There are Democratic voters who would be Republicans if not for social issues. There are *more* Republican voters who would be Democrats if not for social issues. But the former are more heavily represented in media & on social media. https://t.co/lgmSDj7DpZ— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) June 3, 2019
“Yes, it’s as if they would only accept a diagnosis that led them to a particular set of go-and-do conclusions. I was talking yesterday with a Christian friend, who observed that the Christian world is full of people who have given no substantive moral and spiritual foundation to their children because they don’t have any themselves. They have been part of feelgood churches, however conservative (and yes, conservatives can have feelgood churches too), and perhaps have trusted in the fact that in their family, they hold correct opinions, therefore all will be well. Then their kids drift away from faith, caught in the inexorable currents of liquid modernity. They can’t figure out why.”
Speaking for myself, I rejected these feelgood Southern evangelical churches which produce men like David French and Russell Moore. In my youth, I became a Nietzschean atheist like Richard Spencer. Eventually though, my historicism which I had absorbed from Nietzsche led me to study the history of European Christianity and it quickly became apparent to me that what I had rejected had almost nothing in common with the faith as it has been historically practiced in Europe.
The Christianity that I rebelled against in my youth was the hollowed out “Judeo-Christianity” of the Baby Boomer generation. It is about getting those warm fuzzy feels and being nice and virtue signaling and that sort of thing has a history which is hardly synonymous with the Christian religion. The fact is, when you read about Christianity as it was practiced in the Early Modern Era the thing that strikes you the most about it is that it was ruthless whether it was the conquest of Mexico and Peru by the Spanish or witch hunting or the Thirty Year’s War or the expulsion of the Jews and Muslims from Spain.
“I completely share Ahmari’s rage at the sheer destructiveness of left-progressive culture, but I don’t believe there is a political solution for it. Some on the Christian Right call me a “defeatist” for holding this view. I think they are at best naive idealists, and at worst grifters.”
Unlike Rod Dreher, I now believe there is a political solution. I would say the answer to the problem can be seen in two charts:
The mantra that “there is no political solution” is often heard in our circles. What if the problem all along though has been generational change? The old 1980s Ronald Reagan era conservatism fizzled in 2016 simply because so many of the older folks from the Greatest Generation, Silent Generation and the Baby Boomer generation have been steadily dying off. By 2024, Gen Xers, Millennials and Zoomers will dominate the electorate which could realign our politics.
As of 2016, the truth is that the American Right has moved on from Reaganism and is now almost entirely socially conservative and authoritarian except for the 4 percent of voters who are Right-Libertarians. If that is the case, then the GOP’s real problem is that its stale policies, rhetoric and institutions are misaligned with its base and the solution is simply reversing the power relationship in the “conservative coalition” to make it more populist on economics since both conservatives and populists agree on the social issues. The other two legs of the traditional “three-legged conservative stool” – the neocon foreign policy and lolbertarian economics – ought to then be discarded as antiquated.
Do you see how simply changing the axis of our politics can fix the problem? Look it is really this simple:
“But Grifter Cons are not the main problem. The main problem is that there is no political solution because most Americans simply no longer are on the side of social and religious conservatives.”
This isn’t true.
Around 52 percent of Americans are authoritarians and social conservatives. It’s not social conservatism that is unpopular. It is the lolbertarian economics and neocon foreign policy. Also, while it is true that Americans have only the vaguest understanding of traditional Christianity, it can be argued that this has always been true to some degree with exceptions like Puritan New England.
Here’s my response to Rod’s take on Ahmari:
- Sohrab Ahmari is correct about the decadence of the liberal order and its incompatibility with traditional Christianity. I totally agree that classical liberalism and social conservatism are incompatible. Therefore, the solution is to dump classical liberalism and replace it with a conservatism grounded in historicism.
- There are far too few traditional Christians left to mount a successful political defense, much less offense. Strangely, Rod Dreher counts himself as a “traditional Christian” after shifting between evangelicalism to Catholicism to Orthodoxy. Perhaps the decomposition of Christianity is an opportunity for revitalization based on something other than “Judeo-Christianity” and the milquetoast feelgood nonsense decried above?
