By Dan Phillips
The American Conservative blogger Rod Dreher has never been entirely my cup of tea. His posts are frequently too overwrought, and they come off as, for lack of a better word, prissy. (I tried hard to come up with another word to describe them that wasn’t so loaded, but I couldn’t think of one that wasn’t equally or more loaded.) However, since Dreher is an outside the mainstream conservative, I have often found myself defending him against attacks from mainstream conservatives, especially back in the days when conservatives were still debating the Iraq War. Often his critics just didn’t get where he was coming from since he isn’t a typical cookie cutter movement conservative. I have always considered “Crunchy Conservatism,” a concept which Dreher is primarily responsible for popularizing, as sort of paleoconservatism light. I’ll punch left within our little sphere when I think it is justified, but I’ll also defend my fellow paleosphere dwellers from attacks from mainstream cons when necessary, much like they say about siblings.
That said, this recent post from Dreher along with several other recent posts are over the top and beg for a response. The time to punch left within our sphere is here. Rockford Institute President Tom Piatak has already responded at the Chronicles Magazine website. The linked post is a textbook example of typical Dreher pearl clutching. This style has always struck me as at least partially for show. I get an “I’m not like those other conservatives” vibe from a lot of Dreher’s posturing, because it’s just hard for me to believe that he is really such a delicate flower in real life.
I don’t know if Dreher has said he is voting for Hillary or has advised a vote for Hillary in so many words. I don’t have the time or heart to read every one of his posts, (I’ll give the man this, he is amazingly prolific.) but he could easily and fairly be interpret as implying as much. He writes “We are getting into “vote for the crook, it’s important” territory,” which is a reference to the admonition to Louisiana voters in 1991 to vote for the Democrat candidate for Governor, Edwin Edwards, a known crook, over Republican nominee David Duke. He also clearly states that he believes a Trump Presidency would be worse for religious conservatives than a Hillary Presidency:
For religious and social conservatives, a Clinton presidency would be terrible. But it would not the worst thing imaginable. Donald Trump is now showing us something worse: a paranoid nationalist demagogue destroying the institutions of our country, and fomenting mob violence.
This is next level absurd.
The frustrating thing about Dreher is that he is always more sensitive to what he perceives to be the faults of his own side, than he is the faults of his opponents. The linked post in particular doesn’t focus on Trump’s moral failings, but several recent posts have. As a Christian, I don’t defend Trump’s off mic comments among other things, but with Hillary we have someone who was an integral part of a coordinated campaign to slander and intimidate her husband’s accusers in an effort to keep down “bimbo eruptions.” Is Trump’s behavior worse than Kathleen Willey’s dead cat? An encyclopedia could be written on the moral problems with Hillary per se, the Democrat Party and liberalism in general, but you get the point. Seeing Trump’s moral problems as enough reason to imply that Christians should prefer Hillary is either willful blindness or posturing.
Dreher’s post in question is primarily hysterical handwringing that Trump has become increasingly divisive with his us against them rhetoric. Well I’ve got news for Mr. Dreher, it is us against them, which the Trump campaign has made even more abundantly clear than it already was. Dreher should recognize this because he is generally pretty good on the issue of PC thought policing excesses, but he is apparently too brain addled by his need to signal his distance from his fellow conservatives that he can’t think straight. Rather than sputter like a frightened schoolboy, we should thank Trump and his speech writers for making the nature of our real enemy crystal clear. Know they enemy, remember? Trump’s masterful 13 Oct West Palm Beach speech elucidated the us against them nature of our present struggle in a way nothing else has since William Jennings Bryan’s Cross of Gold Speech. (With an honorable mention to Pat Buchanan’s 1992 GOP Convention Culture War speech.)
Dreher is concerned because Trump’s supporters are angry, and Trump is allegedly stoking their anger. Darn right they’re angry. It’s about time. A disloyal elite working in concert with both parties has in a remarkably short period of time, historically speaking, fundamentally altered their nation and made conditions worse for them through the deliberate importation of cheap foreign labor and the exportation of high wage manufacturing jobs. In addition, current immigration rates threaten to make their party of choice electorally irrelevant and permanently enshrine the coalition that besets them, but they are wrongthinkers if they notice.
Dreher frets that Trump’s supporters are angry and might resort to violence. Has he been paying attention at all this election season? It has been anti-Trump protestors, not Trump supporters, who have been vastly disproportionately responsible for violence. Trump supporters aren’t chasing a guy with a Hillary hat. Anti-Trump protestors are chasing a guy with a Trump hat. How can Dreher not recognize this dynamic? If Dreher is concerned about violence, he needs to direct his finger wagging at the other side.
I understand the tendency to hold your own side to a higher standard than you hold the other side, and to see faults in your own side that you overlook in the other side. A father may well be harder on his own kid’s behavior than he is on the neighbor’s kid. The difference is he shouldn’t publicly bemoan his own kid’s behavior while suggesting that the other kid whose behavior is objectively worse is a better kid. That would be pathological parenting. In contrast to the Biblical admonition, Dreher needs to quit worrying about the mote is his own side’s eye and start worrying about the beam that is in the eye of his enemy.
I am told by people who know such things, that Dreher’s blog has a rather large following, and this is reflected in the very active comment sections that often accompany his posts. Not coincidentally, a disproportionate number of the blog commenters seem to be liberals who come there to read a “thoughtful” conservative who frequently tickles their ears with condemnations of rank and file conservatives. Maybe this should tell Dreher something. Stop signaling to the enemy and start opposing them.