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Liz Cheney as Humiliation Ritual
The Regime wants to know if you're with them or against them
The biggest news in domestic American politics in the past week was the absolutely shattering upset of Liz Cheney by Trump-backed challenger Harriet Hageman in Wyoming’s Republican primary for its at-large House seat. I mean, she got smashed worse than a wine aunt who just lost a national championship cat show. In a race that should have been hers for the taking, she was instead defeated by 37 points in one of the worst primary losses suffered by a sitting politician in recent history. If I sound like I’m vicariously gloating, it’s because I am.
Yet, if you were to listen to what the world of Never Trump is saying, you’d think that rather than an ignoble defeat caused by poor political decision-making, Cheney’s self-immolation was a glorious act of martyrdom for the cause of our sacred norms. Seriously, their cope for her loss is that she was too brave and too principled to do anything as tawdry as give the actual voters what they want. Cheney and the rest of Never Trump have seemed kind of bitter, like they’re angry at the voters for not getting with the program. At the same time, the current buzz involves Never Trump trying to gin up enthusiasm for a Cheney 2024 presidential run.
So yeah, there are a ton of Never Trumpers out there running with the line that Liz Cheney will be a serious contender to challenge Trump in the 2024 GOP primaries. “Now,” you might be thinking to yourself, “what on earth makes them think that she has a snowball’s chance in the great perdition of breaking even the low single digits?” And you would be correct. There is, in fact, zero chance that “she’s gonna get him next time!” Yet, why are a bunch of people who are supposedly savvy politicos and insiders trotting out such obvious nonsense?
What’s going on here is that these people are being put through a humiliation ritual, a peculiar kind of loyalty test that the Regime will often impose on its enemies, both potential and actual. These savvy politicos don’t really believe that Liz Cheney has any chance at all - but they have to say so if they want to remain in the good graces of the powers that be. Indeed, once you start paying attention to modern politics and culture, it’s amazing to see just how much of what goes on is basically this kind of loyalty test. Are you a Goodthinker who goes along with the sociocultural programming or are you a Badthinker who questions or rejects elements of the Regime’s playbook?
A few years ago, I wrote about the distinction between narratives and reality. There is a great gulf between what the Left says it believes and what actually is. What you see on the news and on social media has no bearing on reality or vice versa. But the thing to keep in mind is that none of this matters to the Left. They don’t actually want to convince or be convinced. The public face of their ideology and their policy decisions most often are not determined by some Rockwellesque ideal of public debate, but by social force.
And that’s where the humiliation ritual comes in. Every government in every age has had some form of way to gauge an individual’s loyalty to it, whether it be conformity to ideology, religion, national custom, or whatever else. Where humiliation rituals differ is that their aim is not only to determine or enforce loyalty, per se, but also to shame and reduce the target in social status, forcing the target to become more dependent upon The Powers That Be and rendering them ridiculous and “low caste” in the eyes of the public. The term goes back to the Latin humiliores which described those with low status in ancient Rome who were unable to fill many offices and were liable to more degrading and torturous punishments for crimes.
A humiliation ritual forces the victim to violate some taboo, some line that once it is crossed there is no going back. It asks them to go along with something that is morally or intellectually repugnant to them. In a sense, the humiliation itself is the punishment, but also reminds the victim that they are powerless, that they’ve already been made to submit to the ridiculous or shameful and can be punished again should their superior so choose. This is why gangs initiate new members via murder or rape - it makes the initiate cross a moral line that forever marks them indelibly. In a similar way, it’s why groups throughout history have used the violation of taboos such as cannibalism to break down and remold inductees into a new order.
The fact is that most of what the Left pushes in the culture war is designed to be a humiliation ritual for the population at large - either you acquiesce or you get cancelled, lose your job, lose your bank accounts, and get banished from polite society. The gay agenda, the transgender push, the radical abortion drive, it’s all about finding out who will bend the knee and cross the line - and who will not. You can either let a pink-haired, nose-ringed publik skool teechur convince your kid that they’re “really” the other gender or you can pay the price for your intransigence. Each of these pieces of the Left’s culture agenda, and many more, cross moral, ethical, and intellectual lines that forever sully the souls of those who come to support them.
But let me bring this back to Liz Cheney and the Never Trumpers. What conservatives need to understand is that there is a significant element within the “soft Right” of establishment Republicans - the David Frenches and Adam Kinzingers and Lincoln Projects and the rest - who have been coopted by the Left. Much of this subversion has involved the sort of humiliation ritualism that we’ve been talking about, but on a personal scale. Many of this type have been trapped into moral crimes and are being blackmailed. Many more vainly believe that by selling their souls for a few temporary kudos that they will be accepted as partners by the Left. They forget Solzhenitsin’s description of the Bolshevik purge of all other factions in the Russian Revolution after they consolidated their power. Once the Lincoln Project paedos are no longer needed, they’ll be tossed aside like so much rubbish.
Being forced into the clown act of stumping for a Liz Cheney presidential run is just a way to keep these people in their place. The Adam Kinzingers of this world are daily forced to mouth platitudes about “honour” and “patriotism” and “love for country” in support of a bunch of people who have none of these things. The Left’s insanely single-minded hatred of Donald Trump requires them to use their subverted proxies in the “mainstream conservative movement” to try to gaslight and undermine the genuine Right. The sooner the great mass of regular, everyday well-meaning conservatives realise that these Never Trumpers are not at all on their side, the sooner we will begin to see the Right begin to consistently score some victories against the Left. Never Trump is always going to support whatever their handlers tell them to support, if they know what’s good for them. As such, it’s time for otherwise reasonable and genuine conservatives to stop giving them an audience.
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