The “American Jihad” Against Americans

I don’t want to lend too much significance to the opinions of random Fox News “personalities”–in this case a psychiatrist–but on the other hand, Dr. Keith Ablow’s call for an “American Jihad” is a good example of where American Exceptionalism in the hands of conservative ideologues can lead.

Let’s understand at the outset that Ablow is not using “jihad” to mean nothing more or less than a military “holy war,” though he’s not ruling that out, either, suggesting the term means a “war or struggle against unbelievers” or “a crusade for a principle or belief.” On the other hand, he’s certainly not referring to the broadest meaning of “jihad,” which is an internal struggle to identify the truth. Ablow appears to consider any kind of self-doubt among Americans about the absolute and eternal superiority of our system (as defined by the Constitution, as defined by people like Ablow, of course) a heinous crime.

But while most people hailing or mocking Ablow have focused on his statement that his American Jihad would “spread around the world our love of individual freedom and insist on its reflection in every government,” what struck me was his attitude towards America’s present constitutional leaders:

An American jihad would turn back and topple the terrible self-loathing in our citizens set in motion by President Obama, beginning with his “apology tour” — a psychological plague. It would make American pride not only acceptable, but celebrated, again. And, remember, American pride is nothing more than being proud to support truths that are self-evident, irreducible, elemental and inevitable.

So Americans, even and perhaps especially those who are democratically elected, must believe in and without a moment of self-reflection proclaim Ablow’s ideas of truths that are “self-evident” but somehow not obvious to said leaders or to the nefarious foreigners, either. I’m guessing this involves some mixture of laissez-faire capitalism and theocracy, to be imposed by force of law, it would appear:

An American jihad would make every tax dollar a tithing and the squandering of those dollars a sin. An American jihad would make every hour spent working in an American company — or founding one — an offering. An American jihad would make every teacher of American history not only a public servant, but a servant of the Truth.

Wow. Maybe he’s talking about a theocracy of the Golden Calf, wherein the wage-earner would literally be a spiritual as well as a physical slave of the live-giving Corporation.

In any event, it should be pretty obvious that like most super-patriots, Ablow has an exalted view of America but doesn’t care much for Americans–or at least those (very very likely a large majority) who don’t agree with his view of what America is “really” about. This is, as I’ve tried with mixed success to make clear on multiple occasions, the key to understanding Constitutional Conservatism, the ascending ideological framework on the Right: it uses that document as a charter for eternally enshrining a very particular governing model against that no popular majority should ever, ever have the power to change. For some that mainly means absolute private property rights or the “sovereign” rights of states; for others it’s about the rights of zygotes to be carried to term or of patriarchs to govern families. I don’t know exactly how specific Ablow’s own understanding of the Constitution is. But it’s clear all this brave bold trumpeting of Americanism to the world must in his view begin with the suppression of internal dissent–in the name, of course, of Constitutional liberty!

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.