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Combat Rules for Conservatives

The Right needs a new birth of activity—and the plan has already been laid out by the late, great Stan Evans.

The late M. Stanton Evans—after William F. Buckley, Jr., the second-most important of the founders of the modern American conservative movement—famously had “Six Rules for Political Combat.” He had noticed—and you can see it today, too—that the Left had a standard drill for every issue. Their activity was not aimless. 

The drill is, roughly: build up alarm about some menace; cite “studies” or “science” or “experts” most laymen can’t understand or check; get your guys to hammer on the issue mercilessly; and finally, when the public is scared out of its wits, move to do whatever was desired to begin with. 

One of those blitzkriegs has been started recently against Justice Clarence Thomas and, eventually perhaps, against the Trump appointees to the Supreme Court. A few weeks ago, Jane Mayer, a hit-piece writer for the New Yorker wrote, “The claim that the Justices’ opinions are politically neutral is becoming increasingly hard to accept, especially from Thomas, whose wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, is a vocal right-wing activist.” That’s just balderdash, of course, but there it is—in print! 

The Left, having “lost” the Supreme Court when Donald Trump was president, is frantic to neutralize one or more justices so the court won’t be able to overturn decisions like Roe v. Wade, which the Left thinks are their birthright. Mayer writes that the court “appears likely to secure victories for her [Ginni Thomas’] allies in a number of highly polarizing cases—on abortion, affirmative action, and gun rights.” Yup. It sure does. 

Then, a few days later, in a Washington Post article headlined “Clarence Thomas and the gray area of recusal,” Michael Kranish wrote:

Ginni Thomas’s name stood out among the signatories of a December letter from conservative leaders, which blasted the work of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection as ‘overtly partisan political persecution.’

One month later, her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, took part in a case crucial to the same committee’s work: former president Donald Trump’s request to block the committee from getting White House records that were ordered released by President Biden and two lower courts.

Thomas was the only justice to say he would grant Trump’s request.

On February 2, the New York Times weighed in with a long smear job titled, “The Long Crusade of Clarence and Ginni Thomas.” 

Here’s one of the key sentences: “And with Trump’s three appointments reshaping the Supreme Court, her husband finds himself at the center of a new conservative majority poised to shake the foundations of settled law.” You gotta love “settled law.” The Left dresses up a few liberals in black robes who then decide matters against the will of the majority and those rulings become—presto!—“settled law.” 

The Times quotes a source (so the Times won’t have to take any blame for inaccuracies) that details “the extent to which Justice Thomas flouted judicial-ethics guidance. . . .” This is getting serious. 

So, the Left is building up alarm over a new menace. But of course they need experts to weigh in. 

In his Washington Post article, Kranish provided one: “‘I absolutely do believe that Clarence Thomas should have recused [sic] from the Jan. 6 case,’ said Gabe Roth [who needs to brush up on his English skills], executive director of Fix the Court, a nonpartisan advocacy group, who called the Supreme Court ‘the most powerful, least accountable, institution in Washington.’” 

What is “Fix the Court”? Who knows? There’s almost no information about the organization available, even on Google—or is it “especially on Google”? But the Post assures us Fix the Court is “nonpartisan.” And obviously, Fix the Court folks are experts, so we’d better pay attention. 

Step three in a typical campaign is to bring forth a crew of activists to hammer the point: “Isn’t Justice Thomas just awful, and selfish too?!” It’s a good bet we’ll be seeing that next, from talking heads on the (failing) Lib-Dem-Woke media outlets. 

And then, step four, someone will propose legislation. How about a committee of experts (is there any other kind?) to recommend which justices should recuse themselves and from which cases? Of course, the justices are extremely unlikely to pay any attention to the recommendations, but that isn’t the only point of this exercise. 

The Lib-Dem-Woke activists want to rile up the public and then run on the issue of biased Supreme Court justices. This could be an evergreen strategy, but it is especially crucial this November when the Democrats have nothing else to run on. And of course they want to delegitimize the Supreme Court, and its decisions, now that it has a conservative majority. 

Why doesn’t the Right play that game? 

Evans had six rules, which you will find listed in Steven Hayward’s excellent M. Stanton Evans: Conservative Wit, Apostle of Freedom, due out this month from Encounter Books. The rules are: 

1) Politics abhors a vacuum. It’s important to beat the Lib-Dem-Wokies to the lead.

2) Write the resolved clause. That is., know what your goal is before you begin your campaign.

3) Nothing is “inevitable.” Don’t let the Lib-Dem-Wokies spread doom and gloom among conservatives by convincing them that the Lib-Dem-Woke program will be adopted anyway, so they might as well give up now.

4) Fighting is better than not fighting. Even if conservatives lose a particular battle—no one wins every battle—fighting makes even victory for the other side more expensive (first rule of economics: all resources are scarce).

