The Unbridgeable Republican Split

As a chronicler of the Republican Civil Wars I’ve gotten a lot of entertainment value at watching the various factions come apart at the scenes.  One day, this will make a great PBS special narrated by Keith David.  Until then, I’ll do my best to jot down my observations in the hopes that screenshots of my blog will be shown while Mr. David narrates.

So I was listening to the Ricochet podcast and they were interviewing Avik Roy, a Republican health policy analyst who was with the Romney campaign and has written extensively on Obamacare. The subject was his recent interview with Vox about the soon to be death of the Republican Party.  That’s certainly a provocative and legitimate case to argue, but in this case I found it extremely self serving.  Roy blames nationalism, which he conflates with white nationalism as the reason for the GOP’s decline. Roy recounts one of the founding myths of the identity politics left; the “southern strategy” going all the way back to 1964 and the nomination of Barry Goldwater.  This leads him to the conclusion that the bulk of the GOP electorate is motivated by white identity politics rather than conservative principles.

As someone who’s been on political forums for years, the subject of the southern strategy comes up every few weeks as providing the imprimatur that Conservatives in general and Republicans in particular are racists, motivated by race, and thinking of nothing other than race.  Considering that’s a good description of the left, there is a lot of projection involved, but this is standard fare for the left.  What’s new is it becoming standard fare for Republicans.

Or should I say a certain type of Republican, the #nevertrumpers who’ve fought Trump all the way to the nomination, in a way they’ve never fought Obama or the Democrats.  But nothing seems to bring joy to the #nevertrump crowd like calling their fellow Republicans racists. So establishment types like Roy, who didn’t seem bothered by either the southern strategy or Goldwater’s nomination until the past year, are reaching for the same racial playbook that the left has used.  Now they can finally call someone racists, and if they’re lucky, win the approval of teen writers at Vox or some MSNBC reporter.  Roy isn’t the first GOPe who’s decided to throw the entire non-establishment GOP under the bus as racists.  Paul Ryan, Erick Erickson, and Senator Ben Sasse among others also tossed out the racist charge against fellow Republicans.

Noted anti-Trumpist and National Review writer Jonah Goldberg doubled down on Roy’s nationalism=white racism thesis last week in ‘New Nationalism” Amounts to Generic White Identity Politics.  Goldberg, a writer I’ve often admired and enjoyed his witty writing style, boils down his argument into probably the dumbest thing published in NR (not counting anything written by Katherine Timpf).  The argument basically boils down to observing that Trump’s support is mostly white.

That’s it.

Now it’s interesting to note that for both Roy and Goldberg (among many others) the keyword here is “Nationalism” as in nationalism being just another code word for white racism.  It’s almost mind-blowing that these arguments are coming from ostensibly conservative pundits. So I’m really unclear on what basis these two sides ever come back together again.

Imagine a scenario in which Trump loses and loses big, say more than Romney’s defeat, with a voter percentage of over 4% and an electoral blowout where Trump wins less than 200 electoral votes.  Will the #nevertrump crowd cackle with glee and then reach out their hand to everyone they’ve called ignorant hate filled racists for the past year and say, “On to 2020?”

Or imagine a scenario where Trump loses narrowly by #nevertrump margins such as Trump losing the vote in Utah due to Independent candidate Evan McMullin.  When it’s clear that the margin of victory was lost due to Republican establishment intransigence, on what basis would the people who voted Trump and really wanted to win this year, ever forgive those who spent a year trying to not only sabotage his campaign but denigrate his supporters?

Or this:  Trump wins.  The establishment and #nevertrump is discredited, but now that Trump has won they want to jump on the bandwagon.  Again, you have people who not only tried to sabotage victory and called everyone racist to boot, but now want to resume what they feel is their God given leadership roles in a movement they tried to destroy.  Is that going to be forgiven?

My feeling is whatever the electoral scenario; there is a divide in the GOP that is now permanent.  In 21st century America, calling someone a racist is throwing down the gauntlet. Politicians are used to hurling invective at each other and then hammering out deals, but these are attacks on the voting public; by presumably the same side. How are commentators like Roy and Goldberg ever going to support anything having to do with the GOP again when they’ve just smeared the majority of its voters as white identity racists?  And more to the point, why would they want to?  They’ve just identified the GOP as the racist party after all.

