourse and combativeness, I am keenly aware of his business track record and how he stiffed many many contractors over the years. I voted against HRC, not for him, because IMO she was far more corrupt and venal. But even though I disagree with some of his policies, he has been a wonderful wonderful CEO of the USA. To paraphrase the second-greatest President of the country, we cannot spare this man. He fights, for America.

      The problem with the David Frenches of the world is that they cannot get past Trump’s personality. It seems to me that to them that the most important attribute of a President is to act dignified and be well spoken. Well, we had eight years of teleprompter lectures and scoldings, and a bad eight years it was. Sheer laziness was all that kept it from being far worse. Trump has earned the MSM’s utter fury by bypassing their information filter, speaking directly to the people, and the rage of the policy ‘experts’, showing them up by succeeding where they have repeatedly failed. The roaring economy, the negotiations with North Korea (even though they are currently an impasse due to the trade war), the direct confrontation with the Han Empire over their their theft, protectionism, and double-dealing, the facing down of AMLO, the defeat of the attempted coup (which was a far more determined and intricate plot to take down a president than Watergate was), are just some of his successes. And where he has failed he and his team have at least revealed to the world those opposing him for what they are; greedy, unprincipled, power-hungry. They were so sure HRC would win despite her corruption, sloppiness, laziness, and flat-out amorality that they didn’t think they need to buy a landslide. Their mistake. 2020 may be for all the marbles for this country’s future.

      • Roymunson says

        Excellent response esp re Lincoln on Grant. 100% agree on that.

        He. Fights.

      • E. Olson says

        TarsTarkas – wow, what an excellent comment. If you were writing for NR their subscriber list would be expanding rather than contracting.

      • @TarsTarkas, excellent comment! Besides, I have had m fill of slick and deceptive career politicians who get rich IN office while regulating my business to death.

      • Kevin Herman says

        What a lazy piece written by a 20 percenter. That’s roughly the amount of people when polled agree with her open borders nutterism. I couldn’t bring myself to read all of it as i find this inter right squabbling a waste of time. As much as David French sometimes annoys me he is not Matt lewis, Bill kristol, Bret stephens, max boot, David brooks, or any other of a 1000 clowns claiming to be conservatives but not being anything remotely resembling one. As for trump I’m the rare issues voter I could give a rat’s ass about voting for someone “like me” or who i would want to have a beer with. I vote for whoever i think will pursue the policy agenda I support. Trump has done very well on that front although mildly disappointed he has not been able to repeal the monstrosity that is obamacare.

        • I am a policy voter, too. Could care less about personality. I am thankful not to have to hear anymore school marm staccato lectures from Obama. And I refuse to see any president as my “parent” as Michelle opined in a speech about her and Barack as our “good parents”. Sheesh! That’s how the left saw them. The left and their totalitarianism.

      • H3artless Tinman says

        Let’s be honest, Trump is corrupt, sloppy, lazy, and amoral, he just happens to be on the right side of things.

      • R O says

        Speaking of “Han empire”, you might want to check the SciFi classic that engendered Buck Rogers (sorta, kinda…),
        Armagedden 2419 A.D. (Note that is exactly 400 years in the future; I think it may have written just 100 years ago for a 500 year projection from then) and its sequel, The Airlords of Han. Everyone in the SciFi world thought it a silly notion 50 years ago, or so, when I first read it. Now, maybe not so silly…

        https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/armageddon2419-ad-and-the-airlords-of-han-philip-francis-nowlan/1122812011?ean=9780486795409

  16. David of Kirkland says

    “Last year, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Christian baker who had refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, accepting his argument that his religious liberty was violated when the Colorado Commission for Civil Rights rejected his faith-based objection as a mere cover for prejudice. ”
    That’s incorrect. No baker who sells to the public is allowed to refuse to provide baked goods to someone because of any “protected class.” I still await a baker saying he refuses to tell to a fat person, or an ugly person, or a stupid person, etc…
    The courts ruled that Colorado abused and disparaged the baker’s religious rights in coming to their conclusion, and THAT violated the baker’s rights, not that anybody ha a right not to sell your wares to homosexuals (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masterpiece_Cakeshop_v._Colorado_Civil_Rights_Commission)

    • Stephanie says

      The Christian Baker has never refused to sell to someone because of their sexuality. He does refuse to artistically express opinions he disagrees with. Compelled speech has no place in a free country.

    • a bee ee? says

      And the baker in question did not refuse to provide baked goods to anyone, protected class or otherwise. He simply refused to produce a specific product, and he would have refused that product to anyone, protected class or otherwise, as well.

      Maybe in Kirkland you can order a kosher deli to serve you a ham and cheese sandwich.

    • asdf says

      It’s important to remind people that the court didn’t really protect this guy in any meaningful sense. His business and life are still ruined, and the hounding won’t ever stop. People react to the weakness of liberalism by abandoning it.

  17. Richard Aubrey says

    Quick nit to pick: If a public school did/does something like Drag Queen, any opt-out provision for parents might not be honored. Such has happened before. You have to take your kid to the library for the show. In school….he’s already there.

  18. Andreas K. says

    I’m largely apolitical, so this is the first I have heard about any such trend. By apolitical, I mean that despite my very intractable positions, I don’t keep up with politics or agitate myself needlessly by following the news. However, to the subject of the article, I can only note that if you’re conservatively inclined, then you’re rightly obliged to consider that classical liberalism has not so much failed Americans as Americans have failed classical liberalism.

