The old tea party may be over, but the new one is at peak power

Pompeo’s ascent underscores just how many politicians who came to prominence with the tea party — including Vice President Pence, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney — now occupy powerful positions in Trump’s administration. Depending on how far Trump goes to try to remake the GOP in his image, tea party alumni may form the core of a new Republican establishment.

.. The grievances that animated the movement and fed Trump’s presidential candidacy live on. The tea party’s insurgent impulses have fused with his erratic populism to become one of the three contending forces in the Republican Party — the other two being establishment Republicanism and ideological conservatism. Tillerson’s fall is a prime example of how traditional Republicans are becoming yesterday’s men and women in the Trumpified GOP. Tomorrow, will it be the ideological conservatives like House Speaker Paul Ryan?

.. The Washington Post reported that Trump disdained Tillerson, the pro-big-business former ExxonMobil CEO, for being “too establishment” in his thinking, by which the president seems to have meant Tillerson’s prudence (at least in relation to Trump), adherence to traditional diplomatic protocols, and unwillingness to rip up trade agreements and the Iran nuclear deal.
Pompeo, on the other hand, first won election to Congress in 2010 as a tea party favorite, in a race where some of his supporters urged Kansans to “Vote American ” to defeat his Indian American opponent.
.. party leaders were uneasily aware that the tea party stood apart from the Republican Party and in some ways defined itself in angry opposition to the GOP establishment. (The divide plagued the speakership of John Boehner and ultimately helped lead to his resignation.)
.. Republican and Democratic leaders came across to tea party activists as equally uninterested in their worries about immigration, the loss of jobs and industry to global economic competition, and a social agenda of “political correctness” pushed by academia and the media. Trump built his movement by championing these issues both parties seemed to ignore and projecting a willingness to fight to the death rather than surrender.
.. In the long view of history, the tea party was one more episode in a series of right-wing populist revolts that marked the development of the modern conservative movement.
  • .. President Dwight Eisenhower, for example, squelchedSen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade, while the conservative intellectual champion
  • William F. Buckley Jr. expelled the conspiracy-mongering John Birch Society from the respectable right. At other times, leaders like
  • Ronald Reagan brought conservative activists into the mainstream of the GOP without permitting them to engage in intra-party fratricide.

.. When the conservative supporters of Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona came together in the early 1960s, for example, they took over many state and local party organizations and threw out anyone they deemed insufficiently committed to the cause.

.. As for Burch, after Goldwater’s massive defeat, he repented and told the RNC that “this party needs two wings, two wings and a center, or I fear it may never fly again.”

.. The grievances of most tea party supporters didn’t fade with time but were inflamed by Trump’s campaign, which strengthened the movement’s tendency to view opponents as illegitimate and un-American, and compromise as treason.

.. Despite the tea party’s provenance as a conservative movement, there was little about past political patterns and practices that it wanted to conserve. Activists hoped not only to “throw the bums out” but also to get rid of anything that passed for the status quo.

.. The affinity of tea party veterans for Trump is based in part on their common interest in disruption. Ryan may soon be in trouble because his authority and his orthodox conservatism have become another establishment to be overthrown

 

Sean Hannity Is No William F. Buckley

On the subject of cycles, Warren Buffett likes to talk about “the natural progression, the three I’s.” As he put it to Charlie Rose in 2008, those I’s are “the innovators, the imitators and the idiots.” One creates, one enhances — and one screws it all up.

Buffett was describing the process that led to the 2008 housing and financial crises. But he might as well have been talking about the decline of the conservative movement in America.

.. If we have reached the point where rank-and-file conservatives see nothing amiss with giving Hannity an award named for Buckley, then surely there’s a Milton Friedman Prize awaiting Steve Bannon for his insights on free trade.

.. Buckley shed isolationism, segregationism and anti-Semitism, and insisted the conservative movement do likewise.

