Thursday, July 23, 2015

Put it out of its misery

So conservatives are mad that Donald Trump is sucking up all the oxygen from the other candidates running for the Republican Party nomination, taking attention from things they wish to campaign on, even insulting the candidates and prominent members of the party. Why are they so mad? Ann Coulter couldn't have run a better Presidential campaign with largely the same playbook. Trump's audaciousness, boldness one might dare day, is no different is no different than any Brieitbart videographer or front companies being used for the purposes of making heavily edited undercover videos.

You've got to hand it to Trump, he knows a racket when he sees one, a profitable racket. Now he's trying to muscle in on it and some people don't like it. Tough. Maybe if they are that concerned about what Trump could do to conservatism and the Republican Party if he stunned the universe and won the GOP nomination, maybe now they'll realize it's time to put an end to everything once and for all.

Trump is the hidden fear of the Republican Party, the secret they don't even tell themselves. The fear of many in the party brass (and this was a fear of Rush Limbaugh during his heyday) was that a prominent member of Conservative INC., one with a large following of readers or listeners, would take his flock and leave, start a new party or movement with all those potential voters and activists and, most importantly, donors following. Indeed, Trump has dropped hints, or at least not discouraged, speculation, about a possible independent run for the White House, which would all but doom the party's ticket to defeat in 2016.

Parties and movements don't last forever but the GOP has been around since 1854, that's a lot longer than a Conservative Movement which pretty much can be traced back to 1960 with Barry Goldwater's ghostwritten book Conscience of a Conservative. Conservative thought has been with us since the beginning of time. That it chrystalized into a popular mass movement with its own heroes, history, scholars, writers and canons of books and magazines and think tanks was remarkable in that persons took what was the anthesis in comparison to other popular movements (labor, antiwar, environmental et al.) and made it into a "movement" itself with all the same characteristics. Conservatives (or Tory parties) political parties in the West have always been seen as aristocratic, more concerned with protecting property and status than anything else. What changed of course was that a growing middle class would embrace such conservative tenents as well and largely for the same reasons: protecting one property and in many cases hard won status. Throw in protection of traditionalism and you have a formula for people like Margaret Thatcher and  Ronald Reagan, both persons of modest means growing up, to become ideological and political conservatives.

The problem is in this day and age, the West has become much diverse in color and religion and thought because the capitalism and free markets it promoted in order to provide for growth of persons property and wealth (in response to socialism) provided for such diversity. It was inevitable. But these conservative parties are stuck with political bases which are largely homogenous (i.e. white and Christian). Of course conservatism can integrate diversity into its ranks. It has done so in Canada over the past decade with good success and there are some prominent Republicans of color as well (the same hasn't worked as well in the UK or Europe). But this becomes hard to do when a party's political candidates or workers are notorious for their anti-immigrant and some cases outright racist views. When Donald Trump calls Mexicans rapists, he saying this not just about the illegal crossing the border but also the owner of a grocery store in Los Angeles, a banker in South Texas, and artist in Chicago. Thus, such persons, who might have conservative leanings when it comes to property and tradition, cannot vote for conservative parties who don't want them as members. And the only response to this dilemma for some is to double down and presume to get more voters like themselves rather than expand the base.

Sadly, so much of went into creating the "movement" (for conservatives and libertarians too in some cases) had to do with race more so than class (or even religion going back to the rise of the Religious Right in the 1970s). The documentation is out there, there's no denying it. Just pursuing a "Southern Strategy" and appealing to the worst in people's natures, even if in code, is damning enough alone and there's much worse if one cares to look. Movement leaders on an early time deserve a good deal of the blame for allowing it to happen or thinking through the consequences of aligning themselves with unsavory elements until it was too late. Purging a political party of much of it elements just to align it ideologically all but assures the party is at the mercy of those ideological forces. The GOP can do nothing to stop Trump even if it wanted to. It may not have to, but his rise shows a party can only do so much to deal with those willing to seize it for their own purposes if that what its voters wish to do. And those forces now have the means once only reserved for parties to basically create their own politics with the party nothing more than just a brand label.

But this goes to the larger problem of the "movement" itself. Like all political movements, they eventual degenerate from mass participation and promotion of new ideas into special-interest category more worried about sustaining itself than bringing grassroots opinions and ideas to the front there never had a chance before. To do this the "movement" encourages the more flamboyant and the more entertaining and more confrontational in order to rile up those who are its patrons and ensures that they continue giving if even they're better off saving their money. It's the only way they can throw their weight around and prove they are relevant. And as it tries to sustain itself it becomes largely a business unto itself . Such filthy lucre then brings out the charlatans and the hustlers looking for a piece of the action, people like Donald Trump. For someone who was once very pro-immigration (as judged by public statements years ago) to speak like a nativist has nothing to do with a change of heart but everything to do with marketing oneself to a target audience. We're not talking ideas anymore, we're talking a business and that's what it has become. And that's why its called Conservative INC.

The only way to stop this is for statesmen and businessmen and scholars and writers and just ordinary people to rise up and not buy what the business sells anymore and thus starve it of funds, deprive it of listeners and take back scholarly institutions and make them do actual research instead of producing talking points for political parties.  Unfortunately this will not happen until such persons see beyond the impact of immediate politics to a future of thought which influences everything around it. That would require conservative persons to do so but it remains to been if there are any still left out there.


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