Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, November 14, 2019
“How America Ends,” reads the sensational title of a recent article in The Atlantic. Amid references to apocalypse and civil war, author Yoni Appelbaum essentially repeats arguments others have made elsewhere. He writes that “the body politic is more fractious than at any time in recent memory.” He suggests “demographic change” may be the biggest cause, because the “United States is undergoing a [demographic] transition perhaps no rich and stable democracy has ever experienced.” He’s right.
Dr. Appelbaum concedes that many conservatives can “see the GOP’s sinking fortunes among younger voters, and feel the culture turning against them, condemning them today for views that were commonplace only yesterday.” This creates “dark possibilities,” because some conservatives will conclude it’s impossible to win elections, and they will therefore contemplate undemocratic solutions. His solution? Make “the center Right” ignore demographic change and do the dirty work of excommunicating anyone who doesn’t.
Any athentic conservatism would call a massive, unprecedented, and unnecessary demographic change dangerously radical. Yet the subtitle for this article is “Moderate Republicans Can Save America.”
Dr. Appelbaum argues that a “conservatism defined by ideas can hold its own against progressivism, winning converts to its principles and evolving with each generation.” He contrasts this to a dead-end conservatism based on identity, which “reduces the complex calculus of politics to a simple arithmetic question [of how many people there are of different groups] — and at some point, the numbers no longer add up.”
This is just what Conservatism Inc. wants to hear. The Beltway Right that opposed Donald Trump in 2016 wants a conservatism focused on economic issues, purged of nationalists, immigration restrictionists, and identitarians. Many conservatives and libertarians seem to believe that such things as reforming occupational licensing or Jack Kemp’s “economic opportunity zones” will win over non-white voters. This never works.
Much of the traditional Republican platform, such as Social Security reform or entitlement cuts, doesn’t appeal to white people either — not even to white Republicans. An October 2018 poll — just before the midterm wipeout — found that most Republicans favored “Medicare for all.” Most Republicans also supported Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s plan for increasing taxes on the wealthy. In a 2017 study, Pew found a large share of GOP voters were “Market Skeptical Republicans,” firmly opposed to libertarian economics.
Dr. Appelbaum, citing political theorist Daniel Ziblatt, wants center-right parties to “wall off more extreme right wing movements” that attack “the political system itself.” This, he says, will help maintain “democratic stability.”
Yet what does Dr. Appelbaum mean by “democracy?” He gives what he calls an example of “right wing” repudiation of democracy from American history. Antebellum Southerners opposed “demographic trends” — European immigrants pouring into the North — that shifted the north/south population balance and therefore gave more power to the North. This led to what he would call a rejection of democracy that took the form of secession. But secession was an expression of the will of the people of the states that seceded, so it was not a repudiation of democracy at all.
Dr. Applebaum then draws a parallel between the antebellum South and the current GOP. Just as the South needed a large population base of pro-slavery citizens to maintain power at the national level, today’s GOP depends on “white Christian voters.”
Of course, for all of American history up until a few decades ago, “white Christian voters” were simply “Americans,” in both North and South. Dr. Appelbaum’s example makes the case for the secessionists. Southern “fire eaters” were right: As the population grew in the North, the South would lose power. If so, why is secession unreasonable? The American Revolution was a secessionist movement.
Essentially, Dr. Appelbaum is arguing that a strong “center-right” can keep an anti-system Right under control until demographic change makes resistance pointless. The “center-right’s” job is to lull its constituents into inevitable defeat.
Dr. Appelbaum claims that “popular democracy” can demote once-influential groups without tragic results for the losers. The losers might not agree. Consider California. In a 1994 referendum, California’s citizens voted to stop illegal immigration. They were ignored, and the courts tossed out Proposition 187. Today, California is a Third World state in demographics and income inequality. The once-white population is being replaced. Is this “popular democracy” or an invasion?
South Africa is also instructive. Before the black takeover, South African leaders marginalized the nationalist Right. They negotiated a handover to the African National Congress in return for constitutional safeguards for private property. Military leaders scuttled a last-ditch plan for a Boer homeland and instead urged participation in elections — a self-defeating plan in a white-minority electorate.
The current South African government is tearing up safeguards for private property, and an even more extreme movement, the Economic Freedom Fighters, wants to take power. Many whites would like to leave, if they haven’t already. The international media smear Afrikaners who haven’t surrendered to black domination.
Dr. Appelbaum urges the center-right to adopt the recommendations of GOP leaders following Mitt Romney’s 2012 defeat by trying to appeal to non-whites. The only appeal that would work would be to jettison classical liberalism and try to out-compete Democrats in economic redistribution. GOP leaders would never allow this, and the party would become nothing but a copy of the Democrats.