So whatever happens on Election Day, in a certain sense it’s over between these two factions of the GOP.  These are factions that, bad names and invective aside, have polar opposite policy goals.  The GOPe wants amnesty, open borders, and unlimited “free” trade; no matter how many US jobs are lost.  The Trump faction (which is numerically the far bigger faction) wants exactly the opposite. Where do they meet in the middle on policy?

These issues seem so fundamental that it’s hard to not see a major political realignment coming out of this clash.  The Republican establishment could find itself fleeing to the Democrats, turning it into an overtly free trade party.  Or maybe the Republican Party just splits into two parties (although I find that unlikely due to the US’s first past the post elections). Maybe the old left/right paradigm is breaking down into a new globalist/nationalist one.

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Making Trumpism Coherent

As far as #NeverTrump institutions on the right go, the most powerful would have to be The Wall Street Journal. Few people outside of right leaning political wonkiness read the National Review or The Weekly Standard. But the venerable WSJ is read by all sorts of business and other establishment types, giving that paper real heft to make their views known.  And they’ve been engaged in full blown warfare against Trump all year.  The hatred and bile towards Trump that drips from the Wall Street Journal editorial page is unprecedented. I’ve read their site online for years and just cannot recall this sort of attack against anyone on the left ever.  Maybe someone can correct me, but like with so many other things this Presidential year, we’re on new ground.

But there is one person on the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board that is not simply interested in bombing Trump rallies then machine gunning any survivors.  This person wants to really understand what’s going on with the people who support Trump, and that person is former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan.  Unlike her WSJ compatriots, Noonan has approached the rise of Trump with humility.  What did we miss?  How did things get this bad?  What we can do to fix it?  All good questions that the Republican establishment should have been asking for the past year instead of plotting various Jeb!/Cruz/Romney/French (David) coup d’etat’s.

Noonan asks again in this piece, A Party Divided, and None Too Soon.

The Beltway intelligentsia of the conservative movement continues to be upset about Mr. Trump’s coming nomination and claim they’d support him but they have to be able to sleep at night. They slept well enough through two unwon wars, the great recession, and the refusal of Republican and Democratic administrations to stop illegal immigration. In a typically evenhanded piece in National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru writes of conservative infighting. Most back Mr. Trump, but others, “especially among conservative writers, activists, and think-tankers,” vow they’ll never vote for him. “This debate splits people who have heretofore been friends with similar views on almost all issues, and who on each side have reasonable arguments to hand. It is therefore being conducted in a spirit of mutual rage, bitterness, and contempt.”

This tracks with my observations as well.  It’s less the political positions that separate the Trump/anti-Trump forces so much as where each person sits on the Red Pill/Blue Pill Conservative divide.  But make no mistake, there are political positions involved as well.  I’ve discussed the economic nationalism agenda that Trump brings before, but there hasn’t been much discussion of it as a movement other than in Alt Right circles.  That’s a territory that a Peggy Noonan would never venture into, but as an important member of the establishment, she knows people.

So she introduces the blog, Journal of American Greatness.  As Noonan gives their own description for themselves from their website:

Where they stand: “We support Trumpism, defined as secure borders, economic nationalism, interests-based foreign policy, and above all judging every government action through a single lens: does this help or harm Americans? For now, the principal vehicle of Trumpism is Trump.”

That is a description describes Trumpism as both conservative, and not conservative in the Bush/Ryan worldview. My suspicion is that these mystery bloggers are known writers and think tankers in the conservative intelligentsia, but obviously they can’t go public because, that’s a career death sentence.  Can you imagine a researcher at the Cato Institute or at The Weekly Standard coming out for Trump?  Maybe that’s why the Wall Street Journal didn’t allow a link to its site in Noonan’s original column in the WSJ.  They are certainly not going to encourage these kind of shenanigans.

But these are serious people, since they are capturing the eyes of Noonan, and some of them are probably names we would recognize.  Even noted anti-Trumper Jonah Goldberg referenced in a column an online discussion he had with one of the bloggers at the Journal of American Greatness.  Could there be a rapprochement between the two different sides of the Republican Civil War?

And then, the Journal of American Greatness shut down and deleted all of their posts.

