Consumed with jealousy over the Left’s use of big government to punish political opponents, the authoritarian New Right is trying to tighten its grip on the GOP. Libertarians will be first to go in the New Right Inquisition.
Responding on Tuesday to a New York Times Magazine story about American populist-nationalist enthusiasm for Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Christopher Rufo wrote:
The New York Times is recognizing that conservatives are ready to contest left-wing hegemony in our public institutions. Proud to be condemned alongside @TuckerCarlson, @JDVance1, @SohrabAhmari, @Vermeullarmine, and @roddreher.Christopher F. Rufo on Twitter, 10/19/2021 @ 1:24pm
Rufo is best known for exposing the use of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in public K-12 schools, and is a leading proponent of government CRT bans. Rufo’s work on the hot-button issue caught the attention of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, which resulted in attention from President Trump, which in turn made Rufo a New Right folk hero.
Rufo continued in a thread of tweets:
We are exposing the lie at the heart of the Left’s political project: the idea that left-wing influence over state institutions is “liberal” and “democratic,” while right-wing influence over state institutions is “postliberal” and “authoritarian.”Christopher F. Rufo on Twitter
Criticizing a genuine double standard, Rufo is half right in the same way as many of his fellow travelers: The Left’s influence over state institutions often results in authoritarian policy, but that doesn’t make right-wing authoritarianism a good idea.
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Rufo went on to defend big government by torching familiar strawmen:
Contrary to the libertarian delusion, there will be a state. The question is: toward which virtues is it oriented and on what principles does it operate? The Old Right abdicated on these questions, believing in the myth of neutrality. The New Right is hoping to provide answers.Christopher F. Rufo on Twitter
On Wednesday, Sohrab Ahmari – a “conservative” ally Rufo mentioned the day before – wrote a blog post for the Claremont Institute that was aptly summarized by its title, “Save America– Reject Libertarianism.”
My generation of right-wingers has a clear task, and it is to follow Klingenstein’s call to sideline right-liberalism and libertarianism—more than that, to bury their sclerotic institutions, abandon their illusions, and expose the ugly material realities churning behind their tired watchwords and slogans.
Daydreaming about theocracy is a common theme for Ahmari, and affiliation with Claremont is a common thread in the New Right’s agitation for bigger government to own the libs. Rufo, for example, is a former Claremont fellow.
Newsweek opinion editor Josh Hammer, another former Claremont fellow, shared a photo earlier this month of a shirt from American Moment – a New Right nonprofit run by Claremont fellow Saurabh Sharma – with a cartoon of Teddy Roosevelt waving a club at Amazon, Google, and Facebook:
Big government threatening businesses whose political views the New Right disagrees with. Very on-brand!
Hammer is a member of American Moment’s board of advisors. So is JD Vance, one of the New Right compatriots Rufo mentioned on Tuesday.
Vance believes the rights of political nonprofits like American Moment should be conditioned on their politics; he has repeatedly suggested the resources of left-wing nonprofits should be seized by the government. In a May speech at a Claremont conference, Vance said:
I don’t mean this to be exhaustive, I can’t possibly sketch out everything we have to do on the question of woke capital, but I think there are some obvious solutions, and it should start from a fundamental premise that if you are fighting the American nation state, if you are fighting the values and virtues that make this country great, the conservative movement should be about nothing if not reducing your power, and if necessary, destroying you.
We cannot let the people who are driving this country into the ground continue to benefit from special benefits, from tax breaks, from subsidies, or from liability protections. That is the simple rule that we should follow. Harvard University’s $120 billion endowment is ammunition for our enemies, and we can’t let the enemy have that much ammunition or we’re going to lose. It’s that simple. This principle should guide all of our policies. If you cannot go after the pocketbook of these people, if you cannot make them pay, then you are accepting defeat. It’s that simple. We’re never going to beat them unless we go after them.JD Vance, “Fighting Woke Capital”
Claremont’s pull quote of choice when sharing the speech was telling:
A focus of Vance’s current Ohio Senate campaign – which would be an afterthought but for the super PAC his old boss, Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, dumped $10,000,000 into this spring – is the Right’s hesitance to wield the power of big government.
“The Right is really terrified of power,” Vance complained during a July 7 interview on Fox News. “I think the Left is enthusiastic about using power, the Right is terrified of power.”
“The big difference between the Left and the Right is that the Left loves to use power and the Right is terrified of using power,” Vance said during a podcast interview days later.
He repeated the same ominous talking point at the end of August:
When the GOP last had power, with Trump in the White House and Republican control of both houses of Congress, Republicans tried (halfheartedly, from my perspective) to repeal Obamacare. Vance lobbied against repealing Obamacare, because Vance supports Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to cover able-bodied, working-age, childless adults.
RELATED: J.D. Vance’s Imitation Campaign
Love covereth all sins, and $10,000,000 from Peter Thiel is great for making nice with purveyors of Think Tank Trumpism. It helps, too, that Vance’s faith in big government extends to using it against the same people Ahmari and Claremont hate.
“Raise their taxes and do whatever else is necessary to fight these goons,” Vance tweeted in response to an April news story about corporations opposed to Republican voting laws, building on the theme that Republicans should use big government to punish businesses that disagree with them:
In July, the day after Vance made his long-unofficial campaign official, Thiel’s “Protect Ohio Values” super PAC (based in Arlington, VA) ran an ad promising Vance would hike taxes on companies hiring overseas.
In mid-September, Vance joined a Claremont amicus brief supporting Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s absurd lawsuit demanding a court declare Google a common carrier, saying that it was time to “fight back” against “censorship” from Big Tech companies.
America’s universities and other elite institutions “basically need to be destroyed,” Vance told Sharma during an American Moment podcast a few days after that.
At the end of September, Vance repeated his attack line against leftist nonprofits in an interview with Tucker Carlson, who has vigorously promoted Vance’s Senate campaign.
Thiel’s “Protect Ohio Values” super PAC, meanwhile, has been paying American Moment board member Ryan Girdusky to cheer on Vance’s authoritarian rhetoric:
For a better glimpse at the minds behind American Moment, here’s Sharma, having a normal one:
Rod Dreher, another New Right ally Rufo mentioned on Tuesday, said in August that he considers himself “basically a Harry Truman Democrat” because he is “more in favor of a strong state than most US conservatives.”
The idea that conservatives should embrace the power of big government is hardly new. A popular variant of this theme is Roman Catholic “integralism,” whose most prominent advocate is Harvard professor Adrian Vermuele – yet another of the “conservatives” Rufo mentioned Tuesday.
“Conservative,” one of the most abused labels in recent history, will take another beating later this month, when Ahmari, Dreher, Hammer, and Rufo are all booked to appear as speakers at a “National Conservatism” conference. Vance and Thiel will both deliver keynotes.
The New Right’s ideas may be popular among some subset of the GOP base, but they’re still terrible ideas. It would be much easier to sell them as conservative if party activists could be convinced that the countless conservatives who aren’t on board must be shunned as enemies of the glorious popu-nationalist revolution.
With that said, National Review‘s Isaac Schorr recently noted Ahmari and Vermuele’s vaguely unsettling interest in Chinese communist theory:
If Thiel and Claremont have their way, libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives had better get our laughs in now. The New Right Inquisition is coming.