Jordan Peterson

The GOP Needs a Dose of Jordan Peterson

Conservatives need to get their own act together.


Jordan Peterson
Rene Johnston/ZUMA Press/Newscom

The Republican Party needs to seek professional help. Badly. Perhaps it should consult with Dr. Jordan Peterson.

If you have not picked up on the Peterson phenomenon, then you have missed the news about a huge cultural movement. Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist who has gained a huge following by promoting what might be called the sterner virtues—self-examination, self-discipline, striving, and, well, sucking it up: Quit complaining about your miserable life, he says, and take ownership of it. Don't point the finger at others: Do what you should be doing to become the best version of yourself you possibly can. And don't presume to lecture the rest of the world about how it needs to shape up until you have proved you can do something minimally competent—like, say, cleaning your bedroom.

Peterson also has gained fame and notoriety by opposing political correctness. In an era when the press is full of ruminations about "toxic masculinity," Peterson makes no excuses for virility. He considers being nice a lower-order virtue, if it is a virtue at all, and contends that a weak man is far more dangerous than a strong man. Men should be strong, he says, so they can fight the evil in the world—of which, he says, there is a very great deal. Peterson expands upon these messages with hefty helpings from biblical lore, Solzhenitsyn, Viktor Frankl, and even works such as the children's book "There's No Such Thing as a Dragon."

All of this is catnip for young men, especially conservative young men, and Peterson's critics—who are legion—accuse him of giving aid and comfort to the alt-right through, e.g., his frequent attacks on Marxism, postmodernism, feminism, and "left-wing identity politics."

The question here, though, is why those conservatives who find Peterson's message to the individual so appealing don't apply it to their movement as a whole.

Because, let's face it: The conservative movement needs to straighten up.

To take the most obvious example first: Many conservatives have spent the past couple of years making excuses for a man who cheated on his wife with a porn star; who lies about that and everything else, constantly; who ran a scam university; who filed for bankruptcy four times; who hired illegal immigrants and paid them substandard wages; who refused to pay contractors for work they had done; and much more. Never once has Donald Trump taken personal responsibility for any of it.

What kind of man is that?

Some of Trump's defenders respond to lists like these by saying, "Yes, but Clinton…." Which is a tacit admission that Trump's behavior is indefensible on its own terms. How about this instead: Quit making excuses for the inexcusable. Period.

Or take Vice President Mike Pence. By all accounts, he is a man of integrity and character. Nevertheless, last week he introduced Joe Arpaio, the disgraced Arizona sheriff who is running for Senate, to a crowd by calling him "a tireless champion of … the rule of law."

Bunk. This would be the same Joe Arpaio who was convicted of contempt of court for violating a court order to cease racial profiling. The same Joe Arpaio who faked a murder plot against himself to increase his popularity—an act that sent an innocent man to prison for four years and cost taxpayers $1 million in compensatory damages. The same Joe Arpaio whose office has cost taxpayers $142 million in legal fees, settlement claims, and court awards. The same Joe Arpaio who has arrested critical journalists, defied court orders to provide adequate medical care to jail inmates, and … well, you get the point: Arpaio is to the rule of law what a prison riot is to the rules of decorum.

In Alabama last year, Republican voters nominated Roy Moore to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Jeff Sessions. Moore, a former judge on the Alabama Supreme Court, was removed from the bench twice for defying the federal courts, and he once suggested America would be better off without the constitutional amendments banning slavery and giving women the right to vote. He ended up losing the Senate election after allegations about his sexually predatory behavior toward underage girls.

Plenty of other examples abound. Many Republicans, it seems, will tolerate anything, so long as the perpetrator puts an (R) by his name. Party ID apparently matters more than virtue or, often, even basic human decency.

Which leads to an obvious question: How can the party be trusted to govern the country when it can't even govern itself?