Our Friend, the Trump Propagandist (UPDATED 5/10 with rebuttal by David Horowitz)Roundup
tags: conservatism, MAGA, David Horowitz
Ronald Radosh is a historian and the author or co-author of more than 10 books, including, most recently, A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel.
After two decades as a writer and contributing editor at City Journal, Sol Stern resigned over the magazine’s accommodations to Trumpism. He is writing a political memoir.
Editor's note: David Horowitz has asked for the opportunity to rebut charges made in this essay. His response is posted below, as written. As with all essays excerpted in our Roundup, the complete essay may be accessed through the link at the bottom of the page.
According to our old friend David Horowitz—the radical leftist turned thoughtful conservative turned Trump propagandist whom we’ve been acquainted with, in his various political guises, for more than 60 years—America is on the brink of destruction by way of a communist takeover that only the patriots of the MAGA movement can prevent. That’s the main message in Horowitz’s new book, The Enemy Within: How a Totalitarian Movement Is Destroying America. On the book’s cover are portraits of the seven Democrats allegedly plotting the revolution: Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar.
The third book Horowitz has published about Trump since 2017, The Enemy Within is even more of a jihad against liberals and progressives than his previous two (both bestsellers). Horowitz’s justification for writing yet another Trumpist screed is that, in the aftermath of the Democrats stealing the 2020 election, an event he describes (in lip sync with the former president) as “the greatest political crime in the history of the country,” the “totalitarian” threat the party poses is now imminent.
The book begins with a lamentation: “Americans are more divided today than at any time since the Civil War.” The trouble is that almost everything Horowitz has recently written has been calculated to fan the flames of division. Yet he can’t make up his mind whether the tyranny the Democrats are about to install would be more like twentieth-century communism or fascism. He asserts, for example, that the diversity training programs favored by Democrats are akin to the surveillance system of “people’s commissars” created by the Bolsheviks. In practically the same breath, he announces that the Biden administration “has clearly defined itself and its party as a fascist vanguard.”
When the full history of the Trump intellectuals’ betrayal of decent conservatism is written, David Horowitz will have special pride of place, a chapter all to himself. What we offer here is a preview, a chronicle of the twists and turns that led him from radical leftism in the 1960s, when his political journey began, to the far more destructive MAGA movement. Horowitz’s war-fighting rhetoric may sound daring and original to Trump’s followers, but it’s really a reprise of his earlier support for the revolutionary left’s strategy of “bringing the war home” to America’s streets and campuses. His leftist background notwithstanding, Horowitz has achieved the status of a MAGA elder statesman, proudly advancing the causes of some of the movement’s brightest stars, including figures such as Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, and Jeff Sessions.
We have known David for decades—since graduate school, in Sol’s case, and in Ron’s case, since high school. We were once political comrades, and we admired him for his prodigious intellect. But by spreading the big lie that the election was stolen, our old friend has become a danger to American democracy. That demands our attention.
UPDATED WITH A RESPONSE BY DAVID HOROWITZ, 5/10/2021:
My Former Friends Have Joined the Fascists
A Personal Tale of the Divisions of Our Time
By David Horowitz
Trump derangement is a crippling mental disorder. It turns otherwise capable minds into Munchausen fabulators, so detached from reality that it’s hard to know what world they think they’re in. It leads to accusations like this: “[Trump was] AWOL during the country’s greatest health crisis in a century.”
You can say many things about Donald Trump, and many negative things if you wish, but to call a man AWOL who declared a national health emergency the day after the World Health Organization did the same, banned travel from China, which was the viral source, immediately thereafter, withstood Democrat attacks calling him a racist, a xenophobe and hysteric for this life-saving move; to call a man who supplied record numbers of ventilators, masks and other health paraphernalia that the Obama-Biden White House had depleted and never replaced, who held daily public briefings on the virus with the heads of the CDC, and who performed a political miracle in getting vaccines approved and distributed in record time – to call this man AWOL during the pandemic is tantamount to calling the earth flat and the sky purple.
Yet ignoring Trump’s alleged absence during the pandemic, while joining his “cult,” is exactly the accusation leveled at me in a New Republic cover story by Ron Radosh and Sol Stern, who have called their attack, “Our Friend the Trump Propagandist.”
In their article, I am accused of writing three mindless books about Trump as I marched into the MAGA cult. Actually, I wrote two books – both of which were NY Times best sellers and neither of which the authors seem to have read. If they had, they would certainly have engaged a specific argument or two in order to make their accusation credible. How exactly is what I have written propaganda and not analysis? Instead, they are appalled by my failure to embrace the Democrat lie that Trump was AWOL during the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, they are oblivious as to their own hypocrisy in giving the anti-Trump president, Joe Biden, a pass for blowing up the border in his first week in office, and allowing an estimated 100,000 coronavirus carriers to flood the country this year and infect his fellow Americans. Pompous self-righteousness based on non-existent “facts” is unfortunately what one has come to expect from the left.
