By Roger Kimball - amgreatness.com |
Is there a disturbance in the force? I think there might be. In just the last week, the chainsaw-wielding "anarcho-capitalist" Javier Milei won the presidential election in Argentina, the Freedom Party of Islamo-realist Geert Wilders trounced its opponents in the snap general election in the Netherlands, and, here at home, a Republican was elected mayor of Charleston for the first time since 1877.
The Zeitgeist would seem to be awake and on the move.
What is it waking from? I agree with those who say it is waking from wokeness.
In this context, it is not irrelevant to point out that Donald Trump, who has consistently been leading in almost all GOP polls since the 2024 election campaign began, has surged even further ahead. As I write, an Emerson poll has Trump ahead of his competition by 64 to 8 for DeSantis, and 9 for Nikki Haley. The hoary meme of conventional wisdom cautions that even if Trump wins the nomination it won't matter because he is unpopular with the American people.
Alas for that scrap of anti-Trump prognostication, the former president has also pulled ahead of his likely opponent Joe Biden. Some earlier polls had Trump tied or ahead by a fraction of a point. The current polls have him ahead in the general election by some 4, 6, or more points.
Are these phenomena related? I say yes. They are all part of a growing revulsion against the real-world, reality-show version of The Camp of the Saints, the dystopian novel, originally published in French, about what happens when mass immigration from the third-world overwhelms Europe and America. I will not be giving anything away when I note that the result is the collapse of civilization.
If you look up "Camp of the Saints" on Wikipedia, you will be told that the book has been criticized "for conveying themes" - odd locution - of "racism, xenophobia, nativism, monoculturalism, and anti-immigration." "The novel," we read, "is popular within far-right and white nationalist circles." It is popular with me, too. But good luck, if you don't already know the book, finding out for yourself. Camp of the Saints has been out of print for years and efforts to prise loose the rights from its publisher have been for naught. Currently, a paperback copy of the English version sells for about $200 on Amazon; the hardcover will set you back $4,155.15. (I think the 15 cents is a nice touch).
Of course, the fate of Camp of the Saints is but one thread in the larger tapestry we see being woven in world politics now.
What makes that thread important is its underlying theme. Which is - what?
The superficial, but not incorrect, answer is immigration.
Push a little on "immigration" and you wind up talking about such things as national identity, the location of sovereignty, and the lineaments of political legitimacy.
What makes a regime legitimate? What tends to undermine that legitimacy? Ponder that and you will find yourself contemplating the role of political elites in the metabolism of Western "democracy." I supply air quotes because in many cases we are not talking about the rule of the people, which of course is what democracy means, but rather rule of the bureaucrats, not all of whom are made or can be unmade by elections. This is where "the administrative state" comes in, a phrase that did not gain general circulation (though the reality it names is decades older) until the advent of Donald Trump. In the United States, as I have often observed, the people who are really in charge of the governmental apparatus implicitly believe that "democracy" means "rule by Democrats." Anything else they regard as contra naturam, against the nature of (virtuous) things, and therefore beneath consideration.
All of that is background to the dramas unfolding in places like the Netherlands and Argentina. The Guardian, an old-school repository of leftwing sentiment, claims to be agitated by the unexpected triumph of Geert Wilders in the recent Dutch general election. Wilders's victory, The Guardian warns, "threatens to take the normalisation of nativist populist politics in Europe to a dangerous new level." The bit about the "normalisation of nativist populist politics" is correct, if impolitely phrased, but the question is: is it proper to describe that as "dangerous"? Maybe "salvific" would be closer to the truth? The Guardian complains that Wilders campaigned on "a nakedly Islamophobic manifesto."
But is "Islamophobia" the correct term? Back when Islamists were steering airliners into skyscrapers, beheading journalists, and murdering filmmakers in broad daylight, I was fond of pointing out that "Islamophobia" was a striking misnomer. A "phobia" describes an irrational fear. But what is irrational about fearing people who loudly, repeatedly, ostentatiously declare their intention to destroy you and then follow up on those declarations with murderous actions? Just to stick with the post-9/11 world, I am thinking of such things as the Bali bombing of 2022 (204 dead, 240 injured), the Madrid train bombing of 2004 (192 dead, 2,050 injured), the London bombings of 2005 (52 dead, nearly 800 injured), the Mumbai train bombings of 2006 (209 dead, 700 injured), and more, so many more.
Wilders made a name for himself combatting the murderous rage of Muslim extremists. The Guardian doesn't like what it describes as his "anti-migrant agenda." But since most of those "migrants" are Muslim, a good many of whom have indicated their preference for establishing Sharia law in the Netherlands, I think that Wilders has political reality, if not progressive ideology, on his side.
Will he actually be able to form a government? That remains to be seen.
I'd say the odds were in his favor, especially at a moment when lunatic jihadists groups like Hamas have not only indulged in their favorite kinetic sport of killing Jews en masse but have also mobilized anencephalic progressive ideologues on campuses across the Western world.
We don't have to wait to to discover the political fate of Javier Milei. He handily won the presidential election on November 19, 56 percent to 44 percent, and will take power on December 10.
I think Milei is one of the most refreshing figures to appear on the political scene in a long time. I suspect that his flamboyant style makes him easy to underestimate. How appalling, for example, that this son of a bus driver should dismiss the Argentinian political establishment as "shit socialists" and "libtards," "collectivists" who want to destroy their opponents. "You can't give them an inch," he warns, "you can't negotiate with leftards because they will kill you." Impolitic, yes. But is it untrue?
In a remarkable speech he gave on November 24, Milei used burgeoning power to speak truth to power. He has not come, he said in a phrase he has used often, to "guide lambs but to awaken lions." A new Argentina is impossible with "the same old people." But the party is over, Milei warned. Henceforth, politicians, formerly the privileged elite, will be treated like ordinary honest Argentine citizens. The people, he said, are those awakening lions who will "devour the thieving politicians. They will devour the prebendary businessmen. They will devour the unionists who betray their people."
Milei believes that a turning point has been reached and that change of the sort he envisions is inevitable.
"This works just like an exponential function," he said.
"At some point, there was a turning point and now they cannot stop it!"
I hope that he is right. The forces of inertia, to say nothing of the forces of entrenched interest, are still with the establishment and they are powerful.
But the point is that figures like Milei, Wilders, and William Cogswell, the new Republican mayor of Charleston, show that a counter-narrative is brewing.
Will it prevail over the dominant "progressive" dispensation?
No one knows for sure.
I take the panic sweeping like a tsunami through the fetid corridors of the Left as a good sign. They are worried, which means that the rest of us have grounds for hope.
Too bad it takes a disaster to wake most people up. Try to warn them and they won't believe you until they wake up in a nightmare. Better late than never though.