Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Trump vs "The Squad": We're at an Inflection Point

 We're watching realignments taking place on both sides of the political spectrum.  For several months now,  the Democrats have been engaged in a food fight between Speaker Pelosi, and an outspoken "squad" of freshman Congresswomen who are determined to transform their party overnight into an openly socialist, no borders, anti-semitic, and pro al Qaida party.

And judging by statements from the Democratic presidential candidates, the so called "squad" is meeting with some success.  The rhetoric has gotten so heated that Pelosi was accused by those same members of being biased against women of color.  That epithet, the dreaded race card, is usually reserved for Republican opponents.  Remember the good old days when we used to think that Nancy was the radical face of her party?.  Yeah...good times!  Anyway...

 The Republicans have been doing some realignment of their own, thanks largely to the overwhelming persona of one Donald J Trump.  In contrast to the volatility of Democratic politics in recent days, most of the fireworks on the Republican side took place in the run-up to the 2016 election.  That's not to say that things in Republican circles have gone completely dark since Trump's election, but the fight for the heart and soul of the Republican party has been taking place on a more intellectual plane, largely unnoticed by the mainstream press.  Most conservative thinkers have grudgingly acquiesced to Trump's ownership of the party, but a compact nucleus of staunch Never Trumpers still persist in their opposition to the president.  Unlike the Democrat's recent conflagration, the Republican's debates have been more restrained.

Sohrab Ahmari used to write for conservative Commentary Magazine.  As a regular listener to the Commentary Podcast, I am familiar with his thinking.  He is not blind to Trump's manifest flaws, but he has come to terms with the man, and like many conservatives, he accepts Trump on a transactional basis.  He's the president.  We'll support him when he's working towards shared goals.  He has recently moved on to become the Opinion Editor for the New York Post.

David French writes for the National Review, another of my go to publications.  He's a principled conservative and remains solidly Never Trump to this day.  Sohrab is a Catholic.  David is an evangelical Christian.  Both men's politics are strongly influenced by their faith.  At the end of May, Sohrab published an essay on the First Things website entitled Against David Frenchism  where he makes the case for full throated support for Trump despite his flaws.  To do any less is just ceding territory to a relentless opposition who will exploit any advantage to mercilessly pursue their cultural agendas.  A couple of excerpts from Ahmari's piece illustrate his thinking.

With a kind of animal instinct, Trump understood what was missing from mainstream (more or less French-ian) conservatism....

French’s response to these developments on the right has been predictable: He has spent two years promoting the now-discredited Russian “collusion” theory; moralizing and pretending we don’t face enemies who seek our personal destruction (just ask Justice Kavanaugh); and haranguing his fellow evangelical Protestants for supporting Trump, as if they were the only American voting bloc ever forced to compromise. As an activist, French has benefited from the Trump GOP’s ascendance, but he has kept his hands clean, his soul untainted.

 Then there is this:

Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.  

Ahmari has clearly staked out his position.  We're at war.  We can't afford to play by the enemies rules.  Rules which they have no intention of observing themselves.  If any nation should recognize the hazards of rules of engagement that are too circumscribed, it is the United States.  As you can imagine, there has been pushback from French and his supporters.  This back and forth has continued over the past six or seven weeks.  It's largely a Twitter phenomenon and has remained under the radar of the mainstream press.  But it is the rare politically active conservative who isn't familiar with the debate and who doesn't have an opinion on the matter.

If the vigor of this dialogue was on the ebb, recent events are likely to re-ignite the debate.  The president recently posted a series of Tweets where he challenged the aforementioned squad of Congresswomen.  If they didn't like America, they should leave .

  • So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly......
    8:27 AM · Jul 14, 2019 · 
    Replying to
    ....and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how....
    ....it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

    Democrats and the press were howling about the so called racist Tweets.  Trump was criticized for apparently not realizing that three of the four women in question were in fact born in the United States.   Republicans were criticized for being too slow and not enthusiastic enough in their condemnation of the president.  Trump, for his part doubled down in a Rose Garden press conference two days later.

    The squad responded that same evening with a press conference of their own where notably, Rep. Ilhan Omar refused to disavow al Qaida.

    I think we witnessed a watershed moment with those dueling press conferences.  An inflection point.  The president has never been shy about what he believes.  It's kind of his trademark.  But yesterday was a significant departure from the norm; even for him.  The president declared war yesterday, and "the Squad" answered back in kind.  Clausewitz famously said, "War is the continuation of politics by other means."  And make no mistake.  We're at war.  That's why the Sohrab Ahmari-David French debate is so timely now.  It's time for conservatives, Republicans, libertarians, and independents to make a choice.  The Democratic agenda as put forward by these Congresswomen and the Democratic presidential candidates (who's leading who?) represents an existential threat to the America that was.  I don't know anybody who doesn't have a few ideas about how to make America better, but do we really want "the Squad" driving that bus?  Venezuela of the North is what they want because, as they'll likely tell you, socialism has only failed everywhere it's ever been tried because there wasn't enough of it.  They have an agenda, and there doesn't seem to be any lack of commitment on their part. Trump has gone all in on the presumption that voters will despise what the Democrats have become more than they despise him.  I'm not so sure he's right.  Trump never asked me if I was willing to bet it all and roll the dice, but that's where we stand.  No turning back now.  Will we support him or will we insist, as Ahmari suggests David French does, "on keeping our hands clean, and our souls untainted?"  It's time to choose.  I feel like a passenger in a car where the driver has decided to engage in a high speed game of chicken.  No one asked me if I wanted to play, but I'm stuck in the passenger seat, and it's too late to get out.  It's high risk, and we're all in this together.  There's no turning back.

    I'm reminded of a scene from The Hunt for Red October when Fred Thompson's character says, "This business will get out of control. It'll get out of control, and we'll be lucky to live through it!"  It's time to buckle up.  Trump just told the more timid members of his party to step up or step out! It's no time for faintheartedness.  He needs a wartime consigliere.