The third and newest book of mine referred to is The Enemy Within: How A Totalitarian Movement Is Destroying America, which is not really about Trump. It’s about the Democrat Party and the totalitarian movement that has swallowed it and made it a threat to our country. Trump is a figure in only three of the twelve chapters: as a voice for law and order during the Black Lives Matter insurrections, and as a target of the Democrat hate attempting to blame him for every death resulting from the virus. He also appears in a brief “Coda” to the book that deals with the 2020 election and the January 6 attempt to stiffen the spines of what Trump called “weak Republicans” so they would challenge the result. Democrat fantasists have condemned this protest as an act of treason, of which anyone who questions the election result is also guilty.
And that is my crime, according to Radosh and Stern: “We were once political comrades. But by lying about the election, our old friend has become a danger to American democracy.” In fact, if either of them had read The Enemy Within, they would have seen that my book and political agenda are quite the opposite: a systematic defense of America’s constitutional framework against the attacks on its principles and institutions by their political friends.
The accusation that dissent is dangerous and must be suppressed mimics the fascist voice of the Democrat Party in its campaign to criminalize anyone who questions the 2020 election. Calling the break-in to the Capitol “an armed insurrection,” when there were no arms and no insurrections, ordering 25,000 troops to the Capitol to deal with a non-existent threat, calling Republicans “enemies of the state” (Pelosi), authorizing witch-hunts of (right wing) “extremists” in the military, the Capitol police and the Department of Homeland Security, seeking the expulsion of Senators Hawley and Cruz and the impeachment of the president for questioning the legitimacy of the electors are of a piece with Radosh and Stern’s malicious charge against me. The aim is to criminalize dissent and make it a high crime in the process.
The reality of course is that Democrats themselves have challenged the legitimacy of every Republican presidential victory this century, including the election of Trump, which they have never accepted. Their “resistance” has caused great damage to the republic, which they prefer not to notice.
In fact, no one can say with authority that the 2020 election was or was not decided by fraud. Thanks to concerted efforts by Democrats across the country and the timidity of “weak Republicans,” virtually no audits of the actual voting process were conducted. Nor did I myself claim in The Enemy Within that the election was fraudulent.
What I did suggest was that there was ample evidence of irregularities and illegalities sufficient to question the result: “The prima facie case that there were problems with the results is overwhelming. To believe that fraud did not take place on a significant scale, as the anti-Trump political universe claimed, one would have to believe that while Trump outperformed every incumbent president before him [increasing his total by 10 million votes] and won 94 percent of the Republican vote,” he lost (by .027% of the vote) to the lackluster Alzheimer’s case who had finished fourth in the Iowa Democrat primary, fifth in New Hampshire and a distant second in Nevada, campaigned from his basement, drew tiny crowds on the rare occasions that he ventured out, and was called a racist and a rapist by his own running mate. One would have to believe that despite all this, Biden received 16 million more votes than Obama at his peak.
Buoyed by their accusation that - along with 75 million other Americans - I am a Trump sycophant supporting a man whom no one in his right mind, and certainly no one who cared about American democracy could stomach, Radosh and Stern proceed to create a caricature of me as a right-wing bully and ideological bigot. According to them, I used to invite people who disagreed with me to my events but in my Trump-inspired “drift away from heterodoxy toward party-line orthodoxy,” I stopped the practice. As it happens at the last event I hosted before the pandemic, my keynote banquet speaker was Alan Dershowitz, a lifelong Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton and against Trump. During the question period, three members of the audience, including one of my board members attacked Dershowitz passionately for his pro-choice position on abortion. I hurried up to the podium, went to Dershowitz’s side, and put my arm around him and scolded them, reminding everyone that Alan was our guest. I did this, even though I disagree with him on the abortion issue.
Typical of leftists who have no self-awareness, Radosh and Stern accuse me of being belligerent and aggressive, as though Trump and I invented this political style; as though it is conservatives like us who have declared war on Democrats and not the other way around. This requires a political amnesia that is truly impressive. The left was calling the mild George Bush “Hitler” when Trump was still a resort builder, and accusing him of treason. They accused him of lying America into war in Iraq, which is treason, when it was impossible for him to do so since the Democrats – who authorized the war - sat on the Intel committees and had the same access to intelligence about weapons of mass destruction as the White House did.
I am further held guilty of taking the “Mike Tyson approach to American politics” with the implication that I and like-minded conservatives are responsible for the nastiness that has infected political discourse. “In his 2017 book, Big Agenda, he proposed that Republicans take lessons in electoral strategy from the ex-heavyweight champ, who had famously observed that ‘everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.’ In order to win the struggle for America’s future, Horowitz declared, conservatives ‘must begin every confrontation by punching progressives in the mouth.’”
