This isn’t war. Ricky Revolutionary wasn’t Crispus Attucks. January 6 wasn’t the Boston Massacre. And Charlie Kirk isn’t Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, no matter how many times he calls himself a “dissident” between commercial breaks on his nationally syndicated radio program. In totalitarian societies, you find dissidents wasting away in labor camps, not stopping into the first-class lounge on their way to the next speaking engagement.
We are at a peculiar moment in history when “You support the regime!” is an indictment hurled at conservatives by people who think of themselves as conservatives. Supporting the regime — with qualifications, with the knowledge that it is not synonymous with the current administration or its policies, and with “conversation so nicely / Restricted to What Precisely / and If and Perhaps and But” — is pretty much what conservatives do: Keeping irresponsible radicals well away from the levers of political power is part of the conservative mandate. Which is what makes it so damned peculiar to see these callow little men citing Edmund Burke as the animating spirit of their reconstituted Jacobinism. Whatever it is to dream of storming some new Bastille and manning ranks of literal or metaphorical guillotines, it isn’t conservatism. What is happening on the right is a kind of reverse ménage à trois, a three-way divorce in which conservatives are going one way, rightist revolutionaries are going another way, and a few Republican true-believers are pretending that this is just a bump in the road of an otherwise healthy relationship, trying to convince the other two to keep it together for the sake of the kids.