Sullivan: Why the Reactionary Right Must Be Taken Seriously

So a sympathy for writers and thinkers who define themselves by a sense of loss comes naturally to me. I’ve grown out of it in many ways — and the depression and loneliness that often lie at the core of the reactionary mind slowly lifted as I grew more comfortable in the only place I could actually live: the present. But I never doubted the cogency of many reactionary insights — and I still admire minds that have not succumbed to the comfortable assumption that the future is always brighter. I read the Christian traditionalist Rod Dreher with affection. His evocation of Christian life and thought over the centuries and his panic at its disappearance from our world are poignant. We are losing a vast civilization that honed answers to the deepest questions that human beings can ask, replacing it with vapid pseudo-religions, pills, therapy, and reality TV.

Source: Andrew Sullivan: Why the Reactionary Right Must Be Taken Seriously

Listening to Trump Voters – The American Interest

The people who talked to me in late March and early April of this year do not constitute what scholars call a representative sample—not of Trump supporters, of Southerners, or of lower-middle-class and blue-collar Americans, much less of American society. They are just a few people I met while driving along a few American roads. Nevertheless, I’m glad I did it, because I do believe that I learned, or at least convinced myself of, a few meaningful facts about U.S. politics in 2016.

I learned that people who describe Trump’s supporters as ignorant haven’t talked to them.

I learned that many, possibly a majority, of Trump’s supporters vote for him not because, but despite, his frequently outrageous comments.

I learned that many of Trump’s supporters don’t necessarily trust him.

I learned that, although much of the country today appears to be brimming with anger, very little of that anger seems to take the form of class resentment. Trump’s self-proclaimed status as a billionaire appears to be an unambiguous plus for him as a candidate. Non-affluent Americans seem increasingly to detest and mistrust politicians, but far fewer seem to detest or mistrust rich people, big corporations, or the growing concentration of wealth in the upper tiers of U.S. society.

I learned that very large proportions of Southern and of blue-collar white people, especially men, hold Hillary Clinton in utter contempt. In all my conversations, I met exactly one woman, and not a single man, who said anything positive about Clinton. In the movie The Grifters, the son can’t understand why his mother detests his girlfriend so intensely. Frustrated, he asks, “What’s your objection to Myra?” Her answer: “Same as anybody’s.” That’s how nearly everyone I met seemed to feel about Hillary Clinton.1 I’ll leave it to others, or perhaps to myself on another day, to explain why this is so.

I learned that, in addition to a steadily growing partisan divide—liberals vilifying conservatives and vice versa—the United States is also experiencing a growing governing divide, such that millions of Americans find themselves voting for candidates that they can’t stand and don’t trust. The overwhelming majority of those I interviewed simply do not believe that their elected leaders, including those from their own party, are honest or can be trusted even to try to do the right thing. In my view, this sentiment is toxic, particularly in a democracy, and, probably more than any other factor, explains Trump’s rise. He’s an alluring candidate for the large and growing proportion of Americans who believe that the core problem with our politics is politicians.

I learned that many non-affluent Americans fear that the hour is late and that “we’re losing everything.”  I learned that many decent, sincere people who feel disregarded, disrespected, and left behind—in ways that I do not feel and have never felt—can disproportionately embrace political opinions that I view as bigoted or paranoid. And I wonder, if there is fault here, whose fault is it?

I learned that possibly the most significant divide in American life today is the class divide. Much current scholarship, and certainly the interviews reported here, suggest that the approximately one-third of Americans with four-year college degrees are essentially thriving, while the other two-thirds fall further and further behind on nearly every measure.2 And to make the matter worse, today’s upscale Americans are less and less likely even to interact with, much less actually give a damn about, those other Americans.3 Again I wonder, if there is fault to be assigned here, where should it be assigned?

