It’s sad when one can’t extract some nuggets of wisdom from tragedy. If lessons are learned on the back of a catastrophe, suffering, an accident or similar event, one can claim that “at least it was good for something”. An illustrative example of this is learning about the causes of an accident and applying improved safety techniques and technology to prevent or minimize future occurrences. It is one thing to fail to learn lessons from negative events, another is learning the wrong lessons from disaster. Doing so will increase the likelihood of calamities occurring again and again, until such time as the proper lessons are found, internalized and implemented.
Naturally people reverted to form after Roy Moore’s defeat in the Alabama senatorial election. Democrats saw a referendum on Trump going their way, paving the way for a blue wave in the 2018 midterm elections. Republicans interpreted the failure of Moore as an expression of the limitations of Trump and Bannon. Both have failed to assume an eagle’s eye view of the political landscape. The Republicans did well in the first special elections following last year, while the Democrats now have two in a row. People seek out patterns where there are none to be discerned. You simply win some and lose some.
Moore was a deeply flawed candidate, combined with an epic onslaught of weaponized accusations, a media machine going into overdrive to bring him down, and some questions regarding the integrity of the vote. A video has surfaced showing a Doug Jones supporter claiming that “people from all over the country came to support and vote for Jones”. This might just be a case of unfortunate wording on the part of the Jones supporter, or an example of brazen electoral shenanigans. Fundamentally it doesn’t really matter (sadly) as long as the result as it is currently reported stands.
What lessons should be drawn from the carnage in Alabama? For one, hubris is deadly. Hubris torpedoed Hillary Clinton last year into losing against Donald Trump, she though that she had it in the bag. Just the same, Republicans thought they had an unshakeable 20-percent built in buffer in deeply red Alabama. There was also a split within the right, between the GOP-establishment and the populist Bannonites. Similarly, Hillary saw her side split, with the Bernie Bros/Gals either not voting for her or “punishing” her misdeeds in the primary against Sanders by voting Trump/Third Party. Staying unified should be an aspirational goal post-Alabama.
Another Alabama lesson is on the potency of sleazeball electioneering. Dirty tactics, weaponized accusations and other tools of the political trickster will return with a vengeance when the next election comes around the corner. Without the accusations against Moore he would have easily won, not necessarily with the “typical” margin of victory, but a comfortable win nonetheless. What we are left with now is a case study of an extreme political shift, a deeply red state going (temporarily) blue. Expect more of the same in the future, if not something even worse. The temptation of political power and influence is too strong of an aphrodisiac to prevent this unfortunate development.
Another issue I want to address while talking about bad lessons is the Alt-Right. In other posts I’ve praised the Alt-Right for bringing up important topics necessary for a comprehensive and healthy political debate. At the same time, I’ve loudly criticised some within the spectrum for abhorrent and self-defeating political optics. It can’t and mustn’t be denied that within the Alt-Right spectrum there are some genuinely nasty people. Former White Supremacists, genuine Nazis and others who are expertly using the prominence of the Alt-Right and the shifting of the Overton window as camouflage to re-enter “good society”. Not only must we be wary of such people, but it is important to stress the genuine difference between racialist supremacist thinking and a consciousness about race. The latter is a legitimate area of study, with real policy implications and real science backing it up. The Alt-Right should be commended for daring to breach the wall of political correctness to bring this issue forward.
Looking at the cultural, political, economic and demographic developments currently affecting the West, I see the necessity of voices like those on the Alt-Right in bringing up and addressing these grand issues. Unfortunately, some cloud their insightful wisdom by negating their impact with terrible optics. In my view, Richard Spencer is a prime example of such behavior. Juvenile antics like the infamous “Heilgate”, using Nazi era German terms like “lugenpresse” and other blunders makes it all too easy for detractors of the Alt-Right to dismiss the ideas. The intellectual ballast of the Alt-Right can be expressed in an inviting and “loving” manner, Wife With A Purpose is a great example to be copied.
I fear that part of the “leadership” of the Alt-Right will see the movements continued success as caused by their optical choices, not despite them. The movement could play its part in rejuvenating an otherwise stale political debate even faster if a proper and positive communications strategy was to be followed. Although I don’t consider myself on the Alt-Right, I’m increasingly sympathetic to the movement and its ideas. But that is due to real-world events, not due to the optical brilliance at the hands of its leaders. Almost every single time I find myself lamenting the self-sabotage in the movement, some real-world event pushes me further towards it, away from libertarianism and civic nationalism.
As I desire a healthy and “diverse” political dialogue for our societies, I look forward to the inclusion of Alt-Right perspectives into the mainstream conversation. Hopefully with the help of the movement’s leaders and not despite their efforts.