Good Friday Morning, and I hope you all will join me in praying for both the peace of Jerusalem and the protection of Jews. I was wrapping up this week’s edition when I watched a series of videos and alerts come out of the Diamond District in New York City, all showing Jews in an American city being assaulted by “Palestinian activists.” The first video shows people driving around hurling insults and racist slurs. The second video shows what appears to be a firework or some other incendiary device being thrown at what likely are Jews on the sidewalk. And a third shows the perpetrators speeding away. We’ve seen similar events in Los Angeles, Toronto, Florida, and Washington DC. A similar NY video showed Jews being assaulted and spat upon by a group.
We need to be clear about what this is: anti-Semitic racism against Jews. And it’s flaring up at a moment when tensions are high over Israel. John Podhoretz, Editor in Chief of Commentary Magazine, one of the oldest conservative Jewish political and cultural publications in America was even more direct on this issue, calling out Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer:
In the city [Chuck Schumer] represents, in the state he represents, Jews are being attacked for being Jews and demonstrators are supporting a terrorist group that is firing rockets at Jews. Where is this vaunted shomer, this supposed guardian of his people? Spiritually cowering under his desk, terrified of a primary challenge from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in his 2022 election. His only significant action since hostilities began was supporting a bipartisan ceasefire statement. At the beginning of the week. The statement did say Israel has the right to defend itself. How nice. And how about my kids walking on the streets of Manhattan, Chuck? Who’s defending them, if only rhetorically? Hey, Chuck: How about your kids?
I am focusing on Chuck Schumer because he is the second or third most important Democratic elected official in America, and his silence speaks volumes about his party’s heartbreaking and disgusting refusal to confront the increasingly unmasked and open anti-Semitism spewing from the mouths and tweets of AOC and her fellow Squad members and other terrorist apologists in the House—not to mention Bernie Sanders, who shames the memories of his forbears with his humanitarian concern for every other minority group on earth save the very people whose blood courses through his ice-cold veins.
There is murder in the air. Do not mistake it for anything else. And do not mistake cravenness, and cowardice, and rancid ambition for anything else, either.
Podhoretz is correct. Cities need to get a handle on this immediately and people need to start getting jailed for this behavior. This kind of conduct cannot be tolerated.
This week, we’re doing a deep dive on how an outsider views American conservatism and pointing out why American notions of conservatism are so different from the rest of the world. Links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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Biden courts Carter’s legacy – The Conservative Institute.
Why has the American press sided with terrorists over Israel? – The Conservative Institute.
Conservatism Abroad and in America
I thoroughly enjoy Twitter because you can customize it over time and encounter unique individuals and versions of what you believe in other countries. One of those accounts and personalities I follow is Gray Connolly. He’s an Australian conservative commentator, appears on their cable television shows, etc. He’s entirely conservative but conservative in the sense of an old Tory from the 18th and 19th Centuries.
Gray got in some hot water this week because he tweeted what was (for him) an average tweet: “The biggest mistake the Right made was letting libertarians on our side of the barricade. The libertarians need to be pushed back to the Left, where they belong, at bayonet point if needs be. The conserving bayonet needs to be deployed here etc.”
One of his big points is that conservatism in America (and globally) needs to retain its more working-class roots from English politics instead of the more libertarian flair that’s emerged in the 20th and 21st Centuries. He decided to do a thread to explain his thoughts. I’ll let him make his point, and then we’ll bounce off from there. This is a bit long, but the history is good, and we’ll unravel some of it below.
Further to the above, there has been disquiet expressed by some as to the use of ‘barricades’ and ‘bayonets’ below. My usual policy is never to explain tweets but as knowledge of the Ancien Regime vs the Revolutionaries is sorely lacking, here we go. Welcome to a very Tory [thread].
As many but clearly all do not know, our modern Right & Left descend from various sources, most commonly cited is the French Revolutionary aftermath, when the King’s party sat to the Right of an assembly president & those opposed, the liberals as well as the Jacobin, to the Left.
For those of us who are Anglophone, our modern politics really starts with the British Civil Wars of King vs Parliament (Celts/Gaels vs Anglo) from the 1642 attempt by King Charles to arrest parliamentarians (who fully deserved this) until, really, the defeat at Culloden in 1746.
The term Tory was a derogatory word for the, often but not exclusively, Celtic loyalists of the Stuart cause. It later became applied to those who supported legitimism, the ‘old ways’, and the non-jurors. The Jacobites ie the allies of the various King James.
The Tories enemy were the Whigs: the Whigs were the liberally minded English, the modernisers, the rationalists, the ‘situationally principled’, the easily influenced, the apparatchiks of new orders – whatever they were. As Dr. Johnson said, Lucifer was the first Whig.
Whether in the British Isles or on the Continent, our modern political conflicts descend from older fights, often extraordinarily bloody ones, over duties to throne and altar vs rights to an undefined ‘freedom’ (esp a right to flaunt morals) & the trashing of throne and altar.
