The American political left has always had a favorable view and infatuation with select, brutal dictators and revolutionaries. None more than Che Guevara whose image adorns t-shirts, hats, and other fashion paraphernalia. Accompanying the left’s homage to despotic individuals they have held onto the idea that totalitarian systems retain merit because “real socialism” has never been tried.
Conservatives traditionally have expressed disdain and disgust that some Americans would hold favorable views of individuals and systems which caused the death of more than 100 million people.
Unfortunately, National Conservatives are having a “hold my beer” moment. They no longer desire to adhere to the American principles of ordered liberty and the “new right” is becoming comfortable with the idea that not all dictators and tyrannical regimes deserve contempt. In fact, some believe America needs a dictator to restore the nation to the right path. This sentiment has led to the growing popularity of Francisco Franco, the former Spanish dictator.
Franco’s growing popularity is not isolated to lonely, basement-dwelling, single males, and because of this, it should be taken seriously. Daily Wire contributor, Michael Knowles, went so far as to claim Franco “was broadly speaking, a pretty good guy” and “wasn’t a fascist.” Michael Knowles ignores that Francisco Franco instituted the brutal “white terror” which included mass killings and the arbitrary detention and torture of his political opponents.
Evil found a home on both sides of the Spanish Civil War, which resulted in 500,000 casualties between 1936 and 1939. Franco’s white terror was responsible for the estimated murder of over 100,000 people. The communist Republican’s red terror was led to the murder of roughly 50,000 people, including 3,400 priests, monks, and nuns. Inspired by the Jacobins of the French Revolution, the communist sought to destroy anything that represented the traditions of Spain.
The Spanish Civil War was a complex and tragic event. The “new right” must reject the temptation to simplify and rewrite Francisco Franco as a benevolent and righteous savior of Spain. Communist Republicans were unequivocally the greater evil. If victorious, they would have ushered in a reign of terror and human misery much like the Jacobins of the French Revolution or the Communists of the Soviet Union. This reality does not excuse the despotism of Francisco Franco.
War is hell. Fortunately for Spain, it did not suffer the same fate that Russia did roughly 20 years prior. Unfortunately for the Spanish people Francisco Franco was no George Washington.
The growing positive opinion of the brutal Francisco Franco among some on the right has emerged from the reality that the radical left is committed to imposing its worldview on American society. The “new right” feels the Rubicon has already been crossed, the enemy is at the gates, and if values are going to be despotically imposed, better it to be their values than those of the left.
This does not bode well for American civil society. If America remains on this current trajectory, no longer wishing to maintain a free and pluralistic society, we may very well be destined to witness the rise of our own Francesco Franco. A leader with values so “good” they need to be tyrannically imposed.
The “new right” should be careful about what they advocate for. Once you surrender the limits of power and natural liberties articulated in the US Constitution for the sake of defeating your enemy, you will not be able to recover them.
What is the path forward?
The sentiment that a more authoritarian regime is desirable and necessary presents a difficult challenge to those who hold that human liberty is worth defending. National Conservatives believe we need a modern-day Franco because it is the only way to deal with the disorders and tyranny coming from the left. To them, the solution is that freedom needs to be suspended so virtue can be restored.
The defense of liberty lies in the moral realm. Virtue necessitates choice. The American experiment and the story of Western civilization has been a story of the growth of liberty rooted in the idea that moral truth exists, it is knowable through reason, and that authentic freedom is choosing the moral good.
Lovers of liberty must aggressively present a robust case for liberty. A case not rooted in the falsehood that all values are subjective, but a case that truth exists, virtue requires choice, and therefore a virtuous society must be a free society. This is not a case for passive liberty but a bold liberty. A liberty worth defending because it is the means to a free, virtuous, and flourishing society.