5) Washington is not America. Just because “everyone” in Washington thinks something, it doesn’t mean that’s what America is thinking. 

6) Taxes are trumps. Americans still pay bills, and the bill they least like to pay is the tax bill (they know much of it is pork and is wasted). Democrats exist to spend other people’s money. 

A good project for a big conservative foundation would be to award a prize (the “M. Stanton Evans Prize”?)—no, make that five prizes, of tens of thousands of dollars each—to those think tanks that best start and execute a Stan Evans operation. 

This is a good year to begin, when Joe Biden’s ratings are almost as low as the recording devices go (and he has the media with him!). The conservatives, and the republic, need a new birth of activity. And the plan has already been laid out for them by the late, great Stan Evans.

Published:

March 6, 2022
American Greatness

Conservative Vibes for Our Time

That’s what Nat Con II was all about: getting inside the vibrations of modern life.

What do we mean by “conservatism” these days, anyway? That was one of the questions always present (stated or unstated) at the National Conservatism Conference put on by the Edmund Burke Foundation in Orlando, Florida, late last month. It was the second such conference, NatCon II, the first one having been held in the summer of 2019. How is this new conservatism different from what has gone before? Is it different? About 750 people, many of them young, went to Orlando to find out.

William F. Buckley Jr., the founder of National Review, wrote years ago that he knew, if not what conservatism was, at least who conservatives were—confessing at the same time that it was easier to know who a liberal was: “Spin me about like a top, and I will walk up to the single liberal in the room without a zig or a zag and find him even if he is hiding behind the flowerpot.”

Some of the “conservatism” of the Orlando crowd is a reaction, and rebuke, to the Republican establishment, especially some (maybe many) of the Republican office holders in Washington—e.g., the 13 Republican members of the House of Representatives who voted for Joe Biden’s trillion dollar “infrastructure” bill (and who should spend the rest of their time in Washington behind —in?—flowerpots). They are “Chamber of Commerce” Republicans, people who care only about business and the bottom line, not about how we get to that line, or how many people have to get stepped on, or fired, or replaced by Chinese workers (or slaves), to get to that line. National Conservatism is something different—something more proudly American, “Trumpist,” the liberals might claim, accusingly, though it has little to do with Trump, and his name was mentioned only occasionally at the conference.

And “National Conservatism” is not exactly Reaganesque either, as a number of speakers pointed out. But that’s not surprising: Reagan took office more than 40 years ago, and there is no reason to suppose he would have proposed, as the solutions for today’s problems, the solutions he proposed then.

Even Buckley was criticized by one speaker, who said his famous cry for “standing athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!’” was simply not sufficient. But Buckley never said it was. That iconic phrase appeared in the first issue of National Review in 1955. But there was a whole lot more.

Buckley wrote: “[National Review] is out of place because, in its maturity, literate America rejected conservatism in favor of radical social experimentation [Doesn’t this remind us of open borders? Critical race theory for kids? Gender optionality?]. Instead of covetously consolidating its premises, the United States seems tormented by its tradition of fixed postulates having to do with the meaning of existence, [Justice Kennedy’s infamous “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” anyone?] with the relationship of the state to the individual [you vill vear your mask und vhere are your vaccinations papers?], of the individual to his neighbor, so clearly enunciated in the enabling documents of our Republic.”

And Buckley continued: “Conservatives in this country—at least those who have not made their peace with the New Deal, and there is a serious question of whether there are others—are non-licensed nonconformists; and this is a dangerous business in a Liberal world, as every editor of this magazine can readily show by pointing to his scars. Radical conservatives in this country have an interesting time of it, for when they are not being suppressed or mutilated by Liberals [mind you, this was decades before Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook], they are being ignored or humiliated by a great many of those of the well-fed Right [Hmm: Republicans In Name Only?], whose ignorance and amorality have never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity.”

“Not made their peace with the New Deal”! Holy smoke! Of course, the New Deal was younger then, dating from about 1933 to 1939, less than two decades before the founding of National Review. But who these days is calling for the repeal of anything?

Christopher DeMuth, the chairman of the conference, said in his speech that three of the critical foundations of nationhood are religion, locality, and family. Exactly. The dedication in Buckley’s first book, God and Man at Yale (1951), reads: “For God, For Country, and for Yale . . . in that order.”

DeMuth’s speech illustrated a point Buckley made in an address to the Conservative Party of New York State in 1964. Buckley said: “Modern formulations are necessary even in defense of very ancient truths. Not because of any alleged anachronism in the old ideas—the Beatitudes remain the essential statement of the Western code—but because the idiom of life is always changing, and we need to say things in such a way as to get inside the vibrations of modern life.”

That’s what Nat Con II was all about: getting inside the vibrations of modern life.

Published:

November 11, 2021
American Greatness