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Staying Conservative

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Cropped screen capture from Ghostbusters, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

Electing Donald J. Trump would mark the end.

Not the end of the solar system, which would keep moving (I think the solar system would keep moving); not the end of life on Earth (—again, I’m not so sure now that I’ve written it down, so fingers crossed); not even the end of movie remakes. It would mark the end of the “conservative project” we’ve been working on for years, though. That project has different facets and is described in different ways, but the end-goal in all cases is the opposite of electing progressive authoritarians like Donald J. Trump.

Conservatives and Libertarians who believe in limited federal power would still exist (——?). I’m not sure it’s in our DNA to just lie down, so we would keep working despite ourselves, though the project necessarily would be different.

I wrote “electing” and keep writing “would.” I probably could have written “being about to nominate” and “has.” Part of me is resisting. Contemplating starting over when you thought you could see the finish line is apparently tiring in its own special way.

Electing Donald J. Trump would mark the end, and here's why:

1. He would have defeated “the Conservatives,” relegating any remaining true-believers to the back-benches of the Republican Party, there to carp indefinitely with all the other wacko-birds, hobbits, and extremists; and 2. by moving the Republican Party to the left, he would have unanchored the entire federal government, and the entire federal government would shift left.

Basically, a rout.

Writing about the leadership of the GOP, Paul David Miller sifted some of this yesterday (7/5) in “The Moral Collapse Of The Republican Party: The Republican Party is not ‘unifying.’ It is surrendering.

By embracing Trump, the Republican Party embraces the man, the ideas, and his fate. Whatever legitimate grievances underlie Trump’s appeal — such as frustration with the pace of globalization, or with the culture of political correctness — have been tarnished by Trump’s overt hostility to basic norms of republican government. The party has given away all the high ground it had against the increasingly illiberal and autocratic progressive left by nominating the only person in America who embodies an equally clear disregard for equality under law.

If Trump loses — which he probably will — the Republican Party will lose with him, and it will deserve its loss. The down-ticket damage will be all of Trump’s doing, with the party’s open complicity, and much of the gains at the state and local level in recent years will be undone.

It is worse if Trump wins (and I think he has a higher chance of winning than most polls say): a Trump victory vindicates Trumpism — already dangerously on the rise — and permanently transforms the Republican Party into the party of white grievance, nativism, and belligerent nationalism. America will no longer have a party of limited government and classical liberalism. Losing the presidency but recovering a party dedicated to the ideals of ordered liberty is far preferable.

I generally agree with him. I take “the party of white grievance, nativism, and belligerent nationalism” as a vague, imperfect sketch of the Democrats of the last century and of the potential future of the Republican Party. I would also add that the author is arguing about the loss of “a party of limited government and classical liberalism,” while I am arguing that we will be denied the chance to ever recreate one of the Republican Party.

I’ve said that I don’t think planning political strategies as though a person is playing a game of 3D chess is useful, because society is like a game of 3D chess in much the same way that a bounce-house full of children is like a seating chart. But with respect to the permanent damage electing Trump will cause, I agree with Miller again:

What is baffling is that the strategic calculus is so obvious, yet the entire party is getting it so massively wrong.

He goes on to speculate on why that might be, and though it’s a little off-topic, I want to include it here for the last bit:

That they are getting it so wrong is evidence that they are wholly driven by short-sighted, tactical partisan interests. They want the Republican Party to win and they want to be reelected. This isn’t a shocking insight; it is exactly what elected politicians do.

But what surprises me is that they want the Republican Party to win no matter what the party stands for, even if the party flirts with white supremacy and proto-fascism. I held out the hope — now, I see, hopelessly deluded and naïve — that politicians understood that there is a line you don’t cross; there comes a point at which principle really does come before party; that the good of the nation should come before partisanship; and that when your party starts to go off the deep end, you jump ship.

I wanted to include that last part because it reminds me of arguments from years ago: If being Conservative doesn't mean being conservative, why would I care if Conservatives win? Or, to put it another way, if I have to become a Progressive to win as a Conservative to beat the Progressives — wait, what?

The catastrophe heading our way appears to be inextricable. I don’t believe Hillary Clinton, villain and undocumented felon, poses the existential threat. You can come back and win one day after being beaten. You can come back and win one day after being beaten by the devil himself. You can’t come back and win one day after changing sides.



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