Combat Rules for Conservatives

The late M. Stanton Evans—after William F. Buckley, Jr., the second-most important of the founders of the modern American conservative movement—famously had “Six Rules for Political Combat.” He had noticed—and you can see it today, too—that the Left had a standard drill for every issue. Their activity was not aimless. 

The drill is, roughly: build up alarm about some menace; cite “studies” or “science” or “experts” most laymen can’t understand or check; get your guys to hammer on the issue mercilessly; and finally, when the public is scared out of its wits, move to do whatever was desired to begin with. 

One of those blitzkriegs has been started recently against Justice Clarence Thomas and, eventually perhaps, against the Trump appointees to the Supreme Court. A few weeks ago, Jane Mayer, a hit-piece writer for the New Yorker wrote, “The claim that the Justices’ opinions are politically neutral is becoming increasingly hard to accept, especially from Thomas, whose wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, is a vocal right-wing activist.” That’s just balderdash, of course, but there it is—in print! 

The Left, having “lost” the Supreme Court when Donald Trump was president, is frantic to neutralize one or more justices so the court won’t be able to overturn decisions like Roe v. Wade, which the Left thinks are their birthright. Mayer writes that the court “appears likely to secure victories for her [Ginni Thomas’] allies in a number of highly polarizing cases—on abortion, affirmative action, and gun rights.” Yup. It sure does. 

Then, a few days later, in a Washington Post article headlined “Clarence Thomas and the gray area of recusal,” Michael Kranish wrote:

Ginni Thomas’s name stood out among the signatories of a December letter from conservative leaders, which blasted the work of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection as ‘overtly partisan political persecution.’

One month later, her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, took part in a case crucial to the same committee’s work: former president Donald Trump’s request to block the committee from getting White House records that were ordered released by President Biden and two lower courts.

Thomas was the only justice to say he would grant Trump’s request.

On February 2, the New York Times weighed in with a long smear job titled, “The Long Crusade of Clarence and Ginni Thomas.” 

Here’s one of the key sentences: “And with Trump’s three appointments reshaping the Supreme Court, her husband finds himself at the center of a new conservative majority poised to shake the foundations of settled law.” You gotta love “settled law.” The Left dresses up a few liberals in black robes who then decide matters against the will of the majority and those rulings become—presto!—“settled law.” 

The Times quotes a source (so the Times won’t have to take any blame for inaccuracies) that details “the extent to which Justice Thomas flouted judicial-ethics guidance. . . .” This is getting serious. 

So, the Left is building up alarm over a new menace. But of course they need experts to weigh in. 

In his Washington Post article, Kranish provided one: “‘I absolutely do believe that Clarence Thomas should have recused [sic] from the Jan. 6 case,’ said Gabe Roth [who needs to brush up on his English skills], executive director of Fix the Court, a nonpartisan advocacy group, who called the Supreme Court ‘the most powerful, least accountable, institution in Washington.’” 

What is “Fix the Court”? Who knows? There’s almost no information about the organization available, even on Google—or is it “especially on Google”? But the Post assures us Fix the Court is “nonpartisan.” And obviously, Fix the Court folks are experts, so we’d better pay attention. 

Step three in a typical campaign is to bring forth a crew of activists to hammer the point: “Isn’t Justice Thomas just awful, and selfish too?!” It’s a good bet we’ll be seeing that next, from talking heads on the (failing) Lib-Dem-Woke media outlets. 

And then, step four, someone will propose legislation. How about a committee of experts (is there any other kind?) to recommend which justices should recuse themselves and from which cases? Of course, the justices are extremely unlikely to pay any attention to the recommendations, but that isn’t the only point of this exercise. 

The Lib-Dem-Woke activists want to rile up the public and then run on the issue of biased Supreme Court justices. This could be an evergreen strategy, but it is especially crucial this November when the Democrats have nothing else to run on. And of course they want to delegitimize the Supreme Court, and its decisions, now that it has a conservative majority. 

Why doesn’t the Right play that game? 

Evans had six rules, which you will find listed in Steven Hayward’s excellent M. Stanton Evans: Conservative Wit, Apostle of Freedom, due out this month from Encounter Books. The rules are: 

1) Politics abhors a vacuum. It’s important to beat the Lib-Dem-Wokies to the lead.

 

2) Write the resolved clause. That is., know what your goal is before you begin your campaign.

 

3) Nothing is “inevitable.” Don’t let the Lib-Dem-Wokies spread doom and gloom among conservatives by convincing them that the Lib-Dem-Woke program will be adopted anyway, so they might as well give up now.

 

4) Fighting is better than not fighting. Even if conservatives lose a particular battle—no one wins every battle—fighting makes even victory for the other side more expensive (first rule of economics: all resources are scarce).

 

5) Washington is not America. Just because “everyone” in Washington thinks something, it doesn’t mean that’s what America is thinking. 

6) Taxes are trumps. Americans still pay bills, and the bill they least like to pay is the tax bill (they know much of it is pork and is wasted). Democrats exist to spend other people’s money. 

A good project for a big conservative foundation would be to award a prize (the “M. Stanton Evans Prize”?)—no, make that five prizes, of tens of thousands of dollars each—to those think tanks that best start and execute a Stan Evans operation. 

This is a good year to begin, when Joe Biden’s ratings are almost as low as the recording devices go (and he has the media with him!). The conservatives, and the republic, need a new birth of activity. And the plan has already been laid out for them by the late, great Stan Evans.

About Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Email him at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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