Dr. Appelbaum admits GOP leaders in 2016 were “vanquished by a candidate who had never spent a day in public office.” GOP leaders should check their own premises. Instead, Dr. Appelbaum wants Republicans to travel back in time to 2013 and “reach out to voters of diverse backgrounds.”
Dr. Appelbaum acts as if no one has thought of this before. Every CPAC is filled with non-white speakers, and Turning Point USA has identity politics events for non-whites. Conservatism Inc. might be able to trot out a few well-paid black tokens to recycle historical tidbits about 19th century Democrats supporting slavery, but even black Republicans — who are often very weak on important issues — have a hard time getting non-whites to vote Republican. Why should they vote Republican? Why spoil a system that gives them preferential treatment in jobs and education, handouts, media support, and special recognition for their groups?
Dr. Appelbaum claims that each new wave of immigration becomes “more American.” Yet while white immigrants have largely assimilated, blacks mostly haven’t, even after hundreds of years. Today, non-whites have powerful incentives not to adopt an American identity. There are even elected officials who claim America is illegitimate. Why should non-whites identify with men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or John Adams?
Dr. Appelbaum writes that “the United States possesses a strong radical tradition, but its most successful social movements have generally adopted the language of conservatism, framing their calls for change as an expression of America’s founding ideals rather than as a rejection of them.” He is, of course, thinking of the Civil Rights Movement, but this is a question of public relations, not substance. Martin Luther King’s quotation from the Declaration of Independence lets conservatives believe he was a Christian conservative rather than an adulterous, heretical, rape-enabling socialist. It’s a way to persuade well-meaning whites to think radicals share their values.
Still, let’s take all of Dr. Appelbaum’s advice. Let’s assume the GOP purges all white Identitarians, opens the borders, and spends even more on minority outreach. Would the Republicans become a worthy vehicle of “conservatism”?
Hardly. First, mainstream media interpret almost anything touching on demographics, national symbols, or culture as “making racial heritage [an] organizing principle.” Even tax cuts have racial implications. The Atlantic itself associates Donald Trump with “white nationalism” despite the president’s explicit disavowals and his support for affirmative action and mass legal immigration.
Second, even if the GOP could somehow stop all candidates from mentioning cultural or demographic issues, the GOP economic platform is not popular. President Donald Trump won partially because he pledged not to cut popular programs such as Medicare, and GOP candidates recently lost in deep-red states like Kentucky and Kansas because of unpopular economic policies. A politically correct but pro-free market GOP would fail, especially considering that 70 percent of Millennials are somewhat or extremely likely to support a socialist candidate.
Dr. Appelbaum says conservatives must make their case through “argumentation,” but a lot of what passes for journalism today encourages deplatforming. This makes democracy illegitimate. Why should losers in the “battle of ideas” accept the result when they aren’t even allowed to speak? Perhaps Dr. Appelbaum would permit free speech, but younger progressives, judging from polling results, are increasingly against it.
Finally, why should Republican voters or ambitious Republican politicians go along with managed decline? Republican primary voters knew about Donald Trump’s poor character, political inexperience, and reckless bombast, but supported him anyway, despite the almost unanimous opposition of the Republican and “conservative” elite. This should have told Republican and conservative “leaders” they had lost touch with their followers. It didn’t. Yet another ambitious, charismatic Republican could take up Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign themes, perhaps in a more “extreme” but polished way.
Dr. Appelbaum argues that progressives should at least assure conservatives that basic rights will be protected. Yet Democratic presidential candidates are openly vowing to seize guns, criminalize certain beliefs, destroy monuments, and pursue reparations for slavery. Ann Coulter is right: “We don’t trust the other side, nor should we.”
Many people think “democracy” is nothing more than the politics they like. In countries such as Hungary and Poland, where nationalists rule, media tell us “democracy” is under threat. In America, where unelected civil servants undermine an elected president, they tell us bureaucrats are safeguarding “democracy.”
What matters is self-government and political power. Dr. Appelbaum is arguing for conservatives to save a system that is rendering them powerless. He would gain if we do what he says. We would not.
Finally, if “conservatives” do as Dr. Appelbaum tells them, will the Left credit the “center-right” with saving democracy, as he suggests? The Left will never credit the Right — center or otherwise — with anything. Conservative who look forward to a pat on the head from the multi-culti Left are dreaming.
Dr. Appelbaum is urging suicide on political opponents in the name of saving “democracy.” Any Republican with an IQ greater than that of a fried egg should know that “advice” from a hostile camp is a poisoned apple.
In a column about the 1965 Immigration Act’s consequences, Ann Coulter wrote, “If this sort of drastic change were legally imposed on any group other than white Americans, it would be called genocide.” The end consequences of Dr. Appelbaum’s “popular democracy” and mass immigration are indistinguishable from military conquest. “Dark possibilities” are preferable to oblivion. Our Founders would agree. We’re a nation of rebels, after all.