Are All Votes Equal?

It didn’t get much notice last week, but University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds (aka Instapundit) wrote something whose implications are so radical, I almost can’t believe it appeared in USA Today:

In a country like ours, where voters reign supreme, it seems as if concern about the patriotism of rulers ought to also apply to voters.

Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, in his famous novel Starship Troopersenvisioned a society where voters, too, had to demonstrate their patriotism before being allowed to vote. In his fictional society, the right to vote came only after some kind of dangerous public service — in the military, as a volunteer in dangerous medical experiments, or in other ways that demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice personally for the common good. The thought was that such voters would be more careful, and less selfish, in their voting.

So when the five-day wonder of questioning Barack Obama’s patriotism is over, perhaps we should address another question: How patriotic is the electorate? And how long can we survive as a nation if the answer is “not very”? And we should proceed from there.

Emphasis mine.  What’s he saying here?  His name-checking on Heinlein’s fiction allows him to utter what can’t be said in polite American society: not all votes are equal.  The vote being cast by someone with a moral stake or investment in society is more likely to be judicious in using that power.  This in contrast to the selfish that Reynolds obliquely identifies—that is, those who use their vote to parasitize from others’ paychecks, be it through welfare or crony capitalism.

For those unfamiliar, Reynolds through his Instapundit blog is an influential voice on the mainstream Right.  As a link aggregator who throws in a little commentary here and there, he can bring a lot of conservative grassroots attention to causes, news items, products, and personal health (he’s become a lifting enthusiast the last few years and also a big fan of Gary Taubes books on why Americans are so fat).  Identifying as a libertarian, he says “I like to joke that I’d like to live in a world in which happily married gay people have closets full of assault weapons to protect their pot.”

But that joke belies a shift in his commentary the last few years, clearly a reaction to the dark times in which we live.  “A moral response to this behavior might involve those officials, among others, hanging from lampposts,” he recently said of the Rotherham sex abuse scandal in which officials covered up the rapes of 1,400 children by Pakistani immigrants colonists lest Britain’s multicultural commitment be blemished by the unspeakable truth.  Last week, he touched frankly on Obama’s otherness, and why questions about his patriotism cut him so close to the bone.

All this makes that final “And we should proceed from there” seem full of deliberate meaning.  What’s the natural consequence of honestly admitting that not all votes are equal?  That not all voters, insofar as what motivates their votes, are equal?

If we “proceed from there”, then the parasitizing voters in the society simply shouldn’t.  Stated more accurately, there would be no franchise for those that declined some service that would signal—accurately or not—that they have a moral investment sufficient to make them unlikely parasitical voters.  But ultimately, the specifics here are less important than the principle that some votes are just unworthy.

Criticizing universal suffrage, even at the margins, is a radical thing to even make mention of.  Especially coming from someone who, while far from a cliché, establishment conservative, is still Respectable Right.

While I doubt the next CPAC will include a Nick Land or Duck Enlightenment keynote, I wonder if we are seeing a leading indicator in the collapse of mainstream conservative belief in the American system’s legitimacy.  They’ve known for ages that the media is a rigged game—noting the daily instances of press bias is something of a parlor game on conservative blogs.  But it’s another thing entirely to acknowledge that the system springing from the Constitution is also a rigged game.  Reynolds’ column, at its core, does precisely that.

Conservatism and Counterculture

Last week, The Federalist’s David Marcus attempted to “define and forge the uncreated principles of our [conservative] counterculture”.  His suggestions:

  1. A Free and Open Marketplace of Ideas
  2. Individuality over Identity
  3. Advocacy of American Values
  4. Open Sources
  5. Courage

While the bare list of his principles sounds like he’s talking about what the countculture should be about, a fair reading of Marcus’s piece, however, indiciates that such is not his goal.  With the exception of his principle #3, “Advocate American Values”, he’s more discussing how it should conduct itself.  For instance, under “A Free and Open Marketplace of Ideas”, he’s arguing that the new counterculture should be monetizable rather than dependent on non-profit grants as much leftist culture is.  He’s not advocating, in other words, that the counterculture itself should be making works that worship the free market.