    Indeed, if you go back and read through the papers of the Revolutionary generation and the politics of their new-made country, you will find that apart from among the most terminally utopian optimists there was widespread, open agreement that only a disciplined, religious (they used the word in a much broader, humanistic way than we do), moderately hierarchical, and relatively homogenous community would be able to sustain the system without fragmenting into hostile, mutually exclusive tribes. The less like themselves and their own way of life, the less they predicted their system could endure. Thus they regularly spoke about different places adapting rights to the unique character and prejudices those particular nations. A great deal of their waffling over the twin issues of race and slavery — prior to the cotton boom of the 1810s-1850s seducing everyone with dollar signs in their eyes — appears to wrestle more with pessimism about America remaining possible with a truly diverse citizenry on that scale. Well, nowadays we aren’t quite that pessimistic, having learned to recognize the powerful influences of ideology and a certain inevitable degree of assimilation. And that is to say nothing about the unprecedented new world brought on by the Industrial Revolution.

    Nevertheless, for anyone to throw up their hands and despair of the whole theory ultimately shows they never troubled themselves to get to know their beloved Founding Fathers in the first place. If the old newspapers, letters, and books they wrote are anything to go on, their generation never claimed the American model magically could be plucked out of context and enacted upon entirely different, unprecedented social and economic conditions and promise identical results. That is, or that was, the whole premise of American conservatism: To adapt to new and unprecedented realities in such a way as to preserve eternal principles, and to perpetuate the prerequisite attitudes about Man underpinning them, with minimal discontinuity.

    But somewhere along the way, it has come to mean instead simply a stubborn reimplementing of specific policies, entirely without regard to circumstances or conditions or context.

  19. AntonyG says

    Liberalism or more accurately classical liberalism is not what you think it is. Most people would automatically assume that classical liberalism is a worldview focused on the individual and individualism. But please note, during what might be considered the golden age of classical liberal which lasted for about two hundred years (1750-1950) almost nobody lived as an individual. In fact, all of the evidence suggests that classical liberal societies were highly collectivist. Almost Borg-like. Importantly, this was a bottom-up form of collectivism where family, community and the Church set the agenda.

    It was a period of extreme uniformity. Maybe best exemplified in the way we taught our kids. Classrooms full of uniformed children sitting at their desks arranged in perfect straight rows chanting out the times table. Discipline. Order. Everything in it’s rightful place. One way of doing virtually everything. From one way of having sex—the missionary position—to one way of dressing for work. There were uniforms everywhere. Everyone got marriage. Everyone had children. Population levels during this time sky-rocketed. Large stable family units. And remember this was a period when consumerism—due to benefits of the Industrial Revolution—was booming. Levels of religiosity and conscientiousness went up considerably, especially during the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

    The modern obsession with the individual and individualism didn’t arrive until the 20th century, and more particularly the mid-late 20th century. Individualism is almost entirely a product of socialist policies like welfarism and the welfare state in addition to the highly subversive strategies, such as Critical Theory, which aimed to destroy institutions like the family and the concept of marriage. We saw this most in the black community where family life literally disintegrated when welfare state programs took over the role of the traditional family structure. The political right has completely appropriated this manufactured individualism, and are literally consuming the fall out from the destruction caused by their ideological enemy.

    • Insofar as these “classical liberal” societies were characterized by order and discipline and the suppression of the individual, they were as yet “liberal”.

      Values and traditions from older ideologies were still operative and the lip-service paid to “liberal values” was just that, lip service.

      As different groups rallied to the liberal cause and demanded that their liberty and rights should be just as valued and protected as the liberty and rights of wealthy white men, the “order and discipline” broke down. Beginning with men without sufficient property, then women, then non-whites, as the liberal franchise was extended to more people, so-called “classical liberals” pointed to the breakdown of order and discipline.

      Because like Cathy Young and most of the alt-right types on this website who consider themselves “classical liberals”, these people are only liberal to the extent that their faction receive full liberal rights and freedoms.

      For the rest, there are all the racist, sexist, classist strictures provided by any ideology other than liberalism that does the job.

      Not very liberal of them, really.

  20. Stephanie says

    I agree with the author that the left’s recent demands can hardly be considered “liberal.” Someone is free, for instance, to identify as the opposite sex (or a goldfish), but liberalism also means no one else needs to accept that identification, let alone treat them as such.

    That being said, I don’t think one person I’ve never heard about publishing one article constitutes sufficient evidence for “the rise of the illiberal right.” There was no explanation of why Trump should be considered illiberal, the author just assumed that the reader will take that for granted. This is typical of the MSM but Quillette should aim to be above that.

    • On the basis of what tenet of liberalism are hotel owners, restaurateurs and other business owners required to serve black people?

    • On the basis of what liberal tenet are hotel owners, restaurateurs and other business people required by law to serve black people or Muslims or trans people?

    • H3artless Tinman says

      I think when the president repeatedly called for his political opponent to be locked up was when people started thinking of him as illiberal. The fact that Nancy Pelosi is doing it now is just as bad.

      • Stephanie says

        Trump calling for Clinton to be locked up wasn’t for no reason, it was because she engaged in more egregious conduct than people who had gone to jail, but was let off because of corruption. General Petraeous was sentenced to two years probation for showing his personal diary that contained sensitive material to his mistress and biographer. That is a much more minor offence than having a ton of classified information on a hackable server, destroying the evidence when it came to light, and avoiding prosecution through corrupt means.

