In answer to David Brook’s question in The Atlantic about what happened to Conservatism in America. The GOP died. Killed by its own hand. Killed by its own cowardice. Killed by its own simpering cult-like fealty to a liar and a fraud.
And it deserves it. Read the whole. I liked especially these bits:
Conservatives are supposed to be epistemologically modest—but in real life, this modesty can turn into a brutish anti-intellectualism, a contempt for learning and expertise. Conservatives are supposed to prize local community—but this orientation can turn into narrow parochialism, can produce xenophobic and racist animosity toward immigrants, a tribal hostility toward outsiders, and a paranoid response when confronted with even a hint of diversity and pluralism. Conservatives are supposed to cherish moral formation—but this emphasis can turn into a rigid and self-righteous moralism, a tendency to see all social change as evidence of moral decline and social menace. Finally, conservatives are supposed to revere the past—but this reverence for what was can turn into an abject deference to whoever holds power. When I looked at conservatives in continental Europe, I generally didn’t like what I saw. And when I looked at people like Powell, I was appalled.
Donald Trump is the near-opposite of the Burkean conservatism I’ve described here. How did a movement built on sympathy and wisdom lead to a man who possesses neither? How did a movement that put such importance on the moral formation of the individual end up elevating an unashamed moral degenerate? How did a movement built on an image of society as a complex organism give rise to the simplistic dichotomies of manipulative populism? How did a movement based on respect for the wisdom of the past end up with Trump’s authoritarian campaign boast “I alone can fix it,” perhaps the least conservative sentence it is possible to utter?
Trumpism is pre-Enlightenment. Trumpian authoritarianism doesn’t renounce holy war; it embraces holy war, assumes it is permanent, in fact seeks to make it so. In the Trumpian world, disputes are settled by raw power and intimidation. The Trumpian epistemology is to be anti-epistemology, to call into question the whole idea of truth, to utter whatever lie will help you get attention and power. Trumpism looks at the tender sentiments of sympathy as weakness. Might makes right.
Trumpian Republicanism plunders, degrades, and erodes institutions for the sake of personal aggrandizement. The Trumpian cause is held together by hatred of the Other. Because Trumpians live in a state of perpetual war, they need to continually invent existential foes—critical race theory, nongendered bathrooms, out-of-control immigration. They need to treat half the country, metropolitan America, as a moral cancer, and view the cultural and demographic changes of the past 50 years as an alien invasion. Yet pluralism is one of America’s oldest traditions; to conserve America, you have to love pluralism. As long as the warrior ethos dominates the GOP, brutality will be admired over benevolence, propaganda over discourse, confrontation over conservatism, dehumanization over dignity. A movement that has more affection for Viktor Orbán’s Hungary than for New York’s Central Park is neither conservative nor American. This is barren ground for anyone trying to plant Burkean seedlings.