Rules for Dealing with Fellow Travelers and New Curators – AMAC
AMAC Exclusive – By – David P. Deavel
For Americans, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was another terrifying but illuminating wake-up call this year about our own country. After selling Joe Biden to the American public on the basis of his supposed moderation, Democrats spent the money the country doesn’t have on bills we don’t need, dividing the country with unnecessary health care mandates , trying to distract from a disastrous increase in crime linked to their policies and the limitation of our energy production in the name of environmentalism, among others. The last item on this list is no longer ignorable to many, precisely because of its connection to Putin. After all, due to our dwindling energy production in the United States, we are now buying very expensive barrels of oil from Russia and thus directly funding their invasion. Like the Afghanistan debacle of 2021, the invasion of Ukraine in 2022 is tied to a lack of leadership, particularly within the Democratic Party that caused or exacerbated much of our current chaos.
This is where the clarification comes in. It may seem like a strange world when conservatives share the wisdom of left-leaning figures such as Bill Maher, Glenn Greenwald, Bret Weinstein and others who have rightly judged today’s woke progressivism to be nonsense – when only to share the thoughts of former conservative figures such as Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol and David French to lament or laugh at the latest “conservative case” for something crazy. But it’s no surprise that people start to think differently when the world starts to change. Just as no battle is ever definitively won or lost in politics, neither are there permanent alliances. The task for conservatives these days is to think of some ground rules for dealing with those who are fellow travelers and potential converts to the conservative cause. We need to be welcoming but not drooling, careful in how we work with others, and aware that our alignments don’t last forever. But we must also be smart and welcoming to those who join us.
Welcome wagon ready. Glenn Reynolds has been advocating for years for Republicans in red states to provide a “welcome wagon” to those who left blue states. The goal is to convince people that the reason red states provide a place to live is because they don’t follow the blue state model. So those moving shouldn’t vote like they did before or they’ll end up turning their new house into a version. of their old one.
We need this welcome wagon approach for everyone. And we have plenty of questions to communicate with those who are dissatisfied. There are many parents who have reconsidered their view of the political world because of how public schools have fared with CRT, transgender activism, and Covid politics. Specifically, there are plenty of minority parents among this group who have also long supported school choice and other policies that are truly more right-wing than left-wing. And yet, the conservatives’ failure to broaden their base is palpable. Black votes have largely gone to Democrats over the past sixty years, but it doesn’t have to be. The excellent documentary by Larry Elder Uncle Tom was not only a representation of a number of fascinating black conservatives, but also a lament for the failure of conservatives to reach them. In the film, academic and intellectual Carol Swain recalls asking for help in enticing black voters in a race for mayor of Nashville and being told by GOP bigwigs, “Don’t waste your time in minority communities. Hunt where the ducks are.
Here’s the thing. Many people these days who you might have called loons in years past look like ducks and quack like ducks. Maybe not all the time, but often enough that you want to shoot them.
Be a happy warrior. Perhaps the first thing to say about this is that while we can connect with people based on their dissatisfactions, we need to be able to both empathize and show that there is a better way. Conservatives can sometimes give off the vibe of Apocalypse Now so much that they are unappealing. Don’t get me wrong: I also think that aside from Joe Biden causing supply chain issues with hand baskets, we’d be going to hell with them. But what draws people in is not just diagnosing the ills of our time, but showing that we have hope for healing and a plan for healing. An old rule is that the contestant who seems to be having a good time is much more likely to win.
Caution in collaboration is key. Even if we sympathize with the Woke-wrought world and have a Reaganesque smile, many of those people dissatisfied with their old party or their political friends won’t necessarily be willing to immediately jump into the Republican Party or conservative groups. Bill Maher is still a liberal who thinks Trump was a disaster, Joe Rogan still cares about Bernie, and many other dissidents have their own point of view.
This is perfectly understandable for them and for lesser-known people. Most of us don’t change our minds on big topics between dinner and dessert, even if dinner was atrocious and the chippers who bring dessert whisper about another restaurant. We need to keep talking to those who are tired of the old but not quite convinced of the new. They may not be for everything on the platform, but if conservatives can cooperate with them on public school transparency, school choice, or more and better policing in their neighborhoods, everything as we applaud and use the moments where Bill Maher attacks CRT-infused education and Greenwald attacks our corporate media for their dishonesty – we will both have more success on these issues and also increase the possibility of convincing these companions travel on others.
Don’t make them our guiding stars. Because many of these fellow travelers are so attractive and helpful, it can be tempting to look to them for leadership even before they have fully embraced the conservative movement. But it’s important to remember that they may very well disagree with us about the wickedness of waking up and still disagree with us about what it means to be awakened to the truths. John McWhertor and James Lindsay are good at unraveling the nonsense of diversity crazies, but they don’t demonstrate a deep understanding of the kind of conservative foundations needed for a society with liberal institutions and politics. McWhertor, for example, correctly diagnoses enlightenment as a religion, but fails to understand that the problem is that it is a religion. bad religion and that the right religion is necessary. He seems to miss the point raised by John Adams in a 1798 letter:Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is quite inadequate for the government of any other.
Let political converts truly convert and don’t blame them for their past. When such fellow travelers have the experience of a road to Damascus (or perhaps Philadelphia?), it is still a good idea to let the conversion sink in a little before making them carry the hopes of the movement or party. Republicans are still paying for giving some of those early converts to the neo-conservative movement too much influence in foreign affairs. While their intellectual godfather, Irving Kristol, was the type of sane character who could give “kudos to capitalism,” some of the godchildren applauded interventionism at home and the regret of the Republican Party.
And yet, just as conservatives may err in allowing converts too much influence too soon, so others may blame others for not being “in the right place all along.” A 2020 essay by a young black conservative from Wisconsin named Chris Lawrence comes in well at this point. Lawrence, whose views changed as an adult, tells the story of another conservative convert, Jessi Ebben, whose political changes came after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s 2011 recall attempt. Because she signed the petition while in college, Ebben was attacked by other conservatives during a primary bid to replace Democratic Congressman Ron Kind. Lawrence notes that such attacks are a way — well, let’s use a Trumpism here — to make Republicans losers. “It is foolish and self-sabotaging for Republicans or Conservatives to punish people for converting to conservatism and for signing a recall petition as a young student, especially when they can eloquently describe why they are Conservatives today.”
Our alliances will not always be permanent. But sometimes they are. We must take advantage of a difficult time in our history to help those who are open to real change for the better. We must be happy warriors who welcome temporary teammates and strive to make them permanent, if possible. And if we can’t, let’s take advantage of the bombardment they give their own party and use their criticism to open people up to our side.
David P. Deavel is editor of Logos: a journal of Catholic thought and culture, co-director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He is the co-host of Deep Things Podcast.
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