American conservatism has exhausted its credibility

They built their numbers on finely tuned bullshit. They have been hammering out the nonsense for over 40 years and selling people on the most appealing aspects (myopic self-interest) and finely crafted and honed lies until they acquired a broad, devoted base.

The Republican Party, based on Gallup’s party-identification polls, shows a long-term ('04 to present) trend of -0.03 with a correlation of 0.57, meaning their base is on a gradual decline (they are currently showing 26%, vs a projection of 25).

But the right-wing base may be slightly different than the R base. The Kumquat will not cast them into disarray with his downfall. Ignorance, venality and short-sightedness are much easier to cultivate and much more resilient than their opposites.

First define “conservative”. Both that and “liberal” are grab-bag terms for a whole bunch of disparate ideas. And despite the apparent inevitability of how those grab bags are assembled, many countries have different mixtures of what they consider Left or Right, Liberal or Conservative vs the US standard mix.

Traditional conservative might embody any or all of: cultural stasis, men on top, Christianity to the fore, low taxes, light or nil regulation, white power, one dollar one vote, guns for all, big defense spending, forward deployments of troops, isolationism, aggressive countering of Communist regimes, minimal social spending (except maybe on the elderly), local control of schools, regressive taxation, minimal legal immigration, aggressive management of illegal immigration, rural power, suburban power, low wages for workers = high profits for businesses, knownothing-ism, low Federal deficits and borrowing, balanced budgets, favor incumbents over upstarts in business, low inflation, the gold standard, etc.

You’ll notice that within the grab bag, many of the items are contradictory.

Trumpism seems to stand mostly for “rules don’t apply to me, I have no concern for any person but myself, and aggressive whites waving guns are good.” I see a massive decline in local civility as more and more yahoos take their behavioral cues from Trump. Playing nice and following social convention or local law is for chumps, not winners! seems to be the main idea. knownothing-ism & naked male aggression are the two keywords.

The Republican party (different from conservatism) has always had the problem that if it’s all about empowering the wealthy and connected, that won’t attract enough votes. So they need to add some planks to their platform; ideally ones they can deliver cheaply, or better yet not deliver on until after the next election cycle.

Progressivism has a similar issue in that well-educated unselfish long-term thinking people are also a small minority. They need to attract more voters by delivering, or saying they’ll deliver, something of value to more selfish shorter-sighted folks. Whether the resulting Democratic platform can even be called small-p “progressive” is a darn good question.

In a sense, Trump & Trumpism has exposed the fault lines in the Republican party & platform. IMO the three factions are the wealthy / business elite, the social conservatives and racists (not synonyms), and the aggressive know-nothings. The latter two circles overlap some, but there’s a lot of disparity as well. The challenge for the latter two circles is there’s not really a lot the Federal government can deliver for them; their goals are truly mostly local. What the Feds can do for the latter groups is decline to intervene when local preferences get too troglodytic. Imagine how the South would look today if the Feds had simply ignored the 1960s civil rights movement or quashed it.

Hit [Save] too soon …


My prediction: We’ve all seen that America contains a strong authoritarian streak. The future Republican party, or its replacement, will be torn between folks trying to build another cult of personality and ride that to dictatorship, versus a true “conservative” movement that values the constitution and good, sober governance, at least for the deserving insiders, whoever they may be defined as.

We’re just damn lucky that Trump is less skilled / sane than Putin. Else we’d already be irretrievably on the road to totalitarianism.

But anyone who thinks the drive for authoritarianism ends in Nov after Trump is defeated is utterly mistaken. We’ve seen the giant awaken, and the people who want it to rampage will not rest until they succeed or are killed trying.

