American Vendée

When we had schools, Americans learned about the French Revolution, mostly as a peasant uprising against the king. The storming of the Bastille is usually characterized as the riff-raff reaching their breaking point and taking control of a the dungeon the king used to imprison his political opponents.  While the fortress was a symbol of royal authority, it was hardly a tool of royal oppression. The Bastille, when it was stormed, had just seven prisoners. There were four forgers, two lunatics and one degenerate aristocrat inside.

The truth is, the French Revolution was a cosmopolitan affair, led by men who were educated and well off, relative to the peasantry. The Jacobin Club was not for hod carriers and sewer workers. It was lawyers and academics. These were the men who had internalized the ideas of the Enlightenment and began to think about the political framework that should spring from those ideas. Of course, it was centered in Paris, which was where the cognitive elites were centered. These were urban revolutionaries.

That does not mean the countryside had no role in things. It’s just that the waves of change radiated out from Paris.The key insight of the Jacobins was to send representatives out into the smaller towns and cities to organize radicals and incite rebellion. It was a stroke of genius that has been copied by radicals and revolutionaries ever since. Many rural peasants welcomed the revolution as it meant some degree of freedom and the redistribution of lands seized from the Church and aristocracy.

As is always the case with radicalism, they went too far and were soon alienating the people they claimed to champion. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy was passed on July 12, 1790, requiring all clerics to swear allegiance to the French government. The radicals could get away with seizing Church lands, but when they seized the priesthood, the people in the countryside began to resist. The Church was the center of rural life and the foundation of French rural traditional. The radicals were now making war on this.

Imagine you’re living in a farming community and government officials show up and haul away your parish priest because he refuses to swear an oath to the state. Further, those government agents closed the local churches. It would be a lot like the state coming in and telling the Christian baker that they had to celebrate gay marriage and pay for their employee’s abortions. Imagine the government one day saying that your mother and father’s life is no different than two men sharing rent and a bed. Crazy.

The revolt in the Vendée region, on the west coast of France, began with the March 1793 conscription requiring Vendeans to fill their quota of 300,000 men for the army. The enraged populace took up arms and quickly formed a Catholic Army. What started as a demand for reopening the churches and getting their priests back, turned into a Royalist counter rebellion against the Republic. Initially, the Republicans were caught off-guard and the rebels enjoyed some success, even though their army was ill-equipped.

The Republic got its bearings and sent a 45,000 man army to suppress the rebellion and by the fall of that year the rebel army was defeated. The Committee for Public Safety decided that beating the army was not enough and opted for pacification. Whether or not the word “genocide” is appropriate is debatable. Some estimates put the death toll at 400,000 for a population of 800,000. Then there was the “scorched earth” policy of razing the homes of anyone suspected of being a rebel, which was anyone who owned a home.

The War in the Vendée is interesting for a number of reasons, but one important lesson is the fervor of those protecting their way of life is no match for the zeal of the Utopian fanatic building his paradise. The romantic rustics of the countryside were beaten by the savvy fanatics of Paris. It was not just the numbers or the resources. The people of the Vendée were people defending the limits of human conduct, while the Committee For Public Safety was limited only by its imagination. They would do anything to reach the promised land.

Another important lesson is the savagery of Louis Marie Turreau, the French officer sent by the Committee for Public Safety to pacify the region, was the result of righteous enthusiasm for his task. The radicals were murdering their enemies not as a means to end but as an end in itself. For the radical, murder becomes a sacrament. When Turreau inquired about the limits of what he could do to pacify the region, the answer from the committee was “eliminate the brigands to the last man, there is your duty.”

This is something to keep in mind when thinking about the present crisis. The revolt that put Trump in office is a revolt of the provincials. Plenty of Trump voters went to college or have office work. It’s not the old class divide. It is the new class divide. The revolution over the last 25 years has been led by a cosmopolitan elite, based in the coastal cities of America. These are the people dreaming up gay marriage and transgenders, not because they make any sense, but because they offend the sensible provincials out in the suburbs.

It’s comforting to think that the pendulum is swinging back toward normalcy, but it could simply be a rearguard action. The radicals running the American “republic” are no less bloodthirsty and malevolent than those who razed the Vendée. They may not unleash genocidal infernal columns on the suburbs, but they are plenty enthusiastic about importing hordes of foreign peasants to wreak havoc on the people. They are also smart and savvy, masters of the tools of power. But most of all, they have no sense of restraint.

To Learn Nothing

Being wrong is as natural as standing upright. All of us make mistakes, miss the obvious and make predictions that, in retrospect, were hilariously stupid. I predicted that the neocons, despite their rhetoric, were going to find a Pinochet to install in Baghdad after they ousted Saddam. After all, no one could be so dumb as to think that Western self-government would work in the Arab world. I think a lot of people on the Right look back at the Bush years and wonder how so many could be so wrong about the neocons.

Error is supposed to result in reflection and reconsideration. The only way to learn from a mistake is to actually learn something from it. The take away from the Bush years, for me at least, was that the Buckley Conservatives are yesterday men untethered from reality, so it’s time to go another way. Many reading this learned from the Obama years that democracy is a suicide pact with the dumbest people in your neighborhood. The solutions lie outside the political process. Who knows what we will learn in the Trump years.