.. as the gatekeeper of conservative ideas, he denounced the inverted Marxism of Ayn Rand, the conspiracy theories of Robert Welch (founder of the John Birch Society) and the white populism of George Wallace and Pat Buchanan.

.. In March 2000, he trained his sights on “the narcissist” and “demagogue” Donald Trump. “When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection,” he wrote in a prophetic short essay in Cigar Aficionado. “The resistance to a corrupting demagogy,” he warned, “should take first priority” for Americans.

.. The conservatism he nourished was fundamentally literary: To play a significant part in it you had to know how to write, and in order to write well you had to read widely, and in order to do that you had to, well, enjoy reading. In hindsight, 2008, the year of Sarah Palin, was also the year when literary conservatism went into eclipse.

Suddenly, you didn’t need to devote a month to researching and writing a 7,000-word critique of Obama administration’s policy on, say, Syria to be taken seriously as a conservative foreign-policy expert. You just needed to mouth off about it for five minutes on “The O’Reilly Factor.” For books there were always ghostwriters;

..The quality of an idea could be tested not by its ability to withstand scrutiny from experts, but by the willingness of people to swallow it.

.. It shouldn’t be a surprise that a post-literate conservative world should have been so quick to embrace a semi-literate presidential candidate. Nor, in hindsight, is it strange that, with the role Buckley once played in maintaining conservative ideological hygiene retired, the ideas he expunged should have made such a quick and pestilential comeback.

  1. Thus, when Hannity peddles conspiracy theories about Seth Rich, the young Democratic National Committee staffer murdered in Washington last year, that’s an echo of John Birch.
  2. When fellow Fox host Tucker Carlson — who once aspired to be the next Buckley and now aims to be the next Ann Coulter — tries to reinvent himself as the tribune of the working class, he’s speaking for the modern-day George Wallace voter.
  3. Isolationism is already back, thanks to Trump.
  4. Anti-Semitism can’t be far behind, either, and not just on the alt-right.

 a Buckley Award for Sean Hannity suggests nothing ironic

.. a fresh reminder of who now holds the commanding heights of conservative life, and what it is that they think.

The Inside Story of William F. Buckley Jr.’s Crusade against the John Birch Society

While both Buckley and Welch lamented the military and diplomatic setbacks that befell the United States in the early years of the Cold War, they disagreed as to the causes. Buckley attributed policy outcomes such as the stalemate in Korea, Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, Soviet acquisition of nuclear weapons, the Communists’ victory in China’s civil war, and the success of Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution in Cuba to misguided policies and lack of resolve among Western leaders. Welch considered them the result of Soviet penetration into the highest echelons of the U.S. government. In 1961, he estimated that 50 to 70 percent of the United States was “communist controlled.”

.. They had different takes on the impact Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago would have. Buckley thought it would set back the Communist cause. Welch thought it to be a piece of Soviet propaganda. Welch took it upon himself to advise Buckley that Henry Kissinger, a young Harvard academician whom Buckley had proposed be named to the board that would assess the effectiveness of Radio Free Europe, was a Communist.

.. one of the USSR’s principal agents was none other than the president of the United States. Dwight Eisenhower, he concluded, was a “dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.” He also identified as Communists who took their orders from Moscow Eisenhower’s brother Milton, then president of Johns Hopkins University; his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles; Dulles’s brother, Allen, then director of Central Intelligence; and former secretary of state George Marshall, among others.

.. In time, Buckley would say that Welch inferred “subjective intention from objective consequences” — because things went badly for the United States, policy makers must have intended those results and worked to achieve them; because China fell to the Communists, by Welch’s lights, those heading the U.S. government must have planned that outcome.

.. The JBS founder protested he had sent the manuscript to many people and that only Buckley “completely disagreed” with its hypotheses.

.. However, Goldwater voiced identical objections. “If you were smart,” he wrote Welch, “you would burn every copy you have.”

