Thursday, February 25, 2016

Trump and "movement conservatism"

"If Trump’s success proves anything, it’s that those inclined to embrace the Republican right no longer require the trappings. Movement conservatism unleashed the beast of rage and resentment, which Trump plans to ride to the pinnacle of authoritarianism." - Adele Stan, Donald Trump and the Twilight of Movement Conservatism The American Prospect 02/25/2016

She is taking her own pass at analyzing the seemingly anomaly of Trump's appeal that he doesn't pay homage to many of the favorite free-market tropes of "movement conservatism," like corporate deregulation treaties masquerading as "free trade" pacts. She explains how Trump's appeal is a kind of desublimation of what Republican Party "movement conservatism" is, just a different manifestation:

What passes for conservatism in United States politics has never been much more than an acrid nougat of resentments and greed, dipped in a creamy candy coating of rationalized “principles” and moralisms. In the eyes of self-described conservatives, it was that philosophical frosting that conferred a certain legitimacy on positions that served to enrich the wealthy, confer even greater power on those who already possess it, and squeeze out any newcomers who might claim a bonbon for their own. The Trump power bar dispenses with all that chivalrous truffle, cutting straight to the chewy core of the right: a salty mix of rage, racism, misogyny and, most of all, greed.

What, after all, lurks under the wrappers labeled “states’ rights,” “limited government,” and so-called “pro-life”? One or more elements of that saliferous blend, leaving the partaker ever-thirstier for more.

If any one candidate is testament to the success of movement conservatism since its coalescence in 1964, it’s Trump—the very candidate many conservative leaders would stop, if they only knew how.
She also recaps the process this way:

In the early 1960s, the New Right was born of a backlash to the civil-rights movement and the emergence of communism as a challenge to American might. By the 1980s, when New Right leaders built a coalition with movement conservatives and right-wing evangelicals and Catholics, the backlash encompassed a reaction to the changing roles of women and the liberation of LGBT people. As the face of immigration changed from European to Asian and Latin American, opposition to these non-white newcomers became a feature, not a bug, of right-wing ideology.

Today, American military might is challenged by the inchoate rivalries of the post-colonial Muslim world; its economic might is challenged by the nations of Asia. A black man is finishing his second term as U.S. president, and a woman has a pretty good shot at taking his place. The old order of white man on top, America above all others, is being upended. Unmoored from any philosophy other than self-regard, the very white, very rich, very male Donald Trump is the ultimate backlash candidate.
She also links this article by David Faris, The GOP’s Anti-Government Line created Trump: Movement conservatism and the rise of the demagogues Informed Comment 02/11/2016. Faris comments of Trump, "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?"

The common media description of Trump's followers as white "working class" is a little shaky, in my view. Because Trump has already shown a broad appeal among all classes of voters, including those of his own billionaire set.

Faris gives this take on the nature of Trumpism:

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?
He compares Trump and a previous Republican Vice Presidential canidate: "Both in terms of speech patterns and policy acumen, Trump is Palin, just without the incomplete term governing Alaska."

But he doesn't leave it at a zinger comment:

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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