The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Insanity Oath

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, personal attorney to President Donald Trump, stands in front of a map of election swing states marked as Trump “Pathways to Victory” during a news conference in Washington, D.C., November 19, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Conservatives sense that social progressives have achieved a critical level of consolidation in key institutions: the Democratic Party, the university, and the prestige media. The occasional purges of old-school liberals from these institutions testify to that fact. The way that progressives have made “cancellation” a weapon is intimidating, a powerful inducement for conservatives to hang together. For an average person, a cancellation is a mob-like digital attack on their reputation and livelihood, usually with lifelong consequences. Progressive power is so insidious and pervasive, it seems to subvert the professional conservatives — elected officials, people at think tanks, and writers for National Review. The fear of being smeared is held out on the one hand, as well as the blandishments of feigned “respect,” occasionally attached to a low-level cable news contract.

The unhinged response to this power can be self-defeating.

My old friend John Zmirak is especially sensitive to the possibility of subversion.  John knows I live in the New York suburbs under King Cuomo’s edicts, as well as the other closer tyranny of three toddlers.  He can’t truthfully accuse me of being in it for the cocktail parties these days. With that out, he resorts to lumping me in with Nazi collaborators, because I found myself embarrassed for Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell’s press conference Thursday.

The two of them launched a series of fantastical accusations of election fraud. Powell focused particularly on an international conspiracy.  Some of what they alleged in that press conference has already been denied by Trump’s legal team when operating under oath in Pennsylvania’s courts. Powell has been promising to release a “Kraken” for quite a while now. I don’t think she has it. Tucker Carlson seems skeptical too. And his segment is far more embarrassing than anything I tweet. Will John call Carlson a Vichy-con as well? I doubt it.

My view is that the people who have been “fraud-pilled” in recent weeks have lost their heads. Zmirak’s rejoinder is that people like me have lost our hearts.

Zmirak is not alone in getting invested more heavily in Trump’s allegation of fraud. Something deep is at work. There were no Trump signs in my own neighborhood until after the election. Suddenly, as if in defiance, they’ve begun to sprout up. Many friends who I did not know were political are sending me little snippets of allegations of voter fraud and manipulation, much of which they are picking up from Instagram.

Most of the allegations contradict each other or what we know about the election. It was not big city machines that cost Trump the election; he did better than expected in cities like Philadelphia — something that an organized fraud of the type Powell alleged would be most anxious to disguise. Where he got hammered was in the suburbs, where there is no shortage of Republican election observers and volunteers. It is not surprising that he got hammered when mail-in votes were counted, as he consistently undermined his own voters’ faith in them.

The best possible case that Trump was “robbed” in any sense is that he was robbed fair and square, legally and in plain sight. It is the assertion that the loosened rules surrounding mail-in balloting allowed a far greater number of ballots to clear the rejection hurdles they’d have run into in earlier years. This does not come close to justifying the extreme remedy proposed, which is to have Republican legislatures pass laws enabling them to abrogate the results of Election Day in their states and execute a legal coup.

If John can speculate that I’m a coward akin to traitor, I think it justified to share my own speculations. The attempt to bind conservatives to Trump after he has lost, by believing in a massive conspiratorial plot, is not so different from previous psychotic reactions on the political right when it faced a stifling and powerful consensus. In previous ages, it expressed itself in the demand to believe Dwight Eisenhower was a communist.

Allegiance to a plain insanity is a good test of loyalty, like being beat-in during a gang initiation. It marks you in a way that makes you less suitable as an object for the Left’s blandishments. It demonstrates “commitment” or heart. Shared insanity can make people loyal to each other, sure. But it does so by rendering them useless or repulsive to the normal and decent people who need champions.

I cannot tell what I believe is a lie. And the truth is this form of bonding is for warped losers.

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