Funny ol’ world . . .
I dashed off my last piece for American Greatness in a single, sleep-deprived frenzy of frustration (three decades in the making) after a long night of musical rehearsals. As I pushed “send,” I could barely remember what I’d written. Sixty seconds later, I was asleep.
To my astonishment, “The Republican Party Sucks” wound up as American Greatness’s top feature article that week. Positive comments began flooding my inbox. Thousands reposted it. Over 50,000 people read it per day. Steve Bannon called me a few days after it came out to tell me how much he liked it. He even invited me on to “War Room” to discuss it.
Despite its popularity, there were a few critics.
Some, for example, alleged my piece amounted to no more than complaining.
This was very much a minority view, but to the extent my piece came across that way, it would qualify as a failure. What I would dub conservatism’s kvetch culture is dysfunctional, pathetic, and should be rejected. I had no intention of fostering more of it. In fact, I want it obliterated. We don’t need any more hand-wringing. We need more action—smart, surgical, successful action.
The thing is, before any such action can be planned and executed, we need crystal clarity on where we are, how we got here, and where to go. Getting that clarity was the intention of my piece.
It Isn’t 1980 Anymore
One of the persistent problems here, after all, is that while rank-and-file Republican voters understand how grotesque and destructive the Democratic Party has become, not enough realize their own party’s been playing them for suckers for three decades. I don’t see why anyone should keep that secret. The party doesn’t deserve to be trusted. It deserves to be commandeered by citizen-patriots, who then relentlessly steer it in the right direction (about which more below).
By the way, I got a few notes from party loyalists and establishment types who reminded me of Reagan’s 11th commandment (“thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican”).
But it’s not 1980 anymore. It’s nearly half a century after 1980. The circumstances, the stakes, the players, the dangers, are much different now. The country is more culturally and economically polarized, more volatile, more democratically unstable, more hollowed out industrially, more unsure of itself, more demoralized, and more mentally ill.
As dangerous as the Soviet Union was, China now seems more dangerous in its stealth, effectiveness, amorality, and devout imperialism. Through its American companies and corporate partners, the Chinese Communist Party has already achieved remarkable leverage over the country. Some, um, “conspiracy theorists” have even wondered if China has essentially purchased top politicians and influencers, including the entire Biden Administration. What that would mean, of course, is that China is already significantly steering domestic policy, legislation, and public opinion for its own ends. And what that would mean, in turn, is that America is on its way to Chinese vassalage without the public even knowing.
Be that as it may, it remains true in a way that was never the case throughout the whole of the Cold War—not even throughout a tumultuous Vietnam War era—people now sense some ominous, unnerving, mortal chill in the air. There is something wrong. Everyone of sense can feel it. For decades, political commentators here and there have warned the end is near. Now, for the first time, it actually feels like that could be true.
As a result, the Republican loyalist attempt to shame honesty into silence about the party’s three decades of duplicity, kowtowing, incompetence, perfidy, and corruption, all of which helped lead to this current state of affairs, is insulting and absurd. Silence can only further enable harm to an already ailing America. Why protect a party at the expense of the country?
No—in the end, this isn’t about any party. It’s about America and everyone in it and all their posterity. It’s also about the fate of the entire world. And so, it is with an unbecoming immodesty I hereby declare the 11th commandment obsolete.
Standing Up to the New Oligarchy
Now, on to another point.
Some readers alleged I got the details wrong in my account of the Amazon subsidy shakedown attempt in Queens.
So, let’s suppose I did. Let’s suppose the reports I linked to, and others out there, are wrong. Or incomplete. Let’s suppose that after Team AOC made a fuss about Amazon’s subsidy shakedown in late 2018, the $200 billion man poutingly took his trillion-dollar corporate ball and went home, never to return, and Queens got no Amazon jobs at all.
The fact would remain that some 28-year-old taqueria server no one had ever heard of only a few months earlier had shown more nerve in standing up to a democratically corrosive crony capitalism than any Republican in recent memory.
And standing up like that is important because, in a republic, legislators are supposed to represent and serve voters. They’re not supposed to become the quietly co-opted, law-rigging representatives and servants of whichever mega-company funnels them the most money or promises them the most luxurious future rewards.
