Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Bifurcated GOP

     Ace of Spades has an important column today:

     I mentioned in a post below that the NeverTrumpers -- who are actually the most liberal of all Republicans, but pose as the most conservative for branding purposes, and because this party has this utterly retarded I'm-more-conservative-than-you dick-measuring syndrome where no liberal Republicans can ever just admit they're liberal Republicans -- are trying to hand this election to the Democrats, because they want their precious control over the party back and they will sabotage it and empower the left until we embrace liberal Republicanism again.

     Please read it all; it’s more than worth you time – and not because I agree with it in its entirety, because I don’t.

     Go ahead; read it. I’ll wait here.

     Even among persons who think seriously about such things, there’s a tendency to regard the realm of conviction as:

  1. Flat;
  2. Static.

     In other words, if Smith possesses two convictions about some subject – and this applies far more broadly than to politics alone – they will have equal weight. Moreover, they won’t be prioritized, whether against one another or against Smith’s other desires, fears, and beliefs. This could not be more untrue.

     Personal considerations will, more often than not, take precedence over abstract convictions in individuals’ decision-making. Indeed, that’s at the core of the rationality-versus-allegiance phenomenon I wrote about yesterday. This might seem like an “of course” sort of observation. It’s not, especially in the realm of politics.

     The several pseudo-conservative figures Ace calls out in his essay might really hold, at some abstract level, to conservative premises and postures. It’s not guaranteed, but it is possible. What’s almost guaranteed is that they regard personal considerations as of much higher priority. When gauging whom to support politically and what to say about him against those considerations, their conservatism, if any, fails to register. It’s of far higher priority that they protect their rice bowls. To expect otherwise is to take the short end of the bet.

     But what’s in those rice bowls? And what sort of vessels are they?

     As I wrote yesterday, most of us don’t arrive at our political positions through a rational process, but rather as a consequence of upbringing or as tools in a quest for personal advantage. Moreover, even among persons who have a sufficient conversance with history, economics, moral-ethical theory, conflict resolution studies, and so forth to make rational choices, personal considerations are likely to have a higher priority. This is colloquially known as “voting your pocketbook.”

     What I have in mind is the prestige factor that animates persons whose public persona is critical to their self-regard, their social standing, and their livelihood. The prestige of a political commentator can be damaged in certain ways:

  • The discovery of hypocrisy;
  • The discovery of venality;
  • The admission of error.

     The Kristols, Frenches, Goldbergs, et alii who are frequently classed as “NeverTrumpers” have excessive self-regard, owing to...drum roll, please...their status as widely read conservative commentators. That’s natural; when tens of thousands of people read you daily or weekly, it tends to fatten your opinion of yourself. Beyond that, their political adversaries regard them as “big boys” of equal stature. They travel in a common social circle. Under social circumstances, they treat one another cordially.

     That mutual acceptance as “one of us” is a component in their livelihoods. Even though his emphasis is on “business interests,” George Carlin’s observations about the “big club” (that we ain’t in) are highly relevant here.

     But seats in that club, that little league of “us” in which the Kristols, the Frenches, the Goldbergs, et alii have sat for many years can be lost. And repeatedly being wrong, especially about who and what will serve one’s supposed, repeatedly expressed political convictions, is one way to lose them.

     So I differ to that extent with Ace’s analysis. These “NeverTrumper” pseudo-conservative commentators aren’t necessarily liberals in conservative costumes. They could be, but they might honestly hold to conservative convictions. They might even support politicians who would implement the conservative, pro-American policies Donald Trump has implemented, as long as it isn’t Donald Trump who’s implementing them. But they don’t like being wrong – and their reaction to having been visibly, audibly, and repeatedly wrong about Trump and his agenda, often from the very start of Trump’s campaign for the presidency, has made them fear for their standing in their occupation and their acceptability in the social circles they frequent.

     Personal priorities are like that. It’s not just the indignity of having been proved wrong and outperformed by a businessman from Queens. The upper echelon of today’s Republican Party is bifurcated for that reason, and essentially no other.

1 comment:

Selfish Dave said...

What can we make of George F. Will's recent comments? He wrote well in the past. Has he become an elitist and a never Trumper too? He apparently has advocated that we vote for democrats to protest Trump. christiansweeny@yahoo.com