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For as long as anyone can remember there have been two competing views of how to engage in politics against the people we call the Left. One camp says that opposition must come from a principled group that does not engage in the same tactics as the opponent, in order to provide an alternative to the Left. Their vision of politics is the means justifies the ends, in contrast with the Left, who takes the view that the ends justify the means, or any means necessary to win.
The other camp points out that the Left always wins, so the “principle above politics” business is pointless. The point of politics is to win, which means gaining power, so any strategy that lacks that as its goal is a waste of time. Further, this camp notes that the first principles crowd spends all of their time policing their ranks rather than fighting the Left, which means endless purges. The people being purged are usually the most effective fighters against the Left.
The critique of the “first principles” crowd is an easy one as they stand in front of an empty trophy case with pockets stuffed with cash. Individually they do very well in terms of salary and social status, but collectively they have managed to do so little with so much that it is easy to conclude that it is a long con. Billions of dollars have flowed into Conservative Inc., but they accomplish nothing. The two conservative wins, abortion, and guns, we accomplished by outsiders.
This should be an easy case. If the means justify the ends approach is an utter failure, then we are left with the ends justify the means approach. People on the right tend to favor “no enemies to the right” as a slogan, but fundamentally it is the same thing the Left has preached for generations. When the goal is winning, you do what you must in order to win, even align with low-character people. The point of politics is to gain power and once you gain power you can have principles.
There are a number of problems with this approach, specific to right-wing movements in the modern age. The first is the Boebert problem. For those unfamiliar, Lauren Boebert is a ditzy female congressman from Colorado, who was recently seen getting felt up by a man not her husband at a movie theater. The usual carbuncles of Conservative Inc. were quick to denounce Boebert, who they see as lacking principles. Her behavior violates their principles, so she has to go.
The dilemma for the “no enemies to the right” camp is that no decent man wants to defend this airhead. Whatever utility she has politically is cancelled out by the fact that she is a dingbat and an attention whore. Even remaining silent on her is tough because the absurdity of it makes for easy jokes. Can you expect people to not make Boebert jokes in the name of politics? Can you expect people to defend this ridiculous woman when lefty friends make fun of her?
That gets to the other problem for “no enemies to the right”. The bad guys control the media, so they control the popular narrative. That means they can hold their opponents to a high standard. In other words, they can make their opponents defend all of their members and alleged members. On the other hand, any attacks on their members can simply be ignored. If you are in the game of winning the crowd against the Left, you have to accept this asymmetry.
Dingbats like Boebert are the easy problems. The really tough problem for the “no enemies to the right” camp are guys like Russell Brand and Andrew Tate. The former is a far-left comic turned populist gadfly and the latter is a pimp and pornographer, who attacks the feminist industrial complex. Both have big audiences and often voice positions popular on the dissident right. Tucker Carlson has been seen paling around with them and promoting them to his fans.
Coincidentally, both have been accused by the authorities of rape. Tate was arrested in Romania on sex trafficking claims. He admits to being a pimp and pornographer but claims to operate within the law. Brand has just been accused of being a serial rapist decades ago. He denies the claims. The usual carbuncles of Conservative Inc. were quick to accept the claims at face value and denounce Brand. Their instinct is to always trust the people they claim to oppose.
The trouble here for the “no enemies to the right” side is that both Brand and Tate are horrible people, even if you exclude the claims against them. Tate brags about things that will get him hanged if the Right is ever in charge. If there is a revolution from the Right, Andrew Tate will not live to see its second day. Russel Brand is a sociopath who will attack anyone to get attention. Not so long ago he was happy to attack the enemies of Left if it made him famous.
How can the “no enemies to the right” side defend Russell Brand when it is clear he would savage them if he saw a profit in it? How can they defend Andrew Tate when he should be swinging from a tree branch? The answer is two-fold. The first part is that while all politics is personal, it is also situational. The Brand case offers an opportunity to focus on the abuse of the law against political opponents. It is not about the odious Russell brand, but the grotesque abuse of the legal system.
In this way the “no enemies to the right” side can wear the clothes of the “principled conservatives” to both undermine their claims by holding them to their own standards and attack the behavior of the Left. This leads to the second part which is that a part of dissident politics is reminding dissidents that the point of politics is to win and gain power, not be the most high-minded loser. Sometimes winning means defending people like Russell Brand in order to damage the enemy.
The lesson here in all of this, especially for the “no enemies to the right” side who are new to dissident politics, is that principles of any kind assume a common end. This is why conservatism was a failure. They assumed the other side wanted what they wanted, but through different means. This was never true outside of the neocons who never relinquished their radical ends. In a world of conflicting moral visions, there is no place for the principled stand.
Carl Schmitt wrote, “The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy.” In other words, the question central to politics is who is on my side and who is not on my side. There is nothing about the answer that should imply eternity. If Russel Brand is a useful ally, then he is a useful ally. When he stops being a useful ally, then he stops being a useful ally. In politics, allies are a bus you ride to the next stop.
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