One of the remarkable aspects of the managerial class is they don’t seem to learn much from their errors. The neocons are still claiming that elections will somehow turn the Arab world into a membership meeting of The Harmonie Club. After every Muslim atrocity committed in a Western city, the Progressives tell us the solution is more Muslims. Now we have Puerto Rico, which should be the example that puts some reality back into public policy debates, but that will never happen.

Puerto Rico has been a US territory since the Treaty of Paris ended the Spanish-American War. It probably would have been setup as an independent country, but the US Navy thought it was useful and the sugar growers liked being a US territory. Even though it no longer has any value to the Navy and they no longer grow much sugar, Puerto Rico remains a territory. It does have a strong manufacturing base, mostly due its status as a tax haven, but also as the result of US policy to encourage industry on the island.

It was not too long ago that the Official Right was championing Puerto Rico as an example of how fixing the institutions, reforming the economic polices, could fix even the most backward society. It was an obvious ploy to peddle open borders to their voters. After all, if Republicanism could work on the PR’s, it would work on those Mexicans imported into your town. Here’s an old Cal Thomas article talking about the wonderfulness of the Republican governor of the island at the time. I love this quote.

“I think the Republican Party has done an awful job handling this issue,” he says. “It makes no sense for us not to bring more Hispanics into the party because Hispanics are naturally conservative. The tenor of the public discourse surrounding this issue has sounded anti-Hispanic at times.”

What would he recommend to change the tone?

“First, show up; show respect. Most Republican candidates don’t do that. They talk about 15-foot fences and then try to address the issues of greatest concern in the Hispanic community. They are no different from other communities most of the time. On immigration, Republicans say, ‘we want legal immigration and we are the country, thanks to legal immigration,’ so we need to try to address this issue with a different tone than we’ve had so far.”

In case you’re wondering, Luis Fortuna, the subject of that column, now lives in DC at the insider law firm Steptoe & Johnson. The reason for that is those “naturally conservative” Hispanics voted him out of office. Despite all that, Puerto Rico is still Puerto Rico. It has a crime rate higher than every US state, something close to Baltimore. It also has a corruption rate triple the typical US state. In other words, despite the best efforts of the US, Puerto Rico is the product of the people who populate the island.

Now that the island is going bankrupt, it would make sense for the conservative cheerleaders to take stock and maybe reconsider those wonderful economic policies they were sure would fix anything. Similarly, libertarians, who are sure that tinkering with the tax code can fix everything, might want to take a look at Puerto Rico. Of course, that will never happen. Being a public intellectual in the modern era means never having to say you’re sorry for being wrong. Heck, you don’t even have to admit to being wrong.

Our rulers should also reconsider the wisdom of importing tens of millions of Hispanics into America. After all, California turned itself into Puerto Rico demographically and is now on its way to transforming itself into Puerto Rico financially. The underlying premise of open borders is that people are the same everywhere. It is the dirt that makes them into law-abiding, prudent Americans. We have spent a century pouring magic into our Caribbean colony and it is no better than the Dominican Republic.

The island has a per capita debt of $25,000 and per capita GDP of $28,000. Throw in the $16,000 in per capita pension liabilities and you have, well, California. The two biggest financial basket cases in America are also the two greatest examples of the prevailing ruling class orthodoxy. The fact that both are looking a lot like bust outs is probably not a coincidence. You would think some of the people in the political class would take note, but no one will learn anything from the Puerto Rican bankruptcy. They never learn.

The French Election

Most people reading this probably have little interest in French politics so the presidential election today is a bit of a non-story. Macron will win with 60% of the vote as he has the full backing of the European establishment and the cosmopolitan class in France. Unlike the US, French elections are basically a collection of city elections. If you can win Paris, you win France. Imagine if Manhattan dictated our election results.

One reason for this is French politics have largely been conducted in a narrow space of post-war cosmopolitan social democracy. Like teenagers who define themselves by their contentious relationship with their parents, European political elites defined themselves by how petulant they could be toward the Americans. As a result, there is a fundamental lack of seriousness in French political culture. They vote for the cool kids, not the smart kids.

Still, it bears watching for those on the Dissident Right as it helps frame the coming battles in the West over the central conflict of our age. European elites imagine a pan-European feudalism where the peasantry has no identity of their own. The resistance imagines a continent of states governed by national populism that corresponds with their unique cultural heritage. The flash point is immigration from the south, particularly Islam.

The last time a non-approved candidate made it to the second round of the French presidential election was 15 years ago when Le Pen’s father did it. He got 18% of the vote in the second round, but his success had a sobering effect on the French political class after what they saw as a close call with fascism. They started to take the Right more seriously, which is why the mainstream parties have largely converged on all issues.

This time, Le Pen is hoping to break 40%, but there is zero chance she will will win or even make it close. It’s not so much that Macron has much appeal as that Le Pen is not a great politician for France. Her cause needs a roguish male to lead the party, someone who has some flare and has had some success in other areas. France has always needed a man on a horse to restore order and national pride.

That’s why the final number will matter. If Le Pen does break 40%, that will open a lot of eyes in the French political class. If you are an ambitious politician, you will now have a base of 40% to work from simply by adopting the immigration arguments of Le Pen. Avoid some of the weird and unpleasant aspects of the National Front and you can become the great compromise that unites France. That’s the hope anyway, from the Civic Nationalists.

