The right must stop acting like the left
The ideological and political left has long engaged in anti-reality thinking and behavior. Now the right risks making the same mistake.
Let’s start with the errors on the left:
- the assumption that humans are simply flexible creatures to be ruled from the top down and that societies and governments can therefore be recreated from scratch;
- the belief that if only the “right” leader comes forward, many private and public ills can be cured;
- leniency toward rank tribalism: siding with a populist or autocrat because they share their ideology, as Canadian leftists have long done with Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez;
- the attack on institutions and those who represent them when they do not pander to ideological wishes, a hallmark of left-wing activism since the mid-1960s, when students in Berkeley, California, began what has become a global wave of occupation of university administration buildings.
- The ridiculously over-the-top language that even labels mild-mannered conservatives (e.g., Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor) as “fascists” or “Nazis.”
In stark contrast to this type of left-wing behavior, post-1950s conservatives were mostly observers of reality. They understood that: free enterprise would lead to a reduction in poverty in the world; democratic institutions based on the rule of law and designed to prevent the concentration of power are essential to protect individual freedoms; the faults of society were best dealt with by reform and not by revolution; and self-government – literally governing oneself first – was important to a free, flourishing and civilized society.
That was then.
More recently, a segment of conservatism in the Anglosphere has abandoned such reality-based caution.
Although no conservative thinker embraces the leftist fantasy that human nature is like putty, the cult of the leader is now in vogue among some on the right. This became evident with Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States in 2016 and the apology-making that has accompanied Trump ever since.
Apologies for Trump are often rooted in a “Yeah but we liked his policies/Supreme Court nominees” apologies. Excusing Trump’s hollowing out of fiscal and character conservatism was moot before the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, but has been utterly indefensible since.
Conservatives who seek to excuse or justify the attack on the institutions of the American republic are making the same mistake as leftists: refusing to acknowledge that their side lost at the polls. This approach erodes an essential foundation of democracy: the rule of law.
It would be one thing to encourage the truckers who showed up in Ottawa to protest if they had only annoyed the bureaucrats in Ottawa for a few days. But it was quite another matter to ignore or excuse border blockades. After all, conservatives have rightly criticized left-wing activists, indigenous protesters and hard-line environmental activists who have routinely shut down roads, railroads and pipelines. There can be no double standards for his ideological friends.
Most conservative thinkers also took George Orwell’s advice to be precise in language. Recently, however, some conservative think tank leaders and journalists have called Canada a “tyranny” and accused various politicians of being “communists” or “fascists.”
It’s absurd. Certainly, the use of the Emergency Measures Act was a gross violation of civil rights, likely unconstitutional, and unnecessary to deal with border blockades. But that did not make Canada a dictatorship, and to say it did is the mirror error of those on the left who argue that Canada has been a genocidal nation-state.
Right-wing advice from someone whose career has been rooted in the twin priorities of freedom and responsibility, with the opportunity for all to achieve the goal, preferably by appealing, like Ronald Reagan , to our best angels: When the other side goes overboard and engages in multiple anti-reality experiments, using extreme language and rushing towards the brick wall of reality, don’t distract the audience with your own version of such madness. Instead, step aside and let the other side crash, as they are bound to.