“With him the love of country means
Blowing it all to smithereens”
Robert Frost, A Case for Jefferson
And no, the reference is not to Trump.
I am afraid I have been selected (yet again) to break some bad news to you guys. But there is good news at the end of it.
I mentioned this in passing a few weeks ago, but it was not greeted with loud shouts of acclaim or ahas! from the populace, or with rank-and-file Republicans slapping their foreheads as the light finally dawned. But that is what should have happened. Want to know what I said? I will tell you. I am going to tell you this in the immediate aftermath of what some are calling the “Mona Lisa of mugshots.”
I said that you cannot bring about a normal election by simply nominating a normal candidate. It should be so easy.
Trying to bring back the electoral stability of yore in that way is only going to prove that the normal guy you nominated is delusional, which is not how you want your normal guys to normally be. Positioning yourself to be slightly to the right of Marco Rubio, as envisioned in a polite exchange sponsored by the League of Women Voters, simply demonstrates that you don’t know what time it is. The delusion concerns not so much a particular policy problem as it displays a gross anachronism. Your favored candidate should just drop everything and go join the re-enactors at Lexington and Concord. The good guys win that one every year, but you do know its a pretendy-thing, right?
So as the great band Chicago once lamented . . . does anybody really know what time it is?
Buttressing the Basic Premise Here
But I need to touch on something else first.
Everything that follows here assumes—and not without warrant—that the 2020 election was massively messed with by the left, not to mention jiggered with, and that it was therefore not an honest election, and that exactly the same thing is going to happen next year, meaning in the 2024 election. And this claim is why some of you are going to just roll your eyes and tune me out. But wait! Stay your hand. Do not click away to some other site, a place far less edifying.
I can make my point in one simple paragraph, and I can do it without any reference to Dominion voting machines, Sidney Powell, Maricopa County, leaking water mains in Fulton County, ballot-stuffing mules, or any of that stuff. I leave that corpus of material entirely alone. Even though I can still smell some of it, I pass over all of it in silence. You all may think about such things as you please, and on your own time. We shall not go into any of that here.
So here is my little paragraph. We know that the 2024 election is going to be interfered with in 2024 because IT IS BEING INTERFERED WITH NOW, AND WITH EVERYBODY WATCHING, INCLUDING YOU, AND ESPECIALLY INCLUDING YOU.
If you are willing to watch the leading opposition candidate arrested while the campaign was already in progress, on charges that would send a tree sloth into manic hysterics, and you are also going to have the nickel-plated effrontery to pretend that all of this was just the result of the impersonal wheels of blind justice grinding away, then I am going to quietly assume that you are really stupid, or really evil, and quite possibly both.
An illustration, if I may. Imagine you are watching one of those heist movies, and the thieves have just made off with a hundred million dollars. A singularly obtuse guard at the front desk is maintaining that the vault is thievery-proof, and always has been, and that there is no way that anybody made off with anything. The panic-stricken casino owner is yelling at him over the phone, and the guard is asking him why he doesn’t believe that his money is safe in the vault, to which the owner says that he thinks this because he is locked in the vault himself, long story, and that the money is not in there with him. One sees his point of course.
Here’s another one. Say that a crypto-archeologist is talking to a mainstream archeologist about some magnificently engineered wall from ancient Peru, and they both agree that it could not possibly have been done with stone chisels, and they both agree that was the only tool the locals had. So then the crypto guy suggests that outsiders must have come in to build the wall. “What’s your evidence?” the respectable one angrily shouts. “Well,” the other fellow says, nodding behind them. “There’s the wall. The one we are both leaning against.” And then he pats it.
And just so you know, this post only has one such wall in it, but I am going to pat it any number of different ways.
In the Republican Primary . . .