It’s also the fear of the globalists who keep trying to make this election look like a horse race. They desperately want a resounding victory for Macron and they want to have a trophy they can hold up, claiming the Far Right is now dead. The obituaries for Le Pen and her issues are all written and ready to go as soon as the vote is counted. By pretending it is close, they can cast any win as a massive defeat for the Right.

The reality is something different. France, as a self-governing political entity, was probably broken in the Great War, but it was most certainly broken in the Second World War. Getting run over by the Huns and then having most of your political class collaborate with them will do that to a country. If that was not enough, being relegated to the kiddie table during the Cold War finished off what was left of responsible French leadership.

It’s why Macron winning is probably a good thing for France. He is an accelerationist, who wants to fling open the gates and invite in millions of Muslims. He wants to hand over to Brussels what’s left of  French sovereignty. Nothing undermines the legitimacy of the rulers like seeing them on their knees, kissing the feet of foreigners. Macron is Marshal Philippe Pétain, without any of the military success on his resume.

If there is any hope for a revival of French culture it will only come through total French humiliation and despair. Once a majority of Frenchmen no longer see any reason to support the status quo, to remain loyal to their betters, then things change and change rapidly. It will not happen through elections and political activism. Democracy is good at driving a country off a cliff. It is useless in pulling it back onto the road. France needs to vote itself off the cliff in order to clear the field for what comes next.

Of course, what comes next may simply be the end of France. There is nothing magical about the land on which the French people live. When Caesar conquered Gaul, he did not conquer the French. When the peasants stormed the Bastille, most people in France did not speak French. The point being, there is nothing permanent about France. Maybe what comes next is the slow invasion of Europe from the south and the death of Europe. It could simply be reversion to the mean and nature is now reclaiming an exception.

The Others

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

–The Great Gatsby

While writing yesterday’s tirade about the conservative industrial complex and their poverty pimps, I kept thinking about the weirdness of the people who populate the upper reaches of the conservative think tank rackets. They obviously make enormous amounts of money doing very little, which is not the world of most Americans. They don’t keep regular hours at work, coming and going as they see fit. They live in communities that are set apart from the rest of America. They have little interaction with normal people.

None of this is new. Normal people learn quickly that the rich are not like the rest of us, despite the Hemingway quip to the contrary. The lack of want changes a man. Struggle, fear and the sleepless nights are the crucible of resourcefulness and creativity. The result is not just resourcefulness, but caution and prudence. It is the instinctive understanding of risk that comes from failure, what economists call moral hazard¹, that is at the heart of prudence. Pamper a man long enough and he loses this.

It is most obvious with our carny folk. Young people go into the circus hoping to become stars, but most spend their youth waiting tables, doing odd jobs and never doing more than some small parts in small productions. Some kick around as extras, making a decent living, but working hard. These are usually very sensible people because they know how hard it is to maintain their spot and they appreciate how quickly it can go away. It’s not an accident that these are the most right-wing people in Hollywood.

Then we have the stars who are magically plucked from the gutter and made rich, glamorous and famous. It’s rare for a mega star to have had a long apprenticeship or have struggled in bit parts for a long time. They tend to hit it big early in their career. Whatever sense they had is quickly squeezed out of them and they become spoiled toddlers, complaining about the unfairness of the world. Meryl Streep is a classic example. She hit the acting lottery and now lectures the peons about our lack of morality.

Now, Streep was probably nuts before she entered the carnival, but it does not take long for someone living like a noble to start thinking they are noble. If serendipity led you to a one-percent lifestyle, you can be forgiven for thinking that you were chosen. Further, you can be forgiven for thinking that things like hard work, prudence and loyalty are a sucker’s game. After all, the people who cherish those things live down in the valley, while you live up on the hill with the rest of the Cloud People.

This seems to be the dynamic in the managerial elite. They went off to college, ticked the right boxes and were magically transported to the top of society. Look through the biographies of famous pundits, media people and public intellectuals and you don’t find a lot of time in the fields with the sons of toil. Instead, you see biographies like the soon-to-be-president of France. Macron was literally plucked from the crowd, like Billy Ray Valentine from Trading Places. Why would Macron value hard work and struggle?

The consequence free world of the ruling classes not only makes them reckless; it makes them contemptuous of the lower ranks, particularly the middle class. It’s probably why the American Left adopted the anti-bourgeoisie language of Continental Marxists, despite living exaggerated versions of the bourgeoisie lifestyle. It just felt good. That appears to have been the motivation of those who sponsored Barak Obama’s political career in Chicago. The aging radicals who sponsored him knew he would offend normal people.

This witch’s brew of reckless disregard and seething contempt is on display in this story about Left’s next great mongrel hope.

A California Democrat looking to flip a House seat in next year’s midterms believes he can appeal to both sides of the aisle — and even pitch progressive ideas to President Trump.

Ammar Campa-Najjar, a 28-year-old communications staffer and former campaign worker of Mexican and Arab heritage, says his background and resume put him in a position to succeed in the red district he hopes to represent.

