September 1, 2023

Republicans, Stop the Self-Defeating Victimology

Perhaps former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal had it right when he called on the GOP to “stop being the stupid party.”

The American Right is not in a healthy place right now. Facing a highly vulnerable, palpably senile octogenarian incumbent president who has presided over four-decade-high inflation and 69% of recently polled Democrats believe is too old for a second term, Republicans thus far seem inclined to roll the dice with their own 77-year-old geezer, who is currently facing 91 counts in four different criminal cases and a whopping 64% of recently polled Americans say they will “definitely not” or “probably not” support next November.

Perhaps former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a one-time Republican presidential candidate himself, had it right when he called on the GOP to “stop being the stupid party.”

There has been much discussion in the political and chattering classes in recent years, as the GOP has embraced a more nationalist and populist hue, about the imperative of more aggressively wielding political power to undo the decades of leftist institutional capture and to restore a modicum of civilizational sanity. I and many other national conservatives, postliberals and “New Right” fellow travelers have written countless words urging the Right to “know what time it is” in America and get more comfortable with a more robust conception of power. But a necessary precondition of wielding power, no matter how one intends to do so, is to attain it in the first place.

And therein lies the rub.

Ironically, considering it was Donald Trump’s breakthrough victory in the 2016 Republican presidential primary that caused many on the Right to engage in deep introspection, it is his prolonged persecution at the hands of our ruling class and loss in the 2020 presidential election that has acculturated Trump and many of his followers to a very different, decisively non-victorious mentality: loserdom. As elites have serially abused their authority since the infamous 2015 gilded escalator descent at Trump Tower, from the Russia-collusion hoax to the Robert Mueller probe to two silly impeachments to the deep-sixing of the New York Post’s bombshell Hunter Biden laptop story on bogus “Russian disinformation” grounds to the unprecedented current criminal prosecutions of an ex-president, far too many on the Right have decided that losing is, well, actually just fine.

Thus, you have Trump and his social media influencers still talking about voting fraud in Michigan or illicit ballot harvesters in Georgia, now nearly three years after the COVID-era, irregularity-riddled presidential election. Thus, you have former Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate (and likely impending candidate for that state’s U.S. Senate seat) Kari Lake, a promising candidate on the campaign trail, still griping about her allegedly illegitimate defeat last November to Democrat Katie Hobbs. Trump, who has done absolutely nothing to help better fortify future elections, continues to fundraise off his claims about the 2020 election (to pay for his ever-mounting legal bills, as the case may be). Lake, for her part, fundraised off her defeat for months on end, bilking fixed-income retirees with the ludicrous claim that a court might somehow install her as sitting governor; a judge finally tossed her frivolous lawsuit in May.

Losing, it turns out, is easy — and profitable. Winning, by contrast, is difficult — and often thankless.

Republicans have every reason to be apoplectic at the tilted, patently unfair nature of the playing field that now permeates virtually all of American life — from our much-lamented two-tier system of justice to the intense anti-conservative cultural hostility pervading elementary school classrooms and corporate boardrooms alike. But the accumulating series of losses on the Right in virtually every forum outside the U.S. Supreme Court has led many to adopt a posture of permanent victimhood, or outright martyrdom. That posture is often willfully blind to basic facts that might muddy the waters or complicate the narrative. For the worst offenders, the possibility of winning at the ballot box becomes a mere afterthought. Going down in flames can present its own opportunities.

Call it the industrial-victimhood complex. Nice grift, if you can get it.

At a certain point, the mentality of victimology becomes self-defeating. And the Right is well past that point. Every problem that conservatives now rightly decry, from a weaponized law enforcement apparatus to a wide-open southern border to a ravaged industrial base in the heartland to the pernicious lies of modern gender ideology, necessarily requires the attainment of political power to possibly solve. Perhaps we can start to reattain power by not coronating an irritable baby boomer with more baggage than the belly of a 747. When it comes to independent and moderate voters, moreover, who among them would wish to cast an affirmative vote for a political movement that loves to bask in the “glory” of defeat?

Of course, none of these thorny calculations are relevant if we don’t want to win. So: Do we?


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