I drafted an item on my personal politics and my reasoning therefor. Then I read a Sunday blog post by that reinforced my position.
But then I read an interview of of Sohrab Ahmari by Ross Douthat. (Ross Douthat: Interviews Sohrab Ahmari for ‘The Ezra Klein Show’. If you can’t get that transcript, you may nevertheless be able to get the podcast, the October 30 posting of the Ezra Klein Show.) Ahmari didn’t persuade me, but I now think I’ve been selling him short as a serious thinker, and conceivably selling short the case for Right illiberalism. Ahmari’s description of his policies is just so darn benign.
But revolutions generally turn ugly, and for the time being, I think his position (based on an analogy to the Iranian Revolution) boils down virtually to "don’t be too illiberal Left culturally or you’ll get an illiberal Right governmental coup, and in a binary choice, I’ll be supporting it."
So here’s my original item, updated with a few quotes from this morning’s David French piece.
The last few years have been politically revelatory.
It probably started with Trump’s nomination in 2016. Although I left the GOP in the middle of Dubya’s second inaugural address, over a particularly delusional statement ("So it is the policy of the United States to … end tyranny in our world." Yes, you may quibble over that ellipsis.) that was the complete betrayal of why I voted for him in 2000 (promise of humbler foreign policy), Trump’s nomination told me the GOP was becoming something really weird. That an openly declared socialist had done well in the Democrat primaries meant that the Democrats were radicalising, too.
I’ve paid particularly close attention to subsequent developments on the Right, with guys like Sohrab Amari and Adrian Vermeule advocating what struck me as illiberal, and once-promising figures like Josh Hawley and J.D. Vance becoming braying populist(ish) asses (I can’t believe either of them is entirely sincere). Even spirit-brother Rod Dreher has added to his customary alarmism (no judgment implied on whether alarm is warranted) at least qualified admiration for Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán.
Further, I follow the blog of an Orthodox American man who followed his younger wife back to Russia, her homeland, in large part to protect their children from American culture. He hasn’t regretted it; he’s now a dual citizen.
Toward the other end of the spectrum, at least as the press sets up conflicts, I spent some time reading about the theory of an "open society" and thus figured out that George Soros might be wrong, but I had no reason to think he was evil.
So I’ve seen further out the political spectrum in both directions and have concluded that I’m … a liberal. A classical liberal. Center-right to be more specific. A David Frenchist. That’s my big reveal.
I just haven’t seen an illiberalism I think would be an unequivocal improvement on our liberalism even in theory, and the would-be illiberal leaders of left and right in this land fill me with dread. An Orbán would be an improvement over any of them, if only because he’s not a pandering clown.
And that’s all assuming that an illiberal revolution wouldn’t turn really bad, like historically bad.
So that’s my big reveal. Make of it what you will.
I encountered these (and their surrounding essay) the morning after writing what’s above:
- [T]he rights to speak, to exercise your faith, to be free from cruel and unusual punishments, to be liberated from arbitrary exercises of state power, and to enjoy equal protection under the law all proclaim a secular version of a divine truth—each person is of incalculable worth.
- The cry of the oppressed across the American centuries hasn’t been to overturn the classical liberal ideals of the founding, but to uphold them, to extend them and to keep the promises so clearly made in America’s founding documents.
- [O]ur modern class of post-liberals consistently demonstrate why they are so dangerous. Through their all-too-common cruelty, cancelations, and profound intolerance, they demonstrate day-by-day that their governance would be anything but benign.
David French (emphasis added)