Against Political Romanticism on the Right

Reading about the election of anti-police, far-Left activist Tishaura Jones  as mayor of St. Louis, at a time when the murder rate in that city has soared to a 50-year high, I was reminded of the concept of “political romanticism.” Among the traits of the political romantic, a human type that the German legal theorist Carl Schmitt wrote about, is to mistake emotional or aesthetic judgments for political ones. The political romantic imagines that reality will bend to fit his desired future. The process by which this will occur is never methodically or empirically shown. The hoped-for outcome will come to pass because it pleases us. We then look for an occasion or event on which to hang our fantasy and let imagination take over.

The conservative establishment, and particularly its media extension, has engaged in this romanticism for a long time regarding the hope that there will be a groundswell of black voters in favor of the Republican Party and/or of the populist Right. Turning on Fox News, I see now-familiar faces such as Larry Elder, Lawrence Jones, Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Candace Owen, and more recently Maryland congressional candidate Kim Klacik and civil rights attorney Leo Terrell, all telling me that their fellow blacks are about to jump into the GOP from the “Democratic plantation.” 

Then I hear Steve Hilton affirming the nearness of the “Next Revolution,” in which black populist conservatives will play a key role. Hilton features the same black Republicans whom I encounter on Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and other Fox opinion commentators; and like the others, this guy in a bowling shirt keeps repeating that Trump in the last presidential race won possibly as much as 14 percent of the black vote. Pace Hilton’s account, since November blacks have turned out in huge numbers in a Georgia runoff race to vote for two extreme Left senatorial candidates, both of whom won largely with black support. In St. Louis, the black vote was determinative for the victory of Jones, who is about to impose “equity” on the local police force, white and black. 

If the conservative establishment were not engaging in pipe dreams and perhaps trying too hard to virtue signal, it might notice (how can’t it?) the limits of its outreach.  Although there are a few excellent black political figures (e.g., Rep. Byron Donald from Naples, Florida), these Solons typically win with white votes while doing far less well among blacks. Kim Klacik might have made a better congress member than the race-hustling Democrat who beat her in Baltimore. Unfortunately, she’s not likely to come close to winning in a black district. The comely and capable Klacik would likely be trounced among fellow blacks by the likes of a Tishaura Jones or Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). If I were suggesting to Republicans as to which minority group they might focus their recruiting efforts, I’d say Hispanics (although not the ones now racing over our southern border). In 2020, Trump picked up almost half the Hispanic vote in Florida, up from 35 percent in 2016.

Another manifestation of political romanticism is the invocation of the “people” who will soon supposedly transform the political and cultural landscape. Until now, we are led to believe, the “people” were not out there voting but were merely victims of the “interests” or “elites.” Reading Michael Goodwin’s alarming report about New York City in a “death spiral,” as “shooting victims are up 72 percent in two years and car thefts are up a staggering 91 percent,” certain facts spring to mind. Bill de Blasio won with 70 percent of those who bothered to vote in the last New York City mayoral race, and Andrew Cuomo, whom Goodwin even more bitterly castigates, raced to victory in his gubernatorial contests. 

The last time I checked, it was “the people” who overwhelmingly opted for their governments in New York City and New York state, just as the black voters in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis elected their deplorable leadership. Are we supposed to believe these voters are not responsible for the messes they create? Or that the “people” have not shown up yet to vote but will do the right thing once they appear? I hear a similar interpretation from Southern conservatives who assure me that all the white voters and some of the black ones are horrified that Confederate monuments are being torn down in their region. I share this indignation but find no evidence that most Southern voters even care.

Allow me to suggest that we on the populist Right believe there are patriotic, responsible citizens, and that not all voters are woke lunatics, deluded soccer moms, or minorities fixated on hating the white race. But mobilizing these folks to resist the Left remains a challenge. We won’t get anywhere hallucinating about all the groups that will be joining our side but just haven’t shown up yet. Least of all, let’s stop pretending that those who repeatedly vote for truly destructive governments are just victims yearning to become “the people.” They are the ones who are entirely responsible for their disastrous choices.

About Paul Gottfried

Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

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