Why did they do it?  It’s not hard to guess.   They were afraid of being doxxed and having their livelihoods destroyed.

And now, suddenly, they’re back; as JAG Recovered; returned with all of the previously deleted posts.  With the new website, they make clear how seriously they take their anonymity.

No, literally—who are you guys?

None of your damned business.

Why won’t you tell us?

Because the times are so corrupt that simply stating certain truths is enough to make one unemployable for life.

That’s a bit dramatic, isn’t it?

Ask Brendan Eich.

 

So they do have a point. But the long and short of Trumpism is that it’s simply Paleoconservatism, which got the boot from establishment conservatism when Pat Buchanan dissented on the Iraq War.  Turns, out, that’s what the Republican voter wanted all along, or else the Republican voter needed to see how bad things could really get before they would consider Paleoconservatism.

Well apparently we’re at that point.

But is it too late?  Probably so.  When people who want to write about such things are frightened of losing their jobs and livelihood merely for discussing issues like trade and immigration, then you’ve gone pretty far down the well.  There won’t be any big donors or institutions funding this, its people who are afraid of being outed and losing everything, and they will be attacked by forces of both the right and left.  Still, I’m glad that at least some people are trying.  Keep your heads low guys!

 

 

#NeverTrumpers and the Drive for Irrelevancy

As crazy as National Review has gotten over the past few months, I’ll still occasionally follow a link to it to see the current grim state of Acela Corridor conservatism. This week, Jonah Goldberg doesn’t disappoint, staking out a position as the last Japanese soldier hold out on a remote island in the DC suburbs, living out his version of never give up, never surrender.

I honestly believe that a President Trump would do enormous, perhaps fatal, damage to the conservative movement as we know it. I also believe that without the conservative movement, this country is toast. But I further believe that Hillary Clinton would do obvious and enormous damage to the country. That’s why I’m not voting for either of them. That’s why this election sucks. But I don’t write in the voting booth. I don’t get paid to offer my opinions at the ballot box. And I don’t work for the G-d damn GOP.

It’s a snooty drawing room politics.  If Goldberg believes that the country is toast without the conservative movement (an arguable point I concede) then prepare the toast.  Why Romney, McCain, Dole or Bush(s) didn’t do fatal damage to the conservative movement is never explained, although I could argue that each of those Republican Presidents and candidate wannabes collectively did enough damage to the conservative movement that by the time you get to Trump, the collective knife wounds were already enough to put the patient into a medically induced coma.  Trump didn’t do anything.  He just grabbed the mic while no one was using it.

The idea that a President Trump would kill the conservative movement is, as I’ve argued elsewhere; ludicrous.  Political position-wise, Trump is a moderate Republican in the Romney mode.  How Trump kills conservatism, while Romney, the author of Romneycare, who wouldn’t criticize Obamacare, didn’t; is left unexplained.  And it will always be left unexplained since it upends the argument that Trump poses some particular danger to conservatism that the Republican Party didn’t already inflict on it.

What Goldberg and the other #NeverTrumpers don’t get is that William F. Buckley’s dictum, to support the most electable conservative candidate, is a sliding scale, not a scientific constant.  Demographics, the media, and academia have all worked their magic each and every election cycle to make conservatism in general more and more irrelevant.  Sadly the reaction of Goldberg and the #NeverTrump movement is to double down on that irrelevancy.

Goldberg and the other #NeverTrump survivors are perfectly happy to lose elections as long as the ideology remains intact.  But the ideology never remains intact.  What is conservatism now, which apparently means unlimited trade and unlimited borders, has no relation to the conservatism of most of the 20th Century.  When did mass immigration of Muslims become a conservative issue? But that appears to be Paul Ryan’s major sticking point with Trump.  We are heading towards a vanishing point where “Conservatism,” as Goldberg and others define it, becomes a rarified ideology like Libertarianism, which has no mass support, and no hope of changing actual real politics.  It’s like politics as Fantasy Football; fun to play maybe, but no relation to actual football and totally irrelevant to what’s happening on the field.

 

Interesting Reads on the Republican Civil War

The Republican Civil War still rages on. National Review’s Jonah Goldberg inspired his very own hashtag, #NROrevolt, after this article:

No Movement That Embraces Trump Can Call Itself Conservative

Goldberg doesn’t go after Trump, he goes after his own readers who are on the Trump Bandwagon; hence the hashtag and ongoing twitter war.