        Not only has Clinton faced no consequences, the investigative apparatus has turned its attention to Trump, despite there being no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part. That the media and Democrats are grasping at straws to find something objectionable and talking imprisonment is actually illiberal, not the desire for the rule of law to apply to everyone equally.

  21. augustine says

    But Ahmari gets modern progressivism completely wrong. For one thing, it is not individualistic or classically liberal but quite the opposite; its central value is collective identity.

    I would say progressivism’s core value is identity, period. The question still begs, what liberal subset is now pushing autonomy and individualism so furiously? Not progressives?

    Liberal thinking generally adheres to individual liberty, extending to extreme autonomy in its more radical forms. Curiously, it posits universal principles or values at the same time. It has derived a great deal of political and cultural power by deftly managing societal perception within these seemingly contradictory polarities. Where people actually dwell– in groups defined by religion, ethnicity, language, family, nation, and so on, liberalism has no interest except to denounce (as racist or discriminatory) or obfuscate. Thus liberals have staked out their territory, quite successfully, and conservatives continue to play defense because that is their natural position.

    Thoughtful essay, thank you.

  22. 370H55V says

    Oh what horseshit. I expect better from you, Cathy.

    While it is true we won’t be embracing Catholic “integralism” in the US anytime soon, Europe is experiencing the advance of its own form of “integralism”. It’s called “sharia”.

    French’s failure is that he expects to prevail by persuasion alone and his narcissistic belief that his ideas are so superior and so common sense that anyone else would simply just have to agree. Obviously a lot of others feel the same about their ideas as well, but they have no problem using any means necessary to advance them. Hence the doxing of Nick Sandmann and the Philadelphia teenagers at a pro-life gathering (by a local state rep no less!), the almost fatal assault on Sen. Ron Paul, the harassment of Republican figures at restaurants, James Hodgkinson’s attack on GOP House members that almost killed Rep. Steve Scalise, “assassination chic” among our betters regarding President Trump, the doxing of a black fork-lift operator from the Bronx because he had the temerity to make a video mocking Nancy Pelosi . . . shall I go on?

    The fact is that our side has been on the receiving end of innumerable acts of violence since Jan 20, 2017. French offers no solution but capitulation, and Ahmari doesn’t go far enough. Time to stop maundering about the First Amendment and start telling them “No, WE will tell YOU what you can think or say!” and back it up with force. Only then will they back off when they realize we mean business.

    • H3artless Tinman says

      I’d like to point out (if anyone cares) that Ron Paul was assaulted because he’s a shit neighbor not because he’s a shit politician.

      • 370H55V says

        Right. Another MSM lie. And it’s OK to assault someone because he’s a “shit neighbor”?

    • R O says

      It seems you have not read much of French’s articles on NR. He usually makes very good cases for his viewpoint (classic conservative/liberal/whatever) on his topic. He has fought the good fight for years in print, speech, and the courtroom.

      His key point in this brouhaha, I believe, is not to descend to the vicious level of proAGgressives, but to try to maintain civilized standards of engagement that are necessary to sustain a civil society. The fight has gotten a lot nastier since the 1970’s, or so. If we give up on civility (what I thought Quillette was started to preserve?), then we will continue our descent into a social and political jungle.

  23. Dirtnapninja says

    Conservatives are useless, because they cannot conserve.
    Libertarians are useless because they fail to secure liberty
    Classical liberals are useless because the enemy dips from the same well

    There is only power and the will to use it. And its past time we used that power to defeat our enemies, enforce our will and to hell with the naysayers.

  24. GSW says

    “The demand for equal rights and dignity for groups that have been subjected to historical discrimination or even dehumanization—women, racial and religious minorities, the LGBT community, the disabled—is a welcome and necessary extension, or fulfilment, of the liberal idea.” @Cathy Young

    Americans just seem completely unable to stop confusing themselves by conflating liberalism as a tradition in political thought and liberals/liberalism as progressive political partisans with their policy causes du jour.

    Classical liberals like Locke and 19th century social welfare liberals like John Stuart Mill were NOT about “equal rights and dignity for groups.” They were concerned about the rights of individual citizens in relation to the power of the state. Identity politics (i.e.blood determinism) is most definitely not an extension of liberal principles, rights for migrants is to settle and claim citizenship illegally is not a development based in liberalism, and so on. However much progressives try to put makeup on their pig, collective rights are illiberal in their essence.

  25. derek says

    Again, someone utterly missing the point.

    Libertarians and Classical liberals listen up. Someone is going to run things, take power, and influence the culture and direction of the country. If you don’t, someone else will. If you don’t strongly support a way of life, in policy and action, the drag queen will.

    I have described much of what has gone wrong over the last couple decades as very large holes that someone drove a truck through. The holes are where those who should know better didn’t bother looking, didn’t bother looking after. They were obvious at the time to many people, except those closest to where things could be decided. There has been an active and vigorous effort to impose a reality on things, abetted by the structural unaccountability that defines so many aspects of governance and media. Even in law; politicians have actively removed the decisionmaking required to accomplish things from their purview; they have delegated almost all government power to bureaucrats. Nothing matters.

    Hence the large holes that anyone from the Saudi terrorists who flew planes into New York, to the manipulative financiers who almost brought down the world economy, to Putin who can’t help driving through a hole that someone opens up for him to the hordes showing up at the borders. Even this wholeTrump Mueller thing, where unaccountable bureaucrats with enormous power get every pass from almost everyone in media, government. Leaving a huge hole where government agents talk openly of challenging the electorate. And of course Trump who saw a hole and went full speed right through it showing how exposed that classic liberalism was to challenge from someone who dared challenge them.

