In his most recent (2022-09-30) episode of Radio Derb,
John Derbyshire discussed and recommended a recent essay in American Greatness by Michael Anton, “What Does Fidelity to Our Founding Principles Require Today?”. The discussion starts at 05:22 in the recording, and a transcript appears in this VDARE.com post.
Michael Anton was deputy assistant to the president for strategic communications in the Trump White House from February 2017 to April 2018. Prior to the 2016 presidential election, he wrote, under a pseudonym, an essay in the Claremont Review of Books, “The Flight 93 Election”, he made the case for electing Donald Trump president:
[A] Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.
In the present essay, adapted from a speech at the Philadelphia Society in September 2022, Anton raises the question,
What have our conservatives conserved? But before we answer that—hint: almost nothing—let’s first ask: what were they supposed to conserve? What do they say they are conserving in all those fundraising letters they send out that have been netting them hundreds of millions per year for most of my lifetime?
He finds establishment conservatives utterly ineffective in conserving anything and, in addition:
Conservatives have long believed that the noblest thing they can do is “police” their own side. The Left of course never does this. The Left works overtime to ensure that its people are excused of murder, arson, and rioting. Meanwhile, the conservatives eagerly seek the death penalty for their own over parking tickets.
One thing I’ve noticed is that conservatives really get mad when you point out that people who treat you like enemies are, in fact, your enemies . Finally, the conservatives find a backbone, and righteous indignation! To refer to someone libeling you, trying to cancel you, calling for your “extirpation” and even assassination as an “enemy”? How dare you! Civility in politics above all else!
Of the “principled” who shrink from confronting the Left and/or rolling back their (largely unopposed) gains across a wide front, he notes:
[T]o the extent that the modern conservative takes his “principles” seriously, he must oppose the founding principles, which are not conceivable absent the American Revolution. But he must oppose the revolution—what with its friend-enemy distinction, its radicalism, its “instability” and “incivility,” its violence. Plus, of course, its racism, sexism, classism, lack of transgender bathrooms in Independence Hall (though, for all I know, they’re there now), and all the rest.
Is the right of revolution ever justified? Was it justified only that one time, in 1776, but never again? If so, why was it justified then and what makes it unjustifiable ever again? Because of historicism? Because the American Revolution was somehow an irreversible leap forward?
Is it that you think things can’t ever get bad enough to justify recourse to this right, or merely that they won’t? Is there some deep structural reason for America’s privileged position, or is our miraculous continued good fortune merely your expectation? If the latter, then you are implicitly admitting, at least in theory, that the right of revolution might, at some point, be justified—and that it has not been obviated by “history.”
This is a brilliant piece of analysis and writing. Read the whole thing.
Here is my 2011 (good grief, a decade ago!) essay, “Enemies”, on acknowledging enemies for what they are and dealing with them accordingly, and an earlier (2009) Fourmilog post on “Respectfulness vs. Civility” on giving politicians the respect they are due.