Why George Will's Moral Narcissism Matters
I admit to having moral narcissism on the brain, having just published a book on the subject, but the announcement by conservative columnist George Will that he has left the Republican Party and has registered "unaffiliated" in the state of Maryland is such a pure example of MN that I wish I had had a chance to add a few pages about it, maybe even a chapter.
Most of the examples in I Know Best are from the liberal-progressive side, so it would have been good for balance at least to have included such an esteemed conservative as Will -- a man who has now turned Lesley Gore's 1963 hit "It's My Party" on its head by declaring in a speech at the Federalist Society that "this is not my party."
Was it ever his party? I thought it belonged to all its members. But never mind. How does Will's proclamation demonstrate moral narcissism and why does that matter? Allow me to be a little narcissistic myself and quote from my book:
What you believe, or claim to believe or say you believe—not what you do or how you act or what the results of your actions may be—defines you as a person and makes you “good.” It is how your life will be judged by others and by yourself. In 19th-century France, the gastronome Jean Brillat-Savarin told us that “You are what you eat.” In 21st-century America, almost all of us seem to have concluded that “you are what you say you are. You are what you proclaim your values to be, irrespective of their consequences.” That is moral narcissism.
So George Will has proclaimed himself to be free and above the Republican Party -- most specifically the Republican Party whose current standard bearer by millions of votes is Donald Trump, a man Will obviously abhors. As the columnist said in his speech, Republicans should “make sure he loses. Grit their teeth for four years and win the White House.”
Will definitely gets to be "good" -- according to my definition. But what about those consequences, the pesky results of his decision? PJ Media's Nicholas Ballasy asked Will some interesting questions after the speech, among them whether he was bothered by Hillary Clinton choosing one or possibly several justices for the Supreme Court, changing the nature of the court for decades.
Will replied, “Sure, but I’m also concerned with the fact that I do not really believe Republicans think clearly enough about what they really want in judges. Republicans have given us Earl Warren, Brennan, John Paul Stevens, Burger, who was kind of mediocre, Blackmun. Having a Republican president is not an answer in itself."
Really? Nothing is indeed perfect, but as Will well knows, Trump has announced a solid conservative list of potential Supreme Court nominees far in advance of his nomination, something never done before, to my knowledge. Anyone rational (i.e. not coming from a place of moral narcissism) would certainly place his bet with Trump over Hillary Clinton when it comes to Supreme Court appointments.
Another crucial area a rational conservative would place his bet with Trump over Hillary is immigration, especially immigration from countries that are hotbeds of terrorism. If you don't want more San Bernardinos and Orlandos or something even worse, wouldn't you gamble on Trump too?Ditto if you want lower tax rates, fewer regulations, a free market economy and the preservation of the Second Amendment -- all standard-issue Republican positions. Most of us want to get these things accomplished now -- especially with the willy-nilly Islamic immigration, greater even than Obama's, that Hillary is proposing. We have no desire to wait for years for an unnamed savior, as Will urges if only we would grit our teeth. By then the odds will be stacked even further against conservatives than they are at present, quite possibly to an extent that it will be impossible for the right ever to win.
Obviously feeling embarrassment (he should), Will now asserts his real reason for departing the Republican Party was Trump's attack on the Latino judge. Indeed, Donald was depressingly unsophisticated in the way he went about that, but I suspect Will's actual motivation for abjuring Trump -- and the Republican masses who voted for him in such record numbers -- is actually more a matter of class.
We might call Will's class the Moral Narcissist Bourgeoisie (MNB) that resides so comfortably in Washington, irrespective of political party, dining at the best restaurants and enjoying the cultural benefits of the city while their real estate values mount into the stratosphere, only to appear in all their excellence before the great unwashed on the Sunday shows. It's a terrific life if you can have it, but because of Trump -- and even more because of Brexit -- it is under threat.
What we have on our hands is a genuine class war, but the classes don't line up as before. It's not entirely about money. It's now the elites versus the people and it's not just local, it's global. Those who choose to line up with elites might want to keep in mind the words of a man who was pretty elite himself -- William F. Buckley: "I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University."
But Will's okay. He went to Princeton.
Roger L. Simon is a prize-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His new book—I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn't Already— is just published by Encounter Books June 14, 2016. You can read an excerpt here. You can see a brief interview about the book with the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal here. You can hear an interview about the book with Mark Levin here. You can order the book here.
(Artwork created using multiple Shutterstock.com and AP images.)