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Rule or Ruin Runs into the Not-So End of the World in 2023

Posted on Thursday, May 4, 2023
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AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Berman

The years 2021-2022 were the peak of “Rule or Ruin” among the left in America. A consensus grew among liberals, not just within the Democratic Party but stretching across academia and the media. They represented not a party or ideology but governance and democracy itself. If they did not rule, then government and institutions could not exist. And if they lost their rule, then ruin was the inevitable and natural consequence.

But something funny happened on the way to ruin. The world did not end. The GOP takeover of the House did not lead to anarchy, and the Supreme Court has not reconstituted itself as the high court of the inquisition. This has provided a chance for reflection. Instead of reflecting, too many on the left have fallen back on conspiracy theories and denial.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy cannot catch a break with the establishment media, or even many on his own side. The 96 hours it took him to secure the speakership were treated as a circus, with the political commentariat intoning that his eventual victory left him on borrowed time, unable to govern.

McCarthy is not only still speaker months later, but his control of the GOP House caucus and the floor is sufficient that there has been little to no news of infighting, while he has wielded committees with nearly the same efficacy of the much-lionized Nancy Pelosi. Most recently, McCarthy disappointed those predicting his early demise by securing the passage through the House of a debt limit bill with only Republican votes.

Has this prompted contrition among his critics, whether within the media, or his own party, especially those who targeted former President Donald Trump for the decision to back McCarthy? Hardly. Crickets are all that can be heard in that quarter.

Arguably, “crickets” could be used to describe the coverage received by anything that goes right for Kevin McCarthy or House Republicans. Reporters came for the expected infighting over Ukraine, Game of Thrones-tier backstabbing, and total dysfunction, which would allow House Democrats to sit back and eat popcorn. When none of that developed, they moved on elsewhere.

This response is unfortunate, but it also tells us a lot about what is wrong with American politics. Voices in the establishment media, academia, and even politicians themselves bemoan the lack of responsibility of the current political class, the inability of institutions to function, and how Congress is unable to pass laws. But they themselves have done more than almost anyone else to contribute to the problem by devoting their coverage solely to politicians who do not do their jobs, and institutions which are perceived as failing. Success or proper functioning is of no interest.

McCarthy’s tenure is a prime example but hardly the only one. The media anxiously covered every twist and turn about internal Republican debates over support for Ukraine and Taiwan when it looked like these would draw blood. Suddenly, they could not care less when McCarthy has managed to forge consensus on both issues.

If the media were actually interested in the high stakes that the debt limit debate poses for the country, they would have a greater interest in the legislation McCarthy actually managed to pass. After all, it will be the starting point for any future negotiations with the White House and Senate, and its passage will define the budget for the next year or two.

However, other than the acknowledgement it passed, there is shockingly little discussion of what was in it. What happened to the supposed concerns about Social Security and Medicare that formed the centerpiece of Joe Biden’s State of the Union?

McCarthy is not the only major national figure with a complaint here. Justice Samuel Alito recently provided remarks where he called out the campaign of vilification and delegitimization of the U.S. Supreme Court. This came on the heels of stories about alleged misconduct, which ranged from allegations Justice Thomas had visited a wealthy long-time friend abroad to the discovery on the Chief Justice’s Wikipedia page that his wife had a long-established legal career before Roberts’ elevation to the high court.

The media, always looking for evidence of dysfunction, was quick to interpret Alito’s remarks as “proof” the Court was dysfunctional, suffering a crisis of legitimacy, and that this was the story. On the one hand, this campaign of vilification was typical of the “rule or ruin” approach where the Left believes that control of institutions by anyone else leads directly to ruin. If the Supreme Court is not producing rulings in line with their values, it is not functioning at all. Either it is promoting liberal constitutionalism, or it is not doing the job of a court.

This outlook, when applied to Israel, explains why Israeli leftists conflated having a court which was not adversarial toward religion and nationalism with the absence of any separation of powers whatsoever. In this view, the court’s purpose was not to balance the rights of religious and non-religious, it was to keep the former in their place, much as it is in the U.S.

However, Alito was alluding to something different: not merely the vilification of the court, but the specific manner of that vilification. Alito obviously made no bones about defending the Dobbs decision, but his actual complaint was not with those who disagreed with the reasoning of the decision. Rather, Alito was angered that critics, especially within the legal community, were choosing not to criticize the decision but the Court itself for making it.

Alito of all people understood why individuals would vigorously disagree with decisions on issues such as same-sex marriage, but the suggestion that those earlier decisions were the result of corruption or malice would have been unthinkable.

No one suggested Justice Ginsberg was bribed into voting to uphold Roe or support Obergefell. The very concept would have been laughable.

Alito’s point was that suggestions that Clarence Thomas might have ruled in ways he has for decades because of corruption are absurd, those making the charges knew they were absurd, and yet they nevertheless continued to make them. Then the media reported on the decline of institutions. The Court was not being denounced as illegitimate because it was conservative, but was facing charges it was conservative because it was illegitimate.

The critics were not operating merely from the presumption that abortion objectively was a constitutional right, but that everyone, including the conservative justices must agree in private, with the direct charge being that public disagreement must from ulterior motives. Hence the obsession with whether Kavanaugh “lied” in his confirmation hearings about upholding stare decisis. The idea he could both respect the Justices who decided Roe and yet disagree was inconceivable. He must have been planning a bait and switch, probably due to personal corruption.

This brings us back to coverage of Kevin McCarthy’s House. The conviction within liberal circles is that the Democrats are not the party of liberal governance and democracy, but of governance and democracy full stop. This means, by definition, that if Democrats are not in charge, an institution cannot be functioning. Either it cannot be passing legislation or any legislation it is passing must be regressive. If Kevin McCarthy failed to pass a debt limit increase, it meant Republicans wished America to default. If he did, it must be part of a plot to trigger a default.