- Where are the soldiers for this culture-war offense? Secular, largely de-Christianized France turned out a million people in Paris for the Manif Pour Tous, the demonstration for traditional marriage. Nothing like that happened in America. Why not? The answer is cultural lag in the perception of Christians as being the dominant culture of Middle America and the reality that they are becoming a beleaguered minority. It often takes time for perception to catch up with reality.
- I think that most conservative Christians can’t conceive of resistance as much more than voting and attitudinizing. This is certainly true of the Baby Boomer generation but this is their attitude toward everything in life and it doesn’t really matter because they are in the twilight of their lives. It is future generations who will decide the issue.
- As a religious minority, it is likely that the best we can hope for is First Amendment protection under the liberal order. This is where David French comes in. It is not the case that one has to believe that the liberal order is ideal, or permanent, or even good for Christianity … but right here, right now what else is there? If Baby Boomer social conservatives have fought the culture war ineffectively by poisoning their religion with lolbertarianism, why does it follow that Gen X’ers and Millennials must do the same? Why not just dump the classical liberalism and the political correctness and fight the culture war with real claws unlike the toothless and ineffective resistance of the previous generation?
- In a post-Christian nation, what is likely to happen to orthodox Christians if we lose the First Amendment, which is a bedrock of classical liberalism? We will be crushed, that’s what. The political and cultural establishment would suffer an even more severe collapse in its legitimacy and would have an even more difficult time that it has now in upholding and policing cultural norms.
- It may be the case that progressives devise a way to crush us and our institutions even within the liberal order. But damned if I can figure out a better defensive strategy than within classical liberalism. Well, I would say that is due to Rod’s lack of imagination and his timid nature.
- This is why I’ve been dragged unwillingly towards a de facto libertarianism, though I’m actually a conservative. I can’t figure out how people like me can run our institutions in actual, existing America absent a strong libertarianism. People like Rod have been losing the culture war for a generation because they don’t act like they believe in their own values. Unlike the Left, they don’t have any confidence in themselves and they always reflexively shrink from a fight. Trump won because he fought back.
“This can be done under liberalism; this can be done under certain illiberal regimes. My own thinking is not settled, so I’m enjoying reading commentary supporting either thinker.”
Rod’s solution of quietism for social conservatism under liberalism is 1.) a breathtaking example of cowardice in the face of the fact that America now has an authoritarian and socially conservative majority like other Western countries going through the same transition, 2.) an example of his own personal weakness and lack of confidence in his own values and 3.) is refuted by his belief that social conservatism and classical liberalism are fundamentally incompatible.
“The political reality is that religious and social conservatives are playing a weak hand. A religious conservative friend of mine who works in politics e-mailed to say that “it’s mathematically impossible in a democracy to be a social conservative maximalist in a society in which social conservatives to not have political hegemony.” He adds that the greatest losses in state religious liberty battles have come when conservative hardliners have bulldozed incrementalists, on the grounds that they lack fortitude. That’s just not how politics work in a country that is no longer religiously or culturally conservative. This is very hard for many conservatives to grasp — just as it is very hard for many progressives to understand that the country is liberalizing, but is not as liberal as Cambridge, San Francisco, Portland, and Brooklyn.”
Once again, it simply isn’t true that this is political reality:
The United States is like other Western countries in that it now has an authoritarian and socially conservative majority. As we recently saw in the European elections, traditional conservatives continue to crumble and lose ground there to insurgent nationalist and populist parties.
“I have no long-term faith in liberalism, but all the other realistic alternatives seem worse, and tradcons are politically and culturally quite weak.”
In the Republican coalition, social conservatism and authoritarianism is strong. It is unquestionably the neocon foreign policy and lolbertarian economics and political theory that is weak. In fact, we can see that the Republican coalition would be stronger without those two albatrosses weighing it down as Left-Authoritarians are the swing voters.