Yet how a counterculture operates should flow from what it is about.  In that way, this piece assumes that the “what” will essentially be political conservatism (or actually the assumptions and values undergirding same) transferred to prose and plays.  For reasons discussed below, this is insufficient to create a true counterculture.

A Question of Identity

Being part of a counterculture’s first wave means turning your back on, or being affirmatively hostile to, the prevailing culture.  This results in ridicule of, or worse for, the counterculture’s individual members.  For members to endure this, the countercuture has to be offering them something worthwhile.

Typically, this is an identity. The identity offered by the counterculture can be a completely new one.  Or it can be the license for members to proudly and openly be what they always were.  Identities are powerful.  People will endure a lot over them.  They will fight hard against a prevailing culture in service of them.

The counterculture’s identity becomes self-reinforcing as eventually it’s not just the reward of membership, but also its price: “These are the attitudes (and perhaps aesthetics) that you have to adopt in order to join us”.  This is important because identity is necessary for a counterculture to retain sufficient solidarity to influence the prevailing culture.  Absent a seperate group identity, an individual is still part of the prevailing culture even if he does not subscribe to it.  You are alone, and one malcontent does not a counterculture make.

There are already identities that participate or ally with political conservatism, here stereotyped for convenience: Establishment, Libertarian, Christian, ‘Murikan, etc.  Yet none have translated into a counterculture in the sense we’re speaking of here: a movement capable of having an impact in the arts, and thus in the broader society.  This suggests we can’t just translate present political beliefs into the cultural—if it were going to happen that way, it already would have.

A new counterculture, therefore, will require a new identity.

Standards of a New Counterculture Identity

It’s been often said on political blogs that the Right cannot define itself simply as being againt the Left—the Right has to stand for something positive.  Fortunately, because the Left has occupied the culture space that elevates weakness, ugliness, victimhood, and social atomization, it would be easy for a new counterculture to have both an identity and a positive program simply by doing the opposite.

Thus, a starting point for a counterculture would be one that values strength, beauty, excellence, and community.  Simply having these standards—and the judgments that they imply—puts us in complete opposition to the prevailing culture, and begins the process of forging an identity.  As this identity solidifies, prose and aesthetics can begin to organically result.

I am hopeful that mainstream conservatives can make the jump into a new identity.   I say “hopeful” because with its numbers, institutions, and publishing organs, there would be a lot of infrastructure with which to transmit counterculture values.  I am doubtful however because conservatives as a class have difficulty separating the ideal of the America they love from the monster it has become.  They are therefore often incapable of being truly hostile to the prevailing culture in the way necessary to forge a counterculture.  Beholden to a culture that hates them, conservatives may remain inadvertently part of the problem.

Embrace the Fringe

It will then fall to the what’s currently considered the Right’s fringe to create this counterculture.   Neoreactionaries (aka “NRx”) haven’t been in business that long, but they are already exploring aesthetics.  Another so-called fringe from which an anti-left counterculture is coalescing is the manosphere (aka “The Red Pill” or “TRP”).  A loose confederation of pro-masculinity/anti-feminism blogs and online forums, it has resulted in some novels.

These areas are ultimately where a counterculture is most likely to manifest because being smaller they are more of a community, and so are further along to creating a group identity.  Additionally, both NRx and TRP are implacable in their hostility to the prevailing culture, a prerequisite for the type of counterculture that’s needed here.  Moreover, both groups have confidence in their critique of the prevailing culture, whereas conservatism has an innate insecurity to it, constantly feeling the need to assure leftists that they’re not racist/homophobic/misogynist.

Ultimately, there’s great power in an identity that has confidence.  What’s now considered the fringe may bring along mainstream conservatism into its cultural orbit rather than the other way around.

The Broken Chain-Conclusion

This is the fifth and final post in a series on how the chain linking the nation’s past and present is irrevocably broken, and how it similarly unchains us to act in new, more effective ways against the Left.  Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 at the links.