“I talk about never being Arab enough in Gaza, Hispanic enough in the Barrio or American enough in the post-9/11 world,” he told The Hill during a recent interview.

“I just don’t come in with this preconceived notion of prejudice. … It allows me to have an open mind and be tolerant, see the world from their vantage point.”

I don’t know about the Arab and Mexican stuff, but I do know the reason he went from rent boy to political rock star is that he is “not American enough.” If he was an Irish guy named O’Shea, he would be working the business end of a shovel, rather than entertaining the Cloud People. Like an actor waiting tables, this guy’s whole existence is about cultivating a look in the hope of catching the attention of the right people. He may as well be an actor, as he is just playing a character he thinks will be in demand in the big show.

Read the rest of the article and it is clear that Ammar is as dumb as a hamster. He’s just repeating phrases he has picked up as an extra in his minor gigs in Washington. But, he has the look in demand with the Cloud People and he is about as alien to the native stock as you’re going to get, so he has a future in Progressive politics. It’s not hard to imagine a Prog version of Tom and Daisy Buchanan backing this clown’s political career because it let’s them piss on the little people, who they detest so much.

¹The term “Moral Hazard” has become a safe word for innumerate fetishists, who will be tempted to sperg on it. Save it. I’m not interested.

Poverty Porn From The Popinjay

I make no bones about that fact I don’t like Kevin Williamson, the house rumpswab at National Review. I have no tolerance for people who put on false fronts and Williamson’s quill pen act is as phony as a three dollar bill. George Will did the same thing for decades, but he at least had a first class education and did some time as a university instructor. He was a gold-plated phony, but at least he had some credentials. Williamson has none of that. He’s just a real life version of Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.

Gratuitously mocking fat guys is not a good look so I resist the temptation by doing what most everyone does and that’s avoid reading National Review. It’s not that hard as the only interesting thing about conservative commentary these days is the remarkable dullness of it. Even the most boring people are interesting on occasion. It takes special talent to be that ineffectual all the time. So, I was minding my own business scanning twitter and I see this tweet from Charles Murray:

It was in response to this tweet;

Naturally, I thought it was word that Williamson had got what he has been publicly wishing on normal Americans for the last few years. Instead it was more poverty porn aimed at the pseudo-academics, who populate think tanks and opinion sites in the Imperial Capital. It’s becoming a specialty for Williamson. He writes up a scene from lower class white America that portrays the people as benighted losers, who deserve the abuse heaped upon them by the good whites in his audience. It’s a ghetto tour as morality play.

The unconcealed contempt Williamson has for the subjects of his poverty porn is both ugly and bizarre, given his alleged background. He has invested a lot in creating a hillbilly back story for himself, which suggests it is probably fictional or highly exaggerated. Even if it is accurate, his contempt for the sorts of people he claims to have grown up around as a kid is pathological. It suggests that Kevin Michael Grace was right when he said in our chat a few weeks back that Williamson is filled with self-hatred.

Self-loathing fat guy is not an interesting area of inquiry. What is interesting is the audience. Charles Murray pimping this stuff suggests something about Murray and his view of the current crisis in American culture. Murray is a libertarian and like all famous libertarians, he is a ward of the state. AEI is a tax racket, like all of the so-called think tanks. Murray also makes big money charging taxpayers between $20,000 and $30,000 per speech at colleges and universities. That’s not working class wages.

Similarly, Arthur Brooks is cashing in on the college speaking rackets. He also gets between $20,000 and $30,000 per speech. Brooks also pays himself $700,000 per year out of AEI, plus expenses, of course. He also gets $100,000 a year for other work at AEI, but that’s not defined on the tax filing. He may not be a one-percenter, but he is close enough to see it from his perch in the Imperial Capital. Being a libertarian lion is a lot easier when you take home close to a million a year from a tax exempt foundation.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge these fat-cat grifters their money. It’s a crooked and corrupt system and they are simply working it to their advantage. I could do without the Randian lectures about small government and rugged individualism, but hypocrisy is a feature of the human condition, not a bug. What’s curious to me is why these people seem to take pleasure in the suffering of the white lower classes. The glee with which they praise these Williamson columns suggest they get some strange pleasure from it.

That’s thing. That column was mostly just sneering, but Williamson put a lot of effort into letting the reader know he took pleasure in not only evicting his wayward tenants, but also in observing the suffering of the poor people in housing court. I grew up dirt poor, so I have no illusions about poverty. Poor people are poor mostly because they have low-IQ’s and poor impulse control. Progressive efforts to romanticize poverty were always ridiculous, but that does not mean we should take pleasure in their suffering. That’s just sick.

Regular readers of this blog will know that my view of the Official Right and their slow-witted little brother, Official Libertarianism, is that they trail along behind the Progressives, as they flit from one fad to the next. Their contempt for the Dissident Right is not about ideology. It’s that they think the scruffy trouble makers to their Right make them look bad to their friends on the Left. It’s hard to make $30K from college speeches when the people running the college are blaming you for the alt-right hate-thinkers.

Maybe that’s why there is a market on the Official Right for the type of contemptuous poverty porn Williamson is peddling. The Left has made hatred of working class white people that shop at Walmart a centerpiece of their identity. Hillary Clinton ran for President on a platform of “White People Suck.” Perhaps the Official Right is just aping what they see, but with their own spin on it. “The Conservative Case for Hating Poor Whites” is probably in the works at National Review.