    Ms Young doesn’t want a priesthood to impose a morality on the country. Sorry, it already is. Trump has quite effectively challenged, mocked and humiliated the modern priesthood, leaving a hole for someone like French to walk into. But these people are as blind today as they were over the last two decades, never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

    • AntonyG says

      Liberalism or more accurately classical liberalism is not what you think it is. Most people would automatically assume that classical liberalism is a worldview focused on the individual and individualism. But during what might be considered the golden age of classical liberalism which lasted for about two hundred years (1750-1950) almost nobody lived as an individual. In fact, all of the evidence suggests that classical liberal societies were highly collectivist. Almost Borg-like. Importantly, this was a bottom-up form of collectivism where family, community and the Church set the agenda.

      It was a period of extreme uniformity. Maybe best exemplified in the way we taught our kids. Classrooms full of uniformed children sitting at their desks arranged in perfect straight rows chanting out the times table. Discipline. Order. Everything in its rightful place. One way of doing virtually everything. From one way of having sex—the missionary position—to one way of dressing for work. There were uniforms everywhere. Everyone got marriage. Everyone had children. Population levels during this time sky-rocketed. Large stable family units. And remember this was a period when consumerism—due to benefits of the Industrial Revolution—was booming. Levels of religiosity and conscientiousness went up considerably, especially during the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

      The modern obsession with the individual and individualism didn’t arrive until the 20th century, and more particularly the mid-late 20th century. Individualism is almost entirely a product of socialist policies like welfarism and the welfare state in addition to the highly subversive strategies, such as Critical Theory, which aimed to destroy institutions like the family and the concept of marriage. We saw this most in the black community where family life literally disintegrated when welfare state programs took over the role of the traditional family structure. The political right has completely appropriated this manufactured individualism, and are literally consuming the fall out from the destruction caused by their ideological enemy.

      • dirk says

        This haunting individualism found its culprit here in Holland last week, where an anorexic girl of 17 chose for an early death, with more or less consent of the parents and the youth welfare services and institutes. – What can we do? She wants it herself, it’s her own wish-.

        Another girl of 7, part of a kids song contest, asked what was most important for her by a journalist. – Be yourself, follow your heart !! –

        Things unimaginable in my youth. Where are we going??

  26. Zachary Snowdon Smith says

    “Yes to drag; no to kimonos.” All of Cathy Young’s articles have at least one nice turn of phrase like this one.

  27. Anon says

    Consider that classical liberal society was predicated on an assumption of a populace with just a few common values and principles. There is no need to go to the extreme of integration of a religious sect, but when we have gone to the extreme of children deciding what gender they are and a marriage being something other than one man and one woman, the temptation to balance it with another extreme will arise and not be easily dismissed.

    We need a common language, rule of law, a common understanding of what is an outrage and what is not, and a common agreement on the proper roles of people in the society: parents, children, teachers, property owners, tenants, and public officials. The alternative is authoritarianism where a government cobbles together rules ad hoc for survival. A religion offers that but so does the traditional civil society, we will need to pick one or the other.

  28. Peter from Oz says

    In days of old Cockneys developed cockney rhyming slang so as to have a secret language in which they could discuss various nefarious dealings without being understood by the authorities.
    In the 20th century the gays did the same, by inventing Polari.
    It seems to me that the way things are going, conservatives and classical liberals are going to have to invent a Polari of their own, because much of the normal language they use will be criminalised or made socially unacceptable.

    • Harland says

      Makes it all the easier to detect and ban them when a keyword is noticed by the AI that is always looking over our shoulders.

      Honk honk.

  29. codadmin says

    ” In reality, gay white males are under attack as too privileged; the feminist movement has been tearing itself apart over “intersectionality” ”

    This is because the ‘culture war’ is now morphing into a ‘race war’.

    It’s always really been about race, anyway, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to people.

  30. Ferry Lone says

    There’s a point to be made here about how marginal catholic integralists are inside their own church who is by now (specially under this Pope) mostly a force for progressivism. Also, they seem to forget that there was a kind of Catholic political project done but it’s not Poland or Hungary – who are much more autocratic leaning State projects using religion as a tool for political legitimacy than the other way around – it was Latin America during the leftist wave that bought to power Kirchner, Evo, Correa, Lula, Chavez/Maduro and so on. A lot of the grassroots of all those parties had close relations with the Catholic Church (when it was not trained inside) and they where strongly inspired by the Liberation Theology.

    They talk Poland but would end up with something like Argentina. To be fair though, the scorn they have for liberalism and America’s founding ideals is probably not the only ground they share with the militant left-wing-catholic factions. They must agree on a lot from anti-capitalism to authoritarian government. That would explain why the hell a catholic tradicionalist is wasting time fighting against american conservatives instead of facing the ruble in their own church.

  31. “But Ahmari’s quarrel with him is twofold. One, “Though culturally conservative, French is a political liberal, which means that individual autonomy is his lodestar: He sees ‘protecting individual liberty’ as the main, if not sole, purpose of government.” Two, French is a naïve believer in pluralism and civil engagement who refuses to see politics as “war and enmity”: he wants to persuade, rather than “fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.”