.. Welch decreed that the John Birch Society would be autocratic in its governance. Any other organizational method, he insisted, would leave the society open to “infiltration, distortion and disruption.” He proclaimed the very word democracy a “deceptive phrase, a weapon of demagoguery, and a perennial fraud.”

.. Its members paid close attention to book acquisitions by local libraries and pressed for the banning of certain titles.

.. They organized boycotts of stores that carried goods imported from Communist countries.

.. Birchers pressed local governments to impose heavy taxes, fees, or regulations on such merchants.

.. the JBS took on, its campaign to impeach Chief Justice Earl Warren drew the most attention from the mainstream media. Welch pointed to a litany of actions the Supreme Court had taken under Warren’s leadership that facilitated a Communist takeover of the United States: its striking down loyalty oaths; its extension of First Amendment protections to Communists; its ban of school prayer in public schools; its imposition of the “one man, one vote” principle in legislative apportionment; and, above all, its overturning of the “separate but equal” doctrine, which put the nation on a path to desegregation. Welch turned his disagreement with the Warren Court and its decisions into a national crusade.

.. His sister Jane Buckley Smith, who had joined National Review’s staff, patiently explained to those writing in that a jurist’s written opinions, however inflammatory, did not constitute “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” the constitutional standard for impeachment.

.. a National Review staffer suggested that Eisenhower and several of his friends were determined to make Welch pay a price for slandering the former president.

.. voiced concern that National Review might become a casualty in the upcoming crossfire. As the staffer had anticipated, once Welch’s assertions about Eisenhower began to circulate, reporters began to take an interest in the JBS’s more prominent supporters and members.

.. Buckley’s aide urged him to speak out against the JBS, lest he and National Review be harmed in an “atmosphere of smear.”

.. Neil McCaffrey and Bill Rusher urged that the magazine stay silent, fearful that a strong stand against Welch and his organization would put National Review in jeopardy.

.. Rusher, worried about losses in readers and revenues, recommended founding a grassroots conservative organization that would act as a counterweight to what Welch was attempting through the JBS.

.. While he disapproved of Welch and his antics, Goldwater was hesitant to denounce the JBS. He did his presidential prospects no favors when he called its members the “type of people we need in politics” and proclaimed the Birchers were some of the “finest people” in his community.

.. One of the challenges he faced was keeping John Birchers from infiltrating Goldwater’s campaign.

.. Buckley never tired of quoting Kirk’s response when the subject turned to Welch’s attack upon Eisenhower: “Eisenhower is not a communist; he is a golfer.”

.. Buckley criticized Welch for failing to distinguish between an “active pro-Communist” and an “ineffectual anti-Communist Liberal.”

.. Of Welch’s refusal to allow dissent within his organization, Buckley wrote, “He anathematizes all who disagree with him.”

.. Mail protesting the editorial was so voluminous that Buckley responded by form letter. “I have letters from some . . . which are the quintessence of intolerance, of a crudeness of spirit, of misanthropy,”

.. In the first of these columns, Buckley listed the society’s take on ten policy matters, all culled from a single issue of American Opinion. Each of the magazine’s positions took as its premise Communist control of a federal agency or branch of government. He inquired how the society’s membership could tolerate “such paranoid and unpatriotic drivel.”

.. Another urged him to ask Congress to take testimony from one Colonel Goliewski, who would prove that Eisenhower was a Communist. One of his favorites of the mail he received was a piece of paper with a single word written on it in magic marker: “Judas.”

How William F. Buckley Became the Gatekeeper of the Conservative Movement

The founder of National Review’s crusade against the John Birch Society helped define American conservatism.

In the 1950s, William F. Buckley, perhaps unintentionally, fired the opening salvo in what would become a major battle between him and Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society.

In the 1950s, William F. Buckley, perhaps unintentionally, fired the opening salvo in what would become a major battle between him and Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society.

