The latest brouhaha about Trump’s meeting with Kanye West and lesser-known “alt right” figures—the mostly irrelevant Milo Yiannopoulos and the America First organization’s youthful leader, Nick Fuentes—shows that Republicans have learned absolutely nothing from Trump. Instead, they have piled onto the regime’s latest “two minutes hate” bandwagon, climbing and clawing over one another to prove that they’re loyal, voluntary enforcers of regime morality by condemning Trump.
Just as we have heard so many times before, “He really did it this time! He can’t recover!”
Even stipulating for a moment that Kanye et alia have said things that are offensive, racist, and even antisemitic, so what? What a dubious moral principle which says Trump cannot meet with such people, or, if one chooses to meet with them, one thereby endorses everything they ever wrote and said. Bad thoughts are not (yet) crimes, unlike Barack Obama’s cocaine use or Bill Clinton’s rape of Juanita Broderick. Yet no one has been condemned for meeting with those losers.
Moreover, Kanye and his new friends might be wrong, mistaken, confused, and hostile in having such views, but there is no such thing as a thought crime. Honorable people can be liberal or atheists, for example, and be wrong, mistaken, confused, and sometimes hostile in having such views. This does not make them criminals, and this does not mean that Trump or anyone has done something wrong in meeting with members of either camp.
In other words, in a free society we should reject the concept of “thought crimes,” just as our law has since time immemorial. We should affirm that free people can speak and meet with whomever they want. They can meet with their opponents and their enemies. They can meet with those whose minds they want to change. They can meet with people they agree with on some matters and disagree on others. In contrast, “guilt by association” is a totalitarian notion, which demands that every meeting, every friendship, every relationship, and ultimately every thought be policed by an ever-changing kaleidoscope of prohibitions and restrictions.
One thing Trump did well, which most other Republicans still have not learned, was never to concede that the Left and their organs in the media and the professional political class can set the standards of morality. When they punched, he punched back, on instinct.
Trump’s critics on the Left are disgraceful and immoral people, who have accepted money from criminals like Sam Bankman-Fried and Jeffrey Epstein, and who themselves have frequently acted disgracefully. They have stood with violent terrorists in the Weather Underground, Antifa, and the Black Lives Matter movement and minimized the damage these violent groups have done.
They have no standing to judge anyone. Rather, their alleged scale of values is false and full of hypocrisy. It’s a tool designed to instill fear and uncertainty and a lack of confidence in the majority. Their accusations are a pose, a psyop, a means of exercising social and political control by erecting a false, au courant, and malleable scale of new moral values. It is unsettling, because it is designed to unsettle.
Prior to Trump’s appearance, and even now, Republicans are always jumping to the tune set by others, trying to show that they’re not racist, sexist, homophobic, or whatever, as if these principles made up the entirety of morality. They seem to forget that the Left’s dishonesty, cowardice, destructiveness, licentiousness, and hatred for Christian civilization and white Americans deprives the Left of moral and political standing. When condemning the Left, Republicans unfortunately use the same moral compass, calling them the “real racists,” as if this were the only conceivable way to be wrong or evil.
Even before Trump, was it not obvious that labeling racist everything from self-defense to proper grammar made such accusations meaningless?
Trump, of course, had his issues, not least of which is that his vaunted instincts got him to hire actual enemies hostile to him and his agenda. Simultaneously, he set adrift his early allies, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
That all said, Trump always knew that the “guilt by association” brigade and their calls to recant, disavow, and separate himself from people was a losing strategy. He resisted this many times, including in his condemnation of the violent Antifa crews present at the Charlottesville rally. Trump took heat for this, but he was right to say what he said. There was nothing wrong with protesting the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee; there were good people on both sides; and, even the extremists in the crowd had a right of free speech and free assembly that should have been protected from violent attack.
America used to have a culture of free speech, free association, and free thinking. Not merely the legal rights to these things, but a culture such as this is an essential requirement for popular government and self-rule. In its absence, the regime becomes an oligarchy, where thought and policy are all emanations from those at the top, and where deviations are punished by a full spectrum of coordinated economic and reputational penalties.
Modern morality, sometimes called “political correctness,” is hostile to these older principles of free thinking and free speech. This is the root of the online “safety” monitors and “hate speech” restrictions on campus. There is an irreconcilable tension between the older political morality of the Constitution—the morality of liberty—and the modern one, which is concerned chiefly with enforcing equality of outcomes rather than merely recognizing our equality in political rights.
As Christopher Caldwell has argued, “changes of the 1960s, with civil rights at their core, were not just a major new element in the Constitution. They were a rival constitution, with which the original one was frequently incompatible—and the incompatibility would worsen as the civil rights regime was built out.”
There is no reason that I or anyone needs to defend Kanye or Milo or Nick Fuentes in order to defend Trump. He can meet with whoever he wants, accepting what they say that is true, while rejecting that which is false. Nothing they have done or said is imputable to Trump simply for meeting with them.
This issue is not going away. If we do not reject the false morality of political correctness and guilt by association, we will no longer have a country that is recognizably free.