Thursday, July 21, 2016

In the Wake of the 2016 GOP Convention

The Republican Convention is over and, as a force representing a viable philosophic alternative to the Democrats, so is the Republican Party. Hence the double-entendre meaning of "wake" in the title. Let me add this post-mortem to my previous posted commentary about the 2016 election.

What has evolved most for me during this past year is my understanding of supposed allies on the political right: which of them are truly individualists who grasp and are committed to the basic principles undergirding America, and which are simply cultural tribalists waging war against their perceived cultural enemies.

The common core I see in those social conservatives who don't just reluctantly tolerate Donald Trump, but wildly enthuse about him, is their undisguised, gleeful tribalism. For them, the values of individualism, and their expression in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are, at best, the empty fluff of Fourth of July speechifying and talk-show blather. Such principles are not their basic value-priority or core commitment.

The real question dividing the right today -- and all along, actually -- has been: Which is absolutely foundational for you: your commitment to your tribal-cultural affiliations, or your commitment to the basic principles of America as outlined in those founding  documents?

For a long time, I had been snookered by many who masqueraded as the latter kind of "constitutional conservatives." Right-wing radio talkers (with Mark Levin and a precious few others being admirable exceptions), the Fox News evening lineup, the Drudge and Breitbart websites, et al., have postured for years, even decades, as principled defenders of the Constitution and free markets. But the emergence of Donald Trump has exposed these long-closeted tribalists for what they really are.

They have thrown every one of their alleged principles overboard in order to support this crude national statist, among them: their sanctimonious claims to champion Christian virtues in one's personal life, to stand for property rights against eminent domain overreach, to support free trade and free markets, to oppose crony corporatism, to uphold constitutional limits on government power, to back without reservations the Second Amendment, to repeal (not "renegotiate") ObamaCare, to repeal (not "renegotiate") the Iran nuke giveaway, to stand up against Vladimir Putin in Eastern Europe, and on and on.

Only one election cycle ago, these same "conservatives" were railing mercilessly against those Republican candidates, including Mitt Romney, who failed to pass muster on even a handful of these "litmus test" issues. Such candidates were the hated RINOs, the spineless compromisers, the "sell-outs of our constitutional principles" who "negotiate" and "cut deals" with the liberal Democrats, for their own aggrandizement.

But that was four whole years ago. Things change, right? Now Trump comes along, and what is his, and their, defining issue?

Tribalism -- specifically, all those horrible foreigners coming here to infect our Traditional American Culture and "take away American jobs."

Overnight, "American Greatness" became equated not with the individualist ideals of our nation's founding, but with preserving the demographic composition of the American national tribe. It is now Us against Them -- and all principles be damned. After all, they argue, who can afford the "luxury" of fuzzy abstractions when American Culture is under assault?

Thus the stampede of the tribal right into the open arms of Trump -- and the shocking revelations of the big-name conservatives who are members of that tribalist gang. We watched them, dumbfounded, as they did an about-face on issue after issue, on principle after principle -- and then turned against a host of Trump's GOP rivals who, just four years before, they had extolled as conservative heroes. But not anymore. Instead, they undercut and bad-mouthed these candidates at every turn, handing the keys to their media platforms, 24/7, to a sordid creature much farther to the left than Dole, McCain, Romney, McConnell, and Boehner ever were at their worst.

And in the convention's aftermath, they are unleashing their greatest wrath upon Ted Cruz -- the solitary political figure who dared to take on, from the inside and without hesitation, the very Establishment that these "movement conservatives" so long pretended to oppose. His mortal sin? His refusal, on principle, to join the rest of the tribe, bow, and then kiss the corrupt billionaire's gaudy ring.

Donald Trump's candidacy has at last enticed these fakes to venture forth from their closets, cast off their faux-individualist garb, and stand nakedly exposed as the cultural collectivists they've been all along.

It has been a sobering revelation to me just how many of these fair-weather "constitutional conservatives" and "free enterprisers" are out there -- just how far our nation has degenerated -- and just how great a distance we must travel to win it back.

Any political revolution, however, must be preceded by a cultural revolution. And so I now return to doing the what I can on that front: crafting fictional narratives that offer my own vision of the kind of values and virtues a new culture will require.