    This is a load of hogwash. French is nothing but an establishment elitist who wants to keep his place in the DC caste system. Been following him for years. He basically thinks people like me are ignorant rubes. He doesn’t want to “persuade” unless that means insulting his shrinking audience. He belongs in the same DC kennel as Bill Kristol, Max Boot and George Will.

    I don’t know much about Ahmari but will check him out. Thanks for that. Sheesh.

    • GSW says

      “This is a load of hogwash. French is nothing but an establishment elitist…” @Lydia00

      French can be ‘the worst person in the world’ and still be right in this case to stick up for classical liberal individual political rights in contrast to Ahmari who seems to be channelling Rousseau’s collectivist/totalitarian “General Will” when he promotes a state “re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.”

  32. principled liberalism can be an ally against militant progressivism—whether in defense of free speech or of other values. Last year, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Christian baker who had refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, accepting his argument that his religious liberty was violated when the Colorado Commission for Civil Rights rejected his faith-based objection as a mere cover for prejudice. “

    He was just recently sued— again. Whats that? Third or 4th time. What’s your argument for French again?

  33. Kathy was triggered by any mention of Christianity in – wait for it – a CHRISTIAN NATION. Up until 40-50 years ago, the West was referred to as “Christendom” interchangeably. I find many ginned up activists today don’t know this or the massive importance of Christianity to the rise of classical liberalism. Hint: The Enlightenment never happens with out Christianity. The “Age of Reason” was born in Christianity. The modern world itself does not arise without Christianity.

    Almost all “sides” in this dialog are stupid and angry and there isn’t much conversation possible as this article proves. I’ll leave a few points for folks here to chew on who want to go deeper into the issues at stake in this discussion.

    First – Conservatives do not have to abandon the classical liberal order to reject the “radical egalitarianism” of Progressives, Marxists, Socialists and others. But most conservatives haven’t reconciled their own beliefs, so when they argue with Leftists they tie themselves up in knots. Cathy does this in this essay. Hint: The most important aspect to get in this discussion is that classical liberalism does not claim to have axioms and scientific certainty that are always and everywhere applicable and “right” and “good”. Nope, rather, classical liberalism is essentially a set of heuristics that we use to reason our way to a free society with a govt that protects a nation and protects maximal human freedom.

    What the classical liberal order is supposed to do is limit govt extremely, particularly the federal/national govt. What Cathy and many others in this debate don’t get is that we abandoned much of our constitutional order already. The federal govt is already way too involved in our social order. And the old saying holds, “he who pays the piper calls the tune”. When we on the right acquiesced to federal control of all education, retirement security, social safety nets and so many other aspects of our lives, we granted fed govt far too much authority in our lives.

    Second – The alt right is enamored with the likes of Spengler and Evola and these days Deneen and others who reject classical liberalism, and see it as a mistake. Talkers on this subject reduce conservative ideas to “civic nationalism”. What’s saddest about this essay is that Cathy is apparently ignorant of the state of this intellectual dialog on the Alt Right. Fyi, on the mainstream right there simply isn’t a real conversation about this yet, but it’s starting, and in the wrong ways in my estimation. Cathy could have visited say Counter-Currents run by alt right intellectual superstar Greg Johnson and gotten a much deeper sense of the critique of liberalism the alt right holds. But she doesn’t bother. Fyi, I believe their critique is wrong, but it is very well formed. It can be discussed intellectually but Cathy doesn’t bother.

    Last – Religion isn’t dying, despite the hopes of Cathy and many others in our society. Those of us who are faithful are reacting to the nonstop social and political assault on Christianity. We are not trying to implement a theocracy, rather we are trying to preserve the character of our innately Christian society. Hint: A christian society is one informed by Christian values and the West’s culture, in every nation, is born of Christianity. Many “Jewish agnostics” like Cathy Young have always hated this truth.

    What are we saying, really? We are saying to all you Progressives and agnostics and atheists a very simple thing: Get over it. Christians and Christianity are crucial in U.S. society. We won’t be set aside or dismissed. We’ve played along nicely for a while be we see now what “agnostics” do to a society and we have had it with them.

    One more thing. Cathy’s assertion that “Drag kids” doesn’t overdo the sexualization of children is simply a lie. Drag is about men dressing up in a sexually provocative way as a woman and performing in sexually suggestive ways. Not pornographic necessarily, but highly sexualized in every way. That she cannot admit this, that she pretends to take a clinical pose and claim it’s not what it so plainly is reveals (once again) Cathy’s own confusion and discomfort with traditional morality.

    Maybe I can put it even more clearly. We never voted to have mass perversion and deviant sexuality promoted to our society by the govt and it’s activist minions in NGOs, non-profits, educational institutions etc. There is ZERO democratic basis for these depraved actions to be publicized to children, the people haven’t voted on this and would never. The idea that I shouldn’t find “Drag Kids” perverted, sick and depraved and utterly wrong to expose children to is quite stunning. I’m curious, why does Cathy think my values and views on this don’t matter? Why does she believe she can squint, spin and then claim “it not sexualized”? Certainly not based on facts or objective standards.

  34. Memetic Tribe says

    @bumblebee @kencathedrus

    Thanks for recognizing this major flaw in the Young piece. The bit about drag Queen story hour.

    I would add that the drag Queen story hour has everything to to do sexuality, and it’s being pandered to kids. The Queens wear choke collars. They are a charicature of some fictional, whorish female. One, in San Francisco has been arrested on child pornography charges.

