With all this compromise and worldliness in American Churches, we have to ask the question: is there a point in time that we can look to and say “that was the point where it all went wrong”? I believe I have found it! John D. Rockefeller is involved…
But an important group of NeverTrumpers identified with the right on a very specific set of issues — support for the 1990s-era free trade consensus, Wilsonian hawkishness, democracy promotion — that are unlikely to animate conservatism again any time soon no matter how the Trump presidency ends. These intellectuals and strategists aren’t particularly culturally conservative, they’re allergic to populism, they don’t have any reason to identify with a conservatism that’s wary of nation-building and globalization — and soon enough, they won’t.
.. Along with Rubin I’m thinking here of Max Boot, her fellow Post columnist and the author of a new book denouncing the Trump-era right, who self-defined as a conservative mostly because he favored a democratic imperialism of the kind that George W. Bush unsuccessfully promoted. I’m thinking of Evan McMullin, the third-party presidential candidate turned full-time anti-Trump activist, and certain Republican strategists from the Bush-McCain-Romney party, whose Twitter feeds suggest that they never much cared for the voters who supported their candidates anyway.
.. But observers trying to imagine what a decent right might look like after Trump should look elsewhere — to thinkers and writers who basically accept the populist turn, and whose goal is to supply coherence and intellectual ballast, to purge populism of its bigotries and inject good policy instead.
For an account of policy people working toward this goal, read Sam Tanenhaus in the latest Time Magazine, talking to conservatives on Capitol Hill who are trying to forge a Trumpism-after-Trump that genuinely serves working-class families instead of just starting racially charged feuds.
.. I don’t know if any of these efforts can pull the post-Trump right away from anti-intellectualism and chauvinism. But their project is the one that matters to what conservatism is right now, not what it might have been had John McCain been elected president, or had the Iraq War been something other than a misbegotten mess, or had the 2000-era opening to China gone the way free traders hoped.
Trump presents an insurmountable challenge to an intellectual approach to politics because his decisions aren’t based on any coherent body of ideas.
.. Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon devoted considerable resources to promoting Trumpist candidates who supposedly shared President Trump’s worldview and parroted his rhetoric, including anti-globalism, economic nationalism, and crude insults of “establishment” politicians. Those schemes largely came to naught.
.. The intellectual effort to craft or divine a coherent Trumpist ideology didn’t fare much better. Just over a year ago, Julius Krein launched a new journal called American Affairs to “give the Trump movement some intellectual heft,”
.. On the left, there’s an enormous investment in the idea that Trump isn’t a break with conservatism but the apotheosis of it. This is a defensible, or at least understandable, claim if you believe conservatism has always been an intellectually vacuous bundle of racial and cultural resentments.
.. by his own admission, he doesn’t consult any serious and coherent body of ideas for his decisions. He trusts his instincts.
.. Trump has said countless times that he thinks his gut is a better guide than the brains of his advisers. He routinely argues that the presidents and policymakers who came before him were all fools and weaklings. That’s narcissism, not ideology, talking.
.. Even the “ideas” that he has championed consistently — despite countervailing evidence and expertise — are grounded not in arguments but in instincts.
He dislikes regulations because, as a businessman, they got in his way.
He dislikes trade because he has a childish, narrow understanding of what “winning” means. Even the “ideas” that he has championed consistently — despite countervailing evidence and expertise — are grounded not in arguments but in instincts. He dislikes regulations because, as a businessman, they got in his way. He dislikes trade because he has a childish, narrow understanding of what “winning” means.
.. The president’s attack on his attorney general’s conduct as “disgraceful” makes no political, legal, or ideological sense, but it is utterly predictable as an expression of Trump’s view that loyalty to Trump should trump everything else.
.. Likewise, his blather about skipping due process to “take the guns” was politically bizarre
.. And, of course, his decision to promote and protect his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is purely psychological. Giving Kushner the responsibility to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for all time seems like the premise of a sitcom
.. many of Trump’s biggest fans stick by him, mirroring Trump’s mode of thinking and discovering ever more extravagant ways to explain or rationalize the president’s behavior. (Krein’s abandonment of Trump was an exception to the rule.)
When Trump attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Jerry Falwell Jr. of Liberty University tweeted his support, floating the idea that Sessions was an anti-Trump deep cover operative who endorsed Trump to undermine his presidency from within.
