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.

Two Americas: Dunham and Duck Dynasty

After spending days of airtime excoriating Donald Trump for asking why Mrs. Khan didn’t speak at the Democratic Convention, Morning Joe decided to take a breather to interview Hollywood Reporter writer Michael Wolff for his new article, “Michael Wolff on Hillary’s “Self Delusion, “Trump’s S- Show” and the Media’s Final, Frantic 100 Days.”  Wolff’s basic thesis is that the two conventions show that we’re too different countries with almost no middle ground.  He uses the example of two convention stars, Lena Dunham for the Democrats and Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame for the Republicans.  As Wolff writes:

“The Nation divides over many lines, but a basic split is between Lena Dunham, who made a prime time appearance July 26 at the Democratic National Convention, and Willie Robertson, a star of Duck Dynasty and a celebrity endorser at the Republican convention. No longer an actual aspect of political decision-making, party conventions are wholly symbolic affairs, an elaborate messaging apparatus and targeted media platform. In this instance, Dunham represented a cosmopolitan, millennial, pan-sexual, women-focused view, abhorrent to a significant part of the country, and Robertson a nativist, older, gun-associated, military-inclined, white-male-focused view, abhorrent to the Dunham part.”

That’s basically true I think.  If you drew a Venn Diagram of Dunham fans and Robertson fans, the two circles would probably just sit there without even touching.  I’ve had my own fun with Dunham, so just knowing I’m in the non Dunham circle should tell you a lot about me.

Wolff doesn’t sound very optimistic about the two Americas, but the division is not a new invention.  America has over big issues and small, long been a divided country.  What’s different now has been the tendency to nationalize every issue into a one size fits all, top down approach; exactly the opposite of what the founders intended.  I suspect the divide began to take on national consequences with Roe v Wade in 1973.  It may be hard to believe now, but the country was gradually moving towards a pro choice position when the Supreme Court decided to short circuit the democratic process and impose a court written national law that froze the debate in place. So for 40 plus years, the needle has barely wiggled on abortion and it’s still a contentious issue.  And you can add up every single issue that we’ve had either decided for us by the courts or imposed on us at a national level issues that were usually a state and local concern. Now that the federal government is vitally concerned about who goes into what bathroom in North Carolina, and every state in the union, there are effectively no limits to what the national government can decide or impose.  So every issue is a national issue in which at least half the country feels burned on.

There is an easy solution to this of course, good old fashioned constitutional federalism.  Leave the bathrooms, abortions, and gay marriage cakes up to each state, and suddenly we have a lot fewer things to fight about on the national stage. Unfortunately good old fashioned constitutional federalism is as abhorrent to half the country as Duck Dynasty and country music.  So prepare for more squabbling between Dunham and Dynasty.

 

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!

 

 

A Dictatorship of the Punditariat

I honestly thought the #NeverTrump guys had already hit rock bottom.  I didn’t see how much further down they had to go in making themselves look foolish and idiotic. I figured this post was the last I would ever write on the die hard #NeverTrumps.

I was wrong.David French

The editor of The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, whose record of inaccuracy on political predictions over the past year is probably unmatched in modern punditry, revealed this week that his long search for a Great Write Hope is fellow pundit David French, a writer at National Review.  If there is a better example of how insular the pundit class has become I couldn’t imagine what it would be.  The pundits, gazing around at the political field, decide to dispense with the actual voters and select one of their own.

The genesis of an Acela Corridor campaign is the utter failure of the chattering classes to understand the rise of Donald Trump or…well anything that’s happened in the past year. And yet they continue to insist that they’re the best and brightest and know what they’re doing.  Of course their Acela Putsch is doomed to failure.  The world will never be ready for Punditocracy.  The few hundred votes that they represent are insignificant, but the fact that they can command TV news time brings attention to them way out of their importance.

Meanwhile, they’ve had years, generations even, of being taken seriously.  But who is going to take them seriously now; ever?

#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.

 

RINO’s in Winter

Mitt Romney went insane earlier today, launching an attack on GOP front runner Donald Trump, in an effort by the Republican Party to sabotage its own front runner and ensure a humiliating defeat this fall for a party that has fetishized defeat as a noble virtue.