Summer Soldiers

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

–Some old white guy

Street protests and street theater are largely useless as political tactics in the modern age. A century ago, a gaggle of prim-faced scolds marching through the middle of town, demanding the end of alcohol, not only got people’s attention, it changed their minds about the issue. The street protests projected strength and suggested that the numbers on the side of the marchers were larger than assumed. The men in charge responded by giving women the franchise and banning alcohol. The downward spiral started soon after.

Today, people know that the street protest is a made for TV event and that the “protesters” are often paid to show up and make noise. Alternatively, it is assumed that the true believers are batshit crazy and best ignored. In other words, it’s just another TV show in an age where we are awash in TV shows. For the most part, the street protest is for weak losers desperate for attention. The only impact they have on the larger public is to confirm that the “movement” is impotent and can be ignored.

That does not mean street theater is entirely worthless. The alt-right showing up at Berkeley to beat up the Antifa losers was entertaining and it did scare the people in charge of the place. So much so they moved heaven and earth to block Ann Coulter’s speech last week. Make no mistake, the reason the school went to all this trouble is they feared a bunch of dudes in home made battle gear beating the hell out of the Potemkin Protesters the Left now hires to do their protesting for them. A replay would be embarrassing.

Berkeley is the epicenter of West Coast progressive lunacy so for the true believers at the center of the hive to feel this uncertain is suggestive. They have been in charge for so long they just take it for granted. The narrative says they are the ones in the street fighting the man. When the roles are flipped and they are suddenly the man, their go to move is to shut it all down. They have no choice, as to do otherwise would mean facing up to the reality of their situation and that’s never going to happen with true believers.

The real lesson, the one most useful to the alt-right, is seeing the controlled opposition confirm what many have been pointing out for years now. As soon as things got a little tough, the College Republicans folded their tents and blamed the “extremists” of the alt-right. The Young American Foundation, a Conservative Inc. racket to recruit college students, made a show of “defending free speech” but made sure they did not offer any material support. It was just another way to raise money for their racket.

In contrast, a handful of rednecks down south were able to force Auburn to host the notorious Richard Spencer, a guy everyone seems to think is Hitler in a cardigan. They went to court and quickly forced the school to honor its legal obligations. They were also able to rally a security force and get the cops to enforce public order. The result being a peaceful and orderly event. Conservative Inc. has tens of millions in cash at their disposal and an army of elite educated lawyers and they could not even defend Coulter.

What they could do though, is attack Ann Coulter when she correctly pointed out that the summer soldiers of Conservative Inc ran and hid as soon as things got difficult. David French is a mentally unbalanced crackpot, but he does speak for the dwindling number of Buckley Conservatives, who claim to be the vanguard of anti-Progressive forces in America. French speaks for all of the so-called conservatives when he is more upset at Coulter’s noticing than he is at black clad thugs shutting down her speech.

The whole affair is insignificant in isolation, but it is a another reminder to those who have begun the journey away from Buckley Conservatism, Libertarianism and boomer politics that those well-paid heroes of the Right never win these fights. They invest so heavily in the symbolism of conservatism because they conserve nothing but their own place at Lefty’s table. At best they are well-intentioned losers. At worst, they are willing props deployed by the ruling orthodoxy to disrupt the opposition.

The people in the dissident movements are not without their problems and many of them are certainly nuts, but that’s the nature of outsider movements. What’s increasingly clear is the fact that it is the outsider movements who are scoring the victories. They are the people changing minds and forcing the the fight onto the turf of Lefty. It’s not the dorks in blue blazers mooning over photos of Reagan. It’s the guys with home made armor decorated with sun wheels and cartoon frogs.

The other day, an old friend, who was a “happy warrior” type, mostly in the libertarian wing of the Buckley Right, quoted Mike Cernovich to me. I cautioned him to not take everything Cerno says at face value and he responded with, “Hey, no enemies on the Right.” A year ago he probably would have sided with David French or at least frowned upon the alt-right guys raising hell. When given the choice between those who are not afraid to be called a heretic and those who live in fear of it, people naturally choose the former over the latter.

Consensus and Crisis

In popular forms of government, politics tends to coalesce around a set of issues that are debated in the public and in front of the public. There’s a framework within which these topics are debated and the political factions represent the positions on those topics. This framework is the consensus. A range of answers has been deemed acceptable and anything the lies outside that range is considered fringe or heretical. This is the natural response to the challenges faced by democratic political systems.

In the West, the political parties tended to coalesce around economic schools, like communists, various flavors of socialism and flavors of market socialism. These were in the range of the political consensus. Libertarianism has always been fringe in Europe and in America, communism was always a fringe position. The result is the main points of contention in political fights were over economic policy. So much so that social policy and foreign policy have often been framed in economic terms.

Globalism, which the political elites have long saw as a way to sew up political divides, not just within countries, but between countries, has actually fractured the political consensus in the West. Once the factions within the elite settled on an agreed upon economic policy, they needed something else to decorate their respective flags in order to distinguish one faction from the other. After all, if everyone in the political class agrees on the main topics, there’s no need for parties. Politics becomes a beauty pageant.

