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.
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.