Two years ago, I wrote a series of four columns for the Epoch Times in which I offered answers to the single most oft-asked question I and other conservative writers get: What is to be done? “That’s the question posed in a 1902 pamphlet by Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as 'Lenin,' as the young revolutionary began to flesh out his weaponization of Karl Marx’s principles of communism. It wasn’t enough, argued Lenin in typically turgid prose, to expect Russia’s nearly non-existent industrialized working class—the proletariat—to come to international Socialism on its own." Instead, it had to be forced on them via Marxism.
In other words, enough already with the analysis and the talk: we know things are a mess. So what are you going to do about it? Normally, that's a question I pose to the reader at the end of each piece, as a challenge, but it came back to me again recently in the form of a comment on Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit site. This is how I in part answered:
I hear this complaint a lot, especially from people who are not in the arena (to use Milton's image: "I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat"). The first step is proper analysis of the situation, which includes putting events in their proper context. The past is a great library of useful information and guidance. No great general was unlettered: Alexander studied with Aristotle, Caesar was a sterling writer, Constantine was well-schooled by his mother, Napoleon began as a novelist, U.S. Grant devoured novels and plays, Patton was a voracious reader, etc.
I'm far too old to start "organizing"; that's the job of younger men. As my readers know, I spent the final years of the Cold War, 1985-1989, in East Berlin, Moscow, and elsewhere behind the Iron Curtain. I was at the Wall when it fell, and in the Soviet Union when Chernobyl blew up. I left Moscow two weeks before the coup against Gorbachev.
The good old days.
Now, as a historian, I have written the bestseller LAST STANDS: Why Men Fight When All is Lost, now out in paperback, and have an even more ambitious sequel coming next year. So if you really want "actionable solutions," dive into history and see how our forebears handled very similar situations. I suspect what you and the others want are something along the lines of the proscriptions of Sulla or the Second Triumvirate. If so, why not say so?
But perhaps you make a mistake by assuming there is a "solution." How's this one: Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. That resulted in a horrific massacre at Béziers in 1209 and still didn't solve the problem of the Cathars. I offer a cultural solution in THE FIERY ANGEL, which followed THE DEVIL'S PLEASURE PALACE, but I sense you're looking for something more like the Left's "direct action" from the 1960s: protests, riots, bloodshed... That fight is now yours, not mine. Good luck.
If there is one area in which the conservative movement, such as it is, is notably deficient it lies in the area of education and intellectual rigor. One of my maxims is that I never take political advice from small children, and yet in the age of the instant hot take from kids still in the mental equivalent of knee pants, it's all around us. The reason so many putative up-and-coming tyros have crashed and burned so publicly recently is that they weren't ready for prime time in the first place, having been rushed into service without proper grounding and, frankly, knowledge and life experience. But conservative donors don't pay for ideas (they give, uselessly, to candidates) and refuse to invest in the kind of training academies that are routine on the Left. Until major donors on the right arise and give to the creation of something like an institutionalized version of the ancient Greek agora, "progressives" will continue to win the war of ideas.
I called the reader's bluff because the hot air of impotent keyboard-warrior anger, temporarily satisfying as it may be, is not enough. As the current internecine warfare in the GOP amply demonstrates, there is a great deal of unfocused rage resulting from the last election -- and even more directed at the daily enormities visited upon us by our political opponents -- now being exacerbated by the Twitter wars between Trump partisans and those who feel the way forward cannot be backward, and that a campaign based on revenge is doomed to failure.
I've made my position regarding the 2020 election very clear in two pieces for the-Pipeline: "The System IS the Steal," and "The Sting." The Covid hoax-related changes in our electoral system -- all of them bad -- which cost Trump the election were instituted right under his nose and without his objection, and, alas, have recently been institutionalized by an errant Supreme Court in its Moore v. Harper decision, which has destroyed the one legal leg the "stolen election" crew had to stand on.
By a 6-3 vote, the court rejected the “independent state legislature” theory in a case about North Carolina’s congressional map. The once-fringe legal theory broadly argued that state courts have little — or no — authority to question state legislatures on election laws for federal contests. The court’s decision in Moore v. Harper closes the path to what could have been a radical overhaul of America’s election laws.
So it's quite possible that the pessimists on the right are perfectly correct in their insistence that a conservative candidate will never be able to win another national election. But we're not there yet. Nominating a candidate that for whatever reason half the electorate despises and upon whom they've already had their say is not a winning ticket in 2024; a Trump loss will prove nothing except that more people hate him than love him. The damage the more deranged Trump partisans have already done to Ron DeSantis in their hopeless quest to "reinstall" the former president may be terminal, although we won't know until actual voting begins in the primaries next year.
Worked for Lincoln.
Perhaps one solution, then, is to abandon primaries altogether and return to the days of the smoke-filled rooms, during which the pros and cons of each candidate can be weighed and judged by party elders and officials; after all, the U.S. was never meant to be a plebiscitary democracy, and a system that produced Lincoln and Grant ought not to have been discarded so lightly, especially when it has since given us Romney and McCain.
Desperate times demand desperate measures. You can find all four of my Epoch Times columns on this subject linked at the bottom of the last in the series, "What Is to Be Done? Preparing the Information Battlespace," which include numerous suggestions for fixes and improvements. Remember: principles, not programs. Let's discuss these ideas in the weeks going forward; please feel free to add your two cents in the comments below. Until this, chew on this:
What does the GOP stand for? The party fought Trump every step of the way, double-crossed him constantly, feebly supported his policy positions, undercut his authority via the media at every opportunity, and otherwise made it clear to the conservative electorate that in the GOP establishment they had an enemy every bit as dangerous as the Democrats.
This is not the place to argue the merits (non-existent, in any case) of the two bogus impeachments. Rather it is to force the GOP to act more like the Leninist/Stalinist Democrats and speak with one voice, in the pursuit of a single objective: winning. In these fraught times, “comity” is luxury only congenital losers can afford, and the sooner the party purges itself the better off both it and the country will be. As Barry Goldwater famously offered: “a choice, not an echo.” Now’s the time to take him up on it.
Or perhaps it's finally time to start thinking beyond party boundaries and consider a unity ticket that dispenses simultaneously with Trump, Mike Pence, Biden, and Kamala Harris: and changes the equation at one stroke: DeSantis/Bobby Kennedy, Jr., anybody? No revenge, no "identity" tickets, just two men either of whom could be a plausible presidential leader, even if you don't agree with both of them in every particular.
Now, what are you going to do about it?