Constructist Counterculture

This is a good start in discussing what for at least the time being we’ll call constructism. (Not to be confused with “constructivism” which can mean both an educational philosophy, and a Soviet art style; or “constructionism” which can refer to either a theory of legal interpretation, or of learning.) What results from a constructist mindset is a counterculture implacably hostile to the Left because it sees leftism for what it is: civilization-scale vandalism, the only fruits of which are trash and debris.

With such perspective, this counterculture becomes offense-minded, seeking to remove or build over the debris created by the Left. Because it concedes the leftist destruction already inflicted has broken continuity with the nation’s past, this counterculture is not constrained by the niceties and Robert’s Rules of Order-type rule following that is too often conservatism’s hallmark.

The break in continuity does not mean, however, that constructism is blind to the past. As in the Renaissance, the past can be used for inspiration and direction. We also respect the past as counselor, asking of it good faith but hard questions: why did the Old American Republic allow itself to become the leftism-gutted Present American Simulacrum? Why couldn’t conservatism reverse it? In this way, the past remains a source of wise instruction and warning, but is not treated as binding precedent.

The past is not binding precedent because this counterculture is not interested in returning to something that, whatever its noble attributes at inception, ultimately devolved into what we have today. A constructist counterculture then is like an engineer after a building collapse. It seeks not just to recreate what once stood but also to improve upon the old design so that a similar catastrophe never happens again.

The Broken Chain-Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of posts on how the chain linking the nation’s past and present is irrevocably broken, and how it similarly unchains us to act in new, more effective ways against the Left.  Parts 1, 2, and 3 at the links.

 Free from the Past’s False Hold

Once we let go of this false continuity, several important things happen. First, the Revolutionary Era shifts from an idolized past to something that can inspire a new, better future. There is some precedent for this. The Renaissance was no continuation of classical Greece or Rome, yet used the legacy of both to forge a Europe reborn. Closer to home, the Founders drew inspiration from the early Roman Republic while trying (unsuccessfully, alas) to build their nation so as to avoid the rot that eventually corrupted Rome.

Drawing inspiration from the past while also learning from its mistakes is another benefit of giving up on false continuity. As things stand, the Constitution is sacred writ. Aside from those areas already addressed by Amendments, few on the mainstream Right would feel comfortable suggesting it was flawed. Yet clearly it either contained the seeds of its own subversion by the Left, or else was insufficiently hardened against such attack. If it hadn’t, would things have turned out like this? Free of continuity, we are free to fully consider ways where a state could be inoculated against leftism, and thus better resist decline.

Breaking continuity will concede that the State is, presently, theirs—a bitter pill to swallow. Yet much of the conservative hesitancy in waging unrestrained cultural and political war on the Left is a sense of loyalty to American institutions, and a resulting fear of damaging them. Once we see most if not all are either owned or infected by the Left, we can stop caring if they get broken. In every meaningful sense, they already are.

What this means is that we no longer have to hold back. We are no longer held to the tiresome tradition of focusing exclusively on electing Republicans or getting conservative jurists on the bench so that each can take turns stabbing us in the back. We can set this charade aside and start thinking of new, informal modes of resistance. Ones where we don’t seek approval from the likes of Lois Lerner—a game we should have known was rigged from the start.

Without continuity, we are also no longer responsible for the past sins, real or imagined, of the Old American Republic. How can its sins be ours? They belong to something that’s dead, only the vampiric pretender we have disavowed remaining. Such a mindset means that monetary or social debts supposedly owed for slavery, to pick the most-charged example possible, hold no sway. Without continuity, nothing is owed. Indeed, absent continuity, old structures created to repay these void debts are ripe for dismantling. And guilt, the Left’s greatest weapon against us, evaporates. We are free of it.

Of course, the Left will continue to use race as a cudgel, along with feminism and other grievance identities. But the point isn’t to change leftists’ minds. It’s to change our own. To move beyond ways of thinking that limit us, and give the Left power over us. To shed beliefs that have us wasting effort trying to maintain something that no longer exists. To shift instead to the building of a better future.

In this way, we cease being conservative, and become constructist.

NEXT Part 5: Constructist Counterculture