But that is just what happens, by definition, in any system lapsing into crony capitalism. The outward forms of democracy might remain. The politicians might give the same speeches. But it is to their new corporate paymasters the politicians show true (if often veiled) fealty—not the ordinary good-faith voters back home, struggling to make ends meet, nor the “general welfare.”
In other words, criticism of Republican-enabled crony capitalism doesn’t depend on how many Amazon jobs wound up in Queens (versus some other city). The fact is that the war against crony capitalism is a war for representative democracy, for ordinary people, for small businesses, for trustworthy (not corrupt) politicians, for equal application of the law, for responsive political institutions. And it’s a war Republican politicians should be fighting. Too few do. That’s the point.
The Beginnings of Renewal
What an exciting, revitalized, refocused, successful Republican Party could and should look like is perhaps a topic for a book, not a column. Certainly, I have a lot of ideas, as I know most of my readers do.
But in the space remaining, I want to just throw out a few ideas for rank-and-file Republicans looking to retake the party. (I’ll mention more in future columns.)
The first, most important thing is to secure elections at every level. Without that, nothing else matters. (And this effort should be framed as “voter protection,” since the elimination of fraudulent votes protects the value of genuine votes).
I add here my personal view that vote-counting machines should be abolished altogether. From their arrival in the early 1970s, they’ve been repeatedly shown to be vulnerable to fraud. Most English-speaking countries use the more secure method of hand counting under strict, multi-partisan scrutiny for just that reason. (For those interested, here are a few links to articles dating back decades on machine vulnerability—and one especially interesting article published the day before the last election.)
The second thing is that conservatives, and the Republicans who purport to represent them, need a new view of power. Wander around right-of-center conferences, and you still hear people saying things like “that government governs best which governs least!” or “government is a necessary evil!”
But the fact is that if Republicans don’t take power and use it for good, Democrats take it and use it for ill. You know, like for outlawing Christian practices to promote modesty and protect women; for all but inviting attempted genocide on an important ally; and for making wokeism the official state religion of the United States. So I am hereby suggesting a new conservative/Republican view of power—one that accepts its legitimacy, follows its requirements, and boldly uses it for good. More Machiavelli, less Ned Flanders.
The third thing is policies crafted to appeal directly to America’s underserved working and middle classes. I’m talking about a revised, refocused version of the winning 2016 agenda. That means forthrightly addressing social issues (for example, protecting female athletes against unfair competition from biological males). That means reindustrialization. That means zero tolerance for rioting. It means the return of law and order. It means directly appealing to unionized workers (not necessarily their union bosses). It means a full suite of realistic, commonsense initiatives which a huge chunk of the electorate wants and deserves. The Republican Party must become the party of patriotic populism. Permanently.
The fourth and last thing I’ll mention for now is, the Republican Party needs a story. And not just a story—it needs a great story that includes a compelling pitch. That story will then be the frame for every specific policy it stands for.
The Democrats have a story. The short version goes like this: “We live in a country forged in evil and oppression. The white men who founded it held African slaves, refused to let women vote, killed natives, ruined the environment, and did nothing about income inequality. But now, we Democrats are fighting to right all the wrongs of the past. We are fighting for social justice now and in the future. The Republicans are trying to stop us. We need you on our team to help overcome them. Together we can make the world a much better place. Join us!”
Now, criticize that all you want—at least it’s something. What are the pre- and post-Trump Republican equivalents? There aren’t any, as far as I can see. And guess which menu option most often wins the battle for hearts and minds: story, or no story?
Among other things, the Republican Party’s compelling story must point to some higher purpose for politics; tell potential voters why they’re so important to achieving that purpose, and what their role in the unfolding story is; and it must invite them to join a righteous crusade to restore good and vanquish evil.
Why? Because that’s how humans are. They typically don’t convert after reading bullet points from some libertarian think tank, or hearing Ben Shapiro snap that “facts don’t care about your feelings.” Human minds are more than data-processing machines. That’s a constant here. And it’s a constant that leftists looking for recruits work with far better than conservatives. Leftists actually study storytelling, emotional button-pushing, and deep persuasion. Too often, Republicans just complain on Twitter.
Anyway, I’m out of space for now. Thanks for all the positive comments on my previous piece. I hope this ongoing discussion helps lead to positive changes for the Republican Party, and by extension, the country. We can pick this up again in a future piece.