Keeping track of the Jacksonians, Reformicons, Paleos, and Post-liberals.
I like to start my classes on conservative intellectual history by distinguishing between three groups. There is the Republican party, with its millions of adherents and spectrum of opinion from very conservative, somewhat conservative, moderate, and yes, liberal. There is the conservative movement, the constellation of single-issue nonprofits that sprung up in the 1970s —
- gun rights,
- right to work
— and continue to influence elected officials. Finally, there is the conservative intellectual movement: writers, scholars, and wonks whose journalistic and political work deals mainly with ideas and, if we’re lucky, their translation into public policy.
You can always count on Republicans to do two things: try to cut taxes for the rich and try to weaken the safety net for the poor and the middle class.
.. G.O.P. legislative proposals show not a hint of the populism Trump espoused on the campaign trail.
.. their bill — on which we don’t have full details, but whose shape is clear — hugely privileges owners, whether of businesses or of financial assets, over those who simply work for a living.
.. Republicans exalt “job creators,” that is, people who own businesses directly or indirectly via their stockholdings. Meanwhile, they show implicit contempt for mere employees.
.. the consensus among tax economists is that most of the break will accrue to shareholders as opposed to workers. So it’s mainly a tax cut for investors, not people who work for a living... The bill would reduce taxes on business owners, on average, about three times as much as it would reduce taxes on those whose primary source of income is wages or salaries. For highly paid workers, the gap would be even wider, as much as 10 to one... a real estate development firm might get a far bigger tax cut than a surgeon employed by a hospital, even though their income is the same.”(Yes, a lot of the bill looks as if it were specifically designed to benefit the Trump family.).. We’re pitting hastily devised legislation, drafted without hearings over the course of just a few days, against the cleverest lawyers and accountants money can buy. Which side do you think will win?.. it’s a good guess that the bill will increase the budget deficit far more than currently projected... Cutting corporate taxes is hugely unpopular; even Republicans are almost as likely to say they should be raised as to say they should be lowered... Their disdain for ordinary working Americans as opposed to investors, heirs, and business owners runs so deep that they can’t contain it... in 2012, when Eric Cantor — then the House majority leader — tried to celebrate Labor Day. He put out a tweet for the occasion that somehow failed to mention workers at all, instead praising those who have “built a business and earned their own success.”.. Cantor, a creature of the G.O.P. establishment if ever there was one, had so little respect for working Americans that he forgot to include them in a Labor Day message.And now that disdain has been translated into legislation, in the form of a bill that treats anyone who works for someone else — that is, the vast majority of Americans — as a second-class citizen.
This isn’t about “jobs,” as the White House claims. If it were, it might cut employment taxes, which genuinely do discourage hiring. Rather, it’s about huge payouts to the wealthiest Americans — and deficits be damned!
.. If Republicans embrace this “plan” after all their hand-wringing about deficits and debt, we should build a Grand Monument to Hypocrisy in their honor.
Trump’s tax “plan” is a betrayal of his voters. He talks of helping ordinary Americans even as he enriches tycoons like himself.
.. fewer than 10 percent of low-income households with children would get anything at all
.. families earning between $10,000 and $30,000 a year would receive an average child care benefit of just $10.
.. In fairness, Trump’s proposal does include some sensible elements. Raising the standard deduction is smart and would simplify everything, reducing cheating and the need for record-keeping because millions of filers would no longer itemize deductions.
he and his allies crafted a poorly constructed and radical bill that would sharply cut support to low-income Americans and those with serious health conditions, while enacting big tax cuts for the wealthy.
.. Speaker Ryan’s crafting of AHCA was a slapdash enterprise.
.. even leading health-care experts were confused by the changes. As Timothy Jost noted at Health Affairs: “This comprehensive a repeal of the ACA would have far-ranging consequences for our health care system that can scarcely be described, much less understood, in the hours that remain before a vote.”
.. wondered whether the game plan was just for the House to pass something—anything—and then let the Senate do the real work.
