That’s the title for this great Mark Beurlein piece; the subhead, though, is better still:
No more compromise, no more calls for bipartisanship.
Fuckin’ A. Let’s get to the meat of it, shall we?
Last week in a dinner speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., Princeton professor Robert George had some advice for social and religious conservatives: “You must fight.”
It was an exhortation that does him no good in the academic world. A distinguished Ivy League scholar and teacher isn’t supposed to talk about the “culture war.” George has strong connections with the established conservative world, too, which balks at the confrontational style. In my year at the James Madison Program at Princeton, which George directs, visitors included George Will, Steve Forbes, and Andrew Napolitano. But the other night was a firm declaration of resistance.
It was fantastic.
I wonder if these figures realize how extraordinarily satisfying and innervating their statements are to people who have experienced progressivism in America as a steamroller leveling their workplaces, schools, and shopping zones for a good half-century. Did Lindsey Graham suspect that social conservative households would erupt in cheers when he finally had enough of the Kavanaugh hearings and thundered his objections? Did Donald Trump suspect in 2015 that a simple insistence on national borders would resound so loudly among Americans who regard the United States as their home, not their accidental place of residence?
Ehh, Lindsey, probably not. But I believe that it is at once Trump’s great weakness and also his great strength that he still retains such faith in America—its institutions, and above all its people—that he not only expected the powerful, soul-deep response he got from mainstream Americans, he would’ve been shocked if he hadn’t gotten it.
How can other Republican leaders and conservative commentators remain unaware of how much social, religious, and national conservatives want them and need them to assume a fighting stance? Those of us who work in professional spaces—academia, big business, medicine, mainstream media, public schools—retreated into foxholes years ago, and we await backup.
Two years ago, after speaking to a small religious group in Atlanta, my host drove me home but not before asking how I got along with my colleagues.
“Just fine,” I answered, ”Emory is a good place, with mostly good people. Sure, they can’t understand how anyone could have supported Trump, but they never mistreat me.”
“Wait,” he interrupted, ”they don’t get it?”
“About Trump—no,” I said, “but that goes for just about any college campus you can name.”
He didn’t hesitate: “Then it’s war.”
He wasn’t excited, he wasn’t angry, just matter-of-fact. His logic was pat. If a political opponent won’t listen to you, if he considers your politics inexplicable, it isn’t so big a leap to judging you indecent, repugnant, deplorable. From there, yes, it’s war. Unless, of course, you give up before the fighting even starts, or you’ve become so accustomed to losing that you don’t even imagine that the winners despise you no matter how many times they beat you down.
Or unless losing in a dignifed manner was your plan all along—or feigning opposition and resistance while assisting the enemy was.
This summer at a conference at a well-known university, I sat down with the head of a new institute on campus who was just as blunt. For some reason, the 2012 ticket came up, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. He offered a summary remark: “At this point, if you can’t answer yes to a basic question, nothing else counts. Doesn’t matter where you stand on taxes, foreign policy, regulations…” He then shook his head.
“What’s the question?” I asked.
“Are you ready to fight?”
“Yeah,” he replied with a shrug, “that’s it.”
That’s it indeed. One of our, and Trump’s, biggest handicaps is having to fight a two-front war to reclaim our stolen rights from the Left: against the obvious enemy, and also against those who for so long deceptively claimed to be our allies. But as the Great Awakening broadens and we edge ever closer to actual combat, the GOPe is going to feel mounting pressure to either lead, follow, get out of the way…or be run over.