Source: David Blankenhorn, Listening to Trump Voters – The American Interest

IASC: The Hedgehog Review – Volume 18, No. 2 (Summer 2016) – On Frank Speech –

The innovation of Donald Trump has been to acknowledge the sorting function played by fastidious speech and build a new class war around it. He successfully portrays the sensitivity and inclusiveness that make up the self-image of those who prevail in the global economy as pretentious cant when he insists on the primacy of interests over gestures. However wittingly, Trump has achieved a quasi-Marxist consciousness-raising of the proletariat, exposing culture war as a front for class war. Both parties have long engaged in this feint. For the Republicans, the winning formula for several decades has been to offer culture war as red meat to the electorate, then turn around and serve the donor class. This is simple cynicism. For the Democrats, the driving force is, rather, moral vanity—a tendency to let the easy pleasures of righteousness stand in for the kind of public-spiritedness that would make real demands on us. Right and left need each other to keep the standard culture wars going, but Trump is short-circuiting the whole arrangement. No wonder both sides are in a panic.

Source: Matthew B. Crawford, IASC: The Hedgehog Review – Volume 18, No. 2 (Summer 2016) – On Frank Speech –

American Horror Story — Welcome to the Scream Room — Medium

How to possibly express the choreographed insanity of this brassy, breadless circus? How are we meant to actually communicate like human beings when we are trapped here, sweating on the floor of the dream factory as they hand out buttons and baseball caps plastered with empty slogans? It reminds me, more than anything else, of a music festival, down to the overpriced snacks, the complicated entry system, the constant impression that the weather is trying to kill you, and the way that normal rules are suspended as we pretend, briefly, that another world is possible. Specifically, world where the political process is simple and unsaleable, and strong leaders can change things for the better. A world where hope is feasible and our votes matter and we all go, as Philip Larkin once said, down the long slide to happiness, endlessly.

Source: Laurie Penny American Horror Story — Welcome to the Scream Room — Medium

Politics serves as therapy when Trump takes the stage

Having watched many prior conventions, I know the audience to be highly emotional. One moment they are an excitable bunch of sugar-bingeing kids at a birthday party; the next, grief-stricken mourners at a funeral. I should have known that the camera will always find a person crying in the audience on cue before shifting to another supporter chanting “U-S-A” to the lamest punchlines imaginable. The loyalists who attend these conventions are generally more interesting to watch than the speakers.

Based on the evidence above, it might seem like America is losing its mind. But, to be fair, American political conventions and those who attend them are not particularly representative of American society.

Source: Politics serves as therapy when Trump takes the stage

Donald Trump’s Convention: Day 4 – The New York Times

Cruz made a version of this mistake early in the primary campaign, with his ever-so-calculated embrace of Trump. But last night he chose the better way. You don’t know what tomorrow holds — so do the right thing today. You don’t know what strategy will play well four years hence — so stand up for your own integrity, your cause’s principles and your family’s honor. The future is unwritten — but you can make sure that when the history of the present year is written, your place won’t be with those timid and temporizing souls who surrendered both their party and their dignity to Donald Trump.

Source: Ross Douthat, Donald Trump’s Convention: Day 4 – The New York Times

Why Political Pundits Are Becoming More Wrong – The New Yorker

But the element that has caught forecasters most off-guard this year has been a more fundamental change—a seeming decline in the predictability of politics because of a shift in how institutions shape outcomes. In an admirable explanation of where he and others went astray, Silver wrote that he was overly skeptical of Trump’s prospects because he “assumed that influential Republicans would do almost anything they could to prevent him from being nominated.” He relied on the presumption, once sound, that the Party itself would make decisive choices, in the form of endorsements and funding, that would bless some candidates and doom others. The parties, it turns out, are weaker and more out of touch than observers understood.

Source: Why Political Pundits Are Becoming More Wrong – The New Yorker

America’s bipartisan illiberalism

Our form of government and political culture demand that individuals tolerate disagreements about the highest good, that the state treats all people equally under the law, that citizens resist the temptation to settle political disputes through violence, and that members of the political community forge a common heritage through a process of unending civil discussion, argument, and debate that’s undertaken in a spirit of mutual respect.

All of this is extremely difficult to achieve and maintain, even in the best of times. But in periods of social, cultural, and economic stress, citizens will be especially prone to give in to illiberal temptations.

Today, the United States is passing through a particularly illiberal phase.

Source: America’s bipartisan illiberalism