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The importance of capturing castles

The importance of capturing castles
Photo by Hannah Wright / Unsplash

Boycotts, elections, school shootings, waves of illegal immigration, riots, pandemics, foreign wars, inflation — the political battles cycle past us so rapidly it can be difficult to focus on any given event.

Journalists write feverish articles, and pundits voice their outrage, drawing media attention to the crisis of the week. Whenever the public consciousness focuses on any given event, politicians feel the need to weigh in or even take superficial action before the next “current thing” captures the mind of the electorate. This quick succession means the public rarely notices whether any real change took place before it moves on to the next crisis.

That is why the political right is so easily contained. Conservatives tend to focus on “issues” in the news cycle instead of securing the kind of structural victories that can be built upon over time.

I doubt that I am shattering anyone’s illusions here, but American political power no longer operates in the manner that you learned about in high school civics class. The idea that persuasive arguments win out in the marketplace of ideas and organically alter public opinion until politicians are forced to take meaningful action is laughable at this point.

In truth, public opinion is shaped by the constant consumption of mass media, which is controlled almost entirely by the left. This frames the boundaries of every political discussion.

Those with the media are not omnipotent. There are events beyond their command to which they must react. But progressive journalists generally control the level of attention and duration of focus that news items will receive. While the media ushers the public's collective attention from one crisis to the next, they also vest different institutions with the authority to resolve those issues, and this is where power really lies.

Politicians come and go

The American political system is no longer confined to three branches of government as the Constitution’s framers intended, which is why it feels like the Constitution no longer restricts the government’s power.

Political power in the United States now functions as a distributed bureaucratic oligarchy, with different expert institutions acting as nodes in a network operated by the ruling class. Universities, social media, and news organizations shape public opinion, while NGOs, financial institutions, and unelected government bureaucracies create public policy. These institutions dictate American politics, setting the terms by which elected representatives must play. Each one represents a “castle” from which the left can project power despite the ebbs and flows of the democratic process.

If those on the right wish to secure meaningful victories, they must stop chasing whatever issue the media dangles before them and instead focus on capturing castles for themselves.

While senators, representatives, and even presidents come and go, institutions endure through every election cycle, and those strongholds allow for the accumulation of enduring political power. Progressives recognized this long ago and began their “long march through the institutions” with the goal of securing these castles so that they would always be able to govern no matter the outcome of elections.

This idea has finally broken into the mainstream conservative space under the name of the “deep state,” a recognition of the perpetual unelected governmental bureaucracy that wields far more power than any single elected official. Recognition of the deep state is a good thing, but the right needs to expand its understanding of power far beyond official government channels to include the soft power of media, educational, and financial institutions.

In a guest appearance on my show, the political theorist Curtis Yarvin pointed out that while the right obsesses over individual issues, the left focuses on securing power to impose its will on whatever issues arise. Yarvin believes that political will is a finite resource and that it should be used to capture castles, not chase media-driven trends. Real political victories are those that secure power and make future victories more likely. Electoral victories can be important, but only to the extent that they make substantive structural changes to the wider apparatus that actually governs the United States.

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