[Ed. note: What follows is mostly from an exachange on FB this last weekend]
We caused a bit of a kerfuffle, which caused typical responses by claiming that George Will’s recent announcement he is leaving the Republican Party was not only imprudent, but an act of cowardice on a certain level. For that, we were called “foolish”. In the spirit of friendship, perhaps we are foolish to call Will a coward, but we do have an argument, and in the spirit of friendship we will engage in hopes to gain something–knowledge–from the exchange.
However, we are despondent about such an exchange, even as we make the effort.
Why is it that the #NeverTrump folks always seem to go for the ad hominem and personal insult almost immediately? We like spirited debate, and we hope that our adversaries do as well. But we are reminded, despite the cautions of our friends that these people “can be persuaded,” we are increasingly coming to the sad conclusion that they cannot. There’s only so much personal ridicule one can be patient enough to take from know-it-alls who are #NeverRightAboutTrump.
Will went on to say on Fox News Sunday that he left the Republican Party for the same reason he joined: he’s a conservative. Then he invoked Reagan for saying that he did not leave the Democrat Party the party left him. With all due respect to Will, Reagan left the party and joined another. Will has joined nothing, and it dedicated to the negative option of denying Trump the nomination. He may, he says, vote for the Libertarian–you know the same party that thinks that WW2 may have been an immoral war to fight, and was not necessary to fight.
George Will has had a nice run for himself. It’s time for him to go, and we are happy to see him retreat from the public square, take his marbles, and go home. He never was a “conservative” and he always clamored for approval from the left and when he could not, enjoyed the role of crazy uncle. Will has always been a political coward of sorts, and now this insight we had decades ago, combined with his intemperate imprudence, leave us with no choice but to recall Will once wrote this in Statecraft and Soulcraft:
My aim is to recast conservatism in a form compatible with the broad popular imperatives of the day, but also to change somewhat the agenda and even the vocabulary of contemporary politics. To those who are liberals and to those who call themselves conservatives, I say Politics is more difficult than you think.
At the time, he called his “fellow conservatives” as in those he joined because he was a conservative, “soidisant.” In other words, countless other in the party he joined were only “so called” conservatives. Only he was the one who knew what the word meant apparently.
In his aforementioned book, Will articulates an argument whereby the government bureaucracy is vitally important in enforcing morality as he defines it. Indeed, Will has no problem with the mechanisms of state being given to a faceless and impersonal centralized power. This is all the more perplexing as he was also against the EU and for Brexit, but it exposes a lot of Will’s confusion. He had no idea about what America was nor is, and he consistently had no problem with a modern interpretation of America as a low born ideal that needed fixing by a government through laws to make us more “moral.” Will was not a conservative unless by conservative you mean unlimited government. Will own some responsibility for the growth of a faceless government in which budgets exploded and regulations increased.
Some “conservative” he. He’s always been given to snobbery of the kind that he knows more than we do, and will explain to us how it really is. Will has always been an arrogant and the Republicans/Conservatives have supported him because he’s had a way to stick to the left in ways that anger them. Except, Will is no conservative, and really never has been despite his claims he is one. He has never been a person who believed in the Declaration of Independence and for that, he is really a modernist at heart who has made peace with the expansive welfare state.
As will stated:
The most interesting argument in American governance today is not between Republicans and Democrats, it is between conservatives—using the term inclusively here—who believe that we need, as conservatives have been saying for years, a deferential judiciary, passive and deferential to the majoritarian branches of government; and, on the other hand, those like Clark Neily, who wrote the wonderful book Terms of Engagement…Damon Root, me, others—Randy Barnett—who argue on the contrary that what we need is an engaged judiciary asserting the fact that the essence of America is not majority rule, it is liberty.
Does George Will know that the ONLY person on the court who believes that is Clarence Thomas? If he did, why did he support Rehnquist or Scalia? Both of those justices, while talented, believed in majority rule absent the Law of Nature, as Harry Jaffa so eloquently pointed out. And by the way, just who is arguing for mere majority rule in the Republican party now? Trump? Nope. I have no idea what assorted hallucinations Will is engaged in, but he makes no sense, and has changed his position on the Court from his past pronouncements. Trump has never said or intimated he was FOR majority rule simply.
As one of our friends noted about Will “Every once in awhile they let him feel smug and superior when liberals go too far. And they point to him as the voice of caution and reason. He loves it. [Will] is content with the way things are. Being a loser has been profitable for him.”
