Discover more from Andrew Lawton
Conservatives need to stop looking for liberal heroes
Politics has always made strange bedfellows.
The Christian right and radical feminists are in lockstep on the harms of porn and prostitution.
Big Labour and conservative protectionists joined forces to renegotiate NAFTA.
In the Covid era, left-wing hippies and right-wing freedom-lovers found common ground in the fight against vaccine mandates.
These bonds are reflective of a healthy political system: we shouldn’t want people to be so tribal that they refuse to work with their political opponents on the rare occasions on which they’re in agreement.
Even so, it’s important to not overstate the strength and breadth of these alliances. This seems to be a particularly difficult lesson for many on the right.
I’ve been increasingly concerned by the conservative lionization of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Democrat presidential candidate who seems to derive most of his support from the right.
Kennedy has been a fierce and courageous champion for medical freedom and should be praised for this. But this does not mean people should ignore his career of radical left-wing advocacy on pretty much every other issue. A broken clock is right twice a day, as they say.
While he’s been a solid champion of free speech in the Covid era, he’s also on record as supporting the imprisonment of those who deny climate science.
This week, he reminded everyone of his liberal bona fides with his defence of affirmative action in universities soon after the Supreme Court denounced the practice.
“’Color-blind’ admissions tend to favor those who are already in the circle of privilege. It favors those who grew up in affluent, educated households,” he wrote. “Wouldn’t you like to invite in those who have been left out in the cold?”
I don’t think Kennedy has an authenticity problem. He’s never concealed who he is, though people who agree with him on vaccines haven’t seemed too interested in asking him about anything else, at least until recently.
No one should be all that surprised that a liberal democrat from California who bears the Kennedy name would take such a stand – a look at the Twitter replies suggests it has come as a shock to his new friends on the right.
Kennedy is not a one-off. I’ve grown increasingly concerned at how many on the right seem to embrace same form of hero-worship we’ve always found so off-putting from the left.
Just look at the response whenever a Hollywood celebrity says something marginally conservative. This was never as destructive as it was during the right’s brief dalliance with Kanye West.
Conservatives can be forgiven for not knowing West was a raging antisemite when they trotted him out as one of theirs: but to hold him up as any sort of leader was always going to have disastrous consequences.
The conservatives who rightfully dismiss celebrities mouthing off about politics are often the first to exalt them if the mouthing off happens to land on the right side.
We should offer support for the sentiments when a Kennedy or a West or a Caitlyn Jenner sticks their neck out and gets it right. But that’s where it should end. It’s possible to commend someone without adopting them, yet the conservative impulse is increasingly to do the latter.
The caveat here is that we must acknowledge that views can genuinely change, and we should welcome those who go through this difficult process.
A great example of this is Naomi Wolf, a former liberal darling who’s been transparent about her own ideological and philosophical journey and has apologized to conservatives for ways she feels she got it wrong in the past.
Kennedy has shown no such contrition but seems to have been given a pass by conservatives who are grateful for his voice on Covid, vaccines, and lockdowns.
The ability to form an ad hoc alliance on a particular issue does not mean the foundation is there for a deeper coalition.
One needn’t look further than the new symbiosis between devout Muslims and many conservatives on trans issues right now. Yes, it’s great to see the identity politics ladder collapse on itself. And yes, ideally all parents would take a stand against gender ideology being foisted open children.
But I don’t imagine this friendship would survive a debate about a teacher showing Charlie Hebdo cartoons in class to discuss free speech, for example.
You can win individual fights – or even elections – by assembling a broad, loose coalition of interests. But there’s no long-lasting recipe for ideological success in doing so.
Thanks for reading! As discussed last week, the regulatory environment is such that it may soon become very difficult for people to find their way to this newsletter. The one way you can guarantee you’ll get it is by signing up for the mailing list using the “Subscribe now” button above. While this is a few newsletter, we thank our paid subscribers for contributing to keep the lights on.