The Manichean Right

     Sohrab Ahmari has embraced a manichean “if your not with us then you are against us” attitude that Antifa would agree with, and gone all in with adopting the “tear it down” strategy of the Left under the deluded idea that by merely fighting back, total victory will be achieved and lack of a “f**k you WAR” attitude is proof of being the enemy.

“It is simply this: that the political left neither loves you nor shares many loves with you, certainly not the love of neutral norms and procedures that have long been the stock-in-trade of the center-right establishment. . . . To be sure, some ‘moderate’ liberals still mouth the old rhetoric — “free speech”, “free inquiry”, etc — and get canceled for their trouble. But what their movement as a whole seeks is the brute enactment of substantive liberal commitments.”

     There is an obvious logical error here that Dan McLaughlin (AKA @BaseballCrank) points out:

“That’s . . . news? I have known that for 30 years. So has most everyone in the conservative world who has been following politics that long. And it’s older even than our lifetimes. Ahmari purports to discover, in 2020, what Edmund Burke knew in 1790. There are few hardier perennials than the observations that the activist Left is driven by anger against conventional American society and doesn’t care about the classical-liberal principles of the American founding, and that Democratic politicians and their pundit class have no fixed principles besides getting what they want. Ahmari goes on to say that it is merely empty ‘whining’ when ‘unwoke’ conservatives argue in favor of those principles and norms, and in favor of fairness and decency and telling the truth, instead of creating a mirror image of the Left that cares about nothing but substantive outcomes, that never asks any question but Lenin’s ‘Who does what to whom?’

“The core of the problem with this line of thinking from Ahmari and others is that it assumes the world is divided entirely into the activist Right and the activist Left. Of course, you can’t persuade the other side they are wrong to do the things they do. But you can persuade other people. That includes not only those in the center who will never be at home on the Right or Left, but also those who are less strongly tied to one side and are capable of changing sides.


“None of this is to say that conservatives should not fight to, say, “ensure that the state bureaucracy doesn’t secretly undermine it at every turn.” The most effective way to do this is to use the tools of law and of popular sovereignty that the American system and American tradition give us, rather than tear those down and hope the other side takes no advantage when we reduce the contest to one of brute force. I remain skeptical that brute force is a contest conservatives can win, let alone one we want to. But how we fight is also a part of our message, and it is essential to giving us the numbers needed to win. Because shrinking our coalition is the worst disarmament of all.”

     What people like Ahmari and other fellow-goers seem to forget is that tearing down those limits is exactly what the Left wants. This is why “Rules for Radicals” is not a general battle plan, but one tailored to achieve a particular desired result… regardless of who uses them.

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