It has become a standard talking point among conservative talking heads that Trump has such negatives that he “can’t win the general.” Of course he can’t. Neither can your guy, whoever he is. Whenever I see this point being made, as though it meant anything, I am reduced to helpless sputtering, which my wife considers undignified. This is why I mean to talk you all out of speaking that way, so I can stop sputtering.
The Republican primary has the usual gang of people running for president, people running for vice-president, people running for a book deal, people running for vindication, people running for president so they can tell their grandchildren that they once ran for president, and Asa Hutchinson. But no matter what reason they have for running, they will each and every one of them be tempted to trot out this argument—viz. that “Trump can’t win the general.” The only real exception to this that I have seen thus far—though I certainly could have missed someone—is Vivek Ramaswamy. He appears to be treating the treatment of Trump as the treatment of them all. But the “Trump can’t win the general” is a bootless argument, and profoundly confused. As weighty arguments, go, it has all the gravitas of a black trash bag filled with helium.
This is a hypothetical question, floating in the upper reaches of rarified hypotheses. If you took Donald Trump, with his current base and all of his negatives, and put him up against Biden, or any other mainstream Bolshevik, and we pushed our magic button here on the desk, such that the election that followed had absolutely nothing fishy about it, the contention is that Trump couldn’t win that election. That’s as may be. But what on earth makes you think that is the kind of election we are going to have? We are not having that kind of election now.
So you were talking about Trump being unable to win a fair and honest general election? You mean the kind that we are not going to have? We are not having that kind of election now.
Please be so kind as to remember that the last fair election Trump was in, he won. The Democrats had foolishly written him off, and thus had none of their machinery in place. The pallets of bricks couldn’t be delivered in time. They were caught flatfooted, and were profoundly humiliated with the result. But their intelligence agencies swung into action before Trump was even inaugurated, and the 2020 election interference began almost immediately. Russian collusion! The high-handed manipulations began to unfold, off-stage, below the stage, and center stage. So let us not argue about the cheating that is disputed. Let us just limit ourselves to the electoral interference that everybody sees.
“I see,” says my progressive interlocutor, stroking his chin. “I begin to understand the point you are attempting to make. But what makes you think the next election will be rigged? Why don’t you think the Democrats will play fair?”
I would explain it again, but I think you are just trying to buy time. Donald Trump is Joe Biden’s chief political opponent, and the Department of Just Us has loosed the hounds on him. Is it just possible that some of us out here in Ordinary Land might come to the conclusion that criminalizing politics might constitute a bona fide example of election tampering? Not only a bona fide example, but a glaring grease fire example?
So I grant that Trump is not going to win the general—barring some sort of remarkable plot twist. I go into the possibility of such a plot twist a little farther down, but suffice it to say that whatever happens over the next year and a half, it will not be business as usual.
So, A One Issue Election
This means that the upcoming election is only going to have one real issue in it. There will be other issues floating around like gnats on a summer evening, but the basic issue, the only issue, the screaming issue, will be the election itself. The issue is going to be election integrity. We are going to be voting on whether future voting will mean anything.
This will be the issue if it is Biden v. Trump. It will be the issue if it is Newsom v. Trump. It will be the issue if it is Biden v. DeSantis. And to date, the only one on the Republican side who has shown any willingness to fight about the only real issue of the campaign—election integrity—has been Trump. You may not like how he fights sometimes—I certainly don’t. You may sneer at his truculence. You might not like how he sometimes bites an opponent’s ear off. You might think that the mug shot revealed him to be in league with gangstas, and are worried this election is going to move America from PG13 to a hard R. But none of that changes what I am looking at, and what the tidy-minded are refusing to look at. I am not writing here as an advocate or as a partisan for anybody. I am simply telling you what is actually happening, whether you like it or whether you don’t.
So you don’t like the Trump truculence. Great. Show me the man who is fighting the clear and obvious corruption of our electoral processes like a gentleman. Who is the man who is showing us all how it should be done? What is his name? Why have we not heard of him?
