2016 Election, Conservative Movement, Donald Trump, Jonah Goldberg, Publius Decius Mus, The Right Split
Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. — Horace.
“Publius Decius Mus” (Mousey as far as I’m concerned) is back.
Jonah Goldberg, in the course of discussing the disconnection from reality of Trumpkins’ narratives, took the time to casually boot Mousey around the block.
Consider the anonymous writer Decius (whose identity is known to anyone who cares to know it and hidden from the masses of people who couldnâ€™t give a ratâ€™s ass. But I will honor this ridiculous conceit.) Deciusâ€™s most famous piece of work â€” and it was a piece of work â€” was his Flight 93 Election essay in which he argued that this election poses an existential threat to Americaâ€™s survival. Either we charge the cockpit and vote for Trump, or the figurative terrorists of the Clinton cabal kill us all. Either you muster the courage to fight the terrorists, or youâ€™re with the terrorists. Moreover, if you donâ€™t agree with his Manichean prescription, itâ€™s probably because youâ€™re acting to protect your status as a member of the â€œDavos classâ€ or some other phylum of pocket-lining, rent-seeking remoras. I think that argument is grotesque on the merits, and unworthy of the author.
As I explained in a previous G-File, itâ€™s also remarkably cowardly. He invokes the heroism of the passengers of Flight 93. Deciusâ€™s pseudonym harkens back to a Roman martyr who bravely gave his life to save the Republic. And yet, heâ€™s unwilling to risk putting his own name on the literary bombs he throws for fear of losing his own Davos-class-worthy lifestyle.
In a more recent essay, Decius attacks my AEI colleague James Pethokoukis for writing a piece titled â€œA Conservative Case against Trumpâ€™s Apocalyptic View of America.â€ Itâ€™s worth noting that Decius had to misrepresent Pethokoukis argument from the outset. The title of Pethokoukisâ€™s piece begins â€œA Conservative Caseâ€ â€” meaning that it is one argument among many other possible arguments. Decius changes it into the conservative case, suggesting that James is trying to assert that his is the only way conservatives should see the issues. Thatâ€™s not Pethokoukisâ€™s style, but it is the style of the man who says if you disagree with him about Trump, youâ€™re a sell-out in favor of destroying America. Pethokoukisâ€™s sin, according to Decius, is to even suggest that apocalyptic despair about America might be an overreaction to the current plight of our country. He goes on to write, with no sense of irony:
I donâ€™t know James Pethokoukis. But I know lots of â€œconservativesâ€ just like him: eager, even giddy, to throw anyone ostensibly on their side to the Leftist wolves.
Iâ€™m tired of being shot in the back my â€œfriends.â€ Itâ€™s high time to turn around and let them shoot me in the face, in frank acknowledgement that I am their enemy.
I donâ€™t think Decius is my enemy. But he clearly thinks anyone not in lockstep with his worldview is his. Still, I do have one suggestion. If you want your supposed enemies to shoot you in the face, stop hiding behind a pseudonym.
I dwell on Decius here not just because I am appalled by the way heâ€™s been writing in bad faith, but also because it illustrates my larger point. As an actual argument, Decius makes some fine points about the current state of America â€” many of which I agree with in whole or in part. But in its totality it isnâ€™t really an argument at all. Itâ€™s a cri de coeur, a venting of feelings. The passion, no doubt sincerely felt, has taken reason hostage. The correct response to so much of this venting isnâ€™t to rebut his points case by case, but to simply say, â€œLighten up, Francis.â€
Mousey didn’t like it and has penned another of his hyper-pretentious, long-winded essays in reply. I find trying to dissect substantive arguments out of his writings is much like trying to pick up mercury from a tabletop with a pair of chopsticks. There is all that verbiage and all that self-congratulatory triumphant posing, but underneath it there is nothing but the same Alt-Right party-line delusional worldview:
This election is apocalyptic. Conservatives owe Trump support, because this is the Apocalypse, man, and you’re on the Alt-Right Trump side or you’re for Hillary.
The Alt-Right has History’s endorsement in its pocket, because, you see, Conservatism is a) simply a part of a diabolical elite, Davos-based, conspiracy to rule the country for its own benefit, and because b) Conservatism (despite its joint tenure with Progressivism in running things and the accruing benefit of drinking all that Haut Brion around the fire in Davos) has done nothing but lose.
And, finally, when this election is over, and he doesn’t say it, but he means “after Trump loses,” conservatives better fall in line with Trump’s issues, i.e. Nativism, Protectionism, Isolationism, or there will be a split.
Well, Mousey, I’d reply, there already is a split. You and your friends went whoring off supporting an unqualified, unconservative, populist mountebank without a shred of principles, rejecting every qualified, conservative, and electable candidate in the process. If the GOP had nominated any legitimate, respectable conservative, he’d be coming up on beating Hillary in a landslide. You and Trump lost this election. Not Jonah Goldberg, James Pethokoukis, or me.
The Conservative Movement rose after WWII, in defiance of fashion, the received view of history, and the status quo, to dominate the Republican Party; to elect Ronald Reagan president; to defeat the Soviet Union, liberate Central Europe, and win the Cold War; and to establish a sufficiently powerful intellectual opposition to Collectivist Statism that in the 1990s the Left’s candidates in Britain and America both acknowledged openly that “the era of Big Government is over.”
So what has Conservatism done for you lately? says the Alt-Right.
Political reality and political possibility, alas! move slowly and at a ponderous pace, sometimes moved in one direction or the other by Fortune, beyond the immediate control of any collection or alliance of us mortals.
George W. Bush screwed up and allowed the Left to turn public opinion against his military efforts, then Fate handed the Progressive Left both an economic crash weeks before the election and a well-spoken radical candidate with extraordinary symbolic appeal. Meanwhile the Left’s long march through the Culture and the Institutions went on, arriving recently at points frequently downright comedic.
I and the other conservatives I know generally thought that GWB really ought to have done a better job, but he actually was not consulting on a daily basis with most of us. We were supremely unlucky in 2008 and still unlucky in 2012, but frankly I think this year Fate was really getting outrageously out-of-hand.
No one contends that the detailed principles of the post-WWII Conservative Movement are written in stone, but if anyone is going to try to revise Conservatism’s policy preferences and positions, it is going to take better arguments and a better grasp of history than any of either the low-information, big-mouth shitbirds or the pretentious windbags with imaginary togas currently operating on the Alt-Right have so far ever shown.
It is regrettable that the Left dominates the universities, the media, and the Arts. Tell you what, after Trump loses, and the Conservative Movement splits permanently, why don’t you and Pat Buchanan and Mike Cernovich and Vox Day all go take the Culture and the Institutions back? It will give you something to do besides complain about how all the #NeverTrumpers stabbed you in the back.