In the spring of 2014, the conservative firebrand, Steve Deace, published a book entitled Rules for Patriots. Deace is a take no prisoners kind of guy. He is well-known in the conservative circuit, but rather controversial. One might even say that he tends toward the extreme. He has no truck whatsoever with so-called establishment Republicans, or Republicrats as he calls them. He believes that they are as guilty as the Democrats for leading our country astray into the swamp of progressivism under which we are slowly sinking. Deace agonizes over whether true conservative patriots should either seek to take over the Republican Party (as the progressives have captured the Democratic Party) or form a new third party. He recognizes that the latter step has a very low chance of succeeding, but he also acknowledges how entrenched in command of the GOP are the “establishment types.” In any event, the point of the book is to lay out some rules that patriots, that is, true conservatives should adhere to as they go about the business of recapturing the country from the progressives and Republicrats.
This essay is not intended to be a review of the book. The interested reader may find ample reviews – both kind and unkind – e.g., by following these links: Regnery, Chocola, McDurmon, Therein you will find various assessments of the worth of Deace’s playbook.
What I wish to do here is focus on four points that Deace makes as he develops his rule book. Although they are in some sense just “supporting evidence” for his arguments, they struck me as particularly insightful, occasionally unique and eventually helpful for crystallizing the thoughts of a conservative. Moreover, he writes with a certain flamboyant style – which you will encounter in a few quotes below. Deace’s first point is not new, but it is well-formulated and concentrates one’s thoughts on the precise foundation of the progressive opposition. The remaining three points may not be totally novel, but I have rarely seen them stated as forcefully as they are in Deace’s book and I think that they are worth highlighting.
1. The four pillars of progressivism. The liberal/progressive world has many components, some more prominent or powerful than others. Deace argues that there are four fundamental pillars – without any one of which, the progressive movement would be far weaker and less effective. These pillars are, as stated exactly in Deace’s words:
- The child-killing Industry
- The homosexual lobby
- Government education
- Government sector employee unions.
You can see from (a) that Deace is a flame-thrower as his appellation for the pro-choice coterie has rather more flavor than the usual term. Along the same lines, while describing the pernicious effect of each pillar, Deace asserts:
We don’t trust the leadership of the Republican Party any more than we trust the Democrats, but are pragmatically willing to use the GOP’s infrastructure as the most convenient vehicle to engage the political system to fight for our freedom and liberty…We do not believe there is any such thing as a “fiscal conservative” but there are only conservatives. “Fiscal conservatives” and “pro-life Democrats” are like unicorns—figments of our imagination. A fiscal conservative is code language for a materialist who just wants more mammon…Not to mention the more immoral a people become the bigger the government always gets, because the first thing an immoral people want to avoid is paying for their own mistakes. A welfare state profits off the basis of bad behavior, and then cost shifts the bill to do those who make sound decisions…We do not romanticize the Republicans as the good guys and the Democrats as the bad, but see the leadership of both parties as part of a ruling class (thank you Anthony Codevilla) that is more concerned with maintaining their own gravy train than honoring their sworn oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution of these United States.
Like I said, a flame-thrower. But Deace has identified quite succinctly what is the heart of the progressive movement. If the conservative viewpoint is ever to prevail again in the United States, then the abortion industry, gay rights crowd, left-wing educational establishment and public sector unions must be defanged. It took a century for the four to grow long claws and plunge them into the soul of American society. I doubt that we have anywhere near that much time to extract the claws and tame the beasts.
2. We are the counter-culture. In 1950, a person who espoused the cultural views, political ideas and economic policies of Barack Obama would have been considered counter-cultural. Such a person had a self-appointed job to overthrow the prevailing conservative cultural/political/economic system and replace it by his leftist substitute. Well, it is painful to admit this, but they did it! Today, readers of Deace’s book – and likely the readers of this journal – are the counterculture. Now it is our job to overthrow the counterculture that has become the culture. As Deace says:
We’re now the counter-culture and the Left is now “the man keeping them down.” It’s becoming passé to have sex with anything you want short of a car battery, get stoned every day that ends in “y,” and know nothing. That used to be cool, and considered some existential statement about refusing to be a cog in the machine, but now it’s a cliché. Even raunchy comedy movies like Knocked Up have an underlying theme paying homage to some vestige of the Judeo-Christian moral ethic. If you want to challenge the status quo in this era you get and keep a job, pay your own way, stay married to the same person from the opposite gender until one or both of you die, have a lot of kids, and go to church. In other words, the 1950s is now considered edgy.