N.B.: For purposes of this thread, by “conservatism” I mean the New Right or movement conservatism that emerged in the 1960s and '70s, led by the likes of William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, Phyllis Schlafly and Ronald Reagan. Buckley enforced a “no enemies to the right” policy with one striking exception: He effectively read the John Birch Society out of the movement, saying the conservative banner could not afford to be tainted with irresponsibility. To put this in context, the JBS were the ones who called Eisenhower a Communist. The 1964 Goldwater campaign involved some difficult triangulation, to avoid association with that crowd without losing their votes. But pro-business conservatives, social/religious conservatives, and neocon warhawks all were to be welcome under the GOP tent. As for white racists . . . the GOP, without making any definite commitment to their cause, would play for their votes in a dog-whistle manner.

Anyway, the New Right could not, at first, argue in terms of results, because liberal economic policies were manifestly working. They had to argue in terms of principles – New Deal programs were creeping socialism, the demands of the civil rights movement threatened states’ rights, and so on. With the economic schocks of the 1970s, they got their chance at power and succeeded in electing Reagan in 1980s. More importantly, they succeeded in overturning the “liberal consensus” that had prevailed in national politics since 1932. From the beginning, New Right leaders insisted they were not conservative but revolutionary, in seeking to overturn the existing power structure.

And it is that movement that is now in decline and discredit, in all its various aspects. Perhaps some new and more sensible formulation of “conservatism” will emerge from the wreckage.

And, the decline of conservatism as a movement will be exacerbated by the decline of the GOP as a party. This is going to be a blue tsunami of an election, many state legislatures will fall into or remain in Dem hands, and 2021 is the year they’ll be expected to redraw electoral districts in light of the 2020 Census, so you can be sure they’ll take the opportunity to undo all of the GOP’s systematic gerrymandering post-2010. And, also, to reverse all voter-suppression measures and improve access to the polls. And, also, to grant statehood to DC, which is in the Dem platform – Puerto Rican statehood isn’t, but they clearly would be open to it if they controlled Congress, which they will – and that means adding 2 to 4 Dems or Dem-caucusers to the Senate, forever – so, barring a major voter realignment in the opposite direction from which all other realignments seem to be going right now, we can say goodbye to a Pub-controlled Senate for the indefinite future. And the Pub vote share in general, at all levels, is going to be reduced. This means a new party system, where the Dems are once again the energy-producing “Sun Party” and the Pubs the reflecting/reacting “Moon Party,” as it was from 1932 through 1980.

BTW, what ever happened to the Tea Party? Does anybody even identify with it, any more?

You look at the older maps and the Ds were marked in red, the Rs in blue. I am not sure when that flipped – early 1990s perhaps. I presume the Rs were blue to symbolize blue-bloods and the Ds were red for socialism or something. Now the red seems to reflect anger and the blue, what, the sky is the limit?

There was no consistent color scheme between the two parties. According to this article, the first color-coded map of a presidential election was used by NBC in 1976, and it had Republican states in blue, and Democratic states in red. It varied from election to election, and from network to network, until 2000. That was the year of Bush and Gore, and the result was the subject of news coverage for weeks until it was decided. That’s when “red state” and “blue state” entered the lexicon with their current meanings, and we’ve been stuck with them ever since. It’s just the luck of the draw that Republicans happened to be red that year.

I can’t speak for others, but I have recently offered my own definition of conservatism. See this similar topic about a month ago:

~Max

I’ll say from the start I’m middle of the road, and I’ve split about 50/50 when voting for President over my life.

One thing I’ve noticed is that then the left wins an election for President, they frequently note that this means the end of the Republican party and asks how the country will look now that the Republican party is gone.

But when the right wins, I don’t hear them state that he Democratic party is finished. Perhaps it’s out there and I just don’t read about those conversations.

I honesty wonder why that is. Is this a younger older person perspective? Is it a history perspective?

Clearly neither of the party’s are going anywhere anytime soon.

I’m pretty hopeful of all this happening but I’m not nearly as confident as you are that it actually will. Even though a Dem majority in the Senate, picking up two more blue senators from DC and even two more from Puerto Rico (which can’t be assumed even with statehood) is not nearly the pipe dream it was four years ago.

