In 2017, my friend Rod Dreher published his popular book, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. Dreher’s basic prescription, already intimately familiar to Orthodox Jews, is a localist focus on the cohesive formation of tight-knit, virtuous, religious communities as the best way of enduring the cultural onslaught of progressivism and secularism.
There is nothing at all wrong with Tocquevillian localism, and surely it is part of the survival strategy for America’s more traditionally inclined. But further extrapolated to its logical conclusion (something Dreher doesn’t do in his book, to be very clear), the strongest-possible version of this argument—a singular emphasis on retreat to communal redoubts at the expense of the public contestation of core issues—is self-defeating, a surefire losing strategy. It amounts to one big “LARP,” to use the common online abbreviation for “live-action role-playing”—an attempt to escape from reality and instead live in a different world than that which we actually inhabit.
To “LARP” in this manner, and to retreat from our decadent civilizational morass more generally in the hope that all can be cured by wishing it to be so, is not merely naïve. It also belies an underselling of modern progressivism-secularism’s fundamentally hegemonic impulse. Much like Pac-Man, the modern Left has an insatiable appetite, attempting to gobble up ever-more cultural, political and geographical terrain and permanently vanquish the forces of traditionalism and Americanism.
Amidst this ineluctable backdrop, it is incumbent upon the American Right to recognize, as this column admonished last week in response to the New York County, New York District Attorney’s unprecedented and utterly meritless criminal indictment of former President Donald Trump, that the only way out is through. Some recent examples help clarify what that entails.
Consider first the dramatic pushback to Anheuser-Busch’s gobsmacking decision to present a special-edition can of Bud Light, America’s best selling beer, to biological male Dylan Mulvaney to commemorate the now-transgender Mulvaney’s “365 Days of Girlhood.”
Anheuser-Busch’s market capitalization has plummeted after the boneheaded decision, to the tune of billions of dollars. Kid Rock filmed a video of himself shooting Bud Light cans with a rifle and cursing off Bud Light and Anheuser-Busch, and country star John Rich announced he was pulling all Bud Light from his bar in downtown Nashville. FOX Business aptly summarized the carnage with a headline earlier this week: “Bud Light suffers bloodbath as longtime and loyal consumers revolt against transgender campaign.” The full damage will likely take weeks, perhaps months, to assess, and there have been off-record grumblings from Bud Light executives who felt “blindsided” by the stunt.
A decade ago, around the time liberals were boycotting Chick-fil-A en masse due to the devout Christian beliefs and strongly held views on marriage of the company’s founder and managers, many on the Right refused to countenance reciprocating with such “nasty” tactics, preferring instead to seize an illusory moral high ground. But concerted economic boycotts, it turns out, work: They are effectual punishments of one’s cultural enemies using the undoubtedly legitimate means of market pressure. The Right, it turns out, can mass-organize just like the Left can. Perhaps Anheuser-Busch will see the folly of its ham-fisted attempt to foist the transgender agenda down the throats of its disapproving—”fratty,” to use the Bud Light vice president of marketing’s now-infamous description—customer base. Or perhaps it won’t. Regardless, the dramatic and successful pushback, which continues almost two weeks later, underscores that the only way out is through.
Consider also the recent drama in Tennessee. The Republican-dominated state House of Representatives voted to expel two Democrats for their role in fomenting what the hyperpartisan corporate press, if the parties were reversed, would not hesitate to describe as an “insurrection.” Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson are both clearly seen on video ginning up a frothing mob in support of gun control to descend upon the legislative chamber and demand more Second Amendment restrictions after a transgender lunatic decided to shoot up a local Christian school. In the video, Jones and Pearson can be clearly seen shouting into a bullhorn, flying protest signs and leading vapid chants for protesters in the gallery—all of which flouts Tennessee House rules.
Many have condemned Tennessee Republicans for their purported “overreach” in expelling the inciters—including, naturally, the invariably incoherent Vice President Kamala Harris, who jetted off to Nashville to praise the rulebreakers (each of whom has since been reinstated to the House by their respective county commission or city council) for their “courage.” (N.B. real courage in this broader saga would be Nashville law enforcement standing up to the transgender lobby and releasing the lunatic school shooter’s manifesto, which has conveniently since been deep-sixed.) But at a time when U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice is prosecuting myriad dubious cases of hapless individuals who traipsed into the U.S. Capitol during the January 6 jamboree, which the corporate press prefers to describe as an “insurrection,” why would the Right in Tennessee not muscularly respond to actual legislative rulebreakers in an attempt to send a reciprocal message? Fight fire with fire, mutatis mutandis: The only way out is through.
Finally, consider the recent admirable decision of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Judge James C. Ho (disclosure: my former boss) and U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit Judge Lisa Branch to supplement their previously announced boycott of hiring law clerks from woke-addled Yale Law School by now adding an additional boycott of Stanford Law School, where fellow Fifth Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan was shouted down last month by an uncontrollable mob of juvenile mini-Robespierre jackals. Just as some “nice” and “civil” conservatives rejected economic boycotts a decade ago, so too do many establishment/chamber of commerce-aligned conservative judges today reject using their heft in the law-clerk hiring market to try to effectuate much-needed changes at our nation’s leading institutions of legal education. But these naysaying judges are simply naive. Only “exogenous shocks to the system,” as the Manhattan Institute’s Ilya Shapiro recently put it in Newsweek (where I am opinion editor), have any chance of bearing fruit. The Ho/Branch boycott, in short, is emphatically correct: The only way out is through.
“When it comes to the most important things in life, you should toss civility aside and fight for what’s right with everything you have,” Rabbi Dr. Ari Lamm argued in a 2020 Newsweek op-ed. Indeed. Would that the country club/chamber of commerce wing of the American Right might imbibe that lesson. The only way out, truly, is through.
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