Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Woke Conservatism--Is Its Time Now?

Sohrab Ahmari is best known for his May, 2019, article Against David French-ism. Here is how Wikipedia characterizes the argument Ahmari presented in that article:

The dispute centered around their differing opinions on how conservatives should approach cultural and political debate, with Ahmari deriding what he calls "David French-ism", a political persuasion he defines as believing "that the institutions of a technocratic market society are neutral zones that should, in theory, accommodate both traditional Christianity and the libertine ways and paganized ideology of the other side". He argues that this belief leads to an ineffective conservative movement, and contends that the best way for culturally conservative values to prevail in society is a strategy of "discrediting ... opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions", which he maintains is a tactic already utilized by progressives, leaving conservatives who adhere to the David French-style of politics impotent in what he views as a waging culture war in the United States. He argues that the political realm should be viewed as one of "war and enmity", and that the power of the government should be directly utilized to impose culturally conservative values on society.

Ahmari has a new article, following up on Against David French-ism. Below I present enough excerpts to outline his argument. I thought this approach is especially relevant in view of what Lee Smith refers to as The Permanent Coup, the "resistance" against not only President Trump but against--in essence--all things American. It's a war, and Ahmari calls on conservatives to recognize that reality.

As you read you'll probably be frustrated at a lack of specific proposals, beyond Ahmari's skepticism that the libertarian "marketplace of ideas" will magically lead to an agreeable solution and his clear view that that "marketplace of ideas" has been jiggered by "private tyrants" in collaboration with entrenched liberal government. Also lacking, or so it seems to me, is any attempt or appeal to ground this critique in what I would call the humane civilizational principles that lay behind our constitutional order. That is particularly unfortunate because those principles are now under increasingly open and explicit attack.

Nevertheless, there is food for thought. A GOPe is part of our current crisis because its accommodationism plays into the progressive usurpation of constitutional institutions for distinctly unconstitutional ends. Ultimately, Ahmari is calling for conservative to wake to the true nature of the threat that our country is facing, to wake--as we face a crucial election--to the fact that this is a war, and wake to what tactics are necessary to preserve our civilization.

In a sense, one could argue that Ahmari is calling on conservatives to wake to the fact that de Toqueville's misgivings, as expressed in Democracy in America, regarding the way democracy would play out are, in fact, coming true:

Tocqueville speculates on the future of democracy in the United States, discussing possible threats to democracy and possible dangers of democracy. These include his belief that democracy has a tendency to degenerate into "soft despotism" as well as the risk of developing a tyranny of the majority. ... 
Tocqueville also outlines the possible excesses of passion for equality among men, foreshadowing the totalitarian states of the twentieth century.
Tocqueville observed that social mechanisms have paradoxes, as in what later became known as the Tocqueville effect: "social frustration increases as social conditions improve". He wrote that this growing hatred of social privilege, as social conditions improve, leads to the state concentrating more power to itself.

De Toqueville's misgivings have turned out to be prophetic warnings. Conservatives must come to grips with that reality if they are to have any chance of winning this civilizational war.

How to be right
After Trump, the time of the woke conservative must come

Two broad camps divide American conservatism today: those who get it, and those who don’t — the woke and unwoke ...

President Trump was among the first to get it, in his own intuitive, messy way. The ambitious Missouri senator Josh Hawley is likewise woke. So are Attorney General Bill Barr and Fox News host Tucker Carlson. But too many credentialed conservatives don’t get it.

What’s the "it" conservatives need to get? It is simply this: that the political left neither loves you nor shares many loves with you, certainly not the love of neutral norms and procedures that have long been the stock-in-trade of the center-right establishment.

..., the left has now abandoned all the old procedural niceties: in the corridors of power, in the press, in the street, online. To be sure, some ‘moderate’ liberals still mouth the old rhetoric — ‘free speech’, ‘free inquiry’, etc — and get canceled for their trouble. But what their movement as a whole seeks is the brute enactment of substantive liberal commitments.