But while demographics are working inexorably against them, losing parties always rebound (see: Dems after Reagan/Bush I and Pubbies post Obama). Sometimes they shift in their policies but often it seems like just a peculiar American voter characteristic to always be disenchanted with the party in power. I think Dems could actually gain power in office this time, however, by actively legislating new policies, taking responsibility for the results and forcing the Republicans to campaign against policies that people actually like – and with a smaller base, some of whom will benefit from said policies, to oppose them. Not a comfortable situation for the GOP.

The Tea Party was little more than a scam concocted to bilk gullible conservatives. And they got away with it partly by making a scandal out of it when the IRS tried to investigate.

Well, the Democrats have a lot more favorable long-term trends running in their favor. The youth vote, immigration, the death of elderly conservatives, etc.

Indeed. And I have often perceived that the fall of World Communism as an external existential threat was an important factor in setting up the eventual fall of the New Right to the Populist Right. The W administration was the end of the old New Right intelligentsia’s dominance, since it set up the arrival of Obama which (unnecessarily) panicked the “base”. So now the not-in-elected-office “thinker” figures are no longer the likes of Buckley and Will but the likes of Bannon and Miller, who look down with scorn upon being “presentable in polite society” when you can instead be all “suck on it, bitches”.

And ISTM that in the next generation, we can again expect we will see “conservative” once again redefined and reconfigured to mean something else, and a base of voters follow along with absolutely no apparent disconnect about it. Eventually the relative labels of progressive and populist may once again switch putative party identities

I know. Why do people keep saying that…

But we’ve been hearing that for 50 years. I stopped counting on it a while back.

Hasn’t that always been the case? The young don’t vote. The “youth vote” was going to kick Nixon out of office. Pretty sure that didn’t work out. Ask Bernie how the wave of young voters is working for him.

The death of elderly voters? That gets resupplied year after year. While not a rightly myself, I’m much more centrist than I was when I was younger. Now that I own a business and worked two jobs for much of my life, I’m less likely to want the government to take my money and give it away. People get more conservative as they get older, by and large.

And Republicans could court a majority of Hispanics if they didn’t want to hold the line (as they see it) on immigration.

You haven’t made a case why the Republican party is dead.

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But when the right wins, I don’t hear them state that he Democratic party is finished. Perhaps it’s out there and I just don’t read about those conversations.

I remember during the Reagan era “liberalism” was declared dead. Not quite the same as declaring a party to be finished, but pretty close. Also during W’s tenure, I certainly heard talk about how the Dems would never win again. I don’t think either party has a monopoly on smug self-serving prognosticating.

Perhaps the right has stated this, and I’ve conceded it. But wasn’t it Clinton himself that said “the era of big government is over?” It’s hard to fault the right for agreeing with Clinton.

I’m not calling anyone smug, and both parties are self-serving. It seems like it’s a trait on one side and not the other. Was just wondering why that might be.

Despite the naysayers, you are absolutely right. And as 538 discusses today, you can also add increasing secularism to the list of why the country will continue its inexorable march leftward.

It may feel to some that voters become more conservative as they age – and certainly the crazy Trump support from Gen X muddies up all the equations – but core values remain largely the same over time. As younger generations come on board, who was once a “liberal” becomes a “centrist” without really changing.

It does not seem to me to be only on one side. If you don’t see it, then you don’t see it. Doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Another factor, IMHO, is that liberals consider themselves to be the side that has some glorious great agenda to offer America, and could enact it and (save the environment/protect minorities/move the nation forward)…if only it weren’t for those pesky bigoted conservatives who keep obstructing progress.

With that sort of attitude, it wouldn’t be surprising that liberals are constantly anxiously speculating, “Does this Republican defeat mean the GOP is finally finished?” anytime they win an election. They’re like passengers on an airplane on the ground, asking the flight attendants every ten minutes why the takeoff is still delayed. They’re anxious to get something done and are like to believe that the GOP is cooked because they want to believe that it is cooked.