The ideology of Conservatism (ie those who sat to the Right of the King) was to conserve an established order that saw in their Whig or liberal challengers not just obvious error but also a certain moral indifferentism. One man’s ‘freedom’ was, after all, another’s ‘licence’.
At the core of Tory vs Whig, Right vs Left, in this context, was what duties and responsibilities did you owe? Did you owe any? Much of this was religiously based: God was, really, a Tory, always demanding a stern account of us. The Whig made his own deity in his own likeness.
Conservatism until the cold war (at the earliest) had little use for ‘freedom’. It had some time for an ordered ‘liberty’ but Conservatives believed in the nation-state and empire, and in limiting the individual’s freedom as s/he had duties to family, nation, the moral good etc.
Hence, Conservatism always believed in States imposing military conscription, censorship & promotion of the moral good etc. The individual’s obligations to the moral order meant that males had no natural right to object to conscription for war nor rights of females to abortion.
Similarly, Conservatism abroad meant realism and protectionism. You did not get involved others squabbles unless they touched on you – Kings fought limited wars (cf ‘endless wars for democracy’). You also protected your workers & farmers as part of that extended national family.
Thus the Conservative Party in the UK becomes the party of Empire, welfare & imperial preference tariffs. Similarly, the Republican Party in the US becomes the party of Union and the protective tariff to grow the United States. And then there is Bismarck in Germany.
Enter the libertarians….from stage Left. It is hard to quite place when the Libertarians came along. Descended from the Roundheads at Putney Bridge, as well as the Levellers and John Locke, their existence is on the fringe of the fringe until well into the 20th Century.
Liberalism generally and libertarianism grow out of the critique of the Ancien Regime that the Right zealously defended. Where the Right saw moral chaos, the Left saw ‘freedom’, even where freedom became indistinguishable from harms to morals and obligations owed by rich to poor.
The 1789 revolution in France was welcomed by many liberals unable to see what obviously came next. Concerned by the King’s occasional erroneous use of power, liberalism, generally, missed that tyranny & then chaos will be, at best, the replacement for throne and altar.
From France and then Europe in the 18th/19thC onwards, liberalism is always revolutionary, a brutal presentism – and pitted against the Ancien Regime, ie the old order. Liberalism is secular, individualist, libertine, free trading, hostile to the order that Conservatism defends.
Then comes Marx, thence comes the World Wars, then comes revolutions and the growth of the State. Libertarians became recently a very late ally to the Right against an overriding threat – but in the sense the Mujahideen were an ally against the Soviets, with attendant blowbacks.
It is a failure of especially Anglo Conservatives that the Whigs won, at all, and then wrote so much of the history, even to the point of purporting to put their own Whig, Edmund Burke, as some sort of hero for the Right! Edmund Burke was for similar disasters – but just later.
The Right’s true intellects were resisters, of the kind that Joseph de Maistre or Karl von Clausewitz were, both going to fight for Russia’s Tsar than make their peace with the new revolutionary order. Or a Juan Donoso Cortés who refused likewise to bow to liberalism’s pieties.
In his own way, Abraham Lincoln was a quintessential conservative hero: asserting a vast executive power as head of government & state to hold his political union together. Not for nothing did Tsar Alexander II of Russia, almost alone among Europeans, admire and support Lincoln.
Given this, it is time for we on the Right, to, as politely as we can, encourage the Libertarians to head home back to the Left. They will make their new comrades more sensible on economics. They will allow we on the Right to be much more sensible on a vast array of issues.
Thus we Conservatives need to be honest with our libertarian friends. We can be amicable, ‘hang out’, and enjoy each other’s company, at least until the libertarians start vaping or smoking weed etc. But deep down, we really have nothing in common, anymore, if we ever did. FINIS.
Whether you agree or disagree with him, I’ll say this first: his history is mainly correct, and I have no disagreements with it. What he’s describing is a solid history of European forms of conservatism, particularly from an Anglophone (British/Australian) point of view. Where his argument falls apart, at least for me, is when it comes to America. There are reasons we’re radically different in our forms of conservatism than a more traditionally English or European-influenced conservatism.
American conservatism is different
The reason there’s a strain of libertarianism on the right in America is not by accident or by political happenchance; it’s because there’s a strain of that mindset embedded in the DNA of America itself. And that’s because Americans experienced something that Europeans haven’t known for centuries: rural folklife and the wilderness. If you wanted to choose a life that let you start anew and be left alone by the world, America has been and continues to be the only place on Earth to offer that.
A recent essay I read got at this. It quoted a passage from the historian David Hackett Fischer, who “makes this point with the story of Levi Preston, a minuteman who fought in the Battle of Concord. In Paul Revere’s Ride Fischer quotes an 1848 interview of the ailing veteran…”
“Captain Preston, what made you go to the Concord Fight [on 19 April 1775]?”
“What did I go for?”
