I was in the Imperial Capital yesterday and that meant sitting in traffic for long periods. I tuned into talk radio and some guy was going on about how Trump is not a conservative. He was not being critical, he was simply making a point. The people who hold the rights to Official Conservatism™ have declared Trump outside their club. A caller claimed that Trump is a liberal because that’s the only other option, if you are not a conservative. I was not paying close attention, but there’s no denying that Trump does not fit into either bucket.
Of course, most people don’t fit neatly into either bucket and that’s mostly because the labels have meanings that no longer make sense. Hillary Clinton is a liberal, a Progressive! That’s supposed to mean she is a socialist that wants to take from the rich and give to the poor. Not only does she live like royalty, she had the backing of the nation’s billionaires, as well as the billionaires from other nations. It’s a very strange world where the socialist is the preferred candidate of the Billionaire’s Boys Club.
That’s one of the many things revealed about this recent election. The party of the working man is no such thing. They are the party of government hoping to rally the not working men to their banner. When Democrats talk about “working families” they really mean welfare queens with five kids from five strange men they met at a party. This has been true for a long time, but it is now so blazingly obvious that even the staunchest of union men have to accept it. Still, the Democrats retain the label “party of the working class.”
I’ve written a lot here about the ridiculousness of calling the modern Right “conservative” on the grounds that they have managed to conserve nothing. When looked at in the tradition of Western conservatism, it is even more ridiculous to keep calling these people “conservative.” Bill Kristol, for example, is just an old school liberal with a propensity for violence. The National Review crowd is a Buckley Mystery Cult at this point. It’s impossible to tease anything out of that dog’s breakfast of assertions that resembles a political philosophy.
Even the terms Right and Left have outlived their usefulness. Most people don’t know the origin of these terms and just assume they mean Socialist versus Capitalist or Liberal versus Conservative. Like so much else about Western politics, these terms come down to us from the French Revolution. The aristocrats sat on the right side of the Assembly and the commoners sat on the left side. Ever since, radicals and trouble makers have co-opted the term “Left” because they want to pretend they are on the winning side of history and champion of the people.
Calling modern Progressives “the Left” turns history on its head. Progressives are the champions of privilege and advocate what amounts to the return of active and passive citizenship. They and their attendants will be the active citizens while the rest of us, including whoever happens to wander in from who knows where, will be the passive citizens. The only difference is the 18th century aristocrats were honest about what they wanted. The modern aristocrat prefers to lie about his intentions.
Of course, the trouble makers on the alt-right are hardly the defenders of the status quo. They can’t even be called supporters of the status quo ante. The examples from history are simply used as a critique of the current year and the people fond of saying “current year.” The alt-right is thoroughly modern, drawing on information from genetics and cognitive science, while the Progressives are still stuck in the age of blank slatism, that is both anti-science and regressive. It is the Progressives who cannot get past 1955.
As the great Walter Williams was fond of saying, the radicals are the people arguing for the rollback of the welfare state. The radicals are the ones arguing for the ending of foreign adventurism. The radicals are the ones questioning the prevailing orthodoxy on race, sex and culture. The people being purged from social media would have been much more at home with the Jacobins than the defenders of the Ancien Régime. Given their skepticism regarding global capitalism, many of the alt-right would be better termed alt-left.
It may not seem important to fret over labels and terminology, but language is the primary tool of war. Progressives weaponized the word “racist” to the point where it became a Medusa head they could wave around, turning their opponents into stone. Even mentioning the word race causes so-called conservatives to cry. If this thing that is rumbling through the West is something bigger than a minor disruption in the force, we’re going to need new words and labels that work to the benefit of the new radicals.
More important, sabotaging the verbal weaponry of the other side. The new twitter feature that lets users block key words is a no- so subtle attempt to ban certain words and phrases. After all, if you ban the word, you ban the idea behind the word. That’s just as good as banning the person behind the idea. The challenge for the trouble makers will be to evolve an esoteric way of saying the same things. Winning the war of words is just a proxy for winning the war of ideas. One is a reflection of the other.