.. So why did Republicans fail? In a word: insincerity.
.. they might have refined another conservative model, such as Avik Roy’s modifications to ACA exchanges, to turn ACA’s exchanges in a more conservative direction.
.. Secure in the knowledge that they would face President Obama’s veto, Republicans rammed through a succession of extreme repeal-and-replace bills that resembled AHCA’s original draft. These bills excited the Republican base, but would have horrified most other Americans if they ever found sufficient reason to look.
.. Congressional Republicans suffered what George W. Bush might call a “catastrophic success” with Donald Trump’s unexpected victory.
.. leaving people in plans where the “deductibles are so high that it’s really not worth much to them.”
.. He vowed to replace the “failing,” “horrific” Obamacare with “something terrific.”
.. Republican plans are designed around higher deductibles and narrower benefits, not to mention more limited Medicaid.
.. smaller financial subsidies for people with chronic health conditions. That was the clear intention, but Ryan refused to admit it.
.. Many in the GOP, above all President Trump, seemed strangely uninterested in the policy details.
.. To the extent Republicans did have an animating passion, it was to puncture President Obama’s legacy—and to avoid looking foolish by failing to honor their “repeal and replace” rhetoric.
.. For all their endless warnings about how Obama’s signature health law was hurting American families, driving up costs and putting us on the path toward socialism, it turns out they didn’t care enough to put in the work.
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.
Obamacare helped a large number of people at the expense of a small, affluent minority: basically, taxes on 2% of the population to cover a lot of people and assure coverage to many more. Trumpcare would reverse that, hurting a lot of people (many of whom voted Trump) so as to cut taxes for a handful of wealthy people. That’s a difference that goes beyond political strategy.
.. Obamacare was and is a truly populist law, while Trumpcare is anti-populist. That’s reflected in the legislative struggles.
.. what we call populism is really in large degree white identity politics, which can’t be addressed by promising universal benefits. Among other things, these “populist” voters now live in a media bubble, getting their news from sources that play to their identity-politics desires, which means that even if you offer them a better deal, they won’t hear about it or believe it if told.
.. Trumpism is faux populism that appeals to white identity but actually serves plutocrats. That fundamental contradiction is now out in the open.
Progressives have already homed in on Republican efforts to privatize Medicare as one of the major domestic political battles of 2017.
.. Of the two battles, the Republican effort to dismantle Medicaid is more certain.
.. If Mr. Trump chooses to oppose his party’s Medicare proposals while pushing unprecedented cuts to older people and working families in other vital safety-net programs, it would play into what seems to be an emerging strategy of his: to publicly fight a few select or symbolic populist battles in order to mask an overall economic and fiscal strategy that showers benefits on the most well-off at the expense of tens of millions of Americans.
.. it will be too easy for Mr. Trump to market the false notion that Medicaid is a bloated, wasteful program and that such financing caps are means simply to give states more flexibility while “slowing growth.” Medicaid’s actual spending per beneficiary has, on average, grown about 3 percentage points less each year than it has for those with private health insurance
..Together, full repeal and block granting would cut Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program funding by about $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years — a 40 percent cut.
.. a similar Medicaid block grant proposed by Mr. Ryan in 2012 would lead to 14 million to 21 million Americans’ losing their Medicaid coverage by the 10th year, and that is on top of the 13 million who would lose Medicaid or children’s insurance program
.. Current Republican plans to eliminate the marketplace subsidies and A.C.A. Medicaid expansion in 2019 would create a health care cliff where all of the Medicaid funds and subsidies for the A.C.A. expansion would simply disappear and 30 million people would lose their health care.
.. In the face of such a manufactured crisis
.. About 60 percent of the costs of traditional Medicaid come from providing nursing home care and other types of care for the elderly and those with disabilities.
.. It would take only three Republican senators thinking twice about the wisdom of block grants and per capita caps to put a halt to the coming war on Medicaid.