How can conservatives stop the Democratic Party’s drive to dismantle the constitutional foundations of the nation and reshape its social order? To answer this question, Republicans and conservatives first need to know exactly who their adversaries are. That means not just Hillary Clinton or Tim Kaine or Bernie Sanders but the progressive movement they have committed their political lives to advancing. What are the motivations of the millions of Americans who are part of this movement? What is their agenda? In the first place, it is not just a matter of specific policies and programs. It is a matter of the powerful, almost religious convictions of the progressive movement. This movement is too powerful inside and outside the Democratic Party for an individual leader to deviate too far from the progressive path. Individual policies and programs are but the tips of the iceberg; what you see is not what you eventually get, for policies and programs can be—and are—tailored to the political moment, then abandoned and revived in more radical forms. Obamacare is a prime example. As Republicans long suspected, it was designed by its architects to fail so that after laying the groundwork for socialized medicine, they could expand Obamacare with a “single-payer” plan—that is, total government control of the nation’s health.
What is important is not the specific policy but the ideology behind the policy, the long-term vision that a policy like Obamacare is the instrumental means of achieving. Republicans will agree that the failure to name our adversary in the so-called war on terror is a severe—possibly even fatal—handicap when it comes to defeating the enemy. But this is also true of political conflicts. Without understanding the motivations and intentions of one’s adversaries, it is difficult—perhaps impossible—to defeat them. For half a century now, conservatives have been mainly losing the political and culture wars with the left because they do not understand what their adversaries are up to—what drives them and shapes their means and ends.
So we must begin with that. When we set out to defend our country and its constitutional framework, whom are we up against? What is the inspirational goal that underlies their calculations and justifies their deeds? How do they see us? What are they prepared to do to defeat us? What laws will they break, what deceptions will they employ, and what acts will they commit?
An answer to the question “How do they see us?” was provided by Donald Trump during the second presidential debate. The answer was so harsh in its judgment it was probably unprecedented in the annals of modern presidential politics. Trump turned to the audience at one point to say, “Hillary has tremendous hatred in her heart.” It was the kind of politically incorrect character description that had become a signature reflex of Trump’s election campaign. Never before had one presidential candidate so bluntly confronted another. Never had any Republican dared to characterize a Democratic opponent in such damning moral terms to a national audience. Pre-Trump Republicans were generally too polite to blurt out such conclusions even when they were just.
The same cannot be said for Democrats or Hillary. It was Hillary who provided the occasion for Trump’s remark. His judgment of Hillary’s character did not come out of the blue. It was a direct response to the attacks that had been the focus of her campaign. It was really her core message, which was a vicious and personal attempt to condemn Trump and his supporters as “unfit” to lead the country. The trigger of Trump’s remark was a statement she had made on the campaign trail and had not retracted. Addressing an LGBTQ event a month earlier, Clinton had dismissed Trump’s supporters out of hand. In as casual a way as one could make such dehumanizing comments, Clinton had said that half of Trump’s supporters belonged in her “basket of deplorables,” then added that they were “irredeemable.” Nor did she leave these characterizations hanging in the air for others to imagine what she could have meant by such remarks. Instead, she rattled off an itemized list to clarify exactly what she had in mind: “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.” Reaffirming this demonization of Republicans and their candidate right to the end of the campaign, both Hillary and Obama suggested in ads and appearances that Trump was the candidate of the Ku Klux Klan.
Out of the other side of her mouth, Hillary regularly invoked her “favorite quote” from Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we go high.” Closer to the truth would have been “When they go low, we go lower.”
Of course, such demonizing epithets are hardly peculiar to Hillary Clinton, nor is the reflexive damning of those who disagree with her. These are the familiar anathemas of the politically correct deployed against people whose opinions they don’t like. What her “deplorable” remark tells us is that Hillary Clinton is not alone in having tremendous hatred in her heart for Republicans and for all those who do not share her political views. What the anathemas tell us is that Democrats, and progressives generally, harbor the same hatred for their political opponents. Republicans don’t really need to be told this, since they have ample personal confirmations. What Republican has not had these same hateful words applied to them by a Democratic opponent?
