Passive conservatism was so thoroughly terrorized away from social issues over the past generation that it became reluctant to engage even when leftists are clearly the aggressors and their attacks are utterly dishonest.The "Strange New Respect" thing dates back to 1992 or thereabouts, when a conservative writer named Tom Bethell first codified it:
The debate on the passive Right was never about pushing back or fighting, especially not by top-tier Republican officials looking to preserve their “electability.” The only serious topic of discussion was how much ground to yield, how many of the Left’s premises to agree with.
The idea was that yielding all cultural battles to the Left would allow Republicans to focus on “fiscal conservatism” and win over moderate voters who only care about pocketbook issues. Curiously, the Left never saw it that way, not for an instant.
As we would learn, ceding cultural battles to the Left without a fight, or actively helping them to score a little Strange New Respect and maybe some roundtable seats, made the “pocketbook issues” largely irrelevant. The Left frames everything in moral terms now.
If you’re not familiar with the “strange new respect” trope, a short primer. The American Spectator’s Tom Bethell introduced the concept in a 1992 article to ridicule the practice of liberal journalists who would reward conservative politicians who migrated from right to left by commenting in print on how they were now commanding “strange new respect” in Washington, showing “growth,” “maturity,” “wisdom,” and “thoughtfulness.”As I recall, David Broder of the Washington Post was often the guy who would bestow Strange New Respect. John McCain was a full-blown junkie for it, but as we know it was always a provisional honor. McCain was respected as long as he didn't contest the Left too seriously -- when he became the Republican nominee for president in 2008, he was a monster, but only until the election was over.
Back to Hayward:
What passive conservatism ceded to the Left was righteousness. Every left-wing issue is presented as a righteous crusade which no one can legitimately resist. The motives of dissenters are ruthlessly challenged and they are damned as apostates by the Church of the State.Again, this is spot-on. And it's ground that our pal Gino has been tilling for years now. And Hayward's suggestion that the State is a Church is 100% accurate as well. It's all straight out of Eric Hoffer, but it's mostly a product of people trying to find a substitute for the social structures that they've rejected, as Jennifer Kabbany notes:
The Left gained an almost unchallenged ability to designate cultural villains and target them for destruction, an ability they were boldly exercising against the Covington kids until citizen-journalists brought them up short with amateur video.
Meanwhile, the Right was completely stripped of righteousness. It cannot present anything as a moral crusade, not even when it speaks up for unborn children or victims of violent crime — not even when it champions those the Left allegedly cares about, like the “working class.”
The passive Right lost the ability to project righteousness even when defending core American principles, and indeed the pillars of Western civilization, like the presumption of innocence. The Left openly demands we sacrifice those things for their crusades.
In the absence of a strong family identity, young people look for meaning and belonging. It may be a feminist, a socialist, or a Democrat tribe. The only requirement is that the tribe define itself in some way as a victim of the predominantly white, western culture and its institutions. Thus, if you challenge such a person’s tribal identity—perhaps by declaring that “there is only one race, the human race” or “I believe the most qualified person should get the job”—it is perceived as a threat to his existence. You threaten his life’s meaning. It’s much harder to practice tolerance if you think a challenge to your ideas is a challenge to your significance. It’s a recipe for endless division. The hunger for identity is what fuels the mob-ready grievance culture …Kids from a suburban Catholic high school wearing MAGA hats are a threat because they aren't down with the struggle. Middle-aged middle managers writing early morning blog posts at their dining room tables are not. I'm easy enough to ignore and I prefer it that way. If young Nicholas Sandmann were to take off his MAGA hat and get on the platform with David Hogg, he'd get Strange New Respect for sure. But for now, he's a smug little bastard who deserves to get punched, or put into a wood chipper. Because compassion.
Too many students are stuck in a bottomless pit of social media posturing, where there is nothing more meaningful to do than to find the “bad guy” who thinks differently, line up for a cellphone video, and chant your way to a feeling of righteousness.