Chest-Thumpers and ‘Aw, Shucks’ Conservatives Personify the Right’s Love Affair with Losing

Chest-Thumpers and ‘Aw, Shucks’ Conservatives Personify the Right’s Love Affair with Losing. By Abigail Shrier.

Chris Rufo is doing something so spectacularly unconservative, he may need to update his political affiliation: he’s winning. …

Rufo, a journalist and advocate, has become so synonymous with both the effort to alert Americans to the racism their children are imbibing in public school and the legislative efforts to stop it, that he’s become the person we think of whenever “Critical Race Theory” is mentioned. For the first time in years, Ibram X. Kendi and Nikole-Hannah Jones face actual pushback to the white-hatred they peddle and division they feast upon. Parents have someone they can turn to for evidence, argument and reassurance of their marrow-deep sense that the racial essentialism in their kids’ classroom is wrong and that it’s not racist to say so. For the first time in years, the rejection of “Critical Race Theory” is gaining ground. …

How did Rufo do it? By gathering evidence and pointing out the glaring harm in clear, unapologetic (but never crass or rude) language. He speaks not to the elites, but to Americans, and he makes an intelligible argument: “Anti-Racism” is just racism in progressive clothing; it’s teaching our kids to hate themselves and each other.

Rufo engages with the culture in the straightforward manner of a gentleman soldier. He neither grovels to the intellectual class nor strains to fit his arguments into the warped mold of their lingo. And he doesn’t pick fights for their own sake.

In other words, Rufo has thus far sailed clear of the Scylla and Charybdis conservatives so often pinball against: hyper-polite fecklessness on one side of the boat and chest-thumping ignorance on the other.

Feckless: Generally incompetent and ineffectual.

Time to toss out the “Aw Shucks Conservatism” of navy blazers and boat shoes … That approach may have excelled when churches and civil society were strong and conservatives needed only to get married, raise a family, and perform the simple heroism of showing up. Today, it’s a loser. …

Its mistake is that it treats Leftist ideologues like quirky out-of-town guests arriving for brunch. It assumes we all want the same things and are equally devoted to the perpetuation of bedrock American commitments: free speech, free exercise of faith, equal protection, rule of law. But the Woke are not zany guests. They are home-invasion robbers. …

Aw Shucks Conservatives are willing to disagree with the Left, but they first want to get all the terminology right — “Now, which is it again: is ‘non-binary’ the same as they/them? Or ‘she/they?’” They don’t understand that the chaos is the point. While they strain to avoid a faux pas, they don’t even feel the dagger going in. They chuckle with their buddies that Woke beliefs are “nonsense upon stilts” … and that voters will surely respond in the next midterm election. They do not fight Silicon Valley — they are confused about whether their belief in free market economics allows it. …

They have lost every important cultural battle …

Rude and ignorant:

There is another sort of conservative, of course — the youthful, chest-beating, triumphalist sort. It lacks neither fight nor heart. It relies heavily on mantras. Some of its instincts are correct — but it rarely seems to know why. Chest-Beating conservatism offends on purpose, as if offense itself were an argument. …

Conservatives were handed a political gift they did not win and do not deserve — the disaster of the Left’s ascent. The activist Left’s policy agenda is widely disliked. Its positions veer between unreasonable (Defund the Police), unlivable (indulge looters, larcenists, and vandals), unsustainable (open the borders), and untenable (transwomen are women). Almost no one actually agrees with any of this. But rather than find common cause with moderates who would join the fight, Chest-Beating Conservatives would rather heap contempt on moderates, score points for Team Red, and sully themselves in rudeness. They can have no lasting impact on a culture they are quick to condemn but lack the curiosity to engage. …

The Chest-Beating Conservatives … lack discipline and restraint and occasionally even seem to revel in ignorance. They find their personification in Marjorie Taylor Greene, the greatest thing to happen to the Left since Roy Moore.

Far too impatient to comprehend America’s current crisis, they howl “This is insane!” over and over, until they are the ones who seem unhinged. It is no accident that they are error-prone: they do not believe facts are important and they never bother to learn them. They think the gist of an argument is enough. They win claps from the same smarting-red hands and never manage to persuade a single open mind.

Get it right:

Here, then, is a solution for conservatives: Stop playing the Left’s game of victimhood, stop straining to adopt its lingo.

I’m not suggesting that you speak disrespectfully. I’m suggesting that you’ll never win a victimhood contest, in part because you don’t believe in victimhood contests (to your credit) and it shows.

The point of the Left’s quick-changing lingo is to confuse, to make it impossible to form an argument or respond to one. The lingo is very much a trap, and if you’re straining to master it, you’re already caught.

Speak as plainly as you can. When discussing issues of biological males competing in women’s sports, don’t say “transwomen in women’s sports” — because the entire question at issue is whether these biological men who identify as transgender are a kind of woman; they aren’t, and pretending they are forfeits the argument. In such context, talk about “biological males in women’s sports” because that is both accurate, clear and essential to making the argument our daughters need you to win.

Nor should you accept that the point of public dialogue is to avoid offense. That has never been the point of language, though it is often the point of its opposite (silence). The goal of language in the public sphere must always be to speak truthfully and as clearly as possible. If you can avoid offense, so much the better. If you cannot, then at least you’ll have been understood.

When a member of the Administration replaces the word “mother” with “birthing people,” you don’t Aw, Shucks, as if you’ve encountered the last native speaker of Etruscan. You’re faced with a direct assault on women and the family. And you respond in kind.

So it was in the climate debate. If you were effective, the media ignored you. As the media became more partisan, it only wanted to talk to the crazy, loud, rude, or plainly ignorant skeptics.