Here’s the crucial part of the equation their account leaves out: Like Trump’s political style, mine is reactive. We are counter-punchers. When we go on offense, it is virtually without exception a counter-attack. I have written three books on political strategy, the first published in 1999, long before Trump. There are many facets to a successful political strategy. One of my chapters is called “Compassion is a Virtue,” another: “Go for the Heart.” Radosh and Stern ignore these complications. The point of my Tyson quote was that Democrats have many punches in the mouth for Republicans, and they use them all the time, while Republicans have virtually none with which to respond.
Democrats call Republicans “racists,” “sexists,” “homophobes,” “enemies of the state,” “insurrectionists,” “white supremacists,” “terrorists” and “extremists.” What do Republicans call Democrats? “Liberals”(!), and more recently, “Radical Liberals.” This is obviously a losing battle for Republicans. So, for more than twenty years, I have advised Republicans to call Democrats what they are: “racists” “oppressors of blacks and other inner-city minorities,” and – more recently - “fascists.” This is not advice I gave because of Donald Trump. It is the reason I am a supporter of Donald Trump. Because he fights back.
One would think that two writers who have admired my work in the past would want to read the books I have written specifically about Trump, and assess my responses to the accusations that have been made against him and his achievements. Instead Radosh and Stern ignore – and probably haven’t read – any of the arguments I have made in Trump’s defense. Worse, they have constructed a caricature of my present views and activities and – far worse – have advised federal authorities to de-platform me and suppress the very ideas they failed to examine.
Before addressing this assault, let me interject something about “old friends.” I met Ron Radosh at a Communist youth club meeting when he was 14 and I was 12. We were friends for 67 years, and went through the political wars, which he and Stern now disparage, together. We remained friends and political allies through our transition from the anti-American left to the conservative right, until our differences over Trump’s election created a wedge between us as Radosh returned to the left. We struggled over the next years to salvage our friendship which we did not want to sacrifice to our political differences. This is a struggle shared by family members and friends across the country who have been put at odds by the political schisms of these difficult times. Some months ago, I thought Ron and I had finally reached a point of agreement and resolve – to avoid personal attacks, emotional language and attempts to persuade the other to change his views. I now see I was wrong.
I’m on Ron’s Facebook and Twitter lists so I usually get his posts; but a couple of months ago his feeds went silent. I began to worry that something might have happened to him. Ron is 84 years old, two years ahead of me. I began to worry whether he was ill. So I emailed him: “Haven’t seen a post by you in a while. Are you ok?” He emailed me back the same day, March 18: “No time for Facebook or Twitter right now. I'm fine.”
In fact, he had no time to post because he was busy slipping a knife between my ribs, attacking my character and even my income, misrepresenting who I am, and calling for a campaign to pressure the I.R.S. into investigating my Freedom Center with the goal of stopping me from expressing my political opinions. It was important to silence me because I am an alleged threat to American democracy.
“One of the laugh lines in The Enemy Within is the outrage Horowitz directs against what he calls the liberal ‘tax-exempt advocacy culture,’ in which he includes the Southern Poverty Law Center … Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.” Some laugh line. The Southern Poverty Law Center is a notorious blacklist site that conflates neo-Nazis with conservatives like Dr. Ben Carson. It posts lists of “The Ten Most Dangerous Hate Mongers” and is so dishonest and corrupt that its scams have been exposed by liberal sites like Tablet Magazine and even far left ones like The Nation. Its mistreatment of black and female staff members became so scandalous recently that its founder Morris Dees had to leave in disgrace. I am on their hate list and was actually defended in 2018 by Radosh himself, when I was slandered by a group of leftists using SPLC misinformation. The creator of the SPLC lists, Mark Potok, is on record admitting that his goal is to “destroy” conservatives. I have written over a million easily available words that refute every slander Potok has made against me, yet the leftist media continues to cite them as “facts.”
This hypocritical assault on my “laugh line,” however revealing, is a sideshow. The real agenda of Radosh and Stern is to mobilize the IRS to investigate me and deprive me of the resources to criticize and oppose the tyranny descending on us from Washington. Like a pair of commissar wannabes they issue a call to war: “Our old friend must be defeated on every political front on which he operates, a counter-offensive that should begin by investigating and exposing the Horowitz Center’s fundraising scams and the potential abuse of its tax-exempt status.”
Blacklists and appeals to law enforcement to cripple and suppress a political opponent are the characteristics of a totalitarian mentality. So is erasing lifetime personal friendships over political differences.
In democracies we resolve our disputes by arguments and elections. As it happens, like every effective conservative I am familiar with the harassments of the IRS, which was turned into a political weapon by the Obama administration. To defend ourselves against its attacks, my Freedom Center has assembled a team of top-tier tax lawyers, whom we consult often and listen to carefully. This keeps us honest, and protected. As it happens, we are not scammers, and have not abused our tax-exempt status. As it happens (and should be obvious) Radosh and Stern are not my friends, and I am left wondering if they ever were.
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