Something many people on the American left, broadly defined, have trouble accepting is that their opponents are reactionaries. They aren’t just people who, for example, don’t like to pay taxes because they prefer having more money to living in a less unjust society, or who support white supremacy and patriarchy simply because they have defective moral characters, and who are therefore bigoted or hateful in some non-ideological way.
To the contrary, the American right, broadly defined, is bound together by a quite coherent set of ideological commitments. And these specific commitments that are products of a more general reactionary world view.
Reactionaries, above all, support hierarchy over equality. Reactionaries do so because they believe the world is organized around natural hierarchies. That inferiors should be subject to the rule of their superiors is for the reactionary the simplest and most straightforward of tautologies, and the rejection of this frame is a form of madness.
The appropriate social hierarchy is one that recognizes this truth. All political movements based on the idea of equality are perversions of nature. Just as God is superior to man and parents are superior to their children, men are superior to women, white people are superior to other races, rich people are superior to poor people (their relative wealth is merely a manifestation of the natural and thus inevitable and desirable social hierarchy), etc.
A just society is one that defends, or restores, these natural hierarchies. Thus America 100 years ago was in many ways superior to America today, not despite what progressives call “racism” and “sexism” and “classism” etc., but precisely because it reflected a natural hierarchy (handed down to us by God or Darwin, depending on the metaphysical priors of the contemporary reactionary), in which superior people ruled over their inferiors.
In other words, progressives support social equality because they refuse to accept that people are fundamentally unequal, and not merely at the individual level, but because they belong to various groups that are arranged hierarchically, by God or nature. Men are superior to women, white people are superior to the colored races, the rich and industrious are superior to the poor and lazy, and so on and on.
All this is so perfectly obvious to the reactionary mind that it hardly needs to be defended. What is also clear is that the practitioners of left wing politics, ranging from welfare state liberals to Maoist cultural revolutionaries, refuse to recognize these truths. This is why “the left” is so obsessed with bringing about social equality, which is a profound perversion of the natural order.
It’s important to recognize what the right wing in this country actually wants, which is counter-revolution. And the revolutions it opposes go back both to our own, and, in a sense even more fundamentally, the French Revolution, which for all reactionaries is the root source for pernicious ideas in the modern world.
Here’s a brief practical example of the sort of conclusion flows from this: When Leonard Leo, the head of the Federalist Society, celebrates the appointment of judges who will help restore “limited government” and “constitutional originalism,” what he’s really arguing for is a radical reactionary politics: one which literally wants to make world view of 18th century Anglo-American elites the basis for contemporary social organization.
The standard Federalist Society arguments that the Constitution requires reactionary political outcomes should be understood as normative arguments for reactionary political outcomes, masquerading as formal legal reasoning. Leonard Leo, Randy Barnett, Richard Epstein et. al. want to dismantle the modern welfare state because they are political reactionaries, who present their political preferences as legal arguments, when they are actually political arguments, no different than arguments for getting rid of the estate tax.
Of course it turns out that getting rid of the estate tax is actually required by the Constitution as well. Indeed Constitution worship in general is the quintessence of radical reactionary thought, since any even halfway historically accurate interpretation of that document requires organizing society along the lines considered most appropriate by the political elites of the 18th century Anglo-American world.
That is obviously a radical vision, but it’s important to recognize that it is also the actual ideology of the contemporary American right wing, which is a radically reactionary political movement.
A few concluding notes:
*Radical reactionaries go to great lengths to disguise, especially to themselves, that they are in fact radical reactionaries. Naturally radical reactionaries are in favor of political (as opposed to actual) equality for everyone: it’s just that political equality generates radically unequal actual results, because men and women naturally have different abilities and interests, as do members of different races and social classes, and if you deny this you are denying either God’s revealed truth or what Science tells us, or maybe both, and also too that makes you the real racist/sexist etc.
*Libertarians are just radical reactionaries whose beliefs don’t have explicit theocratic underpinnings. Laissez faire capitalism simply replaces the divine right of kings with the quasi-divine right of plutocrats.
*The concept of “political correctness” is a key weapon in the rhetorical arsenal of radical reactionaries. Pointing out that radical reactionaries are radical reactionaries is the essence of what radical reactionaries consider political correctness, as is criticizing radical reactionaries, who are champions of free speech, defined as the right to be a radical reactionary without being described as such.