He was also impressed by how CIA operatives, after the book had been published in the West, with the help of a member of the Italian Communist Party, managed to print the novel in its original language, smuggled it back into the USSR, and disseminated it throughout the country. Buckley considered this action among the CIA’s major ideological victories during the Cold War.

.. in 1961, Kennedy spoke of “discordant voices of extremism.” He said the real danger to the nation came from extremist elements within rather than from foreign powers without. The President was referring to the John Birch Society

.. “Because [John Birch Society founder] Robert Welch has written that Eisenhower was a communist, it is insinuated by the political opportunists that all who dare raise their voice in protest against the foreign policies of the President are the kind of people who think that poor old Ike is a commie.”

.. After having barely defeated Nixon in 1960, Kennedy had lost considerable support in the South because of the stand he had taken on civil rights. As Reston noted, JFK needed to offset this loss by maximizing his support from other segments of the electorate.

.. All could be targets of opportunity for the Democrats if they could cast the GOP as having been taken over by fanatics

.. On his retirement as editor of National Review in 1990, Buckley cited among his own greatest achievements “the absolute exclusion of anything anti-Semitic or kooky from the conservative movement.”

I Thought I Understood the American Right. Trump Proved Me Wrong.

Buckley excommunicated the John Birch Society, anti-Semites and supporters of the hyperindividualist Ayn Rand, and his cohort fused the diverse schools of conservative thinking — traditionalist philosophers, militant anti-Communists, libertarian economists — into a coherent ideology, one that eventually came to dominate American politics.

.. Goldwater’s loss, far from dooming the American right, inspired a new generation of conservative activists to redouble their efforts, paving the way for the Reagan revolution.

.. If Donald Trump is the latest chapter of conservatism’s story, might historians have been telling that story wrong?

.. Hofstadter was the leader of the “consensus” school of historians; the “consensus” being Americans’ supposed agreement upon moderate liberalism as the nation’s natural governing philosophy. He didn’t take the self-identified conservatives of his own time at all seriously.

.. He named this attitude “the paranoid style in American politics” and, in an article published a month before Barry Goldwater’s presidential defeat, asked, “When, in all our history, has anyone with ideas so bizarre, so archaic, so self-confounding, so remote from the basic American consensus, ever gone so far?”

.. she wrote, in an effort to address political concerns .. “liberal permissiveness” about matters like rising crime rates and the teaching of sex education in public schools.

.. historians of conservatism, like historians in general, tend to be liberal, and are prone to liberalism’s traditions of politesse. It’s no surprise that we are attracted to polite subjects like “colorblind conservatism” or William F. Buckley.

.. have found themselves increasingly uncomfortable, and finally deeply distressed,” watching a “moral breakdown” that was destroying a once-great nation.

.. control of much of our industry and commerce taken over by strangers, who stacked the cards of success and prosperity against us

.. The only thing that would make America great again, as it were, was “a return of power into the hands of everyday, not highly cultured, not overly intellectualized, but entirely unspoiled and not de-Americanized average citizens of old stock.”

.. support for public education, to weaken Catholic parochial schools

.. By reaching back to the reactionary traditions of the 1920s, we might better understand the alliance between the “alt-right” figures that emerged as fervent Trump supporters during last year’s election and the ascendant far-right nativist political parties in Europe.

.. But the Klan remained relevant far beyond the South. In 1936 a group called the Black Legion, active in the industrial Midwest, burst into public consciousness after members assassinated a Works Progress Administration official in Detroit.

The group, which considered itself a Klan enforcement arm

.. Coughlin’s magazine, Social Justice, began reprinting “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” a forged tract about a global Jewish conspiracy

.. Its members were among the most enthusiastic participants in a 1939 pro-Hitler rally that packed Madison Square Garden, where the leader of the German-American Bund spoke in front of an enormous portrait of George Washington flanked by swastikas.

.. Young Irish-Catholic men inspired by the Christian Front desecrated nearly every synagogue in Washington Heights.

The New York Catholic hierarchy, the mayor of Boston and the governor of Massachusetts largely looked the other way.