... To the liberal mind, norms and procedures are worthwhile only insofar as they help advance [their] vision. If existing norms and procedures fail to do that, well, new ones will have to be found. ... The point is to win. Decisively.

Unwoke conservatives still labor under the quaint impression that a golden age of procedural liberalism can be restored, ...


... ‘It isn’t fair!’ is the constant refrain on the lips of unwoke conservatives. They aren’t wrong, but their whining is downright lame. ...


The contrast with conservatives who get it — the President, Hawley, Barr, Carlson and a rare few others — couldn’t be sharper. ... what makes them woke conservatives, is their willingness to deal with the balance of American social forces as it really is, rather than as they might wish it to be.

They recognize, first, that corporate America (especially the largest firms that dominate the internet and culture industries) actively supports the left’s social and cultural agenda on everything from policing and gender ideology to abortion and immigration. ... Woke conservatives see it clearly, because they aren’t blinded by the pro-business dogmas of the past.

... But if Big Tech, Hollywood, NGOs, the media, etc, are all arrayed with the left against conservatives, then it follows — and this is the second plank of the woke right — that conservatives ‘have no alternative but to use the state for the furtherance of their ends’, as the political scientist Gladden Pappin has argued.

For decades, conservatism dedicated itself to protecting private actors from state tyranny, failing to notice that private actors, too, can be tyrants. Woke conservatives understand the aim of our political community is to secure the ‘general welfare’ of the whole, as the preamble to the Constitution puts it. Maximizing the freedom of private economic actors can’t possibly be the One Thing Needful to fulfill this constitutional promise in every instance. Especially not when the unrestrained action of private firms ends up perversely destroying Americans’ liberties, as happens with Big Tech censorship.

Thus, for example, when Twitter began censoring the leader of the Free World, Trump reacted by calling into question a 1996 federal law that shields social media platforms from libel suits. ...

Third, and related: woke conservatives see both political opportunity and justice in protecting the working and middle classes. ...

..., the current liberal ferment invariably ends in demands for diversity, representation and correct language — requirements that corporate America is happy to accommodate and which suit the American bourgeoisie as a new system of manners. Liberal ‘social justice’ does precious little to address the precarious condition of the working class; if anything, liberals exacerbate it through importing foreign labor, which undercuts unskilled wages.

Trump intuited all this early on and addressed the plight of the working class as an affront to national greatness. That’s how he managed to make an end run around a GOP establishment committed to all the same things. But a new generation of woke conservatives led by Hawley and Sen. Marco Rubio is increasingly making these arguments in the language of social justice, with the latter explicitly drawing on the social teachings of Pope Leo XIII: the economy and the market exist to serve human beings, not the other way around.

Before the right can even begin to pursue a new agenda of this kind, it needs to protect the will of its voters against liberals’ sneaky efforts to undo ballot-box outcomes — and this is the fourth and final plank of woke conservatism. As Trump learned painfully over the past three and a half years with the Russia and Ukraine probes, there are no neutral institutions, not even the military and state security apparatus. And if conservatism is to lean much more heavily on the state, then the right must ensure that the state bureaucracy doesn’t secretly undermine it at every turn.

That’s where the Bill Barr wing of woke conservatism comes in. Time and again, the Attorney General, looking appropriately enough like a mix of a walrus and The Thing from Fantastic Four, has revealed the partisan liberal activists hiding behind the mask of stolid, gray-haired ‘national-security professionals’. His vow, still not completely fulfilled, to get to the bottom of the various ‘collusion’ hoaxes has made him an object of fear in Washington, and that’s as it should be. We need more Barrs.


