Monday, May 10, 2021

Tribe trumps truth.

I've been trying to cut down on the number of posts on politics, but with the republican party now requiring a loyalty test that is the modern equivalent the firewalking rituals of Polynesia, Spain, and Greece I want to pass on a few articles relevant to their transition into a white anglo-saxon tribe that seeks to establish an autocratic regime that will preserve their minority ruling status. First, Brooks notes that
...Since the election, large swaths of the Trumpian right have decided America is facing a crisis like never before and they are the small army of warriors fighting with Alamo-level desperation to ensure the survival of the country as they conceive it...When asked in late January if politics is more about “enacting good public policy” or “ensuring the survival of the country as we know it,” 51 percent of Trump Republicans said survival; only 19 percent said policy...The level of Republican pessimism is off the charts. A February Economist-YouGov poll asked Americans which statement is closest to their view: “It’s a big, beautiful world, mostly full of good people, and we must find a way to embrace each other and not allow ourselves to become isolated” or “Our lives are threatened by terrorists, criminals and illegal immigrants, and our priority should be to protect ourselves.”...Over 75 percent of Biden voters chose “a big, beautiful world.” Two-thirds of Trump voters chose “our lives are threatened.”
Douthat describes the two crises of conservatism:
The normal crisis is a party crisis, the sort that afflicts all political coalitions. The Republican Party 40 years ago coalesced around a set of appeals that enabled its leaders to win large presidential majorities and set the national agenda. At a certain point the issue landscape changed, so did the country’s demographics, and the G.O.P. has struggled to adapt — cycling through compassionate conservatism, Tea Party conservatism and Trumpist populism without reproducing Ronald Reagan’s success.
But beneath this party crisis there is the deeper one, having to do with what conservatism under a liberal order exists to actually conserve...One powerful answer is that conservatism-under-liberalism should defend human goods that are threatened by liberal ideas taken to extremes. The family, when liberal freedom becomes a corrosive hyper-individualism. Traditional religion, when liberal toleration becomes a militant and superstitious secularism. Local community and local knowledge, against expert certainty and bureaucratic centralization. Artistic and intellectual greatness, when democratic taste turns philistine or liberal intellectuals become apparatchiks. The individual talent of the entrepreneur or businessman, against the leveling impulses of egalitarianism and the stultifying power of monopoly...
What does it mean to conserve the family in an era when not just the two-parent household but childbearing and sex itself are in eclipse? What does it mean to defend traditional religion in a country where institutional faith is either bunkered or rapidly declining? How do you defend localism when the internet seems to nationalize every political and cultural debate? What does the conservation of the West’s humanistic traditions mean when pop repetition rules the culture, and the great universities are increasingly hostile to even the Democratic-voting sort of cultural conservative?
A further Douthat piece suggests that it is capitalism itself that is killing conservatism:
...the social trends American conservatives most dislike, the rise of expressive individualism and the decline of religion, marriage and the family, are driven by socioeconomic forces the right’s free-market doctrines actively encourage. “America’s moral traditionalists are wedded to an economic system that is radically anti-traditional,” he writes, and “Republicans can neither wage war on capitalism nor make peace with its social implications.”’s not that capitalist dynamism inevitably dissolves conservative habits. It’s more that the wealth this dynamism piles up, the liberty it enables and the technological distractions it invents, let people live more individualistically — at first happily, with time perhaps less so — in ways that eventually undermine conservatism and dynamism together. At which point the peril isn’t markets red in tooth and claw, but a capitalist endgame that resembles Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” with a rich and technologically proficient world turning sterile and dystopian.
...let’s not let liberals off the hook. If capitalist churn isn’t what it used to be, if taming its excesses in the style of France or Sweden isn’t enough to restore family and community, if the combination of welfare-state liberalism and personal emancipation trends toward a Huxleyan dystopia, do liberals have any resources besides complaints about capitalism that might help pull us off that course?...Because if conservatism’s responses are incoherent and insufficient, I fear that liberalism has no response at all.


  1. Deric,

    I don't often comment (I suppose that is the definition of a lurker), but I read almost every one of your posts. You are remarkable in your ability to piece together, or collate, thought provoking chunks of commentary and literature. Not a problem for me if you decrease your posting frequency, but keep the occasional nugget coming. This post, for example is getting shared directly with my adult daughter, who went back to school in her thirties and just finished a poli-sci/philosopy degree and is working with a political party in my country.

  2. Deric,

    This is great article and addresses the society at large. It does appear that we are in empire on decline. I want to point out a practical application of democracy at work. You can't beat city hall, you have to buy it. My first 12 years in state govt. I worked for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. It was a real lesson in Texas Politics and the interaction of an industry with the governing body. You can see good examples of this with how ERCOT is being handled post freeze.

    Recently I have read a book that has been on the best sellers list. It has detailed how the country has changed in the last 45 years. Detail for detail, documented footnoted, largely without political bias, (although I am not sure of their true agenda). It is a good lesson in how government really works.

    Evil Geniuses; The Unmaking of America. by Kurt Anderson

    ISBN 9781984801340

    If one reads it they are more likely to vote democratic. However, while what happened did so under the coderivative religious cloak. But Republicans, Democratic, and Libertarian all had their role in causing the change of the past 50 years.


    1. Thank you for the book recommendation. I had a look...fascinating and scary.

  3. Michael, thanks for your kind comments! The frequency of my posts, as well as of the good nuggets you mention, has decreased recently because I have taken on the presidency of the Austin Prime Timers, a senior gay men's social organization. I hope to redirect more of my attention back to MindBlog as soon as I get that under control.