Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Lessons of This Election

"Perhaps the most puzzled by what they’re seeing is the conservative movement old guard who spent decades creating the organizations that in recent years have risen up to challenge the Republican elites for supremacy of the party. They have made great strides, primarying apostates, defeating RINOs and even taking out good conservatives just to show they could. They showed the entire country that they are willing to destroy the government itself if that’s what it takes to demonstrate their commitment to their principles. They take no prisoners, give no quarter. And finally, after decades of hard work and strategizing, they are on the verge of total dominance.

Or they were until Trump came along and proved that many of the people they had been counting on to be the foot soldiers in this conservative revolution weren’t paying attention."

- Digby

Amazingly, there seem to be intelligent, educated, well-read people who don't see this - who don't get that Trump is currently teaching the single biggest and most interesting lesson about American politics today. For crying out loud, pull up a chair.

A significant percentage of the people we thought were principled believers in limited government or constitutional originalism - or steadfast adherents to a strict religious litmus test for politicians and policy - just aren't.

We believed they were because there are small groups of incredibly wealthy people who are these things, and who have been able to prevent an alternative from emerging - until now. Now that smokescreen has cleared. We can see that many people are not who we thought they were. They are something else entirely.

What? I'm not totally sure. Lots of different things. Let's just hope there's something in all that anger that can eventually be redirected towards good. One thing they are is cool with Trump's very unconservative economic views. Another thing they are is in open rebellion against neoliberal orthodoxy, the dominant socio-politico-economic ideology of our time, having finally figured out that its promised benefits will never reach them.

Those are reasons to hold out hope - assuming they can be weaned off the noxious xenophobia of Trump's right-wing populism/nationalism without losing those more open and flexible attitudes towards the structure of the economy and the role of the State, attitudes which the conservative establishment has successfully smothered for a generation.

If Trump loses the nomination and Sanders wins it, this group may prove a surprising source of defectors to the progressive - anti-establishment, anti-Washington-consensus - cause. If Trump wins the nomination, he may even start that weaning process himself among his own original base of supporters, in order to maximize his appeal in the general election. And when he (all but certainly) loses the election, there'll be a large block of GOP voters which, starting in 2017, could find a surprising home in a Democratic Party that manages to move away from present-day establishment orthodoxy. Even if that move is well to the political and economic left.

But that Democratic Party doesn't exist yet. It needs to be built from the ground up starting now. And that's precisely the movement that Bernie Sanders is leading.

If Trump is teaching us a fascinating lesson about right-of-center voters, Sanders is teaching an (almost) equally fascinating and complementary one about centrist and left-of-center ones. Namely, that no one has a goddamn clue what people mean when they describe themselves as "moderate".

Moderate Democrats are voting for Sanders. Conservative Democrats are voting for Sanders. Blue-collar Democrats are voting for Sanders. Independents are voting for Sanders.

Whatever "moderate" means in 2016, it does not preclude favoring a revolution to smash the stranglehold that neoliberal and neoconservative policy thought currently have on the ideas and agendas of both major political parties.

Nate Silver (unintentionally) said it best: What he - and everyone else, myself certainly included - don't get, could fill a book.

No comments:

Post a Comment