There is No Left. There is No Right.
April 6, 2020
“Now what’s the next step of your master plan?”
“Crashing this plane…with no survivors!”
2020 has been a year of indisputable reckoning as what was supposed to be the age of either democratic socialism or right-wing populism has morphed into pandemic and institutional collapse. A major bailout of big business, like 2008, has just passed, but unlike 2008 it did so at a moment where both the left and the right were poised in their respective halls to seize power. Donald Trump was President and last week teased a moratorium on evictions, with Mitt Romney mentioning we might even need a universal basic income. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, supposed titans of the left-wing movement against big business and lobbyists, were both high-profile Senators running off the fumes of highly respected and highly popular Presidential campaigns. And yet, the bailout won’t even lift the limp arm of the fake financial indicators, like the Dow Jones, much less stave off economic ruin for ordinary Americans. The mistakes of the past have been repeated. Even after Occupy Wall Street, after Bernie 2016, and after Bernie 2020, all we have is “a change in the conversation”. Material anti-oligarchic power could not be farther from reality. Proving how power truly works, just hours after news of the bailout passed, United Airlines announced it would lay off workers the second the six-month stipulation against mass layoffs ended. The same will occur with stock buybacks. The corporations, who had wasted all their money, get to loot the treasury. Again. American families, on the other hand, are being told to save, save, save.
Yarvin: From Red Pill to Clear Pill
In this crucial moment in American politics, long-time reactionary blogger Curtis Yarvin, the man who coined the very term ‘red pill’ in relation to right-wing politics, has a new take on things – don’t. Yarvin has gone full circle in his arguments that American politics is more or less a psy-op, settling on a new idea: the ‘clear pill’. When politics is being sold, argues Yarvin, simply refuse to buy. Yarvin’s message couldn’t come at a more prescient time. Had Bernie Sanders won the Presidency, we’d be living in a scenario wherein the left finally got to announce that they won, and they won big. The far-right goofed around with Donald Trump, and got a manager-in-chief assigned to watch over the joint-stock assemblies of the United States. In other words, they got nothing. The left, in Sanders, stood poised for ascendance. Yet, also with Sanders, they got a man terrified to even call Joe Biden (who is now credibly accused of rape) corrupt or anything less than an upstanding human being. Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, will end his life campaigning for Joe Biden, the man behind the last bailout and trillion-dollar Wall Street giveaway. He will do so while continuing to spout a canard about progressivism in America, after just failing to win the Presidency on the basis of the strongest progressive Presidential campaign attempted in recent American history. Bernie, like all socialists, will die a gnostic – the pure one who died, the secular version of the white lamb sacrificed by Pilate. Good for him. As for the rest of us, we get collapse.
Of course, the left didn’t even have a week to make sense of Sanders’ failure. A week after Super Tuesday, Donald Trump had closed down the country several weeks too late to stop the spread of coronavirus, which is rapidly accelerating every harmful economic trend in the country, obliterating employment figures, massacring small businesses, and generally transforming America into one big Zoom call locked up in his home, as main street literally loses the ability to pay its rents and the local mall turns into a museum of late capitalism, so late it never actually ends. The ‘clear pill’ invites us in with the allure of forgoing politics altogether. After all, if Bernie got blown out in Michigan by Joe, what hope would Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, his far less experienced and far woker counterpart, possibly have? And yet, the coping has already reached “AOC 2024” levels on the left. The same left, by the way, who believed to the bitter end that Elizabeth Warren would stand up for something and endorse Bernie Sanders, if not for us, the irrelevant peasants, at least for her credibility as an advocate of trust-busting and Medicare for All. Recently, Warren launched the “Warren Democrats”, choosing to ignore Sanders’ grassroots infrastructure altogether after refusing to take a stand against the bailout. Warren knows better than to sink a good job/branding opportunity, especially when it may be the very Vice Presidency she was considered for in 2016. Like Bernie, Warren has a bright future as a figurehead while all the mistakes of ’08 roll back in like a blood-dimmed tide, on her watch.
Something from nothing
Something is happening, precisely because nothing is happening. Nothing came of Our Revolution, save for the delusion that Our Revolution merely needs to be tried one more time. And it’s not like the left is alone in this. The right, the true intellectual right, is as hapless, impotent, and confused as ever as well. Remember that Curtis Yarvin, the man now pitching the ‘clear pill’, of total disbelief of political narratives, has done so due to his disillusionment with the red pill.
In the corners of online, the bright young upstarts of esoteric right-wing Twitter are, more or less, going nuts. Literary phenom Logo Daedalus has carried out his Thomas Pynchon/CIA rabbit hole to the point of unironically advocating for Q Anon, the cliché of “trust the plan”, deference in all matters to Trump. Bronze Age Pervert, quasi-illiterate author of Bronze Age Mindset, has resorted to mind-melting wastes of time like tweeting feverishly about the need to arrest Dr. Fauci to foil a deep state plot against Trump. The right-wing is LARPing. In the most non-physical period of human existence, body-building and repetitive pick up artist-tier ‘wisdom’ is combined with feverish paranoia to produce a thing that is unsustainable and more or less a cult.
Tradcaths and Sohrab Ahmari
More prominent right-wingers, particularly in the Catholic sphere, such as Sohrab Ahmari and others, write passionately about virtue as a concept and yet lend it no content. In railing against the failures of classical liberalism, they fail to put forward an actionable model of what it actually means to resist liberalism. Adrian Vermeule proposed recently in The Atlantic that right-wing judges should rule from an understanding of the common good, but the definition of the good is fractured in our age. We result, like the conservative movement of the past twenty years, in a contradictory model of reality where corporations have human rights and Eric Garner deserved to die for selling loosies. The law schools will not produce just souls. What laws would a reactionary state have? What is the proper response to moral crimes against the Catholic Church in a post-liberal society? None of these questions have answers from the right because the right cannot conceive of details, and merely rallies around concepts, the same way that the left does when they lionize Bernie Sanders and AOC and ignore abject failures of governance enacted by those figures in a time of crisis which should be advantageous for their radical ideas, not sealing the door on them for good.
In recent days, the word ‘LARPing’ has become one of my favorites. Originated to describe Live Action Role-Playing, or, a bunch of nerds pretending they’re in a real struggle with life and death at stake, LARPers are actually just donning costumes and playing pretend politics. Their ideas always remain ideas. They achieve no structural or material change, and fail, over and over again, to influence civilization writ large. Their goal is to build brands, and cults, and enrich leaders of their various movements. Enacting any kind of change is an impossibility. After all, we’re all just LARPing. The swords are fake. The helmets are fake. At the end of the day, we’re all market liberals, waiting for checks in the mail that will be late, and insufficient. And all this, after years of sound and fury.
There is no left. There is no right. In the realm of material power, however, there is McConnell, Pelosi, and United Airlines. Donald Trump’s approval rating handling the coronavirus crisis is 60 percent. No matter how you slice it, radical ideas are failing. Will the radicals notice?