  1. well said Mark...unfortunately, we old guys who "hung up the spikes" years ago for a dotage of leisure with family, friends, and golf are going to have to be a bit more "active" if we are to secure the blessings of liberty for our posterity, sigh. Sadly, at some point in the near future, perhaps, when my buddy says "good shot", he won't be talking about my nine iron to the 18th green...more likely my 9mm to...well, pick your target

    1. Is my "pockmarked wall" comment still censored? ;-)

  2. "private actors, too, can be tyrants", esp. if they collude to impose Leftist wokeness upon all others.
    We need Barr etc. to mobilize anti-Trust action etc., vs. Woke Capitalism.

    1. Raise your fist in solidarity, Mouse. Why don't you support your own racial demonization and destruction, racist? White silence is violence!

    2. "White silence is violence!"
      I'm **guessing** that you're not being facetious, but rather toeing the Leftist line.
      If so, it's sad that Mark's site is now attracting trolls.
      If not, you might put some icon (or whatever) along side such exercises in facetiousness, to clarify your real drift.

    3. " Why don't you support your own racial demonization and destruction"

      I'd say the "drift" was fairly clear to all but the most obtuse CTH fanboys.

    4. The "drift" was fairly clear, on whether it was facetious?
      Please enlighten me, oh omniscient ones!
      Esp. those who style themselves, to be experts on who is or isn't a "CTH fanboy".

  3. Mega dittoes to borrow the phrase. And underscore the imperative that the President urgently ferret out anyone in the military whose loyalty to the Constitution is at all suspect. The Left will undoubtedly rage against Trump's reelection, but they are clearly putting the narrative out there that the military has a duty to remove Trump if the Democrats say so. We can withstand more Leftist riots and insurrection (esp. as it mainly happens in deep Blue cities) but we cannot withstand a military coup of any sort. That will bring on a civil war a la 1930s Spain that will make the 1860s variety tame by comparison.

    1. An all-out, full-fledged civil war would decimate the Left in this country. In that regard, I can't honestly say I'm opposed to it. However, the inevitable death of innocents that would result compels me to hope for alternatives.

    2. "death of innocents that would result compels me to hope for alternatives."
      Given our JIT economy's precarious system of distrib. of food etc., the death toll could easily
      get to many tens of millions.

      That's why I've so often (recently) laid out here, proposals for separation/ secession, incl. "Jesusland vs. the US of Canada".

    3. Yes, Mouse, we have discussed this but as you bring up the idea of amicable divvying up of the country I will briefly reiterate how unworkable and unrealistic that would be. The country is far too intermixed to allow either side to give away large populations of sympathetic citizens. For example, we would never give the Left California because, aside from the resource riches and strategic ports etc..., we would not consign millions of conservatives living in the interior to oppression by the Left or forced evacuation. Neither would the Left countenance giving away Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Charlotte, etc...with millions of Left supporters. One side will win, the other loses. That's the grim reality.

    4. Thoughtful comment again, TM.
      No, we should not consign millions of conservatives living in the interior to oppression, and the Left won't countenance giving away Atlanta, Houston, etc., until all real players have the truth rubbed into their faces, that failure to attempt such population transfers will guarantee death to at least many tens of millions.

      I'll grant, that getting today's delusional Lefties to face such music, will be a tall order, unless the real powers (e.g. Gates, Bezos, Zuckerpig) care to try to save some of the value of their fortunes, instead of these wheels letting the whole place collapse.
      I'm expecting it to be, *not* amicable, but prudent avoidance of an outright cataclysm.
      Our best shot, at getting these wheels to face this music, is likely if Barr can make enough heads roll, that these wheels will back off, from their apparent dream (of making the US into a ChiCom- style oligarchy).

  4. accommodationism Is a great choice of words.

    A challenge is our public education, law schools, and top universities have become very anti Conservative, and try to brainwash students into a liberal ethos. And these become members of the education, media, business, entertainment, and government elite.

    The joker in this, is what Coranavirus will do to higher education and k-12.

