Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Uncivil War

Perhaps I've come to rely on this formulation too much, but I really think we need to look at the Reagan Coalition and try to determine if it is coming apart at the seams.

Broadly speaking, the Reagan Coalition embraced three main groups: Paleo-Cons, Neo-Cons and Theo-Cons.

Paleo-Cons are your Main Street and Wall Street business men.  They have been the heart and soul of the GOP since Teddy Roosevelt led the Progressives out in 1912.  Their main focus is on reducing the role of the state, primarily by starving the state of funds through massive tax cuts that redistribute wealth to the investor class.  Their standard bearers are Jeb! Bush and Scott Walker.  Maybe Marco Rubio.

The Neo-Cons are aggressive foreign policy hawks.  They see an America beset by enemies and therefore see necessity in an aggressive militaristic foreign policy.  Their standard bearer is Lindsey Graham, although there is a small element of this in Trump's appeal.

The Theo-Cons are the religious fundamentalists.  They speak of a "Christian Nation" and want to maintain the old social order.  Their standard bearers are Carson and Huckabee.

Finally, there are actual Republican voters.  And what is fascinating about the Trump phenomenon is how he exposes the absence of a standard bearer for a third of the Republican electorate.  Trump's basic appeal is his personality, and his personality is basically that of a huge suppurating hemorrhoid.  And it precisely this combative, assholish personality that is his appeal.

Cleek's Law only goes so far in explaining this.  Yes, if Obama came out in favor of breathing, hundreds of thousands of Americans would asphyxiate.  It seems to me that there is a large portion of the Republican Party electorate that has Oppositional Defiance Disorder.  The more you tell them X the more adamantly they will do Y.  There is no ideological consistency to this.  Obamacare - as you have been reminded a thousand times - was originally a Republican idea to counteract the Clinton plan for a single-payer system back in '94.  Now, only because it's a Democratic policy, it's the death of liberty.

Except, whatever.  Trump has praised a single-payer system as being probably the most efficient.  Because IT IS.  The data is overwhelmingly clear on this.  This is the position of Bernie Sanders, but Trump suffers no blowback from his 30%, because policy and ideology really don't matter.

What matters is that you oppose THEM.  THEM are a loosely connected group of people who aren't US.  THEM are the media, which can include Megyn Kelly.  THEM are pointed headed academics and minorities and scientists and Harry Reid AND Mitch McConnell.

THEM is the force that exists outside plan sight and makes US miserable.  THEM is the reason I got laid off from my factory job and have to work retail.  THEM is the reason my kid is doing poorly in school and the reason I can't afford college tuition.  THEM is everywhere and nowhere.  THEM is inchoate and pervasive.

For decades these ODD-cons voted Republican because the Republicans were closest to their sense of grievance.  It was William F. Buckley who said a conservative was someone who stood athwart history and yelled, "stop!"  While there was rarely anyone to perfectly channel their grievance - Pat Buchanan came closest - they could remain safely within the fold.  Trump has laid bare their existence and their anger.

These voters were the people who voted for George Wallace.  They were Southerners and people around the country who related to Southerners.  I see more than my fair share of Confederate flags on pickup trucks here in Connecticut.  And the Wallace voter used to be a Democrat (as Wallace himself was).

But race sundered the New Deal coalition and the ODD-cons left the Party of Jackson when it became the Party of Kennedy/Johnson.  They briefly alighted on Wallace before moving to the GOP.  The question is - will they bolt again?  Can they stomach another flaccid Paleo-Con like Jeb!?

The Democratic primary is mostly about the direction of the party.  Sanders sits only marginally to the left of Clinton on the issues, with the exception of the extent of his redistributive ambitions.  Clinton represents the DLC past in the minds of many liberal voters and they want a fresh, more left leaning direction.  But as Clinton herself moves to the left, I have a hunch that when she wins, the Democratic party will have little trouble rallying around her.

Can we say that about Trump or Bush?

No comments: