The Unbearable Lightness of Being Charlie Sykes
To the neocon, tending to your own garden is never so exhilarating and exotic as digging through the Others' fields
Let me get this out of the way upfront: I’m no fan of The Bulwark or any of its writers. I find them to be lazy, opportunistic, profiteering Never Trumpers who have strayed so far from conservatism that they now profess to save it by actively supporting progressive Democrats. They are the print equivalent of Adam Kinzinger: their takes are contrived, and the tears they pretend to shed for the country are as fake as Joe Biden’s teeth.
So. Now that you know my biases, allow me to justify them. In today’s “Morning Shots,” Charlie Sykes, a one-time conservative radio host and now editor-in-chief of The Bulwark, dropped a piece entitled “Trump Picks an Enemy: Us.” In it, he claims Trump “sides with Russia” — which in Bulwark-speak means he doesn’t believe in a hot war with a nuclear power, nor does he believe Russia is our country’s greatest threat — arguing that the former President’s real enemy is the American people. To promote this idea, Sykes cites a Tweet from Ron Filipowski, another former Republican broken by Trump, that seeks to turn Trump’s critique of a massive, politicized, un-elected administrative state and a military-industrial complex overtaken by leftist ideologues, into an attack on Americans themselves — as if the average American citizen owes fidelity and allegiance to bureaucrats and the Defense Department, to General Milley or Ukrainian pensioners.
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What Sykes and Filipowski are using as setup for this narrative that Trump (yet again) is some sort of Russian agent, is a Trump video in which he lays out his priorities as a candidate for President: fixing what’s broken here at home, as he sees it, rather than wasting resources on eastern European battlefields, where American tax dollars are going to arm and support often literal Nazi soldiers. Notes Trump, “The State Department, the Defense bureaucracy, the Intelligence Services, and all of the rest, need to be completely overhauled and re-constituted to fire the Deep Staters, and put America first.”
Trump’s supposedly outrageous new message, then, is the same as his supposedly outrageous old message: American resources should be spent on Americans in order to better the lives of American citizens living in the United States of America.
That this is controversial in putatively “conservative” circles is puzzling; even should you not agree with Trump’s America First agenda, it’s certainly not villainous, treasonous, or crazy. Because Trump doesn’t consider Russia the kind of threat those so heavily invested in Ukraine seem to doesn’t mean Trump “sides with Russia” anymore than his having never declared war on the CCP means he “sides with China”. He simply has different priorities, and those priorities are, in the view of at least 75 million Americans who voted for him in 2020, the proper ones. Whether or not he is the one to lead us going forward in addressing these priorities is a different question, one generally determined through a primary process, though as Sykes signals in his piece, any GOP candidate who doesn’t support heavy US involvement in Ukraine’s border war with Russia can expect the same kind of criticism Trump gets. Hell, I’m convinced these people would campaign for AOC if she promised to marshal troops and blow some shit up in Europe.
— Which just goes to show that Never Trumpism was never merely about Trump. It was — and is — driven by anger at an upset of the status quo, and the temerity of some unpolished outsider to challenge a bureaucracy that for so long has done the real work of setting US policy. The autopilot was interrupted, which threw into question the trajectory of the ship of state upon whose decks they’d grown so comfortable lounging. Trump isn’t picking every day American citizens as enemies; he’s naming people like Sykes as the enemy, political insiders who provide cover for an adventurist foreign policy, NGO globalism, and credentialed elites who stand athwart history yelling “stop!” at the phalanx of filthies who presume to take back some say in how they’re governed. So when Sykes and his ideological brethren, be it Bill Kristol, or Adam Kinzinger, or some other stale retread of Bushism, tells you that Trump has named you as his enemy, the answer you should give, to borrow from Gordie Lachance, is “No, Ace. Just you.”
The fact is, Trump is absolutely correct about the enemy being within. And it is much bigger than the permanent political class, military adventurism, and an increasingly overreaching bureaucratic state. The great irony here is that, while Sykes and the Never Trump brigade try to tether Trump to Russia, it is the very Cultural Marxism the Soviet Union exported that is responsible for the internal problems we face in the US and much of the contemporary west, and to which pundits like Sykes surrender when they aren’t embracing it like it’s a John McCain blowup doll with tassels on its tits.
The US is suffering from the mainstreaming of Cultural Marxism, which has made the long march through our institutions and is now policed by a progressive power structure living happily alongside the desires of the Uniparty. Such a political ideology is a form of authoritarian collectivism brought about by a carefully manufactured — then viciously enforced — “cultural revolution.” As Mao did in China, our domestic left ideologues and the elite globalists of the Uniparty hope to do something similar here, though largely without the epaulets and outward violence. This is, after all, the west, and western sensibilities must be taken into account as part of any plan to re-make American society. Still, from our media to our woke corporations to our schools and academies, Cultural Marxism has taken root in those places where a particular narrative can be set, reinforced, taught, and defended. Once the ideology is in place, the specifics of the narrative can then be crafted. Tweaked for an American audience, the left’s narrative in the west is a combination of the beatification of “tolerance” and an iteration of removing the Four Olds, the latter of which is how Mao crafted his revolution. Individual liberty; a strong nuclear family; a propositional, color blind citizenry; and science as ordinarily understood, are all under attack from the Cultural Marxists, who seek to redefine reality to fit the parameters of their ideological push to remake Man. Gender is fluid, a mere construct; race is dispositive of victimhood and oppression, an essential trait from which the content of your character cannot escape.
Cultural Marxism is invested in intersectionality and identity politics, each of which breeds suspicion and resentment of others and creates unhealthy hierarchies while laying the predicate for unequal treatment and “equity” programs introduced by — or protected through — government. It is by way of such a reorganizing of society that the various collectives lay waste to individual liberty, creating of those who dissent from the identity politics narrative of their assigned groups, heretics, Uncle Toms, sufferers of false consciousness, even Russian stooges… Such outliers can be then freely dismissed. They are haters. Bigots. Un-virtuous. And it is an intellectual imperative of the left that being intolerant of intolerance be somehow made a coherent argument — and a cornerstone for acceptable speech.
We see from the left — and this is precisely why it is no “blessing of liberty” to allow fetishists to push the sexualization of children — a move for kids to create “chosen families”; to cast off their repressive parents for a group of like-minded people who will “love them unconditionally” once they separate from the traditional family structure. This is presented as acceptance. As love. And yet it operates exactly as does a cult, or do groomers — and it paves the way for a breakdown of the nuclear family: Using media, schools, and social stigma around “intolerance,” Cultural Marxism introduces and amplifies identity politics, enticing children to try on various identities until they find one they feel fits (however temporarily). This is done in the absence of the parents and often with the “advocacy” of teachers or social media influencers, and with the protection of leftist media.
Because of its collectivist bent, a politics that embraces Cultural Marxism cannot live peaceably with our Constitution and its directives. It rejects individualism. It rejects the animating idea behind natural rights, reclaiming for man what belongs to Nature or Nature’s God. It requires control over all spheres of influence, including speech, social behavior, pedagogy, even science and medicine. It is a poison whose purpose is to kill off the Enlightenment paradigm and return us to a rule by elites, to the granting of privilege rather than the protecting of rights. Communism gave us Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro — who somehow took a supposedly “egalitarian” philosophy and manifested from it gulags and killing fields authored by self-appointed revolutionaries. The only equality was shared among the dead. Every corpse is equal when buried in a mass grave.
And so, to bring this back around, it is precisely here at home — against the enemies of our country as founded, who reside here inside it — that we must first and most ruthlessly fight, both in the marketplace of ideas, and with the policies we implement. This includes using government power for conservative ends. On some level, Trump understands this — and those who voted for him in the past agree with his diagnosis. President Eisenhower warned us of this internal threat. And yet Never Trumpers seldom claim the American General was a compromised traitor interested only in attacking Americans.
When Trump says Russia is not the greatest threat to America — that in very important respects America itself is its own worst enemy — he is saying outloud what many people silently realize: that our country cannot and will not last so long as it continues surrendering to an alien ideology that everywhere has invaded, insinuated, and calcified, while simultaneously presuming to fight battles on behalf of others whom we’re compelled by our ruling elite to subsidize. He is attacking ideas that have tantalized and overtaken some Americans, and which threaten to enthral more. The poison extends to the way we’re taught to think about language, making it part of our epistemology, part of the very way we come to believe, which as time goes on further entrenches kernel assumptions we must perforce root out. We must begin 30 years ago, in fact.
The stakes for the country are very real, and they extend well beyond the cynical foreign policy hawkishness of unserious neocons and their petty taunts. Our border is open, threatening our safety and sovereignty. Our children are being stolen from us, sometimes literally (through opioid deaths, sex trafficking, or simple despair), sometimes through unrelenting propaganda and the unscrupulous advances of unsavory actors. Reality itself is under withering attack. Racial division and preference is ascendant. And the forces of flaccid “conservatism” provide cover for all of it, either through inaction, an appeal to limited government that refuses to correct for extant government excess that only ever goes left, or through active support of things like drag queen story hour. And they do so to appear more nuanced than the monstrosity they see in Trump, and in the dirty rubes he dragged along with him into their once jauntily-appointed suites of contented losing.
They’ve always been perfectly willing to lose more slowly. And all it takes to buy them off is the occasional use of missiles in some far off land.
That’s a rather cheap price for a soul.
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