You only need to turn on the news to see that something unnerving is happening to the political right. In the US, Trump is the front-runner. In the United Kingdom, the Brexit has garnered a referendum. Finally, in France, the National Front is gaining momentum. For myself and many others, it’s been even more unnerving. I’m a conservative, and there’s been a lot of worry from across the aisle over the rise of the populist right, but there’s been even more concern amongst those like myself, who are coming face to face with a side of the global electorate that is deciding what the face of the Right is and most importantly, shaping the broad ideological coalition of the Right.
There’s been a rise of an anti-intellectual, anti-establishment and widely toxic portion of the Right that has become an uncomfortably large portion of the conservative movement. The populist right has entrenched themselves in an ideology that ignores facts, reason, and logic, eschewing them for pure emotion. They’ve created a narrative where everything is zero-sum. If we are to win, then others must lose. If others make gains, they are the reason for our losses. They demand that everything goes their way, preaching that compromise is weakness and pragmatism is cowardice. Worst of all, they channel not only anger and dissatisfaction, but turn it into hatred. This is not what conservatism means to me and many others – a ‘silent majority,’ if you will – but, this is the new reality on the right.
The populist right is a reactionary movement. In the US, it was driven by the leftward shift during the Obama years. In the UK, it was born out of the years of Labour Party rule and rose to prominence due to the financial crisis. For Canada, we are experiencing a leftward shift as well as economic struggles, and it’s my worry that reactionaries may become a growing part of the conservative coalition.
The Left is not blameless in this issue. The term ‘reactionary’ finds its roots in the word ‘reaction’. In this case, it is referring to the militant nature that the Left has taken on.
It’s becoming altogether too common that when debating or discussing policy with those on the left, they will pivot the discussion away from the facts and logic of either side and instead focus on the character of the person opposite. What should be disagreements over policy suddenly turns into a defense of the moral character of the person from the right. Racism, sexism, bigotry become the labels for what are, ostensibly, logical and reasoned arguments. As a result, what happened with the right is that those accusations began falling on deaf ears, and when those that were genuinely bigoted began crawling out of the woodworks, a growing section of the right began to either ignore or embrace those viewpoints since they thought they would be accused of bigotry anyways, or because it spites those on the left. Now, I won’t claim that I or the rest of the ‘silent majority’ of conservatives are saints. I’ve traded insults in debates before. After all, everyone’s human. But, insults peppered into a reasoned argument are not the same as attacks on character in place of such arguments.
Now, I’m not saying that the blame rests on the Left for the status of the Right, but rather, that it was a factor. A factor that I wanted to bring to the attention of (what I assume) is a left-leaning readership. The overwhelming factor for the status of the right is that many on the right refuse to exorcise the demons we have because we’d rather ignore those demons in order to win elections than to take the necessary steps to face them. It is disgusting that we have let a reactionary wound fester on the political right. In America and the UK, the Right waited too long and the results of that negligence can be seen today. Here in Canada, we can tackle this populist problem before it becomes one. It may be divisive on the Right, but I’d rather have a right-wing that is divided in the pursuit of rescuing the soul of the conservative movement than have a toxic movement that lumbered on for a short while in pursuit of electoral victory.