That about sums up Will, and of course, this is why it resonates with the public when Trump calls him out for the profit he has made off of being such a cheerful loser. Too be honest, that is also why he is a coward–he’s fine with losing and cashes in on it. Then he goes for another losing position, and cashes in again. Will has been arguing on behalf of an America he hardly understands. It’s a good thing he’s gone and has taken himself out of the debate; he wasn’t good at persuasion anyway.
What follows is an adaptation of those posts on Facebook preserved for us here, with our edits and expansions. Most of the sections where there is a unclear reference to a person, it is to The Week author, Damon Linker, who got a lot wrong, and avoided much, in his defense of Will.
Be that as it may, someone of the chattering class (Damon Linker) challenges an assertion made by a friend of ours that Will is imprudent, and demonstrates a form of cowardice. We are not sure why he took things so personal, though the snobby Will is a coward in one respect a friend of ours noted–he is really a #RepublicanforHillary. He should have the fortitude to say it. We take all this in the spirit of honest adversarial debate and a temporary passionate exuberance by Linker, and so take no offense at the slight.
We should take a breath and deliberate here.
The short rebuttal for Linker is that I am not “going along” with the “Republican Party.” I could care less about loyalty to it. I am a declarationist anyway and most people already know that. More spirited criticism is needed, for the party has in part caused the problems we face in this great Republic. My specific point, which Linker seems to have missed is, Will is a coward of sorts and imprudent for leaving the party for the reasons he states. I thought that obvious.
As Charles Kesler noted in the latest issue of the CRB, it is imprudent and an act of “sheer desperation” what people like Will have done as a #NeverTrump. He goes on to state that Trump “expose[d] some of the problems latent in the current conservative movement and its agenda.” Will is a part of that problem, and has been. It is a bit of cowardice to be a part of the problem one causes, and then say, “I’m outta here” not even trying to fix what he helped to destroy.
Aristotle in Book 2 of the Ethics certainly would not find Will courageous on this point, for he has no confidence in his remedy. In fact, he has NO REMEDY (1103b+). Aristotle says that an act is courageous by facing fear. There is no fear here that Will is facing except political for problems he has had a hand in causing–it is fearful to flee instead of facing the music in the party one helped injure. So, the short is, he exhibits a sort of political cowardice.
Next, Will is imprudent to boot, and he’s being “unpolitical” in a sense. Socrates called people like this–who go off on their own–Idiots. It is where we get the word from the Greek ιδιωτης. Reagan left the party and joined a new one where he might do some good. Will leaves the party for…what. Nothing.
This brings me back to Kesler’s piece. Better for the #NeverTrump to do some good and stay and fight. But people like Will have not stayed to fight. They have abandoned the cause of “conservatives” (an unhelpful word but that’s for another day). Will saying that he is off on his own as an island it like that Socratic idiot who says, I am apart from you and won’t try to be a part of the polis. I am an island. Simon and Garfunkel wrote an entire song about it. The tonal sentiment is the same–defeat. So good riddance to him. But he should never be taken seriously again. He has not stayed to PERSUADE those he might otherwise PERSUADE should he remain.
So what he is doing is not something to celebrate as he stands on “principle.” He’s not standing on principle. He’s taking his toys out of the sandbox he fouled, and running away.
No what he has done is act in a unworthy way as Aristotle says, because he won’t face it, and instead exhibits a political cowardice and then he compounds it by his imprudent act of choosing…NOTHING. Aristotle again says in Book 6 that prudence is he who has the ability to deliberate (1140a). And the prudent man should “deliberate well” (1141b). All of this is tied to action, and successful action to bring to fruition the good in society (1141b). The prudent person has a certain kind of wisdom, then.
Will has none of that in this latest tantrum of his. He goes home. He cedes the field. Then, as a reactionary, votes perhaps libertarian and hands the election to Hillary. Imprudent.
In a choice between two evils, Jaffa always reminded us, we choose the LESSER. Linker thinks he knows Trump is the worst president ever. That’s some soothsaying, given we already know Hillary has blood on her hands, has a verifiable anger issues, and also used the public as her bank. Trump has not even come close to such immoral acts. He may and will disappoint. But to KNOW he is the WORST as you noted earlier, is a fantasy.
The prudent act would have been to stay and deliberate. Perhaps Will may have learned something about himself, or even come to admire Trump, who also, like Will, supported Brexit for the same reasons. Instead, George Will cuts and runs, and chastises all who voted for Trump.
That’s not the moral virtue of someone who is principled, it is an act of a political coward who arrogantly disdains his fellow citizens.