Conservatives have a variety of idiosyncrasies, and almost all of them amount to losing, giving up, or faux outrage consisting of sound and fury inevitable leading to falsely superior smugness. Nowhere is this more on display than the inane conservative “cult” of the gentleman.
Whether it’s accessorizing his latest cravat, or kvetching about anything they deem “beneath them”, conservative seem to salivate with joy at the prospects of proving how committed they are to "decency" and "fair play". Paul Ryan lost no time earlier this week fretting over “alt-conservatism” being “not who we are”. We’ve heard no end to the screeching and scribbling from the bow-tied sub-Buckeyites about Donald Trump’s vulgarity and crassness. After all, actually fighting the left might require more than a strongly worded essay.
Harvard philosopher Harvey Mansfield presents the most intellectualized version of these arguments in a recent Wall Street Journal article. Trump, Mansfield argues, “is no gentleman”. And thank the heavens that’s the case!
A gentleman, Mansfield notes “is a man who is gentle by habit and character, and not because he is somehow forced to be”. Well and good, but a gentleman is the result of stability and a culture with a sense of who it is and clear definitions of what it expects of its men. When politics becomes existential, as in war, the gentleman is the first causality.
In a time when Europe is being overrun in a migrant invasion and the United States is seemingly rushing head first into becoming a post-modern Brazil writ large, what we need aren’t more gentleman.
Mansfield implicitly understands this, at least to some degree, seeing in Trump a Machiavellian figure who:
earns the disdain of the promoters of gender neutrality. Mr. Trump’s resistance to political correctness, however, has the coarseness of a male. Or what used to be the coarseness of a male. Now that women are practicing to swear like sailors, Mr. Trump is a reminder of male superiority in the department of vulgarity. Surely no woman would have run his campaign.
Trump is a fighter. A man who has tapped into certain primal instinct, perhaps even, the will to survive amongst a people. Strong men are often not “good” or “gentle” men. Charlemagne, Caesar, Alexander, on down to the men who built modernity have had character flaws biographers and scholarly scribblers spend countless words pouring over.
As Jack Donovan has said, there is a difference between being a “good” man and being good at being a man.
So it goes on. Conservatives will routinely howl about “vulgarity” and such all the while refusing to confront our civilizational issues. Being a gentleman becomes nothing more than an excuse to not confront uncomforting thoughts about race, civilization, political correctness und so weiter. It’s like a form of conservative “precrime” prevention on thought.
Mansfield is right to invoke Machiavelli, because:
Machiavelli was the boldest teacher against the honor of the gentleman, but he too was an old-fashioned sexist. There are several reasons why the gentleman has lost his good repute in addition to the fundamental Machiavellian one, picked up by Mr. Trump, that he is not a winner
And we need winners.
Unless our people and the civilization they created survive there will be no time for the “gentlemen”. No time for all the works and hands or all the time for you and me. Winning is all that matters. Because if we don’t all our people hold dear will vanish.
There is a dark reflection on P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster that he probably died somewhere in the Somme. If today’s “supreme gentleman” get their way, one cannot imagine how far different their fate, and as a consequence ours will be.