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Right about being right? July 11, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

The Slate.com Political Gabfest had US conservative David French on it and most interesting it was too particularly about attacks from the right on French – French would be Trump averse. But the critiques of him seem to come from a strand in US conservatism which is moving towards a sort of authoritarian position.

Here’s the background:

…Sohrab Ahmari, the op-ed editor at The New York Post, whose public career embodies some of those shifts and stresses: An immigrant whose family fled the Islamic Republic of Iran, he began his career on the right as an ex-Marxist secular neoconservative at The Wall Street Journal editorial page and has since become a traditionally inclined Catholic (a journey detailed in his striking memoir, “From Fire, By Water”) and also more Trump-friendly and populist into the bargain.
In the last week Ahmari has roiled the conservative intellectual world with a critique of something he calls David French-ism, after David French of National Review, another prominent conservative writer. This controversy, like the debate over Tucker Carlson and capitalism earlier this year, has been a full-employment bill for conservative pundits. But it probably seems impossibly opaque from the outside, since superficially Ahmari and French belong to the same faction on the right — both religious conservatives, both strongly anti-abortion, both deeply engaged in battles over religious liberty (where French is a longtime litigator). Indeed it is somewhat opaque even from the inside, prompting conservatives engaging with the dispute to wonder, “What are we debating?”

Essentially Ahmari argued that civility is a second order issue particularly since:

Then came Donald Trump, who appalled many people on the right but also kindled hopes that he might, in his own odd way, use governmental power to advance the cultural aims of conservatives. That’s a divisive idea in itself. Those in the camp with David French agree that there’s a culture war, but they want, in essence, to fight culture with culture and keep government out of the matter, except when it comes to preserving bedrock rights. Those in the camp with Sohrab Ahmari feel that government must take a more active role, using its power to do things like curb the excesses of leftism in academia and promote the traditional family structure, or else the culture war is as good as lost already. Beyond that, they feel the other side has declared war and stooped to any means to win it.

It’s this last which is so problematic because as the Vanity Fair article notes Ahmari argues that the Brett Kavanaugh nomination for the Supreme Court fight was an example of a ‘power-mad left’. Except as the article continues, Ahmari’s reading is remarkably partial ignoring the fact Mitch McConnell had skewered Merrick Garland when he was the Obama nominee for the Supreme Court.

This blindness is telling and a bit depressing, but more important are the dynamics behind the call for a ‘government taking a more active role’. This is a deeply authoritarian approach and one that is far from unknown elsewhere .

Ahmari appears to have landed on a particularly hardline version of Catholicism, as against French who is Protestant and seems from what I can make out of him to be a decent enough character. Though others say that individuals from various Christian positions take different sides in this.

What’s telling is how the situation is one where there is a shift from conservatives defending freedom of speech for conservatives and the religious to one where they seem to want to do is curtail freedom of speech for those who are not conservative or religious. That’s a defining moment in a sense. On the gabfest there was a consensus that conservatism is in some ways isolated – the broader culture isn’t entirely positive for it though as French notes ‘both sides think they’re losing’. Though we, here, might feel that there’s a lot more than ‘both’ sides and many of us might feel a situation Still he had an intriguing line, which he borrowed from someone else, saying America has become more pro-gay, more pro-life and more pro-gun. Yet those like Ahmari ‘catastrophise’ matters for conservatives (as well as seeming utterly obsessed with sexuality, though as John Dickerson noted that if the faith of the person making the complaint is one where there’s a focus on sexuality…).

I think there’s a more cynical take on this than catastrophising on the part of conservatives. I think that this is regarded as a moment when perhaps paradigmatic shifts might occur – or to put it more bluntly, there’s an opportunity now with Trump in order to push their agenda through.

Of course for those of us who lived in a socially repressive Ireland of the 1970s and 1980s where there was overt repression against LGB people, where single mothers were pilloried, where anti-women legislation was on the books and so on (and I’m in no way suggesting all is sweetness and light now) it is difficult to believe the great claims that those like Amar make for those sort of societies. Ireland was more than that, of course. All societies are. But it was also crushingly limited by that too. One of my abiding memories is seeing young gay men I knew going to the gaysoc in the institution I attended rather than the one they were in which was a good twenty minute walk away due to obvious concerns over their safety and confidentiality and so on. The Amar’s of the world might think that a better way to organise matters. I’m convinced of the opposite.

As to the future…as the NYT notes:

The further this reconsideration goes, the more fanciful, utopian or revolutionary it might seem. (The integralists would cop to the last designation.) But the basic concept of a right rooted more in cultural conservatism and economic populism than in libertarianism and individualism isn’t fanciful; it describes the emergent right-of-center ideological formations all across the Western world. The American pendulum may swing back to fusionism after Trump — French is hardly alone in championing the old regime, and most Republican politicians remain instinctive fusionists — but some version of Ahmari’s turn is one that the right is making almost everywhere, for now.


1. oliverbohs - July 11, 2019

Wbs, do you think there’s a chance, given the hopes and dreams of those in the U. S. as discussed above, the Supreme Court situation where “their guys” can be appointed, dovetailing a kind of counter revolution in Ireland? Not in the short term perhaps but a little while down the line, once the Holy joes regroup and attempt to broaden their strategy. (Maybe hankering after the govt in Poland, looking for increased welfare spending welded to old school Catholicism, by contrast). Hard to envisage, but…


WorldbyStorm - July 11, 2019

We think as one. I’ve wondered that a lot – whether the chilling effect could function that way. There’s certainly a sort of consolidation of those forces underway in Ireland. They were definitely demoralised after the 8th. Not sure they’re quite so demoralised now. And of course it provides, as with the US a sort of pole they can organised around.


Joe - July 11, 2019

Well if it’s any consolation, I have this from the horse’s mouth. I met my neighbour Eamon after the election. He was the supercrazy ‘pro-life, anti-abortion’ candidate. He told me he was disappointed with how few votes he got and that morale was low among ‘pro-life’ people.

Liked by 1 person

2. oliverbohs - July 11, 2019

I would bet that all pro lifers are looking across to the US with interest. Remember the UK elections in 2005? Vote for Blair with a peg on your nose, and all that shite. Just like what the Bible belt types did for the Donald years later.
I do agree that they have no political base now. And that they need some event like a threat of World War or something. They cannot fabricate anything on their own here. But someone smarter than me said a while back that whoever follows Trump can learn from his mistakes and keep his base fired up.


WorldbyStorm - July 11, 2019

And that’s true. The Republicans are going to be a fairly different party here on out.


3. yourcousin - July 12, 2019

This post needed some mood music.


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