‘The reasonable right’s rhetoric is exactly the same as the antebellum rhetoric … Rhetoric, to be precise, in support of the slave-owning South…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Once counted foremost among the virtues of sound and effective leadership, calls for reason and civility in politics are now considered racist in left-wing circles, according to an op-ed that ran Thursday in The Washington Post.
Writer Eve Fairbanks—a freelance commentator for liberal mouthpieces like The New Republic, HuffPo and Buzzfeed—charged in her recent take-down of a movement dubbed the “reasonable right,” embraced by conservative thinkers like Ben Shapiro, that its arguments closely mirrored those of Southern leaders prior to the Civil War.
Fairbanks—a self-described history buff who grew up in northern Virginia—wrote, “The reasonable right’s rhetoric is exactly the same as the antebellum rhetoric … Rhetoric, to be precise, in support of the slave-owning South.”
However, she made no mention in her historical account of nation-rending episodes like the “Bleeding Kansas” movement, in which non-slave-holding settlers in the midwestern territory were brutally murdered and pillaged by free-soil abolitionists as politicians haggled over whether to allow slavery in the proposed state.
“Proslavery rhetoricians talked little of slavery itself,” Fairbanks wrote. “Instead, they anointed themselves the defenders of ‘reason,’ free speech and ‘civility.'”
Whether the abolitionist ends justified the means of radicals like John Brown—whose acts of domestic terrorism helped trigger Southern secession—continues to be debated today.
Still, Fairbanks’ false equivalency between antebellum and modern-day calls for compromise is all the more shocking when the context of slavery is removed.
“All of this is there in the reasonable right,” wrote Fairbanks: “The claim that they are the little people struggling against prevailing winds. The argument that they’re the ones championing reason and common sense. The allegation that their interlocutors aren’t so much wrong as excessive; they’re just trying to think freely and are being tormented. The reliance on hyperbole and slippery slopes to warn about their adversaries’ intentions and power.”
As she goes on to dismiss the notion that members of the “reasonable right” are a suppressed minority, Fairbanks leaves lingering the insinuation that the modern Right supports slavery—or some contemporary version thereof. But others have connected the dots for her.
At a recent campaign stop in North Carolina, in a bid to downplay valid criticisms of divisive left-wing pandering, Sen. Kamala Harris declared that political opponents had supplanted ‘coded’ language like “race card” with new ‘dog-whistle’ terms like “identity politics.”
Others, such as the far-left members of “The Squad” have made race-baiting a signature part of their rhetoric, no matter the argument—whether addressing border security, the Electoral College or plans to nationalize vast sectors of the American economy.
“Many reasonable-right figures find themselves defending the liberties of people to the right of them,” Fairbanks said. “Not because they agree with these people, they say, but on principle.”
She accused conservative centrists of passive-aggressively enabling extremism and guilting leftist radicals into silence by weaponizing their so-called tolerance against them.
“Joining the reasonable right seems to render these figures desirable contributors to center-left media outlets,” Fairbanks said.
“That’s because, psychologically, the claim to victimhood can function as a veiled threat,” she continued. “It tricks the listener into entering a world where the speaker is the needy one, fragile, requiring the listener to constantly adjust his behavior to cater to the imperiled person.”
“With this threat, the reasonable right has recruited the left into serving its purpose,” she asserted. “Media outlets and college campuses now go to extraordinary lengths to prove their ‘balance’ and tolerance, bending over backward to give platforms to right-wing writers and speakers who already have huge exposure.”
Fairbank’s argument implicitly invoked a leftist trope of the inevitable march toward ‘progress’ that puts supporters of the status-quo on the ‘wrong side of history.’
“If somebody says liberals have become illiberal, you should consider whether it’s true,” Fairbanks wrote. “But you should also know that this assertion has a long history … People who make this claim aren’t ‘renegades.’ They’re heirs to an extremely specific tradition in American political rhetoric, one that has become a dangerous inheritance.”
Yet, her myopic historical analysis misses one crucial point: The radical Left’s insistence on its own unyielding rectitude often leads to violent and bloody outcomes.
Prudent though it may have been for former President Abraham Lincoln, R-Ill., to “hang his hat” on the abolitionist movement, continuing, without cause, to beat the drums of a 150-plus-year-old grievance assures that the same turmoil which defined America’s past will also guide its future.