American conservatives

The “sane” Republicans have correctly pointed out, over and over again, that the Tea Party is in no meaningful sense of the word “conservative.” With the Republicans split and unable to govern, the Democrats take their rightful place as the true conservative party, the party of the American state, and the main problem with the nominally “conservative” theory of “2012 or never” against Obamacratic socialism becomes obvious: It was a fantasy. The war the fellows in the Minuteman costumes thought they were fighting was already lost generations if not centuries ago. Their only hope is in complete despair, the wishful fear that the whole thing might fall apart on its own, but the notion of a national constituency actively and aggressively in favor of national dissolution is an absurdity, since that polity would be asked to reach consensus over its insufficient consensus. Czechs and Slovaks were content to separate in part because, afterward, no one on the wrong side of the new, sensible ethnic and geographic border would have lost too much: The underlying consensus on the central political questions, on the outlines of the proper relationship of state and citizen, meant that each new nation would be as much two provinces within the emergent European and transnational liberal democratic super-state. Tea Party “anti-statism,” like libertarianism and anarchism more generally, cannot offer such guarantees, while the American people, to whatever extent there still is an American people, will tend to remain in favor of themselves. Their will can degenerate to the point that they lose the ability to resist, so cease to cling to life, and they or rather we may even be on that course, perhaps well on that course, but until the last moment all attempts to hasten the process will tend to retard it, since they provoke us, we who would have to constitute ourselves self-consciously as a people to vote for our own de-constitution, to re-experience whatever remnant shared vitality and instead re-constitute ourselves defensively against our would-be assassins.


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7 comments on “American conservatives

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  1. It definitely doesn’t help their odds for secession that they tend towards “Real American” blather & imply that it is the liberals that should leave if anybody…

    • If you want a more thorough diagnosis, Judis’ recent piece offered a good one: http://t.co/opQotliYIK Tweeting the link led to a twitter-logue with a guy who read like a cliche “Oathkeeper” type – his final tweet to me, after he was done with the $17T in debt and the Fed and “you people will get what you deserve” ended literally with an ominous assertion that he made an oath and intended to keep it.

  2. It is not about ethnicity, it is about philosophy, remarkable you come to this conclusions after the subterfuge of the last three years, by the way.

    • I think I might be able to guess what you mean by the third of your three almost-arguments distributed over two comments, don miguel, but it’s irrelevant to my thesis if not supportive. The other two strike me as non-responsive or non sequitur to the extent I can make anything of them at all.

  3. It’s is characteristic of Minitrue, to label any center right sentiment, extreme, we have seen it Chavez’s Venezuela, who the FCC commisar admires, Mao’s China, that Anita Dunn has a hankering for, and of course the decrepit corpse of the ‘Wandering Coma’ as one Cuban exile dubbed the other Castro brother.

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TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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