I have always preferred to be a gentleman and a conservative. I assumed that that is what I would always be when I cut my teeth on Milton Friedman, voted for Bushes, and applied Christian manners to politics. I believed that if we resorted to the same tactics as the immoral left, we would sacrifice our moral standing. To leave our gentlemanly nature behind would, in the long run, compromise what we wanted to accomplish. We were the good guys, after all.
So I naturally agreed with the Never Trumpers and was one … for a while. He was a revolting example of what happens when we leave the world of genteel manners and get dirty. He would set the conservative movement back decades and fracture the tenuous Moral Majority/Neocon/Economic Libertarian coalition that had come to define the Republican Party. He assaulted conservative (and gentlemanly) sensibilities on all three fronts by himself living immorally, being against the Iraq War (ahead of his time), and promising to go to economic war with China.
Trump seemed to embody a kind of strongman: an irreverent and independent type who didn’t care what anyone thought and had a rabid fanbase like strongmen of old. And Trump, as advertised, never changed.
But I did. Why? Not because I wanted a demagogue running my country, per se, but because I came to see the futility and danger of weakness. If no other country around the globe is self-sabotaging itself by installing losers with good manners for the sake of appearances and propriety, then why should we?
I assume that leftists will produce losers, since they have rejected the American founding, have too much academic training for their own good, and have too much in common with our enemies to extract concessions from them. So our only hope is strength from the right. But if I overlaid the demand that all conservatives basically be gentlemen first and statesmen second, how could we compete with China, Iran, or Russia, much less smaller but more ruthless states like North Korea or Venezuela? How could we win?
While history is filled with examples of dangerous or even cult-like forms of “nationalism” that we should avoid, the fact is that our enemies are all nationalists. In fact, they would never consider anything else. Do you think China cares about American interests? Does Russia? Does India? And should they? Only to the extent they can benefit from us in some form of trade, otherwise those nations always look out for Number One. The EU and America on the other hand, having embraced some more nobler form of international cooperation, do not.
In too many ways, we sabotage our advantages, either out of stupid ideology or incompetence. Our “green” policies have led to energy shortages. Our assumption that we can talk our way into peace with psychopaths has led to war. Our printing of fake money has led to both inflation and a recession. China has outflanked us and out-traded us. Russia is holding Europe hostage because the Europeans refused to supply their own energy. Now Biden is begging Saudi Arabia for more oil (when they are already operating at near-full capacity).
In short, we are losing, and I am longing for someone to have the strength necessary to put America first. That will mean overcoming incredible obstacles within the Administrative State (which runs our lives no matter who is elected), from the left (who seem to hate the prospect of American hegemony), and from the right (who seem more interested in being a gentlemen than actually winning anything.)
I had a debate with a friend this weekend about whether we could embrace the Trump policies without the Trump attitude. He said we needed fighters, sure, but not as nasty as Trump. I said, “Not yet.” As unappetizing as he may be, it appears to take someone as pugnacious, stubborn, and ruthless as Donald Trump to put America First. Perhaps by putting into play the kind of changes into the Republican Party he has initiated, less of a strongman and more conventional strength will suffice. But I’m doubtful we are there yet.
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