This reality appears to be something the political elites in the West never bothered to contemplate. When the Cold War ended, the raison d’être for the political fight over economics ended with it. Globalism, with financialization, credit money, open borders and privatized trade policy, became the narrow political consensus within the political class. In Europe this meant post-national continental integration. In the US, this quickly curdled into invade the world/invite the world. In the West, it is rule by rootless cosmopolitan now.

The trouble is, the public has not signed off on that consensus and we still maintain the customs of popular government. In order to have elections, you need conflict and debate. That means issues to distinguish one faction from the other. The first effort to keep the plates spinning was lots of shouting and hair splitting. Politics has turned nasty mostly because name calling is all they have. When two candidates agree on all the big stuff and most of the small stuff, they have to create drama out of the small differences.

This eventually transitions to a new phase, where the public, after a few rounds of elections in which nothing changes, figures out they need new issues. If there’s no longer going to be a debate over the economic arrangements, then maybe we should talk about these Bantu spear-men who suddenly appeared in town. Perhaps it is time to talk about the fact the ringing of church bells has been replaced by the call to prayer. Of course, there is the fact that swarthy sons of Allah keep exploding in pizza parlors.

Outsider issues inevitably result in outsider parties getting traction with the public. The good thinkers who refuse to discuss immigration or the reality of Muslim culture get pushed aside by those coarse barbarians from the fringe who are willing to talk about the taboo subjects. The result is the legitimate parties begin to move closer together in response to the threat from the fringe. We’re seeing that in Europe as the main parties rally to thwart the challenge from the patriotic right. This is the crisis phase.

As we saw with Greece, this is a transition phase. The Greek “middle” collapsed and was replaced by a far left party. At some point, as the crisis continues, an organized and effective far right party will emerge as the challenger. The result will be increasing polarization in politics and eventually society. If some resolution to the problems plaguing Greece are not found, that political divide becomes irreconcilable. That either results in civil war or it results in one faction permanently sidelining the other faction.

A similar process may be unfolding in France. The political elite in France has always been highly chauvinistic, but generally in favor of the post-national, global socialism of Europe. They just blindly accepted the sterilizing effects of globalization, without much thought as to how that would play out in their domestic politics. They just assumed that Europe was a done deal, so elections really did not matter anymore. That’s not how things are unfolding and the French political consensus is beginning to crack.

There’s no much chance for Le Pen to win, but the recent attacks by Muslims could churn that silent majority that exists in every western country. The fact that the communists are wildly over performing is the big news, as it suggests the disgust with the status quo is widespread. Voting for Le Pen is a protest by outsiders. A vote for Melenchon is a protest by insiders, the people who see themselves as part of the elite. The middle of French politics is losing its purchase on the voters.

Something similar is happening in America. Donald Trump is not an ideologue. He is a reactionary who sees the political consensus in Washington as an unworkable jumble of policies cooked up by academics. His vote, however, was symbolically and tactically a rejection of the prevailing consensus. Voters wanted to hear about migrants and trade, not tax cuts and flag waving. He was the coarse, crude man from outside willing to talk about the things the people want discussed.

The Left is experiencing something similar with Bernie Sanders, and to a lesser degree Tulsi Gabbard. Democrats think inviting Team Sanders in to put an outsider face on their ruling class politics will prevent a revolt from the fringe. Gabbard is getting attention from the fringe because she talks about issues like the endless warmongering and economic equality.  Hers is a decidedly non-white take on these issues, but the fact that she is willing to forthrightly discuss these taboo subjects is another crack in the consensus.

Those prone to unrealistic bouts of optimism should look at these developments as a good sign that maybe the tide is turning. The whole point of consensus is for the insiders to control the debate by pushing uncomfortable truths into the void, making them off-limits in political debates. As these issues seep back into the public debate, the debate has to change. For the alt-right and economic populists, having an fight over these topics is 90% of the battle. They cannot win the argument unless there is an actual argument.

The West is heading for a very big argument.

Trump Fu

In the last couple of weeks, it seems that everyone has celebrated and castigated Trump, sometimes on the same day. Examining the range of opinions on Trump’s presidency so far is like looking through a kaleidoscope. No matter how gently you hold it up to your eye, you see something different than last time you looked through it. In normal times, it is easy to know where everyone stands. The Liberals think the Republican president is Hitler and they think the Democrat is Jesus. The Right adjust accordingly.

With Trump, all of the pundits are standing in the darkness, silhouetted by a wall of light and sound. We can sort of see them moving and we hear noises, but it is hard to know who is saying what about whom. Every once in a while a face from the crowd pops into view and says something good or ill about Trump. One minute Bill Kristol is sneering about Trump and then all of sudden Lindsey Graham is praising Trump. The Alt-Right is one minute hooting about Syria and then praising the new border push.

It really is exhausting, but it is part of how Trump plays the game. It is a good reminder that traditional metrics are not much use when judging Trump the politician. It’s also why he mowed down the GOP field with a cell phone and a twitter account. It was not that he broke their rules. It was that they wasted a lot of time complaining about Trump breaking their rules. Meanwhile, Trump was out giving voters a reason to support him. It is a classic form of political distraction that Trump has adopted to the modern communication age.