In this setting, to listen to any standard-issue Republicans talk about they think are the “real issues that deeply concern the American people” seems to me to indicate that we have finally located the Platonic form of tone deafness. If you moved me to some hypothetical country, I dare say that I could be governed by one or more of those Republicans who would likely, more or less, leave me alone. Things could be tolerable, and there would likely not be any big complaints from me about policy.
But their sheer OBLIVIOUSNESS to the actual problem that is burning the republic down right now is the thing that takes the breath away. It is as though someone got me tickets to the Republican presidential debate, and while I was sitting there, I noticed that hordes of orcs were rappelling down from the ceiling. But the thing that astonished me most about that moment was the fact that the Republicans on stage just continued to debate whether or not the Social Security retirement age should be adjusted. As two of them were going at it, I have no doubt that one of them would be necessarily closer to the position I would hold, but it also would seem (at least to me) that some other discussion item should be on the docket. Or maybe no discussion at all. Maybe some fighting would be in order.
Let me take another illustration from a different kind of controversy from another era. Cornelius Van Til once undertook a defense of the establishment of Westminster Seminary, after the corruptions of Princeton had advanced beyond any hope of retrieval. One of the charges laid against the conservatives who were founding Westminster was that they must somehow be questioning the orthodoxy of everyone who didn’t go with them, including some of the remaining leaders at Princeton.
What Van Til said about that accusation applies to many of our establishment conservatives today. The problem is not their political orthodoxy. The problem is their pacifism. Here is Van Til, with the kind of insight that condemns the timid of every generation.
“In the first place the orthodoxy of no one is in question. The only thing with which Drs. Erdman and Stevenson have been charged is pacifism. Dr. Erdman for example says that this is no time to fight. Such an attitude is hard to understand when over 1200 ministers are Auburn Affirmationists. It seems to resemble the attitude of the man who is too busy with ‘constructive work’ for the family to protect his children from murder. But the charge of pacifism is not a charge of heterodoxy.”
Cornelius Van Til, The Articles of Cornelius Van Til
The charge of pacifism is not a charge of heterodoxy. If I were to read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism again, I am certain that I would still agree with virtually everything in it. I think Goldberg probably would too. And nothing could be more beside the point. The issue is not political orthodoxy. The issue would be those rappelling orcs, and I think it is time for people to stop explaining their descent into the auditorium in terms of tricky lighting and strange shadows, not to mention a conspiratorial bent to my way of thinking.
I used to be a conspiracy theorist once, but then all my theories came true. I am currently at al loss about what to do next.
Because Thus Far, the Cheating Has Worked
So the crisis we are currently in will not be undone or unwound just because we nominate someone who would have been far preferable to George W back in the day, a man with impeccable credentials, a great record, and conservative bona fides. It will not help anything or anyone if we nominate a candidate who is simply not diseased. This is because our central problem is that the entire electoral process is diseased.
I will say it again, a different way, a third way. I grant that if nominated, Trump is going to lose the general election. Of course he is. Just like every other Republican. Unless something is drastically altered about the way conservatives are willing to talk about election integrity, there is no way that any conservative, or conservative facsimile, or conservative golem, is going to win the general.
And why? Because thus far the cheating has worked, and open manifest cheating has worked. The beta testing is now over. And in spite of the glaringly open manifestations of election rigging and interference, going on even as we speak, it remains a pronounced conviction of “mainstream” Republican candidates that to talk about the threat of election fraud is to get yourself relegated to the status of conspiracy nut. What is this going to do? I will tell you.
It means that if they get the nomination, and if all the dirty tricks in the world are deployed against them, up to and including their arrest for “threatening democracy,” or “questioning climate change,” they will have absolutely nothing to say. If they do protest it, it will be dismissed as utterly self-serving, because they didn’t protest the same thing, what is going on now, with anything like the same degree of vehemence. In other words, they were silent when it helped them to be silent, and they were noisy when it concerned them, which just makes them complicit in the whole charade.
