Postliberal Lessons in Milwaukee
Three lessons that postliberals can take away from last night’s first Republican presidential debate.
Last night was a very “interesting” night for conservatism, and postliberalism, in America. I say “interesting” rather than “exciting” or “inspiring” because, needless to say, right-liberalism still dominates the Republican Party. However, given that the last Republican debate was in March 2016, a lot has changed, and thankfully in the right direction. Here are three lessons that we can take away from last night’s debate.
Charisma is essential!
The most common complaint directed towards our political climate — and all of politics in general — is that more of our attention should be focused on the messages rather than the messengers. “Experts” who work outside of the public sphere make this point most often: “if only the truly important policy discussions were not needlessly interrupted by those blabbering politicians! Then we could really get things done!”
However, that is not how politics works at its core. Messages are largely defined by their mediums, and their momentum of said messages certainly hinges on their messenger. The Reagan Revolution, the Victorian era, and the Napoleonic Wars all have their messengers at their centre. Platonism, Thomism, and Marxism act the same way. The imperial titles of Kaiser and Tsar derive their root not from a set of principles, but from a man: “Caesar.” The ultimate example of this person-ism is Christianity, whose entire substance hinges on a relationship, not a ten-point set of principles.
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We are corporeal beings, and our bodies are the physical expressions of our souls. The way that a politician emphasizes one word over another, smiles at the crowd, or moves their hands infuses their message with distinct substance, clarity, and character. The liberal “experts” who label any affection held towards any leader as a “cult of personality” are essentially condemning the human heart, and therefore writing off human realities. This is a recognition that our political intelligencia have denied in our fascination with proceduralism. Although he is not a postliberal in any meaningful sense, Vivek’s performance teaches us that charisma is essential, and that our innate susceptibility to charm is a wonderful, natural thing.
Somebody was missing…
Two people were missing from the Republican debate hosted by Fox News. Namely, the de facto figureheads of both those organizations, due to their “exiles.” Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump’s independent venture and interview released on Twitter (“X”) also contains a crucial lesson for those at history’s speartip. On the power of their joint charisma, the two men were, alone, able to face a leviathan apparatus and reach over 100 million people, all by themselves. The lesson is that a dynamic, effective counter elite can come in the form of a very small number of people. A small and effective group leading their supporters can take over a country. History has certainly taught us that much. Given the audience both the debate and the interview commanded, Republicans, for better or for worse, are invested in the future of the party in a way that has not been seen in decades.
Is this the best America can do?
Politically speaking, it is quite lonely sometimes to be a postliberal in America! The vast majority of what was said on the debate stage last night was the same old, tired right-liberal nonsense that has captivated the American conservatives for generations. In many ways, it felt like a return to a pre-2016 GOP.
However, the tide is shifting, even when it is not as fast as we may like. All of the boring, liberal talking points came off as just that: boring. Nikki Haley’s slimy and evasive answer, in which she defended the right to an abortion, did not stick with the crowd. Asa Hutchinson droning on about “shrinking the government” did not pack the same punch as it would have forty years ago. As a consequence, neither will see the White House. Conservatives, and Americans, are longing for something new.
What is better, even the most modest glimmers of what could potentially be described as postliberal drew excitement, especially when it came to using state power to ensure education is not infiltrated by perverse ideologies (something many of the candidates all seemed to agree on). Notably, Vivek’s promise to pardon Donald Trump completely outshined Mike Pence’s tired and senseless appeal to abide by the rule of law and stay in line with corrupt liberal institutions.
This first Republican debate should be taken as a valuable source of wisdom, as well as a source of cautious optimism for postliberals: American conservatism seems to be slowly moving in a good direction. What was missing, however, were some serious questions that did need to be asked. What do the candidates think of legal immigration? What about transgender mutilation of both children and adults? Still, much of the progress we did see is a testament to the party’s postliberal transformation, in part led by Donald Trump beginning in 2016. We hope to speed up this transformation in due time.
Who knows, maybe the next presidential debate should be hosted by The American Postliberal!