    I am never going to take Cathy Young’s advice and better tailor my reactions to constant, repulsive cultural advances from leftism. That’s what this is about. They attack, constantly. And we (conservatives) react.

  35. asdf says

    In the 1960s, liberalism was about self indulgence. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Liberalism stood up for free speech because it felt like a good strategy for breaking down conservative mores and getting more Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. When that was accomplished, there was no more need for free speech advocacy.

    But there is a problem. Someone has to pay for self indulgence. And that someone is going to be YOU. Over the years lots of reasons have had to be invented to explain why you have to pay, but you have to pay. Lots of different coalitions have been carved together to make you pay, and they have shifted somewhat (Appalachians were IN during Bill Clinton, OUT during Hillary Clinton). But at the end of the day it’s always been a “Who, Whom” power grab with whatever bullshit justification thrown on top you want.

    On top of that it was really inconvenient that not everyone could be anything, despite all those cultural messages saying as much. So that too must come to pass, and if it has to come at your expense so be it.

    That’s the left. It’s basically radical individualism, so liberalism deserves a knock too. The radical individual takes what he wants, when he wants, however he wants, with no restraints on his actions or methods. Will he lie? Sure. Will he disguise his selfishness under good intentions? Sure. Will he endorse group based identity politics if its expedient to fulfilling his individual desires? Sure. Why not?

    For fifty years one side played a brutal “Who, Whom?” strategy that would use ideology when it was useful but didn’t really give two shits about it. The other side kept thinking that it was debating something like “The Truth.” The people committed to power by any means kept winning.

    I think a lot of people felt that liberalism would protect them. However, reality has show it won’t. Its ineffectiveness is what drives people away. You can’t lost every battle for fifty years, in an accelerating way with no reason to believe things will turn around and think you are on the right course and no change is needed.

    For people who had more liberal views to begin with (they liked their sex and drugs, a think a lot of Quillette falls into this category), this is only a recent thing. Like things only got off the rails in the last 5-10 years or whatever. To those that think the sexual revolution was more bad than good…this just seems like a continuation of a lot of bad trends that have been going on for fifty years.

    Ones reaction to Drag Queen Story hour is a pretty good dividing line. If you look at this picture and see something Demonic, you think enough is enough. If you think “that’s a fun an amusing novelty I would love to see at a street fair” then I don’t think you can ever understand.

    http://1ryzas42x65e2oosia40bgli.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/drag.jpg

    https://assets.lifesitenews.com/images/made/images/remote/https_www.lifesitenews.com/images/local/desmond_is_amazing_tweets_645_794_75.jpg

  36. JamieM says

    “anti-racism training in New York City schools highlighted the fact that a slide presentation at one workshop listed “individualism” as a part of “white supremacy culture””

    The most concerning things are so often mentioned as asides. I don’t really care about the opinions of the two people in the article, but it does concern me that kids are being taught to view the world through these poisonous, deranged lenses.

    • Anon says

      That’s no surprise that individualism would be defamed so, being identity politics is fully dependent on collectivism so extreme that even members of the favored identity groups are strongly discouraged from individual dissent. They call it “solidarity,” I call it “cynically using people.”

  37. cfkane1941 says

    I’m often confronted with people born in other countries that seem to “get” America even better than Americans do, probably because of their different perspective. People like Salman Rushdie and the conservative movie critic Titus Techera.

    Cathy Young, not so much.

  38. Fred says

    The author’s reading of the SCOTUS decision in the Phillips case is flawed. The Court emphatically did NOT decide that the Colorado Civil Rights Commision violated Phillips’ rights by attempting to force him to participate in a ceremony to which he had religious objections. It decided that the Commision violated his rights because it reached its decision based on hostility toward his faith. And the Court reached that judgement based on statements made about said faith by individual Commision members. A “Civil Rights Commision” that could swallow its anti-Christian bile and argue on some other basis, say an imaginary state interest in protecting a particular species of sexual behavior, is quite free to violate religios freedom.

    • asdf says

      Bingo!

      But beyond that, let’s imagine that he did win the case.

      We are talking about someone harassed and bankrupted (defending against all these lawsuits isn’t free). Likely cut off from making a living (who will hire him, who will process he payments). Etc. Etc.

      It’s not just whether the government literally lines you up against a wall and shoots you. It’s about a broader power game that can, but doesn’t always, involve government.

      Some people just don’t “get that”. What matters to most people is they have the ability to engage in free expression and live according to their values without getting their lives steamrolled. Classical liberalism is failing to make that a reality for people.

      • Fred says

        Excellent point, asdf. I have quite a bit of sympathy for the “post-liberal” conservatives. When the “progressive” left is willing to use any means necessary to get and keep power and crush all dissent, including, but not limited to:

        Destroying livelihoods, reputations, and families for the slightest deviation from “progressive” orthodoxy
        Opening the borders to change the country’s demographics to favor their one-party rule
        Shredding the constitution, e.g., violating freedom of speech and religion, using emergency powers to confiscate guns (as Kamala Harris has promised to do), eliminating or evading the Electoral College, and limiting SCOTUS justices’ terms

        Then limiting our self-defense to normal political and legal channels amounts to political unilateral disarmament. We have no choice but to be as vicious and tenacious as they are. It is a matter of survival.

  39. HonestBl says

    This article proves Ahmari’s point.

