At The Financial Times: Peter Werhner on Trump and Trumpism

One can approach Mr. Peter Wehner’s essay as a defense of ‘Moderate Conservatism’ or what might be judged as the party since the end of WWII, except that what is missing from this potted history are some inconvenient facts about the Party:

‘Trump is the culmination of Republican Party mendacity. The beginning of Trumpism can be traced from the ‘Generation of Treason’ Anti-New Deal propaganda offensive of the Nixon/Mundt/McCarthy/McCarren Cold War alliance. And from Goldwater and his allies, who purged the Republican Liberals from the Convention in 1964, the Dixiecrat mass migration to the Republican Party in 1964 and 1965, after the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, to the New Nixon of 68: The Southern Strategy, that even pitchman Reagan embraced in his first speech after his nomination at the Neshoba County Fair in 1980.  And then to the Willy Horton hysterics confected by Lee Atwater & Bush I. And the rise of political capo Karl Rove of Bush II.’

Somehow this little precis doesn’t quite prepare the reader for these rhetorical/stylistic gems, this one dipped in purple:

The understandable frustration of many has transmogrified into a mindless attachment to a political harlequin. Something has gone awry in the party.

Of all the ‘reasons’ enumerated in the paragraph below, I would submit the most glaring ‘reason’ for the rise in the dreaded ‘populism’ is the utter failure of the ‘Free Market’ in 2008, an inconvenient fact that is anathema to Neo-Liberals, both Republican and New Democrat.

This anger is, in some respects, justified. Political institutions have long been unresponsive to the challenges many Americans face, including stagnant wages, rising tuition and health costs, a byzantine tax code, high debt levels and mediocre education.

One thought on this paragraph: education is, to use a favorite trope of the Neo-Liberal, the ‘personal responsibility’ of each political actor, over a lifetime. Education does not end at the attainment of a Bachelors, Masters, or PhD, but is a the work of a lifetime!

Hence the appeal of an outsider such as Mr Trump, especially among male blue-collar workers, many of whom have borne the brunt of globalisation.

In the above sentence ‘globalisation’ acts as a maladroit stand in for the failed Neo-Liberal/Free Market delusion. And what has followed this collapse, seemingly endless Economic Stagnation, seven years after this catastrophe. One might ask when does the mechanism of the Self-correcting Market begin?

Mr Trump has also tapped into something that resonates with many of these Republicans: illegal immigration. This has undermined the rule of law and depressed the economic prospects of some low-skilled workers.

Xenophobia and ‘low-skilled workers’ are two concerns of The Republican Party: consider the anti-immigrant question in California in 1994, backed by Republican Governor Pete Wilson of Prop 187:

This  not anything resembling the exercise of tolerance, in sum, the Republican stance on immigration ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’ is a matter of public record, that even Mr. Wehner’s flaccid apologetics can’t mask!

It would be nice to chalk up his success to temporary insanity — an episode of Trumpmania that will end on its own. But a figure like Mr Trump does not appear ex nihilo. He is the product of certain intellectual and political habits that have taken hold over the years: a lazy anti-government ideology, prizing emotivism over empiricism, and conflict in pursuit of lost causes. This is not conservatism; it is splenetic, embittered populism. These habits of thought are discrediting the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. Now would be a good time to begin to break them.

Trump is not a political abberation but the culmination of Republican No-Nothingism that has been an unacknowledged component  of the Party, as it is denied by its apologists like Mr. Wehner.  But there are more charaterizations of Trump and Trumpism:’lazy anti-government ideology’, ‘prizing emotivism over empiricism’,’splenetic, embittered populism’ but the sine qua non of Republican self-spologetics, the self-exculpatory, a comparison between Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan:

These habits of thought are discrediting the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. Now would be a good time to begin to break them.

Here is a telling excerpt from Reagan’s opening speech of his presidential run of 1980, at the Nashoba County Fair, not many miles from where Civil Right workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were murdered,that should leave no doubt as to his alligence to The Republican Party of Mr. Lincoln:

I believe in state’s rights; I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level. And I believe that we’ve distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the constitution to that federal establishment. And if I do get the job I’m looking for, I’m going to devote myself to trying to reorder those priorities and to restore to the states and local communities those functions which properly belong there.

Political Reporter





About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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