Mr. Stephens essay of July 29, 2017 titled ‘The ‘No Guardrails’ Presidency’ makes the ludicrous argument that Trump is directly related to the year 1968, and its ‘moral chaos’, using a 1998 essay in the Wall Street Journal editorial titled ‘ No Guardrails’. Mr. Stephens ‘summarizes the arguments’ as presented in this 1998 editorial:
In 1993 The Wall Street Journal published a famous editorial called “No Guardrails,” which tried to locate the source of the moral chaos that had engulfed much of America. “How, in T. S. Eliot’s phrase, did so many become undone?” the editors wanted to know.
Their answer, in a nutshell, was 1968 — specifically, the culture of excess, excuses and permission that abruptly supplanted the old American ethic of modesty, responsibility and restraint.
“Certain rules that for a long time had governed behavior also became devalued,” the editorial noted. “Whatever else was going on here, we were repeatedly lowering the barriers of acceptable political and personal conduct.”
Mr. Stephens was born in 1973, so he relies on this editorial to do his thinking for him, probably not thinking, but ideological cogitations. He mentions no other source for his opinion. His opinion occupies the space of the near history-less void, with the pin hole perception of that 1998 editorial, as his only available perception, that is then used to bait the New York Times reader. He succeeded in garnering well over seven hundred replies, as I write this, to his historically mendacious polemic. Most of the readership demographic of this newspaper are old enough to remember vividly the political events of that year. An advantage that Stephens cannot, or because of ideological disposition, refuses to know: as the purpose of his hectoring polemic is to re-write current American history, using the near paranoid political hysterics of the editorial writers of the 1998 Wall Street Journal. In sum Trump and Trumpism is the issue of the ‘moral chaos’ let loose in that year. That has festered for nearly fifty years. Decadence, political and moral, are the twin pillars of the Neo-Conservative Political Theology, in this case Mr. Stephens uses the epithet ‘moral chaos’ as its rhetorical stand in.
The Law of Parsimony is a better guide to the why of the rise of Trump and Trumpism: The utter corruption of both the Republican and New Democratic Parties: as Gore Vidal described it many years ago, American has one party The Property Party, with two wings the Republicans and the Democrats. The ’cause’ of Trump can be better described: the political nihilism of the Republican Party from the election of Obama in 2008 till the 2017 Trump Inaugural, the rise of the Tea Party Zealots, who purged the actual Republican Conservatives who practiced ‘the art of the possible’, in the name political purity/conformity. Look also to the ‘Hope and Change’ rhetoric of Obama that became mere vacuous sloganeering. The Republican answer to any legislative question was ‘NO’! Mr. Stephens’ propaganda seeks to find a less proximate cause of the Trump political phenomenon, and the ‘moral chaos’ that he has produced. The perpetual specter of the Neo-Conservative, the Conservative ,the Republican and the Right Wing Social Democrats who morphed en masse into Neo-Liberals, is ‘The Left’ in all its instantiations. Not to speak of Neo-Conservatism’s obsession with decline and decay e.g. Fukuyama’s 2013 essay ‘The Decay of American Political Institutions’ and Ferguson’s ‘The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die’. Mr. Stephens is not in the same league as Fukuyama , who practices the Straussian rhetorical method of a mendacious logorrhea, in service to attacking the whole of the melorist politics of the American 20th Century! Fukuyama re-defines the meaning of Reactionary.
Mr. Stephens is an inept and transparent propagandist, who doesn’t simply insult his readership, he holds them in utter contempt. They are most likely a part of the 1968 he pontificates about, some may even have attended the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago? Or been a part of ‘The Summer of Love’ in the Haight? Or in their youth been a follower of Malcolm X ? Mr. Stephens cobbles together, out of one Wall Street Journal editorial, of 1998 vintage, that he ‘updates’, garnished by a T.S. Eliot quote. Mr. Stephens historical ignorance allied to his ideology demonstrate the political/moral toxicity of the Neo-Conservative Political Theology. In sum, Stephens is a moral/political zealot, railing against a past created by Wall Street Journal 1998 editorial, to shame the contemporary complicit readership of The New York Times.