Similarly, Trump is wildly unpredictable, at least he seems unpredictable. That’s a big part of how he plays the game. He wants everyone to think the range of choices for him include some collection of unknown options that no one has yet to consider. That keeps foes on the defensive, making them tentative, even when they have the advantage. By appearing to have no clear strategy and routinely breaking old habits, Trump appears to be a wild man, who is capable of anything. Therefore, there’s no way to plan for him.

The big weapon Trump has in this regard is his willingness to attack unexpectedly. He always looks to attack when everyone is sure it is foolish to do so. He went to the very pro-military state of South Carolina and called John McCain a loser for getting shot down and captured by the Vietnamese. He questioned McCain’s conduct as a prisoner. The media howled about how he went too far, but his opponents suddenly got very nervous as they realized they could never relax around Trump. He could attack at any moment.

Another thing about Trump  that makes him an extreme outlier in national politics is that he is not an ideologue. Most of our politicians are quite stupid. All of their intellectual energy is focused on the endless scheming and game playing that is politics. What passes for ideology in American politics is really just a laundry list of policies aimed at buying votes from interest groups. That’s why they sound like robots. They stick to the script, even in the face of a public revolt, because that’s the safe and easy way to do it.

That’s not Trump. He is not married to any policy. In the campaign, he would regularly say something one day and then take it back two days later when it proved to be unpopular. It is safe to assume, for example, that Trump has zero interest in health care. He’ll sign off on anything that is popular with the voters. He’s also willing to dump a bad policy without worrying a bit about being called a hypocrite or inconsistent. Trump is practical about these things. If it does not work, he tosses it aside and moves onto to the next thing.

This will be terribly frustrating for partisans, but Trump is a goal oriented guy. The never ending circus has a point. In the case of the Syrian attack and the blow up with the Russians, it is looking like the point of it all was to play a little domestic politics, but a whole lot of international politics. The way he handled the Chinese leader last week is looking like a game to get the Chinese to do something about North Korea, in order to save face. The “Crazy Trump” act hurling missiles at Syria is excellent cover.

It’s easy to read way too much into these accounts, but the Chinese are now saying extremely bellicose things to the North Koreans. Bush and Obama used every trick they knew to get the Chinese to address the North Koreans and failed. Suddenly, the Chinese are issuing ultimatums. It could simply a be a coincidence and China has been planning to rid themselves of the Kim family for a while, but it is hard to imagine anything like this happening under the last four presidents. They lacked the boldness to try it.

None of this is to suggest that Trump is going to be good for our team, however you interpret that. It’s just that using the old metrics to assess Trump is a category error. He’s not a regular politician and these are not regular times. No one should have imagined Trump as their white knight. At best, Trump flips over the tables and creates enough chaos to give those outside official Washington a chance to join the fight. Trump the Destroyer of Worlds is going to be exhausting for everyone. That’s just part of the deal.

Donald Herbert Walker Trump

Way back in the olden thymes, conservatives during the Reagan years had a real fear that the Rockefeller Republicans would not only undermine the conservative agenda, but find a way to corrupt the Reagan administration. It was an unwarranted fear. Those Progressive Republicans were a dying force in politics. Reagan was a man of his age so his conservatism does not always make sense to the modern ear, but he stuck to his guns for the most part. He was a politician, so he compromised when he had to.

Then George H. W. Bush was ready to take the reigns of the movement and the party, despite being a Rockefeller Republican. Bush was a Progressive by any measure, but he supposedly got religion in the 1980’s, and to be fair, a lot of people went through that transformation. There were even old Jewish guys, who used to support communists, that were suddenly changing teams to join the new emerging majority. Bush spent a lot of time convincing the voters he was just like Reagan and they had nothing to fear.

The ’88 election was a landslide for Bush and a lot of sensible people thought that he would be the finishing touches to the new conservative majority. He would smooth out the rough patches and put a shine on other aspects to it. His famous pledge to never raise taxes was the cornerstone of his pitch. Wiser heads, the paleocons, saw what was coming, but most did not. That’s why when Bush broke his promise, a year into his presidency, his voters were crushed. Bush was a liar.

History is written by the victors and that means the Left, so we’re always told that Bush lost in ’92 because Clinton was sent by the void where God once existed, to bring joy and bliss to the blessed and smite the wicked. The truth is, Bush lost because the core of his voters rightly saw him as a liar and a fink. Many people I know, including myself, voted third party as a protest. Yeah, it meant a degenerate would win the election, but at least we knew what we were getting. Liars like Bush always find new ways to screw you.

Unless you have been in a cave, you know where this is heading. Trump won the nomination and the presidency on one core issue. He would be the President of the United Sates, not the President of the world. That was his line. He repeated it often. It allegedly captured his one core belief. What is good for America is what is good for Americans and the government should always be working to further the interest of Americans, over the interests of foreigners.

The fact that something so obvious and sane has to be explained speaks to the the degeneracy of our age. But, we live in a time when we have to debate physical reality with people who insist things like biology and math are a plot by a mystery cult of white men to keep down women and non-whites. Still, Trump running on a platform of rationality, and winning on the platform, gave a lot of people, including me, a spark of hope. Maybe what comes next does not have to be what always comes next.