.. no less mainstream an organization than the American Legion, whose “National Commander” Alvin Owsley proclaimed in 1922, “the Fascisti are to Italy what the American Legion is to the United States.”

.. In 1927, 1,000 hooded Klansmen fought police in Queens in what The Times reported as a “free for all.” One of those arrested at the scene was the president’s father, Fred Trump.

.. The family settled with the Justice Department in the face of evidence that black applicants were told units were not available even as whites were welcomed with open arms.

.. at Kent State University in Ohio, a Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Americans blamed the students for their own deaths. (“If they didn’t do what the Guards told them, they should have been mowed down,” one parent of Kent State students told an interviewer.)

.. 76 percent of Americans “said they did not support the First Amendment right to assemble and dissent from government policies.”

.. In 1973, the reporter Gail Sheehy joined a group of blue-collar workers watching the Watergate hearings in a bar in Astoria, Queens. “If I was Nixon,” one of them said, “I’d shoot every one of them.”

.. “hard-hat populism” — an attitude, Rosenthal hypothesizes, that Trump learned working alongside the tradesmen in his father’s real estate empire.

.. the case itself also resonates deeply with narratives dating back to the first Ku Klux Klan of white womanhood defiled by dark savages. Trump’s public call for the supposed perpetrators’ hides, no matter the proof of guilt or innocence, mimics the rituals of Southern lynchings.

.. At the beginning of the 20th century, millions of impoverished immigrants, mostly Catholic and Jewish, entered an overwhelmingly Protestant country.

.. It was only when that demographic transformation was suspended by the 1924 Immigration Act that majorities of Americans proved willing to vote for many liberal policies. In 1965, Congress once more allowed large-scale immigration to the United States — and it is no accident that this date coincides with the increasing conservative backlash against liberalism itself, now that its spoils would be more widely distributed among nonwhites.

.. Shortly before announcing his 1980 presidential run, Reagan even boasted of his wish “to create, literally, a common market situation here in the Americas with an open border between ourselves and Mexico.”

.. what are we to make of the fact that he placed so many bankers and billionaires in his cabinet, and has relentlessly pursued so many 1-percent-friendly policies? More to the point, what are we to the make of the fact that his supporters don’t seem to mind?

.. The history of bait-and-switch between conservative electioneering and conservative governance is another rich seam that calls out for fresh scholarly excavation

.. when Reagan was re-elected in 1984, only 35 percent of voters favored significant cuts in social programs to reduce the deficit

.. It was business leaders, not the general public, who moved to the right, and they became increasingly aggressive and skilled in manipulating the political process behind the scenes.

.. the ads created a sense of Reagan as a certain kind of character: the kindly paterfamilias, a trustworthy and nonthreatening guardian of the white middle-class suburban enclave. Years later, the producers of “The Apprentice” carefully crafted a Trump character who was the quintessence of steely resolve and all-knowing mastery.

.. Consider the parallels since the 1970s between conservative activism and the traditional techniques of con men. Direct-mail pioneers like Richard Viguerie created hair-on-fire campaign-fund-raising letters about civilization on the verge of collapse.

.. Recipients of these alarming missives sent checks to battle phony crises, and what they got in return was very real tax cuts for the rich.

.. the more recent connection between Republican politics and “multilevel marketing” operations like Amway (Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is the wife of Amway’s former president and the daughter-in-law of its co-founder)

.. Mike Huckabee shilling for a “solution kit” to “reverse” diabetes

.. Trump himself taking on a short-lived nutritional-supplements multilevel marketing scheme in 2009

.. Future historians won’t find all that much of a foundation for Trumpism in the grim essays of William F. Buckley, the scrupulous constitutionalist principles of Barry Goldwater or the bright-eyed optimism of Ronald Reagan.

.. They’ll need instead to study conservative history’s political surrealists and intellectual embarrassments, its con artists and tribunes of white rage.