You want to find an honest man? Look for a man who hates everything Trump stands for, but who believes that what is being done to Trump by the principalities and powers is beyond atrocious, and who is loudly vocal about it. Such an honest man might be there on the Republican stage, but he has not identified himself fully yet. I mentioned Vivek earlier, but this could be principled hatred of the mistreatment of a rival, or it could mean that he is running for Trump’s veep slot. But it is a good thing either way.
No, No, I’m the Real Threat
Republicans love to run against Washington. Trying to act like they are not numbered among the Beltway Banditti is their jam. They go out on the Lincoln Day rubber chicken circuit in order to tell the assembled faithful that official Washington is “terrified” at the prospect of them getting in. They would bring law and order to Dodge City, let me tell you.
But it is pretty hard to maintain just how much of a threat you are to the Establishment when that same Establishment just had somebody else in your party arrested instead of you.
Now the progressives themselves are no doubt divided over why arresting Trump was a good idea. Their whole operation has kind of a Pinky and the Brain division of labor to it. Some of them are beyond tricksy, and they know that these arrests help Trump, but they are counting on them only helping him in the primary. They are doing this to help Trump win the primary because they believe that he will be the easiest one to beat in the general. There is at least a method to the madness, but the risk they are running is that it could make Trump a far more sympathetic symbol of Resistance than they had counted on. The initial reaction to the mug shot might be a harbinger of that sort of thing. Suppose the mug shot t-shirt becomes the new Che t-shirt.
But other progressives are just reacting to Trump the same way cats lose it over catnip. Anything that hurts him, however temporarily, they are enthusiastically in favor of. When someone is venting their spleen, long term thinking is not usually in the picture. This chapter of American politics that God has assigned to us is gaudy and chaotic enough that I would not completely rule out the prospect of Trump winning the general.
Then what? Would the progressive left accept that? Would they simply say “the people have spoken” and just go home? Didn’t you remember what I said about people not knowing what time it is? And let us say that it goes the other way. Let us say that Trump staggers to the finish line, festooned with indictments, arrests, and trials, and let us say he loses. And let us say that there are no middle-of-the-night shenanigans—just the arrests. Just the political persecution. Do you think that the millions of people who voted for Trump under those conditions are going to think that the whole thing was done fair and square? Don’t you know what time it is?
Feeling Transgressive Yet?
I have granted that Trump would lose the general, in just the same way that all the Republicans will. This is because all the respectable people in conservative circles have let their contempt for Donald Trump swallow up their love for their country. They are broken, damaged beyond repair. There are others who have let their fear and anxiety about being called bad names swallow up their love for America. That is bad also, but is a little more understandable—more of a human failing, if you know what I mean.
There are reasons to believe that Donald Trump made a real mess of some things. He sure enough did, and the meme points to one of them. But he revealed many more messes than he caused. He was kind of like that quart of pink stuff you drink before taking your MRI, the stuff that lights up all the cancerous hot spots. It turns out, as the technician put it, we were “riddled” with those hot spots. And the cancer was there long before the pink stuff rode down that escalator . . . living on the metaphorical edge here.
Do I see any route where Trump (or another Republican) could surprise everyone and win the general? Yes, I do. It is kind of a long shot, but the mug shot and any related items might just do it. Trump won in 2016, as I noted, because the opposition didn’t have their “just in case” machinery in place. They were caught flatfooted. If the legal persecution of Trump causes any kind of major sympathy swing toward Trump in unusual places (e.g. among blacks, let’s say), it is possible that the left could be caught flatfooted again, only in localities that they had assumed to be safe.
If the American people are maneuvered into the position of thinking that there is only one way to vote ourselves out of clown world, and that is to vote to give way to their feeling that it is time to be Transgressive, then that would be a Trump vote. But even if such a thing were to happen, it would fall more in the category of bringing everything to a head, and not in the category of fixing anything. It would be the moment when Samson pulled down the Temple of Dagon.
