Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Wages of Strauss* -- Part II (Josh edition)

[*Joseph (who knows more than a normal person should on these matters) took mild exception to the previous post in this thread, specifically the way I used Straussianism as a crude shorthand for an argument that goes back to Athens. He's right but I don't have the time to do it right. (What do you expect from a blog?)]

A few days ago, I argued that the conservative movement was based on "the assumption that governing must be done by the intellectually superior elite," so they had put in place "strategies and tactics designed to allow small groups to gain and hold power in a democracy" which left them "vulnerable to hostile takeover" such as the one launched by Donald Trump.

If I would have known about this piece by Josh Barro, I definitely would have included the following quotes:
It's not normal for a political party to rent frontrunner status to cranks and charlatans for weeks at a time. Disastrous candidates are supposed to be blocked by validating institutions. Policy experts explain that their proposals do not add up. The media covers embarrassing incidents from their past and present. Party leaders warn that they will be embarrassing or incompetent or unelectable.

The problem is that Republicans have purposefully torn down the validating institutions. They have convinced voters that the media cannot be trusted; they have gotten them used to ignoring inconvenient facts about policy; and they have abolished standards of discourse by allowing all complaints about offensiveness to be lumped into a box called "political correctness" and ignored.

Republicans waged war on these institutions for a reason. Facts about policy can be inconvenient — a reality-based approach would find, for example, that tax cuts increase the deficit and carbon emissions cause climate change. Acknowledging the validity of complaints about racism could require some awkward conversations with racist and quasi-racist voters in the Republican coalition.

Of course, we're now seeing the unintended consequence of the destruction of those institutions and the boundaries they impose around candidate acceptability: In doing so, Republicans created a hole that Donald Trump could fly his 757 through.

Josh Marshall is also making similar points:
If you look around over the last week there are a number of highly sophisticated Republican voices arguing that Donald Trump is the sort of demagogue and potential strongman our political system was designed to prevent from gaining power in our country. ,,, they would be far more credible if so many Republicans - not necessarily the same writers, but countless formal and informal spokespersons including numerous high-ranking elected officials - hadn't spent the last seven years ranting that the temperamentally cautious and cerebral Barack Obama was a 'dictator' who was trampling the constitution.

 Trumpism is the product of many things. But a key one of them, perhaps the key enabling one, is years of originating and pandering to increasingly apocalyptic and hyperbolic conspiracy theories, fantasies and fever dreams which put middle aged white men up against the metaphorical wall with a thug, foreign, black nationalist, anti-colonialist Barack Obama shaking them down for their money, their liberty, their women and even their lawn furniture.

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