Goldberg made some points, but the blog The Conservative Treehouse made some pretty deft responses:

An Open Letter to Jonah Goldberg-RE: The GOP And Donald Trump

I don’t know who blogger Sundance is, but he or she made some good points.  I would urge Jonah to read it, if he has internet access in whatever undisclosed location he’s at.

As a columnist, I rather like Jonah Goldberg, he’s a witty writer and is the author of probably one of the top 20 must reads of modern conservatism, Liberal Fascism.  However he is strictly a Blue Pill Conservative.  He doesn’t get it.

However there is a chance that someday Goldberg will choose the red pill.  I can’t say the same for Wall Street Journal foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens. Stephens took on the Trumpocalypse right out of the gate in this piece:

The Donald and the Demagogues

This is how Stephens opens up on the very first line, “If by now you don’t find Donald Trump appalling, you’re appalling.”

And then he proceeds to get nasty. Stephen’s article even got the Rush Limbaugh treatment.  Limbaugh read aloud excerpts from Stephen’s article; apparently in disbelief that one conservative was rounding up dissenters and burning them at the stake. Although far more vicious, Stephen’s article inspired far less reaction than Goldberg’s ( sorry Bret, no hashtag for you) since if you’re a Donald Trump fan, you’ve probably regarded the Wall Street Journal editorial positions as in the enemy camp for a long time.

Old establishment hands still seem to think that Trump will flame out long before the candidates start racking up delegates, and by the time we get to the convention, all will be forgiven and everyone will fall back in line with the generic Republican candidate to defeat the generic Democratic candidate.

Only I’m not so sure.  What’s going on within the Republican Party is unprecedented in my lifetime, and yes, I’m including the Tea Party revolt and Perot’s Reform Party.  We may be seeing a replay of the fall of the Whig Party.

 

My Post Vacation Links

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

I just drove back from vacation and boy are my…wheels tired.  OK admittedly that’s not exactly a keeper, but hey, I’ve been on vacation. But even on vacation, the learning never stops, so I’ve come across a few articles that I thought were insightful enough to pass on.

First up: ‘Revisiting Snowden’s Hong Kong Getaway’ in the Wall Street Journal.  Yeah I know it’s behind a pay wall but just Google the article title.  Sshh!  Don’t tell The Wall Street Journal this is their secret back door!

Although I try to keep up with the Snowden story, this had some tidbits I wasn’t aware of, such as Snowden vanishing from the time he arrived in Hong Kong on May 20th to the 31st of May.  Where was he?  There are no records of hotel or credit charges during those dates.  Mysterious…

 

English: American author and columnist Jonah G...

English: American author and columnist Jonah Goldberg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jonah Goldberg has a G File that is a testament to how good a writer he is when he can plug something worthwhile into an article that’s meant to be a throw away email newsletter. In, ‘The Importance of the Family,’ Goldberg argues that the family is the State’s biggest competitor and on the political level, Democratic political success is dependent on a disintegrating family unit.

 

 

English: Mark Steyn speaks at CPAC 2008 as Pam...

English: Mark Steyn speaks at CPAC 2008 as Pamela Gellar of Atlas Shrugs looks on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No links post could be complete without something from Mark Steyn.  In ‘Letting the IRS Get Away with it,’ Steyn points out one of the more troubling aspects of the IRS scandal; the release of donor lists of 501(c)3 organizations in order for leftwing activist groups to go after the donors personally.  It’s a chilling free speech issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

English: Bob Newhart in Norfolk, Virginia. Doi...

English: Bob Newhart in Norfolk, Virginia. Doing a personal appearance at a K-Mart store. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

And just for fun, a blog recently posted an old Bob Newhart classic bit, ‘The Driving Instructor.’  Comedy is one of those things that its practitioners can grow out of, either because they’ve worn out their shtick, they’re no longer creative enough to produce new material, or they just get too old period.  In the case of Bob Newhart, based on his recent appearances on ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ he is just as good now as he was over 50 years ago.  In Newhart’s case, his shtick is his delivery.  No other comedian has mastered the art of deadpan delivery as Newhart has.