I do not see a future for Conservatives in the Republican Party
For years, Conservatives have known that there is a white supremacist underbelly among many of our co-Republicanists. For years, we conservatives have been willing to let them vote in the Republican party in order to try to make political gains, thinking that even if they were the ones pulling the levers at the booth, we would be pulling the levers in Washington, using them for our own benefit.
It turns out we were wrong all the time. We thought that as long as we were the captain, we could control the rats. Now the rats have mutinied and we will go down with them.
Some history and some definitions
The great debacle really starts in the early 1900’s with Roosevelt. By progressivism, I mean the idea that a government, run by smart people, should pretty much be given free rein to control whatever they think necessary in order to improve the lives of the citizenry. From population control to food and drug standards to management of the economy, scientists (biologists, sociologists, statisticians, etc.) would see to it that the government and country was run in terms of the big picture, where individual liberties were sublimated to the greater good.
Progressivism was embraced by pretty much everyone in the ruling class, who, well, were already ruling. Telling people “you’re so smart we want to put you in charge” isn’t a terribly hard sell. This was especially true in the early 1900’s when higher education became more and more specialized and foreign to the layman. In the 17- and 1800’s, plenty of smart, ambitious men could self-study and accord themselves well in educated circles. A willingness to learn a little bit of Latin (for show) and access to a library of a few hundred books could get you a classical education. By 1900, a sociologist, a physician, and a statistician lived in entirely different worlds of training, background, and thought. Moreover, nobody could get to be a political economist without going through the (now) very stratified lanes of undergraduate-graduate-doctorate degrees. The autodidact was gone, mostly because there was too much didact for any one auto to learn.
Whether for good or ill, this multifrucation of the sciences fed into the zeitgeist of progressivism. Why leave society to its own mercy when there were so many people who were experts (and had the credentials to prove it) in solving its problems. At heart, I think this is still why the Academy is so dominated by progressives. It’s understandable that someone with a PhD in economics feels like they should have a little more control over an economy than Putzy the Burger-Flipper.
[*things have only gotten worse in higher education. Jobs that used to require a general degree and some on the job training are now filled almost entirely by people with ultra-specialized degrees. Try getting a job as a librarian without a degree in Library Science. Cardinal Newman, by the way, warned about this centuries ago…]
The reaction against Progressivism was called Conservatism, which argued that maybe it was a bad idea to put the government in charge of everything and change things because maybe the experts would get it wrong. Maybe the way things had always been done were done that way because it turns out that that was the correct way to do them. This idea is closely tied together with Russell Kirk.
But there was another reaction to Progressivism that was rooted in an economic argument. This is most closely associated with Friedrich Hayek, who basically argued that the experts couldn’t make good decisions because the questions were so complicated. The government would be bad at running things because no one person or group could take into consideration all the data that society, as a self-organizing collective, could. The government’s decisions were bound to be short-sighted and insufficient because not even a panel of experts new everything going on at all times.
Eventually, conservatives also ended up as the “sanctity-of-life” island in American politics, almost by default. Progressives had always been more comfortable with the idea of government-sanctioned, -endorsed, and (from time to time) -forced sterilization, abortion, and euthanasia. This was not immediate, though, and has much more to do with 1980’s politics than with any inherent belief in conservatism.
[It has always seemed silly to this author that the proposition that people should not be legally allowed to kill other people even needs to be argued]
The Problem and Its Very Bad No Good Solution
Conservatism was, therefore, essentially an ideology of skepticism in both its geneses. Conservatism says “It’s preposterous that the government says it can make everyone richer and the way we’ve done things thus far have turned out pretty good anyway.”
In many ways, it’s an ideology of salutary neglect. People are probably doing what’s best for themselves anyway, and government would just muck things up if it tried to get involved.
This turned out to be a hard sell, mostly because of human nature in a Democracy. Franklin Roosevelt’s government may have done some very bad things to the economy, in aggregate, but helped out a lot of people individually. Those individuals wound up with plenty of real belief that FDR had helped them personally, because he had.
[*Free Marketers will talk endlessly about the visible and invisible effects of economic policy, and that few government programs consider the enormous harm their solutions will cause. They are absolutely right, but this plays terribly in the press.]
When Barry Goldwater ran for president saying that he was going to not do so much, this turned out not to be what people want to hear. The conservative answer to a lot of problems (even rightly so) is “let’s not poke around because we’ll probably make it worse,” which doesn’t play as nicely as “I’m going to get you a bigger house and free college and other stuff.”