    “Ahmari also vastly oversimplifies the culture wars as a clash between beleaguered cultural conservatives and a monolithic progressive army. In reality, gay white males are under attack as too privileged; the feminist movement has been tearing itself apart over “intersectionality”; and transgender activists have been clashing not only with radical feminists but sometimes with drag queens, whom they see as having reactionary attitudes toward gender”

    No, he does not simplifies it whatsoever. There are always been infighting the intersectionality coalition (black women hate white women, etc…) , but they usually band together on cue when it is time to knock out the evil white man. It has not changed at all. Ahmari gets it, you pretend you don’t…

    “Last year, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Christian baker who had refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, accepting his argument that his religious liberty was violated when the Colorado Commission for Civil Rights rejected his faith-based objection as a mere cover for prejudice.”

    That is not a win. That is called surviving. The guy has been harassed for years for not baking custom cakes for militant zealots. By the way, he JUST GOT SUED again. What about the stress he is enduring? What about his finances? Many bakers and bar owners prior to him have fallen after getting sued in the same manner. But I guess free thinkers like Cathy Young are OK that we live in such a world. There is nothing to worry about…

    “National Review editor Charles Cooke has pointed out that, while Ahmari has mentioned the sexual assault accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as his breaking point, Kavanaugh was successfully defended on the grounds of the presumption of innocence, a basic liberal tenet”

    Half the country thinks he is literally a rapist, and Harvard Law students (many of whom will be judges and DA soon) got him kicked out of his job. The fact that such an unsubstantiated accusation got carried that far and nearly destroyed his reputation is the true story here. That’s Ahmari’s point. If an upper middle class, Yale-educated , christian can be branded as a rapist based on nothing, nobody is safe.

    “But in practice, the governments often held up as current models of anti-liberal democracy—in Hungary and Poland—do have distinct authoritarian leanings.”

    That’s a bunch of nonsense. If people want to understand what illiberal democracies are, read french intellectual Eric Zemmour. He explains them very well. The pro illiberal democracy advocates argue that the balance of power has been tilted toward the judicial system (judges etc…) , and that judges have perverted the rule of law for the sake of their own ideologies. For instance, court rulings in many western countries have made almost impossible to deport illegal immigrants and deter illegal immigration in general. That is one example out of many judicial overreaches. Illiberal democrats like Victor Orban believe that the power given to the executive (president) via elections supplant judicial power. By the way, he gets reelected with a solid majority, and if it wasn’t for him, Hungary would even be more far right. Let’s drop all the pretenses: Cathy Young and her cohort just don’t like that Hungary does not take a lot of “migrants”.

    “But I also believe that the presence of his brand of faith-based social conservatism is essential in a free, secular, liberal society—as a necessary check on, and counterpoint to, permissive values. This conservative role depends on persuasion and dialogue, and on decency and civility.”

    You like David French because he has no bite. The only “faith-based” social values he is allowed to bring to the table are socialism-lite.

    Liberal individualism is useless in a tribal society when people are out for the kill. Ahmari understands that the conservative commitment to vague liberal principles will lead to annihilation. Cathy Young think he is bad, not because he is wrong, but because he refuses to play the role of the noble loser that has been assigned to him.

  40. asdf says

    There is another way to look at this.

    Do progressives act the way they do because of an ideology? Or do they act the way they do and then throw an ideology on top to justify it?

    Obviously, it’s a little of each. But if you’re trying to figure out a strategy for dealing with it, you’ve got to figure out what is the main driver.

    If you think its mostly ideology, and you think people can change their ideology based on “evidence based arguments about TRUTH”, then David French is right (in some degree).

    If you think it’s mostly about power, and the ideology is secondary, then David French’s strategy has a really long track record of failure with little reason to believe things will change.

    I think ideology is secondary to power, which I think fits the evidence, then you need to reach a detente in the realpolik sense. That can only happen when the other side respects your strength and willingness to use it. The right hasn’t given the left any reason to do so, and this is what I think David French doesn’t get.

  41. Geofiz says

    This is an excellent point and the Masterpiece Bakery case is an excellent example of this. A very well-funded group led by trans-activist Scardina will continue to sue Phillips until they hound him out of business. That is the exercise of power – pure and simple. It is the same with the numerous incidents of harassment of academics who espouse conservative or even liberal views.

    Power cannot always be fought with reasoned dialectic. Sometimes it has to be fought with power. I am NOT advocating violence here, but rather working with conservative state legislatures to enact laws like the RFRA that limit persecution of individuals for their religious beliefs.

    The left will always move the goalposts and to be blunt, they have very effectively used ad hominem attacks. No one likes being called a racist and few feel that they are. Therefore there is a tendency for moderate conservatives and certainly classic liberals to back away from the fight whenever the “isms” are brought out. Ahmari argues that we can no longer do this and I agree.

    This is not an illiberal position. It is one that simply acknowledges reality. People like Brett Stephens and David French are fine very honorable people. But I think in this case, they are naive.

    Aleksander Solzhenitsyn stated:

    “Human rights’ are a fine thing, but how can we make ourselves sure that our rights do not expand at the expense of the rights of others. A society with unlimited rights is incapable of standing to adversity. If we do not wish to be ruled by a coercive authority, then each of us must rein himself in…A stable society is achieved not by balancing opposing forces but by conscious self-limitation: by the principle that we are always duty-bound to defer to the sense of moral justice.”

    One side (conservative and classic liberal) is doing this. The other side (progressive) is not. That is why we are losing the culture war.

  42. Simon says

    Any society needs a balance between conservatism and liberalism. Finding the right balance is a matter for politics and culture – and perhaps a small role for Law.