“Were you oppressed by the Stamp Act?”
“I never saw any stamps, and I always understood that none were ever sold.”
“Well, what about the tea tax?”
“Tea tax, I never drank a drop of the stuff, the boys threw it all overboard.”
“But I suppose you have been reading Harrington, Sidney, and Locke about the eternal principle of liberty?”
“I never heard of these men. The only books we had were the Bible, the Catechism, Watts’ psalms and hymns and the almanacs.”
“Well, then, what was the matter?”
“Young man, what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: we always had governed ourselves and we always meant to. They didn’t mean we should.”
American conservatism is different because, on a fundamental level, there’s a populist streak in American that believes the same thing. They’ve always run their lives, and they always mean to do so. And they think their government must recognize that truth.
The eternal question of all forms of conservativism is this: what is it you aim to conserve? Gray is correct that British and European forms of conservatism were focused on ideas of empire, nation, duty, and more. America, however, has never aimed to be an Empire. Once we made our way out across our continent, we didn’t seek to colonize the world like the European powers.
Our spread across the American continent was as much about people going out into the unknown wilderness to build a life apart from society. They left the bigger cities for the chance to govern their own life, answerable only to themselves and their local communities.
The curious case of American conservative, then, is to conserve the ability of people to be an individual in a society, instead of always being in support of the central whole. One way this takes place is through capitalism and free trade. The essence of capitalism is “creative destruction.” When working correctly, capitalism incentivizes people to invent, create, and improve the world and earn a living in the process.
Take a look at any technology you’ve used over the years. Your old phones, once indispensable, are not obsolete and unusable. That creative destruction gives us new and better products (in theory, anyway). But there’s always something lost in the process. For instance, take online shopping. Amazon and other outlets have made it easier than ever to get cheap goods to your door 24/7. It’s an incredible model.
But you lose something in that. You lose people interacting with each other in stores. You lose community building through local business. Technology can improve or degrade how we interact with each other. Zoom allows instantaneous communication, but you lose that personal touch. Humans are inherently social creatures, and pretending all forms of socialization are the same won’t do. Online shopping differs from large chain shopping, which differs from malls, which differs from small mom and pop stores. Our “improvements” change our lives in subtle but meaningful ways.
In one respect, Gray is correct that libertarians are on the left. They tend to celebrate the destruction because they view any move beyond the past as good. The same is true of progressives, interestingly enough. Take masking, for example. Progressives and the modern left in America are set on keeping masks a thing moving forward in the future. They praise this because it’s good for public health.
They have an argument. Masks can and do prevent basic things like cold and flu spread. But is that an improvement? The libertarian goes with individual choice and that it doesn’t matter. They’re okay with this change. But the conservative should see that masks build barriers between people and prevent us from interacting. Masks are an easy way to hide from people. From this conservative’s perspective, enabling and encouraging social behavior trumps the need for constant masking. There is something lost in this behavior change that isn’t necessarily wholly good.
We had a pandemic in which public health trumped that ideal. But that should be the exception, not the rule. That’s partially why I strongly support vaccinations: it eliminates the needs of all these things. It returns the world to a pre-COVID condition. Vaccinations provide a way to conserve a pre-pandemic setting and provide a check against the progressive government overreach we’ve witnessed in blue states the past year.
The endpoint here, I suppose, is that America is different. There’s a reason you can’t precisely export our notions into other countries. And there’s a reason you can’t import the “Old Country” into America. Gray’s criticisms are solid. But I don’t see them applying to a country where the ideals we’re conserving here fundamentally differ from your average working-class person. That’s a point to keep in the back of your mind as the conservative movement starts absorbing more working-class voters over the next few years.
Links of the week
Let’s talk about stare decisis on the Warren Court: Gorsuch – “The dissent may prefer decisions within a particular 30-year window.” – Josh Blackman, Volokh Conspiracy
Justice Kagan Skewers Justice Kavanaugh’s “Scorekeeping” through Virtue Signaling: But in the process, she undermined the basis for Chief Justice Roberts’s quixotic “long game.” – Josh Blackman, Volokh Conspiracy
The Changing Face of Gun Politics in America: Our gun debate is in the beginning phase of a significant transformation. – Stephen Gutowski, The Dispatch
The pandemic is over – Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner
Rashida Tlaib listed as special guest for event hosted by controversial, allegedly anti-Semitic activist: Maher Abdel-qader, Palestinian American activist, has shared anti-Semitic content to social media in the past – Fox News
Has Michigan Authorized a Forensic Audit of the 2020 Election? No. – The Dispatch Fact Check
Does a Viral Photo Show a Young Palestinian Girl Crying After an Israeli Strike? The picture is from 2018. – The Dispatch Fact Check
Has the Maricopa County Audit Yielded Hundreds of Thousands of Votes? No. – The Dispatch Fact Check
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Lego Unveils New Genderless Bricks With No Male/Female Connectors – The Babylon Bee
Thanks for reading!