It's a phrase we hear over and over on Twitter whenever someone criticizes morally troubling anti-leftist tactics used by members of the right. They say: "What are you, some sort of coward? What, are you worried about muh principles?" The phrase is meant to deride the supposed moral preening of those who criticize -- they must think themselves high and mighty, whining about virtue where some good hard-nosed old-fashioned get-in-the-dirt-and-fight-'em tactics would do. Those worries about right and wrong just hamstring the right. "Muh principles" are a liability. Why can't those weaklings just get over their supposed moral purity and fight in the trenches?
Now, I'm no fan of political cowardice. I wrote an entire book called "Bullies," in which I blasted the left's character assassination techniques. I routinely speak on college campuses in conditions that are less than physically secure. I'm more than happy to tell people things they don't want to hear in political debate, and I've been threatened more than once for my trouble.
But I'm a fan of principles.
I'm a fan of principles because without them, politics becomes meaningless. Even those who criticize "muh principles" have their own principles. The "muh principles" crowd's highest principle is supposedly defeating the left. That is its entire argument: If you stick with your wishy-washy principles about civility, you'll lose! And if you lose, my principles will be destroyed!
But, as it turns out, many of those who mock "muh principles" have no actual principles other than empty tribal victory. Never was that clearer than this week when several of the self-appointed members of the Trump-ardent defense squad went full social justice warrior, invading a Shakespeare in the Park performance of "Julius Caesar" that depicts President Trump as Caesar. Screaming "Liberal hate kills!" they stormed the stage, called audience members Joseph Goebbels and held up the production. Those who objected to this obtuse behavior were simply being hamstrung by "muh principles," they then proclaimed.
Except that there were no principles at stake here. What was the supposed principle? Perhaps it was that artists shouldn't make art that invokes images of violence inflicted on a president. Then why weren't they upset about a rodeo clown dressed up as President Obama in 2013? Perhaps it was that radical rhetoric leads to violence. Then why weren't they upset when candidate Trump urged his followers to clock protesters? Perhaps it was that shutting down others' free speech is bad -- a sort of ironic lesson for the left. Then why didn't they say so, rather than claiming that the content of the play justified their activity? And why would this be a good strategy, given that the self-immolating hard left's free speech shutdowns have backfired so dramatically that even Obama and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have been forced to condemn them?
No, there were no principles here, other than tribalistic anti-left foolishness.
Unfortunately, that seems to be the order of the day for a few on the right. I'm old enough to remember when the pro-Trump right justified Trump's behavior on the grounds that he had to build a wall and rescind Obama's executive amnesty. Now, only Ann Coulter has the guts to point out that Trump hasn't done either -- and that he just enshrined for all time Obama's executive amnesty. I'm old enough to remember when the pro-Trump right assured conservatives that it would hold Trump to account if he were to fail to repeal Obamacare. Now it's ignoring the fact that he called a watered-down Obamacare too "mean" and pushed for a broader funding regime. Where are their principles? I thought "muh principles" had to go so that they could achieve theirs. But they seem rather blithe about the collapse of some of their supposed core precepts, which suggests that maybe there are some on the right who just want to fight, and have forgotten why they fight -- and how to fight. All that matters now is winning, even if they have no idea what winning looks like other than the other guy losing.