Monday, November 07, 2016

Even If Sanity Wins, Tomorrow Is Just the End of the Beginning

A friend of mine (whom I'll name if he likes, but otherwise won't) said yesterday on FB that he isn't against conservatism, just Trumpism. This is dangerous thinking, which we must combat as we move through and beyond tomorrow's vote.

Some writers (such as a recent, otherwise strong piece by Ezra Klein) have focused on Trump as a potential authoritarian, focusing on his personal flaws. But most of Trump's personal flaws are simply slight amplifications of longstanding conservative tendencies. Trump's racism, his proud ignorance (and attendant mendacity), his misogyny, his demagoguery, his authoritarian impulses, his breaking of constitutional norms, his wild and unfocused threats — all arise out of what the GOP has been since it began to merge with the conservative movement in 1964.

There is, abstractly, a set of conservative ideas that don't truck in white nationalist politics, in hatred of knowledge as "elitist", in authoritarian power-worship. (Although they're still terrible ideas!) But they don't have a base in this country. Since Goldwater lost in a landslide but won deep south states on the back of his opposition to the Civil Rights Movement, conservatives have, sometimes consciously, sometimes not, sold conservatism as a vehicle for racist, anti-knowledge, authoritarian (etc) ideas which are the real appeal. (The best exemplification of this is the times when Trump ditched (inconsistently) conservative dogma, and still won the GOP nomination: most of their voters don't really care about low taxes; they're there for the white nationalist authoritarianism.)

Trump is an outlier — he says the soft parts loud. (As Ezra Klein says in the piece I referred to above, "…the compliment I can pay Donald Trump, and I pay it with real gratitude [is that] he never hid who he was.") He turns things up to 11. But they were already at 10. Because they're baked into recepie. And what Trump has accomplished this year, even if he looses, is to make them even more central, even more virulent, even more dangerous for the foreseeable future.

To say the problem isn't conservatism but Trump is to miss the point: Trump is conservatism.
People who don't like politics — most of us — have been telling ourselves that this is different, that institutions which have departed in extraordinary ways from their normal practices to call out Trump can now go back to their normal blind bipartisan blandness. But it's a mistake, a deep mistake, and if persisted in it will in time be a fatal one. If you think that we've had to go all-out to defeat Trump, then you should also think we have to stay all-out to defeat Trumpism. Otherwise the next Trump — just slightly more self-controlled — will win.

Most Americans — including, very much, me — are looking forward to tomorrow as the end of a nightmare. But we're wrong. It's just the end of the first inning.

We will be fighting Trumpist demons from now on, until some time we can't imagine, or until we loose. This is our future. This is our country. This is us, from now on.
(Cross-posted from Facebook.)


Post script: Jonathan Chait says all this better and less histrionically (although with still the requisite amount of hysteria to be accurate; a lack of hysteria is pretty much a sign that one isn't being accurate in one's depiction of the world) is here:

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