Or at least that’s how it looks to me.  Apparently GOPe has decided that they would much prefer another President Clinton to the possibility of actually winning anything, and will take down their own party to make sure they cruise into the November election to a humiliating Goldwater-like defeat by splitting the party.

And for what?

It’s hard to grasp this split is simply over policy differences. Position wise, Trump is a moderate Republican.  In spite accusations to the contrary, Trump is no right wing zealot.  Instead he, as an analysis piece in the Washington Post points out, he is a “textbook moderate.” The weird thing is, if you break it down issue by issue, Trump is a RINO, the exact type of Republican the establishment should love, and the exact type they’ve foisted on the Republican electorate in the past, and the exact type that they’ve always said was the only electable choice.

So what’s different? Except for trade, Trump is running on Romney’s 2012 platform. Now before you say, immigration, Romney ran on “self deportation.” The health reform plan that he released today is almost identical to the one Romney ran on. I can’t remember when a candidate has ran on a platform so identical to his failed predecessor. Is giving up bad trade deals that important to them? Or is it just a matter of style? Trump is a “short fingered vulgarian” after all. Or is it just that he’s running without any donor support and needs nothing from the GOPe?

Inquiring minds…

In the meantime, important GOP establishment “thought leaders,” inspired by Mitt Romney’s bout of suicidal mental illness, are planning their own vivisection of the Republican Party.

I can think of a name for the new party; the Whigs.  The future of the Republican Party is starting to look like it’s past.

 

 

The Slow Death of Conservatism

It’s more with sadness than with anger that I note the passing of movement conservatism.  It had a good run boys!  But alas, it was sabotaged from within and without both the conservative movement and the Republican Party, the allegedly titular “conservative” political party, which had been running a pretty successful shell game with conservatives; at least until recently.  “Hey just elect us and tax cuts, balanced budgets, strong on defense, rinse and repeat…”  So Conservatives dutifully voted Republican.  And they did a pretty good job at it too.  The Congress hasn’t been this Republican since before the Great Depression. And just look at all the conservative initiatives that have made it through Congress…

Oh yeah.

Mark Steyn wrote a sobering piece about just this thing, The World They Made. I highly recommend it.  Steyn riffs of a Rush Limbaugh monologue about an article from The Week which detailed an eerily prescient article by an old Pat Buchanan advisor who predicted the rise of Donald Trump, or at least Trumpism.  It’s unclear if he had a specific person in mind. But the author, Sam Francis wrote in 1996:

“…the globalist elites seek to drag the country into conflicts and global commitments, preside over the economic pastoralization of the United States, manage the delegitimization of our own culture, and the dispossession of our people, and disregard or diminish our national interests and national sovereignty, a nationalist reaction is almost inevitable and will probably assume populist form when it arrives.” 

Pretty good guess for a 20 year old prediction, and as I noted last July after Trump announced, the signature item of note from his agenda was nationalism, specifically a kind of put-America-first old fashioned economic nationalism. That’s finally taken root to the extent that, as Steyn notes:

“Rush’s view is that “nationalism and populism have overtaken conservatism in terms of appeal” – ie, that there are insufficient takers for conservatism. It comes to something when the nation’s Number One conservative talk-show host is putting it that way, but you can see what he’s getting at.”

And in the still not getting it department comes The National Review.  I have a lot of affection for the National Review.  It was one of the first conservative publications I stumbled across in college, and I’ve read and occasionally subscribed to it since then.  But the spasmodic reaction to Trump over the past 6 months makes me wonder how I can have a better understanding of the conservative movement, and what the attraction of economic nationalism is then “Professional” conservatives who are supposed to be well inculcated into the movement.  How could they not see this coming?

 

Now the magazine has gone into full scale attack mode against Donald Trump, featuring a special issue dedicated to attacking Trump.  The charge of course is that Trump is not a real conservative, which is surprising considering how many moderates the magazine has endorsed for President because “we want to win.”  This time, to Conservative Inc and GOP Inc, losing looks like the far preferable option.

I’ve never seen anything like this.  History will record this as a major battle in the Republican Civil War, but there may not be any winners in this war.

At least on the Right.