Kurt Schlichter has a provocative new piece at Townhall in which he argues “the Rule of Law is a unicorn and it has been for a long time.” As a result his “plan is to cause the left so much pain by applying their new rules to them that they give up trying to grind their Birkenstocks into our faces forever.” In return, he’d like “True Con” friends of his to offer up an alternative plan.
First, I think it goes without saying that Kurt is right, conservatism is not a suicide pact. But what he is offering is. Politics in America is cyclical and the right will never be able to apply so much pain to the left that the left stands down. The left, you will remember, willfully has no sense of history and never learns from the past. It is not going to start now in large part because there is still a semblance of the rule of law in America. It is certainly on weaker ground that it ever has been before, but it is not gone.
Also, meting out pain to the opponent is not conservative. In fact, I think what Kurt is offering up is really the choice we are carening towards and he seems to want to force: rightwing authoritarianism vs leftwing totalitarianism. The former lets you keep your social liberalism and beats the hell out of you if you try to push it on anyone else. The latter destroys your life if you do not cave into liberal social policy. Neither shows grace for the other and the rule of law is premised on which mob is in charge.
That is the destruction of conservatism, the American ideal, and is a suicide pact.
What would be the alternative?
First, force McConnell and the Senate to escalate the judicial appointments process. Get more judges on the bench committed to the rule of law who will be fair and deal evenhandedly with both sides.
Second, stop escalating the fight. Though you would never know it by the conservative statements in the past few days, Barack Obama’s pardoning of the Puerto Rican terrorist actually did generate serious critical concerns within both the Democrat establishment and the media largely because George W. Bush had shown such restraint with the Scooter Libby situation. Restraint creates precedent just as much as unrestraint does.
If you use government to punish your enemies, it makes it all the easier for the left to do it once they get back into power and no one will care when you complain. And short of a military coup, which is not going to happen, the left will get back into power. Congratulations on escalating the precedents they will then use against you.
Third, actually repeal Obamacare or repeal the politicians who promised to repeal it. Get the federal government out of healthcare. Hold the politicians responsible for their broken promises. This has nothing to do with electing better people and everything to do with defeating the liars already there. Instead of focusing energies on beating the left, conservatives need to beat the incumbents. The incumbents will not respect us unless they fear us.
Fourth, cut the federal budget. Instead of regulating for conservative purposes, which will eventually be turned on conservatives, extinguish the regulators altogether. Kurt had previously suggested conservatives regulate Google and Silicon Valley. I am extremely sympathetic to the agreement and increasingly agree. But the regulations that would be used would be turned rather quickly on talk radio and elsewhere. The better solution is to end the regulators’ ability to regulate, while embracing one European regulatory idea.
That idea is that in the digital age, lower price does not mean there are no anti-trust violations. In fact, in the digital age groups like Amazon are able to acquire monopolies and shut down competitors by keeping prices low. But they do so by denying consumers alternative choices. The Europeans have shifting their thinking of anti-trust laws accordingly. Now they are going after entities like Google for stifling competition through denial of choice. We could and should embrace that. Google will keep the internet cheap, but will do so by devaluing others work in favor of its own.
If we shift to choice based anti-trust enforcement, we do not need copious new regulations and, in fact, competitors will benefit from the decrease in regulation.
Fifth, recognize we have to have abstract principle to form the ideas to advance our cause. Beating the left is not principle and it is not public policy. It is a cathartic desire of some that will eventually blow back on them. I don’t have all the answers, but I know that becoming what we profess to loathe does not advance our goals. And embracing the left’s tactics against them just makes us like them and makes it harder for us to find a way forward.
Lastly, I think this will only get worse. I think Kurt’s piece scratches an itch for a lot of people on the right who view conservatism as a lost cause. They still claim to be conservative in the way a lot of people claim to be Christian. It is more an ethnic identifier than anything substantive. They do not see how the ideas relate to their lives and conservative leaders have really failed to sell those ideas. They did so in large part because they allowed a guy like George W. Bush to redefine conservatism in his own image without ever holding him accountable. The solution, however, is not to now give Donald Trump free rein, but to speak up and point out alternatives and better ways.
I do think it is going to get worse though. We are in the end times and on the glide path to the second coming. Neighbor will be fighting neighbor. Countries will begin to turn inward against their own and then against each other. There will be fewer and fewer people willing to stand up for Gospel truth and grace and more and more giving in to their worst instincts. But that does not mean we should give in to the madness. The dawn always breaks. It may just take time.