    1. Right. Our constitutional order can only be conserved by an educated citizenry, not an indoctrinated one.

    2. Esp. if the indoctrination produces *venomous* hate, vs. 1/2 or more of the populace.

  5. @Vermeullarmine
    The standing illusion of the left-liberal that civil violence can be turned on and off like a spigot for political purposes

    1. "illusion of the left-liberal that civil violence can be turned on and off...."
      My guess is, that most of them haven't given it that much thought, or just don't care about the eventual outcomes.
      It's mostly instant-gratification Virtue-signalling, to win a Must-win election.

  6. First, the ballot. If that is undermined to the point of no confidence, then sterner measures shall be needed until the ship of state is righted once again.

  7. Addendum:

    Cell towers are incredibly soft targets. Social media take notice.

    1. antifa morons live by their cellphones. Take that away and they are doomed.

      Rob S

  8. @Mouse

    "Jesusland vs. the US of Canada".

    I'm inclined to agree w Tschifty...some kind of secession or separation would be very difficult to achieve.

    So, I'm inclined to think that an increased emphasis on States Rights/9th/10th Amendment rights might be a more constructive/less 'destructive' approach.

  9. Cassander, I'm fine w/ that 9th Amend. etc. thinking, but I'll guess that the Left will fight that route as much as anything, until they get a "Jesusland" ultimatum.
    Yeah, separation would be very difficult to achieve, but so its alternatives would be very difficult, if not excruciating to tolerate or achieve.

    1. The best way to avoid the concerns you express is for GOP to decisively win the White House, Senate and House in November. Its doable.

    2. I actually could live w/ not winning the House, but the Senate and W.H. are matters or Life or Death, esp. given the dire need for Barr (or his successor) to smash the plotters vs. DJT.
      Only then is there any chance, to reverse the ongoing collapse of US political culture.

      But, w/o a stark reversal of that collapse, a Dem return to the W.H. is just a matter of time.
      Before that happens, the JesusLand populace must be ready to bug out, before the Dems get the power to install guillotines in every town square, and Gulag Depolrables by the tens of millions.

      See .

  10. "It's a war, and Ahmari calls on conservatives to recognize that reality"

    referencing your later post that indicates Brennan will likely get off scott free... since it's war, and all's fair in love and war.... I just wish Barr et al would use lawfare as readily as the left does, and sue them until they're bankrupt..

    1. Have you seen that DoJ's Civil Rights Division is starting an investigation of NY and NJ for sending Covid patients to nursing homes? Violation of Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.

    2. That is the key question - are we willing to fight to keep our country? Democrats are certainly fighting to destroy it. Not just in the street, but in the DoJ and Judiciary.

      Are we willing to fight to save our country? In a serious fight that you need to win, you use any weapon at hand. Are we going to get serious? Or are we just going to CONTINUE to lose our country with the excuse that we're "better" than using the same tactics as those who are taking the country from us?

    3. Yes, I saw that about the investigation for nursing homes, but I was referring to the cabal folks.

      How on earth is Clinesmith only getting 6 months. It's monstrous what he did.

      Ive read the legal sentencing guidelines indicate only 6 months, for his minor offense, altering an email, but he played a part in the coup, and should be getting the max sentence. They all should.

      If they (Barr's DOJ) play strictly by the rules, it's like "bringing a knife to a gunfight", as the saying goes.

  11. "we're 'better' than using the same tactics as those who are taking the country from us?"
    As is often the case, much hinges on exactly what is meant, here by "the same".
    And, much hinges on what circumstances may seem to require
    what level of "any weapon at hand".

    Maybe a Biden win will require emulating the Kemalists of Turkey, in 1960, '71, and '80.
    But if we aim to save the Const., I hesitate for us to forswear the rule of law, e.g. vs. Brennan.
    I gather that Barr aims to go that route.

  12. So apparently Mueller was caught in a lie... from Undercover Huber:

    Nice to see they couldn't keep their stories straight... hopefully a sign of things to come.

  13. Actually, Mueller was telling the truth under oath. The "interview for FBI director" was a pretext to have Mueller meet with Trump.