In the conservative reaction that is building up, one issue that is being debated is the idea of “No Enemies to the Right.” For some among the red-pilled, if anyone ever “punches right,” they are doing it because they want to oppose the left without losing the admiration of the left. They do this because they want to be right-of-center, in a most moderate way, and still be reckoned among the cool kids. When the GigaChads sneer at these softies, it has to be said that the targets of their sneers frequently deserve it.
But I can think of at least three reasons why it is a good idea always to have some enemies to the right. It is sometimes fully appropriate to punch right, and is at times a sin not to. What might those reasons be?
First, it is fully possible for the turmoil we are currently in to go very badly for the left, and still turn our country into a hellhole. I mean, dropping commies out of helicopters sounds like a grand time and all, but it is all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
Second, as I have watched some on the right interact with ideas outside their narrow intellectual template, their reading skills rival those of the soft evangelical moderates, and that is not a compliment. Someone gave them a flag to fly and a gun to point, and slogans to say, but I am not at all persuaded that they know what’s going on. I limit my observations here to those instances when I have seen them distorting and misrepresenting things that I have been arguing.
And last, most importantly, I want to fight the existential threat that is bearing down on us all, which is coming at us from the left. I want to be in a pitched battle with those guys, and I have been preparing for this for a long time. But I intend to fight as a Christian, saved by the grace of God, and under the law of God. That means that “anything goes” can be no part of my creed. So my third reason for having enemies to the right is that while I want to save the republic, I also want to go to Heaven when I die. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole republic back, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
A Gospel Issue
We have gotten ourselves into a very dark place. We do not know where to turn. We should know by this point that politics cannot save us. Politics needs to be saved, but has no saving power. Every scenario that I sketched above would be examples of politics leading to even more inflamed politics. If we elect someone from among the crazed, everything is going to spiral downward. If we manage to elect someone from among the sane, then the crazed are going to go completely bonkers—and then that must be managed, which would require resources we don’t have.
Is this hopeless? Yes, it is. Is there then no hope? It would be more appropriate to say that there is no hope in man. What must America do then? We must cry out to the Lord.
“And when they forgat the Lord their God, he sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. And they cried unto the Lord, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee.”
1 Samuel 12:9–10 (KJV)
The story we are in the middle of is an old, old story. We have served the Baals, and we have danced in the groves of the Ashtaroth. We have caused our children to pass through the fire, and have drowned out their cries with the sounds of drumming. We have veered from the straight path that was set for us, turning aside to the left, plunging deep into the swamps. We have gotten lost in the howling wilderness of secularism. We have disgraced ourselves in the temples of Mammon. We have turned all of our maddened lusts loose, and they are rioting in front of Lot’s house now. We have nothing whatever to say in our own defense, and it is best not even to try.
America is a wretch, but some of us still remember the words of Amazing Grace. The only way out is repentance in the name of Christ. We must cry out to the Lord. Some might say that this is not possible, arguing that we don’t even have the mechanisms available. What? Have we no pulpits? Do we not have Christian publications, magazines, or web sites? We certainly have had enough vocal ability to argue that we don’t have to cry out to the Lord. How is it that we can vocalize our impudence, but not our repentance? So we have the means—and the only thing left is the actual repenting, It turns out that this is the real obstacle, and always has been.
The basis for our repentance is the gift of God in Christ. Because Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of His people, because He was buried in a tomb, and because He rose from that tomb after three days, it is possible for America to return to her senses. But there is no way for us to return to our senses without returning to our God. That’s it. Your senses and your God must be understood together. God displayed His righteousness in the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, and we must walk to the place where He did this, and in that place confess our unrighteousness. If we do that, God will keep His promises. He will keep all of His promises. He has done this many times before.
And the best thing about it is that we don’t have to wait until November. Today, if you hear His voice . . . (Ps. 95:7).