.. If this infection becomes a pandemic — a cult of personality — one could fairly call Trumpism a movement. But psychology would still be the best way to understand it.
recall perhaps the words of Hannah Arendt, “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e. the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e. the standards of thought) no longer exist”
.. you know where militarism and nationalism and disdain for intellectuals and artists, and the cultivation of enemies and scapegoats, and contempt for a free press can lead
.. It must be itself, a certain idea of liberty and democracy and openness, or it is nothing, just a squalid, oversized, greedy place past the zenith of its greatness.
Don’t let one speech fool you into revisionist history.
But a more careful look at Trump and Bush’s records shouldn’t elevate Bush; it should remind us that the two presidents have more in common than they care publicly to admit.
For starters, just think about tax cuts for the extremely wealthy, suppressing the black vote and Bush’s penchant for denigrating facts and expertise. Our country’s historical amnesia be damned; the roots of Trump’s reactionary agenda were planted in W.’s West Wing.
.. “Because of my position and my affection for the president and my belief and trust in he and his advisers, I gave them the benefit of the doubt,” McClellan said. “And looking back on it and reflecting on it now, I don’t think I should have.” McClellan faulted the Bush administration for never having shifted from campaign mode to governing mode, a failure that “almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option [in Iraq].
In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president’s advantage.”
.. In his recent speech, Bush claimed that bigotry “is blasphemy against the American creed,” referring to Trump’s politics. But Bush’s own Svengali, Rove, was simply more sophisticated and soft-spoken in his bigotry than Trump’s past and present cabal, Stephen K. Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka.
.. he and Rove were the crown princes of wedge issues. Having championed a historically unprecedented move to change the Constitution to bar same-sex couples from marrying, Bush and Rove then helped get 11 initiatives to ban same-sex marriage on state ballots in November 2004, the better to draw conservatives to the polls to support his reelection
.. Bush, Rove and Gillespie worked diligently with Republican state legislators to put voter-restriction laws on the books, the better to keep blacks and college students away. Despite no worthy evidence of voting fraud in 2000 or 2002, John Ashcroft, Bush’s attorney general, put the issue at the top of the Justice Department’s agenda.
.. Bush had his attorney general fire seven U.S. attorneys. Ultimately, the Department of Justice’s own inspector general concluded that some of the dismissals were motivated by the fired prosecutors’ refusal to go after trumped-up voter fraud cases.
.. Mother Jones suggests that Wisconsin’s black voter suppression helped tip the state to Trump.
.. Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 delivered the top 1 percent of earners an average tax break of more than $570,000 between 2004 and 2012. Bush boosted that top 1 percent’s already high after-tax income by more than 5 percent each year.
.. It was Bush and Rove who demonized climate scientists, reproductive health specialists, stem-cell researchers and Middle East experts. Referring to the war in Iraq, a top Bush aide once mocked “the reality-based community,” a code for those who dare criticized Bush’s policies — gasp! — based on facts. Bush dishonestly teed up the anti-intellectual, anti-elitist rage that became the emotional touchstone of Trumpism.
.. There’s very little lifestyle or ideological difference between the Bush clan and core members of the Trump administration: Jared Kushner, Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson or Betsy DeVos (whose brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwate
Republicans, who were already much less positive than Democrats about higher education, have turned very negative on the role of colleges in America. True to form, this worries some liberal commentators, who are calling for outreach – universities should examine their implicit biases, make an effort to hire more conservative faculty, etc..
.. After all, among college professors 59 percent identify as Democrats versus only 13 percent as Republicans; senior faculty were even more liberal, with very few identifying themselves as conservatives.
.. Oh, wait – that wasn’t a survey of college professors; it was a 2004 survey of the military, and the 59-13 comparison was of Republicans versus Democrats.
.. The point is that your political orientation isn’t something handed to you, like your race or ethnicity. It’s a choice, reflecting your values – and those same values are likely to influence your choice of profession
.. But hasn’t the anti-conservative lean of academics gotten more pronounced over time? Yes – but surely that has a lot to do with the changing nature of what it means to be a conservative. When denial of climate change, and for that matter the theory of evolution, become tribal markers, you shouldn’t be surprised to find academics, very much including those in the hard sciences, decline to be identified as members of the tribe.
.. But there used to be at least some pretense of taking facts and hard thinking seriously. Now anyone pointing out awkward facts – immigrants haven’t brought a reign of terror, coal jobs can’t be brought back, Trump lost the popular vote – is the enemy. In fact, I’d argue that anti-intellectualism was, in its own way, as big a factor in the election as racism.
.. America basically invented the modern, educated society, leading the way on universal K-12 education, building the world’s finest and most comprehensive higher education system; this in turn was an important factor in how we became leader of the free world. Now a powerful political movement basically wants to make America ignorant again.