Sunday, February 14, 2016

The GOP’s Anti-Government Line Created Trump: Movement Conservatism and the Rise of the Demagogues

Thank you to my husband Ron for sharing this powerful and deeply important article, which I hope will be read and shared widely. The Republican Party of today would be completely unrecognizable to my grandfather, who I held such deep respect for and who was a lifelong Republican. The changes over the past three decades have been deeply disturbing and with enormous consequences. This article is so well articulated, connecting dots and going deep and shining a bright light on a very disturbing darkness. We Americans can learn to recognize, embrace, own, heal, and transform our shadow. We can do this. Another world is possible. ~ Molly

By David M. Faris | (Informed Comment) | – – 

Donald Trump has now won a primary, and looks positioned to win many more. The GOP establishment nightmare looks more plausible by the day – have you seen a poll anywhere in any state where Trump or Ted Cruz doesn’t lead? In so many ways, Trump’s ascent in the Republican primary is an umami-spiked burger of unrivaled deliciousness. For those on the left who have long regarded the GOP primary electorate as an out-of-control anti-system party, Trump is the embodiment of uninformed, aimless rage. This badly dressed billionaire with narcissistic personality disorder and a Herodotus-length history of marital and business wreckage is the savior of the values-voting white working class? How could a man who represents everything that is wrong with American casino capitalism – who is literally a casino magnate – become the vehicle for the aspirations and recriminations of down-on-their-luck, downwardly mobile working class voters?
Most of Trump’s supporters couldn’t afford a single night in one of his ostentatious hotels. In real life, Donald Trump would face down illegal immigration by building a 2,200-mile luxury hotel along the border and staffing it with migrants. Better yet, the man is so radioactive nationally that he would likely take the entire party down with him on election night, an electoral Chernobyl that might even breach the concrete containment building of the House GOP majority. The half-life of the fallout from this subcritical meltdown could span multiple cycles. That Trump’s chief current rival for the nomination is also a universally loathed piece of electoral kryptonite just makes it sweeter. Is there a danger that one of these guys could actually win? Sure, but the opportunity of both a landslide victory and the reconquista of congress far outweighs the tiny risk.
Yet this is just the horse-race perspective. Because Trump is on the verge of making every serious observer in America look silly – including Nate Silver, the Nostradamus of political forecasting, who repeatedly and loudly declared< that Trump was an enormous longshot– it is worth getting to the bottom of exactly what is happening. For the professional agitators in the intellectual stratosphere of movement conservatism, Trump represents either a dangerous deviation from orthodoxy, or a one-time cul de sac, a creation of the moment who, even if successful in attaining the nomination, will quickly be routed around, like damage on the Internet. They are wrong. Trump is everything the right has spent 40 years working towards: the apotheosis of anti-intellectualism, the monstrous creation of money-is-speech, Citizens United politics, the standard-bearer of contempt for competent public administration, and the true face of the movement-endorsed, Wall Street-executed strip-mining of the American middle class. He may not sing along to every tune in the karaoke book, but he is, nevertheless, its inevitable endpoint.
Trump is, first, the consequence of the right’s 40-year war against government – by relentlessly demonizing it, they have convinced a considerable number of Americans that just about anyone can competently run it, or preferably destroy it. Ever since Ronald Reagan’s “I’m from the government and I’m here to help< quip, this has been the overarching theme of Republican politics. If you’ve convinced your core supporters that government is asbestos, and that it needs to be torn out of the wall of free enterprise capitalism, why would they care what kind of person is put in charge of its disposal? Who needs governing experience when all you need is an axe?
Trumpism is also the culmination of the right’s worship of blind ignorance. Some of this can be traced back to his biggest supporter, Sarah Palin. When John McCain unexpectedly chose the then-Alaska governor as his running mate in 2008, it should have set off alarm bells throughout the party hierarchy. Instead, party insiders and commentators almost without exception lined up enthusiastically behind this obviously incompetent, dimwitted opportunist who from the beginning could not speak without a script for more than 10 seconds without sounding Google-translated. A party that signs off on having Sarah Palin ascend to the second-highest office in the land just has no business wringing its hands about Donald Trump. Both in terms of speech patterns and policy acumen, Trump is Palin, just without the incomplete term governing Alaska. If anything, Trump actually seems like a worse human being – a self-important, oversensitive misogynist who internalizes every slight and then publicly humiliates anyone who crosses him.
But laying this at the feet of the tragicomic figure of Sarah Palin is reductive. Conservatives have spent 60 years constructing an entirely alternate information universe for themselves – one where global warming is a leftist hoax to gin up research dollars (never mind the little problem of entire countries being evacuated< the professorial, incrementalist family man Barack Obama is a raving Maoist running roughshod over the Constitution and the evidence-free Laffer Curve is the basis of all sound public fiscal policy. It is not a new observation to notice that the rules of discourse and evidence seem not to apply in this universe. But lost in the general condemnation from the reality-based community is the problem that these entrepreneurs of outrage and hostility have lost control over their creation by believing that the normal rules of politics in Universe Actual would still apply outside the echo chamber. The party cannot decide when the party’s own supporters have been convinced that participating in routine policymaking is a Munich-level betrayal of ideological purity. Worse, a movement that had grown smug about its level of intellectual complexity has awoken to the cold fact that its most fervent supporters could care less about The Road To Serfdom and Atlas Shrugged and the archives of the National Review. They seem a bit more concerned about the hollowing out of the middle class.

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