Is this the future of political conservatism in America: Right-wing? For the moment, President Trump has made the Republican Party and the movement conservatism that dominates it anti-immigrant, openly corrupt, contemptuous of governing norms and legal restraints, and oddly schizophrenic on foreign policy.
Our questions for this week are two. How real is all of this; i.e., has Trumpism taken over the conservative movement in substance or mainly in style? And how lasting will it prove? Is Trump transforming U.S. conservatism or has he just borrowed it for a while? To do this we will need to look at both what conservatism in America has been and what the Trumpists are trying to make it become.
Traditionally of course, American conservatism has been described as a coalition of interest groups and voters with a range of substantive needs and philosophical and ideological beliefs. Among these were the Religious Right and other culture warriors, big business, supply side-loving ideological elites, libertarian voters, and a mix of small town working class and upscale Whites. Over the last two decades several other major players have joined the conservative movement, notably the right-wing infotainment complex of talk radio, Fox News, and internet; and billionaire dark money donors like the Koch Brothers.
YMMV, but I found these distinctions less and less useful for understanding the conservative movement even before Trump. There is almost a universal consensus that in the last 20 years American conservative has grown increasingly united and ideological. I think it is largely because of the growing dominance of those last two groups above, but there are other possible reasons.
So, maybe on Monday we could begin by trying to look at today’s conservatism (and thus tomorrow’s too) from some perspectives that might be more illuminating than just interest groups and ideology. Specifically:
- Psychological type and world view.
- Status in society, cultural as well as economic.
–> FYI, we can save some of this for next Monday’s mtg on status anxiety.
- Philosophy and ideology.
- Policy preferences.
This may seem like a tall order. But, as with progressives the Venn diagram of these four groups overlap quite a bit and, IMO, does a lot to explain the direction conservatism seems to be moving in. Of course, we must be careful not to reduce conservatism (or any other political belief) to a mere byproduct of its adherents’ cognitive makeup. Yet, I hope that thinking about conservatism in this way (political beliefs flow from cultural beliefs and worldviews as much as from material interests) will help us to shed more light than shadow on this topic.
This will be a busy, vibrant meeting. Thank you in advance for your self-restraint and empathy for your humble moderator. Mr. Humble will start the meeting with a short introduction that explains some of these different ways of thinking about what American conservatism is and what it “stands for.”
SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –
Yesterday’s conservatism –
- How conservatism today differs from that of the 20th century and earlier. A must-read from 2007 or brief update here. (this is just one POV, of course)
Today’s conservatism –
- Voters: Pew survey reveals four distinct groups of conservatives.
–> DavidG will explain and use these terms.
- Well, “conservative” can mean many things. This conservative lists 20 of them.
- The right-wing infotainment complex wields the ring of power that rules them all. Recommended.
- On policy, is the GOP exhausted and obsolete. If this is wrong why did Trump win GOP nomination so easily?
Tomorrow’s conservatism –
- The Right-wing is only one faction of the GOP and its continued dominance is NOT assured.
- In key areas Trump is closer to conservative voters’ POV than are GOP elites, so big changes are in store on trade, immigration, etc. Recommended + Conservative POV.
NEXT WEEK: Status anxiety as a social and political force.