Explaining why Trump emerged on the right, why only liberals debate filibuster reform, how anti-vax became a partisan issue, how David Shor is half right, "Dems are the real racists" and much else.
Great post, mostly agree with it.
There is something to be said, however, about how our culture's system of social incentives and prestige—in which the left holds a dominant position—impacts even what preoccupies the time and energies of thoughtful and motivated right-leaning activists and intellectuals.
Consider law professors. I don't have a empirical study handy to prove this, but I read many right-leaning legal scholars, and this is my impression.
Generally, these scholars focus on arcana—carefully avoiding hot-button issues like race—whereas leftist have no qualms with making radical, incendiary proposals.
For instance, a conservative prof may write about arcana like restoring the original understanding of some equitable remedy, whereas—in her essay "Whiteness as Property"—leftist professor Cheryl Harris advocated for the U.S. to model its constitution on South Africa's to enable the expropriation of whites in perpetuity.
Even libertarian lawyers, who in theory would support abolishing civil rights laws, tend not to focus on this topic. They instead prefer to write about issues that appeal more to their leftist colleagues, like immigration.
So social incentives move even the educated class on the right—those who actually read— away from tackling the very issue that is determinative of whether they can have a moderately successful political movement.
Beyond just social incentives, there might be something about the disposition of centre-rightist intellectuals that drives them towards pilpul and proceduralism. Though, I am not sure how well this translates outside of law.
The reason that the right doesn't have the written word culture is that the left has successfully made it impossible. They use their control of institutions to destroy people who seriously oppose them or have any real ideas. A right-wing written world culture would be led by canceled people like Charles Murray and Steve Sailer. The issue is that the left can make you lose your job and whatever else you have by disagreeing with their ideas.
Consider the fact that any real right wing party would run on repealing the Civil Rights Act because it is the skeleton key the left uses to pass every insane social policy. (They're even using it to enforce masks in schools) Who can say that publicly? We live in a totalitarian system where dissent is punished, not a real two party system.
One piece of evidence in favor of your thesis is that, in my experience, the liberal intellectual class-- the "middle" people you talk about-- is prone to openly disparage television and television-watchers (e.g. referring to the TV as "the idiot box", quoting the Minow "vast wasteland" speech approvingly) and to valorize bookishness as a sign of virtue. This has been the case for my whole lifetime, since before the present iteration of the culture wars. It's actually gotten a bit less intense since the cable- and internet-era fragmentation of the TV channel landscape and the rise of "prestige" TV dramas, but it's still there.
Hanania started with "Liberals Care More", then he switched to "Liberals have baked political leverage into the law" and built bureaucracies inside and outside government that shift everything to the left, now the left has more ideas?
I'd suggest an alternative argued by Angelo Codevilla: patronage.
The left hold power by rewarding their members and supporters with tangible benefits of desirable jobs, money, and status. They grow government to build the machine and give more benefits to a larger group of supporters. The universities have broadly built a culture of driving out people with right-wing views and reserving admission and promotion for political allies.
The Trump Campaign's philosophy was to marry libertarian ideas with a populist, "Donnie from Queens", mass media savvy frontman. Trump frequently praised and quoted Adam Smith in his early speeches and his MAGA book. Trump chose reputable libertarians Moore and Laffer and Kudlow as top visible advisers on his economic team. He choose prominent libertarian Scott Gottlieb to run the FDA and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos to run education. The book Trumponomics was entirely libertarian.
In Hanania's circle, libertarianism is predominantly or even exclusively about increased immigration and an activist alliance with the Democratic Party, run by so-scalled "libertarians" that have spent their entire adult lives in political patronage careers as government university professors. Many libertarians, or people who identify as libertarians, support immigration restriction, but that position, has been forbidden from academia, and arguably even forbidden by the law of the US and Europe. A charitable view would say open borders is this principled idea, but a large part of it, is clearly might makes right, and a ruling class built on patronage.
Not a huge part of the piece, but I disagree that Russiagate is in the same boat as Qanon and birtherism. Russiagate was not an IQ test and was constantly pushed hard via TV and the written word. Sure, there was plenty of low hanging fruit pushed by MSNBC like Vladimir Putin shutting the heat off in North Dakota. However, there were so many complicated plot lines, lengthy documents, actors and so-called bombshells that translated into 10,000 word editorials every other day. There was no threshold of IQ, respectability, or socio-economic status where Russiagate fever wore off. In my experience, the most educated, highly professional and wealthy people believed the most insane Russiagate nonsense. This morphed into them believing its dangerous offshoots (i.e. Bountygate, Assad gassing kids) and ultimately, siding with the worst elements of our intelligence and military apparatus.
An exception to the left not watching TV was the huge influence of Jon Stewart and the Daily Show, and to a lesser Colbert and John Oliver today. In the 2000’s it was Stewart and not the New York Times who determined the liberal perspective and pretty much the opposition to the government of George Bush.
You write "You might be a conservative and go to Vox to learn something, as I sometimes do. No liberal is going to Breitbart to learn anything unless they want to specifically study the conservative movement." Well, I am a liberal who goes to Breitbart to seek information that cannot be found in most liberal media.
