When a major political figure actively undermines her own base and somehow gets applauded for it, it is difficult to imagine a more absurd spectacle. But United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has managed to do just that.
At a recent conference of conservative high school students, Haley addressed the crowd of teenagers by asking them to raise their hands if they’ve “ever posted anything online to quote-unquote ‘own the libs.’” When most of the audience responded affirmatively, she then scolded them, declaring: “This kind of speech isn’t leadership, it’s the exact opposite.”
Of course, it needs to be said that the phrase “own the libs,” put simply, refers to defeating leftists in a debate, particularly over social media. In other words, Haley just told her audience that they shouldn’t actively try to defeat their political opponents, in online debate or otherwise. Haley went on to ask, “Are you persuading anyone? Who are you persuading?”
You’re Persuading an Audience, That’s Who
Now call me crazy, but I thought the entire point of debate was to persuade the third-party audience watching, not your opponent. Whether it’s a live event, a video, or a comment war over social media, someone else is always watching and is waiting to be convinced by one side or the other. Donald Trump was never going to convince Hillary Clinton that he was the superior candidate, but he certainly convinced sufficient numbers of Americans to win the election. So Haley’s presumption that young people “owning the libs” do so in order to convince them that they are incorrect is, quite frankly, idiotic.
Second, by attacking these kinds of online tactics, Haley is especially either unaware of or displeased by the significant role that social media played in the 2016 election. Just as it cannot be denied that Trump’s (pardon the pun) liberal use of Twitter is a significant staple of who he is, the use of memes or trolling to defeat leftists over the Internet was—and remains—a crucial component of the ongoing culture war, especially as that war slowly shifts back to the Right’s favor.
Haley tried to defend her laughable stance by saying that debate should be “about bringing people around to your point of view, not by shouting them down, but by showing them how it is in their best interest to see things the way you do.”
Triggers, Triggers Everywhere
No one ever said that “owning the libs” was intended to persuade the leftists because it is quite impossible to do that in the age of Trump Derangement Syndrome. There is approximately zero chance that the raging leftists of the Women’s March, or the thugs of Antifa, will be convinced to support American nationalism or free-market capitalism if you just use the right words. You will not be able to convince Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to ditch democratic socialism if you lecture her enough about the writings of Milton Friedman.
Long before Trump came onto the scene, “triggering” or “owning the libs” was a common tactic pioneered and championed by the same conservative icons that people like Haley claim to admire. As my colleague Mytheos Holt once pointed out, William Buckley may have been the first conservative thought leader to actively engage in this practice of deliberately triggering leftists just to put their stupidity on full display.
Absent an equally forceful response the most radical elements of the Left are becoming the mainstream Left right before our very eyes. Democratic leaders such as Keith Ellison and Maxine Waters have fully endorsed Antifa and its tactics of political violence. DNC Chairman Tom Perez lauded Ocasio-Cortez as “the future of our party.”
So no, Ambassador Haley, you cannot and will not convince “the libs” suddenly to drop their political tunnel vision and “see it our way.” It stands to reason, then, that the only people left to convince are the middle—independents, moderates, and even some Democrats who feel that the party has left them behind by selling out to the millennial socialist wing.
And it goes without saying that sometimes, all you need to do to convince these people is to show them a video of anti-Trump protestors screaming to the sky, swarming and assaulting innocent Trump supporters, or otherwise acting downright psychotic. Everyone knows that the Left are the ones “shouting down” their opposition, not the Right. Even if that does not convince outside observers to join the Republican Party, at the very least it will convince them to not support the Democratic Party.
Civil Exercises in Futility
As such, Haley finds support among only a tiny fraction of this generation, consisting mostly of those who align with her neoconservative views, and generally see her—and maybe Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse—as the future of the Republican Party (that is, to say, not so much a “future” as a retread of the past). Such young neocons now eagerly parrot those same lines from Haley’s speech, hopelessly calling for a return to “civil discourse” in our society by halting our efforts to defeat our political rivals.
But even if her support among young voters on the Right is tenuous, it should be obvious enough that she doesn’t care how many of them she offends and even publicly shames. She is still widely supported by the aging establishment class that longs for the Bush-era socially milquetoast, hyper-interventionist Republican Party that Haley represents, so much so that there are whispers of a potential run 2020.
But, as with many aspects of the Bush presidencies, Haley’s latest absurd declaration proves that she is dedicated to bringing back a Republican Party that is perfectly content with losing, as long as it does so with dignity. Like other Republicans that Samuel Francis called “beautiful losers,” Haley thinks the Right somehow gains a moral high ground by losing gracefully, rather than winning by using the same unconventional tactics that the Left had succeeded with for years.
Happily, we live in the era of the Trump Republican Party, the one that is developing a spine of its own and taking the fight directly to the Left. Trump still commands the Republican Party, and has done so ever since he earned the overwhelming support of the base, across all generations, by taking a stand and fighting back in a manner that was more effective than anything we had seen in the past.
Meanwhile, Haley is just another administration official. Yes, she’s doing a fine job of dressing down petty tyrants at the United Nations. But would it be rude to point out that she wouldn’t have such a prominent position if not for Trump? If she hadn’t been given the U.N. job, she most likely would have gone the way of many other once-promising GOP governors who have all but vanished from the national political stage (Scott Walker, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, and others).
Haley’s demand that we stop actively trying to defeat our political opponents is just another cry lost in the wind, as useless as calls for President Trump to stop using Twitter. The Right has found out what works and what wins the battles of today, so why quit while we’re ahead?
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