Thursday, December 22, 2022

Richard Hanania Between Parties and Systems

Richard Hanania is a sort of libertarian-leaning grouch, one of the people who thinks the right thing to do is obvious but other people don't see it because of their ignorance, stupidity, or ideological blinders. I read him because he is smart and willing to call out anybody who is being foolish, regardless of their party or belief system.

From his 2022 wrap-up I discovered that he is also willing to change his mind in public:

In February, I argued that Russia’s imminent successful invasion of Ukraine was a sign heralding in a new era of multipolarity. By October, I declared every challenge to liberal democracy dead and Fukuyama the prophet of our time. It’s embarrassing to have two contradictory pieces written seven months apart. But it would’ve been more embarrassing to persist in believing false things. If there’s any time to change one’s mind, it’s in the aftermath of large, historical events that went in ways you didn’t expect. Russia’s failure in Ukraine and China’s Zero Covid insanity provided extremely clear and vivid demonstrations of what democratic triumphalists have been saying about the flaws of autocracy. Nothing that the US or Europe have done – from the Iraq War to our own overly hysterical response to the coronavirus – have been in the same ballpark as these Chinese and Russian mistakes. Perhaps the war on terror comes close in terms of total destruction and lives lost, but we could afford to be stupid and it didn’t end up hurting Americans all that much.

This shows, I would say, that one of the problems with the grouchy loner worldview can be short-sightedness. Such people can be so focused on attacking the folly of the moment that they lose sight of the big picture. As far as I am concerned, you have to forget a lot of history to think that dictatorship has a better record than democracy on anything. A dictatorship may maintain order and promote growth for a while by shutting down ugly political battling and sweeping aside foolish objections to development, but in the long run the imperatives of power usually screw things up for everyone but the dictator. No modern dicatatorship has created a state that rivals the rich democracies in either order or dynamism.

Hanania built a Substack following, and got a reputation as a conservative, by waging war on woke culture in pieces like "Why Do I Hate Pronouns More Than Genocide?" But he is not any kind of orthodox or reliable conservative, and in his latest piece he explains his gripe with the contemporary Republic Party:

For reasons I’ll expand on below, I’m becoming more alienated from conservatives, and therefore less interested in trying to promote total victory for one side in the culture war. The continuing and growing power of the anti-vaxx movement is perhaps the clearest demonstration that something has gone horrifyingly wrong on the Right. And yes, I know the smarter among them say they’re just “anti-mandate,” but the culture is clearly anti-vaxx, with Trump getting booed at rallies for telling his old and overweight fans to do the responsible thing and conservative influencers proudly talking about how they avoided the jab and making fun of those that didn’t.

Republicans may be generally preferable, but when the next great technological breakthrough comes, I’m confident that if it turns into a salient political issue it’ll be the Right that wants to ban it. On the vaccine issue specifically, the odds of us having another Operation Warp Speed if a Republican is in office when the next pandemic hits are low. There’s no way to justify this – it is simply a tragedy, and reveals that when you build a movement that caters to low IQ and paranoid people you can’t hope to control the results. If the next pandemic is even worse than covid, those who’ve promoted anti-vaxx could be responsible for millions of lives lost.

He is also shifting his views on some social issues, because he thinks Republicans are being crazy about euthanasia and especially abortion:

I still have contempt for the pronoun people, but I’ve found that there are a lot of people, like actual adults, who call things “Satanist” or “demonic” unironically and my instinctual reaction to them is similar. Aside from annoyances on Twitter, two big events from 2022 pushed me in a more liberal direction on social issues. First, there was the Dobbs decision. I always knew that conservatives wanted to overturn Roe and many of them hoped to ban abortion, and that this would be horrible, but it didn’t hit home until it happened. All the things that feminists have been saying about men wanting to take away women’s freedoms and controlling them are starting to sound more reasonable, and I’m glad there’s been a lot of electoral pushback against the anti-choice position. I now stand with women.
I find this interesting partly because I think Trump got a lot of important support from people with Hanania's mindset; not very ideological, just sick of liberals, grouchy about the state of the country, and hoping that a tough guy could clean things up. It seems to me that the grouches who have not fallen into conspiracy theories are a lot less into Trump than they were in 2016, and maybe less enraged at the Democrats. Not that they necessarily think any more of liberal ideology than they did, but with power the Republicans have demonstrated that their own ideology can also lead to actions that strike such people as crazy. Hanania now divides his time between attacking the woke and attacking the anti-vaxx, Q-believing crowd, leaving his vote, and those of his follwers, up for grabs, likely going to whoever can come across as toughest and most sensible.

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