I have written elsewhere how the GOP now predominantly views itself as a populist movement—a fake populism that directs the wrath of its followers downward against the marginal, and outwards against foreigners, rather than upward against the powerful. In reality, it pursues an economic policy entirely dedicated to the further enrichment of our American plutocracy on the backs of everyone else. Some have given up on this welter of contradictions, saying that there really is no such thing as a Republican Party platform. But all these programmatic inconsistencies can be reconciled at a more fundamental level than political programs. It lies at the level of personal psychology and barely expressible belief.The stark truth is that, as in 1939, we face the prospect of the destruction of the liberal project of the Enlightenment and the Democratic West. Resistance must be massive and unflinching.
Donald Trump did not hijack American conservatism; in him it reached its logical culmination. The defining characteristics of post-1980 conservatism—its authoritarianism; denigration of reason and education; obsession with power at all costs; Manichean, black and white thinking; apocalyptic, religious fundamentalist mentality; paranoia and sense of being besieged even when in power; and gangsterish deceit, bad faith, and lack of principle, whether practiced by a transparent swindler like Trump or a supposed intellectual like Newt Gingrich—must lead to nihilism and mindless destruction. . . .
Trump did not fall from the sky upon an innocent American people. Public suspicion and cynicism toward government, other groups in society, and democracy itself, have been steadily growing since the 1960s. While this would have happened in any case (and a little cynicism about what any government is up to can be healthy), the intensity of the suspicion and cynicism has been stoked at every turn by conservative propagandists, to the point where these feelings have congealed into paranoia and nihilism.
Wednesday, January 03, 2018
What is "conservatism"?
Career congressional staffer Mike Lofgren tries to make sense of a political movement that unites religious fanatics with libertarian plutocrats and racists. This is a long essay which will reward your careful attention. I won't try to summarize it -- do read. But here are three excerpts that can serve as a road map.