  43. What’s missing from the discussion on counter-balancing of rights is not tradition or authority, but responsibility. Freedom, power, and responsibility are inseparable. The rights we currently enjoy do not even exist outside of the socio-cultural-political-economic context that we find ourselves inextricably enmeshed in. And so the question is, what is our responsibility to that context, which is an expression of our fundamental collective worldview. I observe that individuals are correct in perceiving the existential weakness of the reigning Scientific Materialism paradigm, as man does not live by bread alone, but the only way out is forward. Appeals based on primitive superstitions, for example that God required a human sacrifice to expunge the even older primitive superstition that man was created in an ideal world but didn’t follow the rule(s) and screwed it up, have frankly run out of gas in the age of Hubble and Einstein.

  44. Anthony Platt says

    1) The governments of Hungary & Poland are not particularly authoritarian. And Freedom House’s downgrading of Poland & Hungary is globalist BS. When will Freedom House downgrade Sweden for the endless string of bombs & grenades going off there? Or Germany for its aggressive crackdown on right-wing dissidents? Or the UK for arresting people for offensive speech? You can’t have democracy if you aren’t safe, can’t speak, & can’t assemble! Yet Freedom House considers these nations free. How? Because they are part of the globalist economic order, that’s how, & because Freedom House shares their Cultural Marxist values, left-wing or not (remember, most of the American right shares those values too).
    2) Ahmari isn’t right about everything, but his central thesis regarding French is completely right. Righties are completely unwilling to use the state to protect fellow righties from the increasingly totalitarian tactics of the Cultural Marxist left (especially in the corporate sphere). That’s a huge problem. The government is not the only threat to the essential liberties of Americans, especially American dissidents. In fact, today it is not even the primary threat. Conservatives have not adapted to the times. The government can be used in moderation to protect the interests & liberties of citizens, even if it means slight encumbrances on capitalism.
    3) Article is basically spot-on in most respects, however. It is a very strong article. The author is 100% correct that the modern left is no longer “liberal” in any meaningful sense. It is pure Cultural Marxist ideologically.

  45. Eric Liskey says

    “I think it should be obvious that the far Left’s take-no-prisoners style of culture warfare invites similar extremism from the Right”

    It doesnt just invite it, it necessitates it. It’s not a fun dilemma, but the left”s current scorched earth approach means that those on the right must abandon some of their convictions, or surrender to the leftist borg.

  46. In these discussions, it seems there’s never talk of people’s state of mind, their personality, or emotions. What would our societies and governments look like if each individual came to the realization that, for example, how one feels about something, however strongly, doesn’t make it right? Or if individuals could sit quietly in their ideological discomfort, then, by sheer will, think about something else entirely, something less troubling? Or that intellectual certainty is overrated? How would a high degree of emotional self-awareness, and the wherewithal to sit in one’s emotional discomfort without acting on it, change society as a whole? It seems we’re missing, to our detriment, that discussion. How often we look to change our circumstances, or people’s minds, without ever realizing we have some say in what we allow ourselves to think and consequently believe. There’s something wrong from the get-go if we still have people believing that gods exist. Can we really move forward to greater heights — in how we run our countries, how we relate to each other, how we move forward peacefully as a resident of this planet — if at least half of us can’t reason our way out of theism? I don’t think we can. It’s not the correctness of our ideas — we have plenty of good ones — that is the problem, but our ability to think clearly and rationally, to perceive our feelings honestly then to let them go as needed.

    • Fred says

      First, gg, very few people believe in gods. Many people believe in God. That you cannot make that distinction speaks volumes about your ideological proclivities. Second, that theism–as opposed to some individual theists–is irrational is another blindly ideological statement. Apparently, you’ve never heard of Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Suarez, Descartes, Leibniz, Coleridge, Newman, Anscombe, Ricouer, MacIntyre, Plantinga, or a host of other philosophers who have made a broad range of rational arguments for theism. Fideism, belief based on no more than emotion and blind faith, is actually a heresy in the Catholic Church. As Pope St. John Paul II pointed out in Fide et Ratio, faith and reason are complementary, not contradictory. You gnu atheists are the most dogmatic, intellectually lazy, historically and philosophically uninformed people I’ve ever run across. And I live in the Bible Belt. Try reading something other than Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennet, and Harris sometime. It might not convert you, but at least you sound a bit less ignorant on the subject.

      • Fred says

        At least you would sound less ignorant on the subject. Proofreading is your friend.

    • Geofiz says

      GG

      You are as clueless as you are arrogant Your argument typifies the mindset of the left. Those who do not believe as you do are ignorant and must be forced to change.

      Democracy works because we accept that others do not believe as well do. I am a Jew. I do not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. However, many of my closest friends are conservative Christians. We choose not to allow our theological differences to affect our friendship. I also have friends that are atheists and the same is true for them.

      Those on the left continually brag about their tolerance. But they are virulently intolerant when it comes to viewpoint diversity.

      What exactly is it about belief in God that so upsets you? Or do you just believe that people such as myself are an inferior form of life?

      I guess “Religion is the opiate of the people.” huh. Gee, I wonder who said that.

  47. Elton H says

    The author is a little late to the party. The tendencies of the “illiberal right” crested with the gay marriage bans in the 90’s. The gay marriage bans snapped back so hard on the illiberal right such that they now have to deal with compulsive support for gay marriage.

Leave a Reply