The chief strategy of Democratic political campaigns is to use character assassination, otherwise referred to as “the politics of personal destruction,” as the weapon of choice. Any strategy for resisting these attacks has to begin with an understanding of this brutal fact. The first requirement for any strategy to stop their progressive agenda is to understand that they have tremendous hatred in their hearts for those who oppose them. The second requirement is to know how to confound that hatred. If your opponents are prepared to demonize you as a racist and you have no equally powerful response, you might as well quit the field of battle.
Why do progressives have hatred in their hearts for conservatives? Why do they sound like hellfire-and-damnation preachers when they are on the attack? Because they are zealots of what can only be described as a crypto-religion modeled on the Christian narrative of the Fall and Redemption—the difference being that they see themselves as the redeemers instead of the divinity. To progressives, the world is a fallen place—beset by racism, sexism, homophobia, and the rest—that must be transformed and made right. This redemption was once called communism and is now called socialism, or “social justice.” Theirs is a vision of a world that has become a “safe place”—where there are no deplorables, or where such irredeemables are outlawed and suppressed.
Progressives dream of a world of political correctness and politically enforced equality, where everybody is taken care of by taxing the rich until there are no more rich, universities and schools admit no ideas that are hurtful or offending, environments have no pollution, countries have no borders, and nations have no armies. Progressives are so enthralled by their dreams of a heaven on earth that they see those who oppose their dreams as evil, which is why they hate them. For what decent soul would be against a world in which everyone was taken care of, guaranteed a “living wage,” and provided with free education and health care, food and housing—a world in which all needs are met and there is social justice? What decent person could oppose the idea of open borders that would recognize all the diverse people in the world as part of one big human family? It’s a beautiful dream, and to one degree or another every progressive shares it. Progressives are social redeemers. They see themselves as saving the vulnerable and saving the planet. Consequently, they regard themselves as the army of the saints and those who oppose them as the party of the devil.
This is why Democrats go forward in lockstep while Republicans march to the beat of their own drums. Closing ranks is almost an instinct with Democrats, while solidarity in the line of fire helps them prevail in political battles. How much of an instinct is the lockstep mentality displayed by progressives? Consider one pivotal moment in the recent election campaign—the moment when the polls took a dramatic turn against Trump after an 11-year-old “sex-talk video” was unearthed by the pro-Clinton Washington Post. Democrats responded across the board with outrage, much of it bizarre considering what Democrats—Hollywood Democrats in particular—regularly put up with when sex talk and abusive behavior appears in their own ranks. This particular revelation triggered an immediate exodus of Republicans announcing they could not support their party’s candidate and would not be part of his campaign. It was a bridge too far. “I am sickened by what I heard today,” Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement notable for its political correctness, as he boycotted a Trump event. “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified.”
Now try to name one Democrat who defected because they were sickened or appalled by something their candidate actually did, as opposed to merely said. Hillary Clinton violated the espionage laws; she broke her oaths of office; she lied to Congress and the FBI about her illegal server, which exposed classified secrets to America’s enemies; she lied to the general public to hide what she did and repeated her lies over the course of a year; she lied about the number of illegal, unsecure handheld devices she used, and she destroyed or “lost” all of them to hide what she had done; she obstructed justice—a felony—by destroying her e-mails days after Congress had subpoenaed them and warned her not to destroy them; she lied to the American public and the world about the deaths of four American heroes, including an ambassador who was her friend and whose demise came about ias a result of circumstances in which she had played a significant role; she lied to the mothers of the dead over their coffins. Yet through all this disgraceful and criminal activity, which would have disqualified anyone else as a presidential candidate, not a single Democratic elected official—not one—said, “This is a bridge too far; I can’t go along with her on this.” Not one.
Why not? Because she was their candidate and, more important, the standard bearer of the progressive cause; because they were going into an election that would shape the nation’s future and advance the cause of social justice. Because breaking ranks would be giving aid to the enemy, to those who oppose the beautiful dream: the racists and sexists, the deplorables.