This is how we get the ideas that Republican legislation on Ukraine must be aimed at helping Russia; legislation on healthcare must be undermining access; legislation on the debt limit must be designed to make the U.S. default, and so on. Thus, Democrats and the media are confused when things occur that don’t match up.

It also explains the two responses to that confusion, viewed respectively when it comes to Kevin McCarthy and Samuel Alito. In the first case, faced with something that their worldview says cannot be happening, the media and liberals chose to pretend it is not happening. Hence the lack of coverage of McCarthy’s methodical successes. In the latter case, when the Supreme Court issues rulings, the response is not to try to understand them in terms of a different view of the Constitution or a different interpretation of the law, but rather as a result of conspiracy theories. Hence the focus on corruption.

The net effect is the same. “Rule or Ruin” is not so much a deliberate and calculated political strategy as an ideological understanding of the world which, like a cult, has taken hold of large parts of the country. It not only drives the reaction to expected events – such as the predicted Democratic midterm wipeout which would be a consequence of GOP “voter suppression” and “gerrymandering” – but an inability to comprehend unexpected events outside conspiracy theories.

Daniel Berman is a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He also writes as Daniel Roman.

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Abe Lincoln
Abe Lincoln
11 months ago

Great article, so true. You see how Leftists destroy countries with their Marxist Ideology

Casey C Matt
Casey C Matt
11 months ago

It is most unfortunate that Speaker McCarthy is just another machine “war whore”, who like his predecessor, Pelosi just had to go to Taiwan to stir up conflict with mainland China……even though US policy reckognizes a one China policy……in other words, Taiwan is part of China and not some sovereign state.
But of course how ya gonna feed your lobbyists from Raytheon or McDonnel Douglas if you aren’t always trying to start never ending wars leading to never ending purchases of weaponry with money we not only dont have but will borrow to add to the 3.2 trillion dollar deficit we are currently running and will never be able to repay.
So no, the world didn’t end but the US as a country sure is ending.

Ann S
Ann S
11 months ago

The charges, so called, by the dems, against justice Thomas are a fabrication to break up the Supreme Court by Brandon and the gang. Everything the GOP does is obstructed right away. Dialogue the dems do not want.
Cooperation they do not want. Brandon says unity but calls half the population fascists.
Just total control over everything.
There is no border problem there is no inflation, businesses are price gouging they say. The economy is great and the banks are solid. Only we hear another bank is going broke or is for sale, every week.
Stock market is going to drop by 45% but not to worry Brandon is in charge and Kamela is in charge of AI. That is ironic. Haha.

Tom
Tom
11 months ago

Brandon and the Keystone Kops are a party of personal attacks and defamation. They have not one positive idea. The good news is that these kind of people tend to start eating each other alive. Watch what happens when the FBI coughs up the news of Brandon’s pay for play. Brando can forget his time in the people’s house.

Sean Richman
Sean Richman
11 months ago

The biggest problem that AMERICA has today are the liberal,socialist,marxist democRATS and entities like pelosi,obama,soros,schwab and many others that are working for complete power for them and them only.Sloppy joey is only a preprogramed puppet with a crooked mouth.

Denise
Denise
11 months ago

Hoping that in the very near future the fact that democrats want only one thing, complete one party rule, will be discussed openly in these articles. But it’s not only democrats. George Bush Sr. in his presidential acceptance speech said…out loud: “We must usher in the New World Order.” I watched that speech and tho’ at the time didn’t understand the significance, I felt a bit uneasy. The big push by democrats and rinos to disarm this nation is ramping up and the lying leftist “media” is pushing the hype. If one does a serious deep search on nations disarmed over the last century the end result is the same. The methods may be somewhat different, but the bloody end is the game.
Don’t be complacent in thinking it can’t happen here, it is and it’s speeding up almost daily.
There are multiple hundreds of gun laws on the ATF website, if not thousands. Spent a “fun” evening on the site “firearms laws”… George Washington our first President said so succinctly; “Firearms are the liberty’s teeth.” That is the most important aspect of firearms; to defend against tyrannical rule.

Garyk
Garyk
11 months ago

Really an informative and honest article of why division is so strong in America today, thank you.
The establishment politicians and the self anointed media pundits ARE the problem.
Both don’t reflect what each should stand for or posess the common ideals required to honorably represent thoughts ,constituents and developments in the World today.
It seems honesty, integrity,commitment,individual thought and reasoning are necessary, they possess none of them.
It’s time for removing the stay forever, party first,dishonest, self serving people in both Washington and the media.
Stop and think for a minute, can we name ANY of them who aren’t stuck in their own quagmire of the status quo???
Be difficult to discern and a VERY short list.

Ron Berti
Ron Berti
11 months ago

Berman was brilliant here, I think. What he’s pointing to a sort of cultural narcissism, in which the group identity is key and compete, where any ideas of good faith on the other side go to die. That’s why there’s so much ontological certainty on the Left, it’s why they’re so intolerant, and so self-righteous and easily insulted. It’s all personal and you’re illegitimate.

Chuck
Chuck
11 months ago

I avoid being a pessimist, but as I read about and see all of the chaos and destruction created by the commie leftists and RINOs, aka Uniparty, I keep thinking of the quote, “This is the way the world ends; not with a bang but a whimper.” It appears that we can’t even count on true conservative republicans (if such a thing even exists anymore) to put up a real fight against the tyranny being imposed on us. So I guess we’re not going out in a blaze of glory, but instead whimper under the rule of the commie leftists. God help us.

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