3. Ignorance of conservatism. According to Deace, today’s youth have not rejected conservatism. They have not even encountered it. They cannot reject what they don’t know exists. The brainwashing to which the youth of America are subjected in the K-12 educational system is pervasive and penetrating. The liberal/progressive view of history, government, economics, etc. is all that is taught from kindergarten through graduate school. If conservative thought is presented at all it is to highlight it as a formerly acceptable, reactionary, racist, sexist, homophobic, and economically biased point of view over which our enlightened age has triumphed.
Conservatives often fret about the youth vote – how Obama captured it so thoroughly and easily. Patriots worry about honing and refining their message so as to break through the misconceptions. Well, the youth are not paying attention. They’ve already been programmed. As Deace says:
Since conservatives have spent a generation retreating from the arena of ideas to form holy huddles in our own little enclaves of the already-initiated, we have forsaken an entire generation to be indoctrinated by anti-American/anti-Christian Leftists who clearly know what they’re doing. The emerging generation hasn’t rejected the American way. It hasn’t even considered it. We’ve stopped competing in the arena of ideas, so we’ve left them with no choice but to accept the synthesized narrative (Hegelian Dialectic) they’ve been sold in government school. Thus, they believe the Constitution calls for the separation of church and state, there is no such thing as transcendent truth, and moral absolutes don’t exist. So if we’re going to engage this emerging generation, we’re going to have to define our terms and ourselves clearly and explicitly.
4. Misplaced nostalgia. Republicans – even of the establishment variety – pine for Reagan and long for the second coming. GOP presidential candidates are examined for their ability to channel Reagan, both in style and substance. If we can only find the right candidate who can replicate Reagan’s devotion to conservative principles, infectious optimism, and ability to explain his ideas clearly, then we’ll reclaim the high ground.
Well, says Deace, get over it. It ain’t happening. Most young people have no memory of Reagan, and even among the middle aged, there is little recognition of who he was and what he stood for. Says Deace:
There is a fine line between tradition and nostalgia. Tradition is the assurance that you have the right ethics and institutions to be successful again based on what was done in the past, provided you have the right people in place to exploit them. Tradition spurs action and innovation to build upon a foundation of success. On the other hand, nostalgia is a paralyzing force because it tempts you to keep trying to recreate the precise conditions that led to a specific past success. Often that specific success was a moment in time, and the attempt to repeat it creates a myopic inflation of that success to the point it stalls progress towards a new era of success. Instead of moving forward, you keep trying to go back to the good old days. Right now we are mired in nostalgia at the expense of our tradition. We are mired in nostalgia because our entire movement has been defined by one man’s success, as opposed to the timeless traditions he fought for. As a result, every sort of Republican now claims Ronald Reagan as their legacy, even the absolute worst ones that might as well be Democrats. A pretty good rule of thumb is that if everybody can claim something, then nobody can. Yes, Reagan was a gifted man, and I’ve used several examples of that giftedness in this book. But that giftedness doesn’t matter to us if it’s not used to advance the principles we hold dear. There have been gifted people throughout history that used their gifts to do wicked and awful things. Why don’t we celebrate them? Because what they stood for was wrong or evil, that’s why. In other words, what they stood for overshadowed their giftedness. The same should be true of Reagan’s positive legacy as well. While it’s a testimony to his legacy that we still play clips of Reagan to defend our values today, it’s also an indictment of how stale we are. At the time I was writing this book I just turned 40 years old. When Reagan first ran for president in 1976 I was still eating paste and my boogers.
We may wish for a second coming. But even if it happened, a substantial portion of the electorate wouldn’t recognize the messiah or understand his message.
There is no question that these are challenging and dangerous times for the United States of America. The progressive movement, which rejects virtually all of the principles that animated our Founders, aspires to recreate America as a Euro-style social welfare state. It seeks to refashion our nation into one that values equality over liberty, that favors socialism over capitalism, that places appeasement, disarmament and multilateralism above a robust national defense, that shuns the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic of our forefathers in favor of a squishy multiculturalism and that thinks the only thing exceptional about the US is that it is marked indelibly by racism, sexism and homophobia. It has taken them a hundred years to achieve, but their view now seems to command the allegiance of a majority of Americans. If American conservatives cannot reverse this horrific pattern, then the USA as we know (or knew) it is doomed. Deace is not the first to espouse this view – nor the most articulate. But he does have a few poignant observations to his credit – specifically the four that I have highlighted above.
This essay also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative