Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Right And The Other Right

I'm a member of a website focusing on those on the political Right, in its various shading and permutations.  For a small annual fee the site is moderated and has a Code of Conduct under which some members have been suspended and occasionally expelled.  It has a private members section and a public feed which includes podcasts, posts by contributors, and posts by members which have been upvoted from the private feed and deemed worthy by the site editors.  The site was founded by Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institute and who, as a young man wrote Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech, and Rob Long, a screenwriter, and producer of the last few years of the comedy series Cheers.

An interesting situation arose last year which I'll recount here.  Because of the confidentiality provisions of the private feed I will not use direct quotes or names and avoid excessive personal details.  I'm doing so since I've spent considerable time writing about the problems on the Left with  identity politics, intersectionality, and social justice, theories which are injecting poison into the body politic, but the Right also has a problem created, at least in part (though that is no excuse), as a reaction to what's happened over the past decade on the Left; the rise of white nationalism or "race realism", as its slickest proponents like to relabel it.

A member who had only recently become active posted a piece condemning multiculturalism.   Now multiculturalism, as it has become defined by 21st century Progressives, deserves condemnation.  The Progressive version is of a multicultural society, defined as one where gender, ethnic, and racial characteristics are, and should be, the determinants of how individuals in each group should act and society organized, requiring a society that vigorously resists assimilation into any common national or patriotic ethos.  It is further defined by adding intersectionality, under which each group is ranked based upon the power status it should have within that society, with the more perceived oppressed groups deserving higher ranking.  In contrast, I think we should treat people as individuals, capable of making their own decisions.  It is a permanent state of existence, not a transitional one as people are assimiliated into American culture.  In my view White nationalists are those who are the mirror image of modern progressives obsessed with identity and intersectionality with the only difference being which group(s) should be on top.

The posting member had in the prior weeks put up several posts.  They were well-written and not particularly inflammatory (at least by internet standards).  However, I was convinced we were dealing with a white nationalist who was carefully working to ingratiate himself to members and create converts.  My suspicions were verified when one of his pieces contained a link which took me to VDare, a forthrightly white nationalist website, though it prefers the term "race realist".

For those unacquainted with the terminology of white nationalists, the cleverest now stay away from the charged language of white supremacy and overt calls for race hatred.  Instead they discuss race realism, focusing on inherent differences between races and cultures, striking an almost regretful tone, and then calling for each race or culture to have its own nation with, of course, the punchline being that the U.S. should be a white, Christian nation.

His post on multiculturalism provided a sobering example of how the rhetoric of race realism can be attractive to people who don't otherwise agree with its underlying premise.  In this case, the post drew a comment from another new member who had joined after the 2016 election.  Prior to 2016 she had been very Left wing, but Trump's views on immigration and multiculturalism appealed to her (interestingly, her other political views remain more Left than traditional Right).  Her comment was to the effect that when her children were in school during the 90s, they had friends of different religions, races, and cultures and the kids all got along which she thought was great (and sounds good to me!) but, her friends who had children in the same school district now reported a very different situation in which students were indoctrinated to be conscious about groups and oppression, with many fewer interactions among children of different races, religions, and cultures, and most of those revolved around inherent group characteristics and increasingly antagonistic.  Our commenter rightfully bemoaned that current situation and endorsed the post.  She clearly did not realize that the type of multiculturalism she thought was good in the 90s was, in the view of white nationalists, also a mistake.  A race realist would tell those of us on the Right that our approach on focusing on individuals is inherently wrong, and would (and should) inevitably fail, just as identity Progressives would.

In this particular case, the poster received a lot of pushback on his posts and eventually ceased appearing on the website.  However, I think this will be a continuing problem on the Right.  Indeed it is one the Left wants to encourage, since the current position of Progressives seems to be that anyone not on their side is a racist, sexist, homophobe who should be expelled from society so what could be better than encouraging real racists to take over the GOP?

The danger with the most clever of the white nationalists (like the punk Nick Fuentes, whom I had not heard of until a couple of weeks ago) is that they can sound like just a little more strident version of those of us who oppose multiculturalism and identity politics and favor a sane immigration policy. In reality they are playing an entirely different game with a different goal in terms of the society they want to create.

The Right needs to avoid falling into the trap of becoming a mirror version of what Democrats have become in the past few years where the identity politics crew has become the dominant voice of the party.  We need to learn lessons from what's happened on the Left in order to avoid that fate.

Just as the race realists have learned to use language that seems to be similar to that used widely on the Right, the woke crazies on the Left have already effectively used the same strategy.  Brett Weinstein, who was a biology professor at Evergreen State College until driven out by the woke crowd (he's a Sanders supporter) has observed that the social justice Left uses the language of traditional liberalism but its goals are very different; not to open up dialogue, but to throttle dissent and dominate.

Race realists have other similarities to the social justice crowd on the Left.  Recently I came across an interview with Richard Spencer.  Spencer is the neo-Nazi who gained a lot of publicity in early 2017 by holding a meeting in Washington coincident with Trump's inauguration (and later Charlottesville).  He is a skilled self-promoter and tied himself to Trump knowing the mainstream media would play up the connection because they are so dementedly anti-Trump.  So here was this guy I and many other folks on the Right had never heard of, being promoted by the New York Times as the new voice of the Right!  Anyway, he drew only about 175 supporters to his meeting (they were outnumbered by the media).

In the interview Spencer discusses his views on domestic social policy.  The striking thing is that he is clearly a Southern New Deal Democrat, endorsing big government programs, provided they are focused on white people.  Having just read Robert Caro's biography of LBJ, the person Spencer reminded me of was Richard Russell, the man considered the "Dean" of the Senate in the 1950s and 60s.  I always thought of Russell as a conservative southern Democrat, but Caro points out that Russell was elected to the Senate in the early 1930s as a strong supporter of FDR and the New Deal and continued to support those programs throughout his career.  Of course, the price FDR had to pay to get Southern Democratic support in the 1930s was to ensure that blacks did not get equal access to the programs of the New Deal.  And remember that in the 1930s both parties supported very restrictive immigration policies.

The race realists of today have positioned themselves to try to take over the Right because of immigration, multiculturalism, and the social justice Left's general disdain for America but the programs they would enact if they ever came to power are closer to those of Progressives than of traditional conservatives.

There have been some encouraging signs, at least in Congress.  Steve King, the Iowa Congressman who, I think really is a bigot, has been expelled from the Republican Caucus and has no committee assignments making him the equivalent of a non-person in Congress*.  In contrast, AOC, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and a whole squad of Democratic politicians who are determined to divide Americans based on race, ethnicity, and religion are on the ascent with Democratic Progressives.

For the sake of the country, I hope the remaining traditional Democratic liberals can regain control of their party and that Republicans and conservatives learn the lessons from what has happened on the Left.

* Even in the case of King the media gets most of his story wrong.  I read an extensive account in the New York Times listing what purported to be his bigoted and racist statements.  Most of the statements were either factually true or statements of opinion but not bigoted or racist. 

No comments:

Post a Comment