Conservatism also took some very stony-hearted, albeit principled, stances, especially in the area of civil rights. Civil Rights was wholly a Republican-led movement politically in the 1950’s and early 60’s, and the fact that it is no longer is the greatest tragedy in modern American politics. Goldwater’s opposition to desegregation as government policy, even though he himself agreed with it privately, would lead to the mess the Republican Party is in today.
Goldwater was not a racist, nor did he think segregation was a good thing. He was opposed to government interference in business which led to his opposition in government telling businesses that they had to serve all customers. It would be fairest to say that Goldwater was anti-Jim Crow and anti-desegregation for the same reason: both were government interference in business.
But this principled stance eventually became a cancerous tumor in the Republican Party. Goldwater’s principles did not attract liberal-minded individuals that said “Wow, this guy really believes in liberty,” it brought in racists.
It’s not like racists completely abandoned the Democrat Party (I grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago. Almost all the racists I knew growing up were Democrats). But the Democrats were more comfortable with the idea of government intervention in business. Moreover, the conservative, Kirkian ideas of tradition played well to Jim-Crowers.
And so, over the years, racists came into the Republican party and began departing from the Democrats.
Conservatives knew this was happening all along.
Conservatives, personally had little appetite for racism, but were willing to allow their principles to be used as cover for racists. When Goldwater got the support of the deep south, he might have said to himself, “they must really love the free market down there!” but in his heart he knew “they must really hate niggers down there.”
And today it’s not just niggers. Are you a white person who hates Jews? Catholics? Mexicans? The Republican party is your party.
Sure there are racists in the Democrat Party. If you’re a black person and you hate Jews, you’re a Democrat. And, like I said earlier, I knew plenty of racist Chicago Democrats growing up.
But the grandchildren of segregationists in Alabama? They’re Republicans now. Sure they talk about “immigration” and “demography” and whatever, but they really are just racists who don’t like the idea of white people not being in power.
They are fundamentally anti-conservative in economic sense. To them, minorities in the USA are taking jobs and benefits that rightfully belong to white people. Welfare isn’t a problem. Government jobs aren’t a problem. A big government isn’t a problem. The problem is that the big ol’ government teets are beset with so many non-whites, that the white little piggies can’t get what they deserve.
And conservatives knew this was happening. And we allowed it to happen because we needed the votes. We thought that even though we were letting Satan vote for our guy, our guy would be the one to put in limited government/tax reform/free market whatever.
And we said, “But we’re not racists. I’m not racist! I like Thomas Sowell and Alan Keyes and Walter Williams! I want economic and social policies that will empower and enrich black humans! I oppose the black genocide of targeted abortions!”
And we’re not racists, but we let them into the party. And for too long we’ve sat at the same table and broken bread with the little rat bastard monsters so that we could get our guy into office.
But it hasn’t worked. Regan’s presidency was a fiscal nightmare. Bush the Elder got us stuck in the never-ending saga of “As the Saddam Turns”. Bush the Younger took budget surpluses and pissed it down whatever rat holes he could find, with a happy little smirk on his face as he decided the Middle East abattoir was a few knives short. So much for conservatives looking for the invisible consequences of actions…
And so here we are today. Conservatives trying desperately to survive in a party of nativists, here at our invitation. And we won’t.
We won’t because there is a very sad truth about Conservatism in the United States in the “free-market, limited-government, sanctity-of-life triad” sense.
We’re just not that popular. We never have been. The Republican Party doesn’t give two shits for us because we don’t bring in the votes. We’re token intellectuals at best. Hired guns to lend our principles to the service of Racism, Cronyism, and the Military-Industrial complex.
We are not the masters in the Republican Party. We are the pets.
There is no hope for Conservatism in the United States. It will continue to be a niche political philosophy, ill at home in the republic that needs it. The nation’s fiscal status and social fabric are torn beyond repair. Like the Caesars of old, our political leaders can only win by promising bigger circuses and cheaper bread. American society has no appetite for hardship as a character building exercise and no will or motivation to fix its own problems.
We are alien here. As we have always been. Go to Mass, confession, and your job. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And remember that there is another world awaiting those who love their neighbors as themselves.
And in that blessed place will be no Trumpkins.