Liberal media seldom publish information critical of Islam. When in 2011 a Brazilian Muslim shot about 30 schoolchildren, everyone in Brazil knew that it was a Muslim who did it. Outside of Brazil few people found out because the news agencies negelcted to report his religion. Even the Russian wire service omitted the fact that Wellington Menezes de Oliveira was an observing Muslim. Read about it at:
Breitbart doesn’t have those blinkers. But it’s not only crime. The Syrian-German sociologist Bassam Tibi, who attended lectures at Frankfurt University by Critical Theory celebrities like Horkheimer and Adorno and through them overcame the anti-Semitism he had learned as a child in Syria, is critical of Islam, so liberal media never publish hum, but Breitbart does. And Bassam Tibi is no Donald Trump. He’s an enlightened intellectual who taught at Göttingen university for many years.
Agree on much of your take, and have long thought that the right needs it’s own elite to drive thought and provide an intellectual foundation.
I am somewhat hopeful that such an intellectual elite on the right is forming, and oddly it is getting pushed a TV personality: Tucker Carlson. Tucker is very well read, and in many way the anti- Hannity. Tucker even embraces the non-practical written world of fiction, poetry and music. But most importantly he showcases many thinkers. Hannity isn’t driving viewers to substack, but Tucker does. And the Tucker Carlson Today part of his platform is even more friendly to the exploration of ideas. I can’t imagine Hannity or anyone else on Fox showcasing Curtis Yarvin.
At word 5,000,404,375,293 Hanania will realise that Curtis Yarvin figured out all of this in 2012.
“Those who want their children to actually live in a more conservative country, however, cannot feel good about the way things are going, and should probably be doing more to make the right more of a “written word” culture, where politicians are actually held accountable for what they do.”
This is one of the moonshot goals of my blog.
If this piece doesn't magnificently capture the intellectual hubris, and practical uselessness of today's Liberal then nothing does! 9000 words to brag about the rich aroma of your mahogany libraries and rows of leather-bound books!
Meanwhile, if your pipes clog, car stalls, microwave stops, basically anything that requires a real man from times past, you puffs have an app for that! Soon, a tv watchin, knuckle-draggin cretin with his name on his shirt saves your milqtoast rear ends while you moisturize.
It's no wonder our collective testosterone has dropped. Leftist pansies arguing that they read more books while 75 percent of draft eligible men cant pass a military physical test. We are screwed! I think I know why we have so many single women, lesbians and through the roof vibrator sales. Don't forget to moisturize you millennial fruits.
Hahaha. Bullshit. Great charts btw. Meaningless. Both parties are equally stupid and unlearned.
One thing that occurs to me is that this is precisely the opposite view to that advanced by Curtis Yarvain, who in one of his big all-encompassing recent posts about politics and power hammered again and again his theory that the left seeks power for the sake of power, while the right seeks it in order to do things with it.
I’ll have to think more about this, because his arguments were also compelling, and I think half the issue is that when he talks about the right he’s talking about the small subset of it he is in and interacts with, which is most certainly a ‘reading’ culture and which you’ve explicitly excluded from your main dichotomy here as a sort of ‘right within the left’. I think you more substantively disagree about leftist motivations.
I tentatively think you might have taken the mainstream left at its word about its motivations a little too much. Freddie deBoer has a lot of content from his experience in left circles that convincingly make a case that not as many are ideological believers as you seem to think here.
I think this perspective comports nicely with Bryan Caplan’s simplified left/right theory (“leftists hate markets; rightists hate the left”), in that his one-liner seems like a specific example that the reading/tv culture theory could predict.
It also brings to mind a discussion at Marginal Revolution about why libertarians are disproportionately targeted by the left for criticism: https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/05/why-is-libertarianism-such-a-target.html
The reading/tv theory perhaps offers the convenient explanation that libertarianism is the reading culture of the right, and so, being a similar cultural language, is more directly recognized by the left as an obvious or dangerous threat.
Conservatism isn't really a single movement the way progressivism is. The right contains people with almost opposite views - libertarians along side people like Sohrab Ahmari, neocon warhawks and paleocon isolationists - in non-negligible number. Though I'm sure many individual Republicans exhibit the kind of schizophrenic oscillation in concern or opinion you discuss, how much of this character of the right as a whole is due to divisions among the right? That conservative media mainly sell 'owning the libs' over substantive ideas seems like good business when your target audience have nothing in common with each other than opposition to progressives. Progressives, in contrast, nearly all swim in the same direction, merely at different paces.
What ideas could motivate the right (or really, non-left) half of the country behind a conservative LBJ the way progressive ideas motivate the left half? Classical liberalism? It would lose too many populists and moderates to win a majority nowadays. A national populist would similarly alienate too many libertarians and moderates. There's probably a positive feedback loop of course. Producers of conservative thought and content avoiding ideas because they're divisive may cause the right's intellect to atrophy, which pushes the market for content further away from 'idea-driven' content. In any case, I think it's fact that's overlooked in your piece: people on the right who do have positive ideologies that drive them are driven by them in fundamentally opposing directions. For conservatism to become what you want it to become, first, one of the right-of-center ideologies may have to decisively win the civil war within the right and convert everyone else in it to its cause.
Great piece, but I take issue with the so-called myth of Democrats being weaker on civil-liberties. You're right that when it comes to Bush-era policies (e.g. the PATRIOT act), those are coded as Republican, so there has been little change over time in how Democrats view these issues. However, on nearly every controversy since the Bush era, they've taken the side of "safety" over civil liberties. Here's a recent example involving internet censorship https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/08/18/more-americans-now-say-government-should-take-steps-to-restrict-false-information-online-than-in-2018/ft_21-08-16_techgovtmisinfo_2/