Yesterday, the alt-right and even many seasoned geezers like me took a body blow when Trump abandoned everything he said over the last two years and embraced the idiocy of yet another war in the Middle East. Not only is he embracing the lunacy of the traitorous neocons, he is risking war with Russia. His “reason” for condemning himself to ruin is that his daughter got the sads over seeing pictures of dead kids in Syria. She takes to twitter over this latest agit-prop and in a day daddy is launching missiles at Assad.

The United States has no interest in Syria. There are no good guys to back. There’s no “solution” to what ails that part of the world, short of another flood. Syria is a mess because it is full of Syrians. The only sane policy is to make sure it remains full of Syrians. Let them kill each other there, not in Paris or Portland. If the Russians want to build their pipeline there and pay the price for it, good for them. If the Saudis want to stop them, best of luck with it. This is not an American problem. It is their problem. Let them own it.

This brings us back to Bush. He spent the remainder of his presidency trying to rebuild his standing with conservatives. He even scored what was pitched as a stunning victory in the First Gulf War. But, you only get one shot to piss away your integrity and Bush did not miss that opportunity. He entered the general election as a weak incumbent and Clinton used his broken pledge in commercials to remind everyone that Bush was an untrustworthy liar. Imagine that. Clinton beat Bush on the integrity issue.

It’s not too late for Trump. This may be one of those times where a President learns that his advisers are not politicians for a reason. They lack political sense. Trump does have a habit of learning quickly from his errors. That’s not the way to bet. He is now getting tongue-kissed by the Establishment. Like all men with out-sized egos, vanity is his greatest weakness. If Trump is enjoying the praise from his adoption of the “invade the world” position, imagine what happens when he accepts the “invite the world” half.

Maybe Trump recovers and avoids the fate Bush I, but I have my doubts.

The Wages of Proportionalism

Ethical theories like utilitarianism, say that an action is right or wrong, depending on the consequences it produces. A deed is judged as good if it has a good result. The intentions of the actor are of little or no consequence, because what matters is the final result. Similarly, the deed has no intrinsic morality because the morality is entirely dependent on the results. The most common expression for this is that the ends justify the means. Most of what we think of as the Left falls into this ethical category.

The obvious alternative to this is what Jeremy Bentham called deontological ethics or deontology. This loosely means the knowledge of what is right and proper. A Catholic, for example, acts in accordance with the teachings of the Church. A lawyer conducts himself in accordance with the demands of Lucifer. The act is good or evil intrinsically, regardless of downstream outcomes. What matters is the fidelity to principle or a moral code. The means justifies the ends is the most common formulation of this.

Then there is Proportionalism, which was discussed in this post with regards to how our rulers manage race relations in the current age. That is the ethical theory that says it is never right to go against a principle, unless a proportionate reason would justify it. For example, discrimination is always wrong, unless doing so mitigates some greater wrong. Affirmative action is the policy of discriminating against living whites, based on their race, in order to address the racism of white people too dead to be punished.

The obvious danger of utilitarianism and pragmatist is that it gives license to all sorts of horrible things. A despot, for example, can kill wantonly, claiming it is necessary in order to achieve some greater purpose. Similarly, a pathological adherence to principle, or simply adherence to some bizarre moral philosophy like Nazism, can lead to monstrous ends. Even so, there’s at least a principled argument to be made in order to limit or block the despot and the zealot. There are rules against which they can be judged.

In the modern age, our rulers are quick to point out these things when criticizing whatever it is they are railing against at the moment. They favor Proportionalism because it allows them to make the rules up as they go along, in the moment, in order to take maximum advantage. Proportionalism lets them bet both sides of the wager. When it suits them, they can assiduously apply the rules. When the rules are inconvenient, they can claim that a rigid adherence to principle is not in the public interest.

This moral ambiguity has worked reasonably well, but it is proving to be their undoing as we see with the ongoing spying scandal in Washington. The political class is now faced with an impossible choice. They can pretend that none of this happened and hope Trump stops dumping details about it into the alternative media. That’s pretty much what happened with the Susan Rice story that was handed to Cernovich. That’s an unknowable unknown because Trump plays by a different set of rules and has unknown motives.

There’s also the problem of letting what Team Obama did go unpunished. It sanctions this sort of activity and exactly no one wants the executive having that sort of power. Imagine if a soulless sociopath like Clinton had won the election and had the power to unleash the intelligence agencies on her enemies. On a regular basis, assassins would be gunning down political figures on the streets of Washington. The organized and brazen abuse of power that went on in the last year cannot be left unaddressed.

That, of course, leads to the other unpleasant option. Investigating the former staff of the former president for the crime of domestic espionage and perhaps conspiring to undermine the election is no small thing. After all, that former president is the most precious trophy of the party that runs Washington. That party has been willing to excuse just about anything in order to win political fights. No one knows what sort of dirt Team Obama has at their disposal to use in a bloody political war over this.

That brings it all back to Trump. This latest twist was rather obviously a White House caper. They had the goods on Susan Rice and probably several others so they found a willing outlet. This is one of the oldest political tricks. You find an obscure reporter looking to make a name for himself and you give him the scoop of his lifetime. In this day, a blogger works even better because they don’t have to clear things with a boss. Picking Cernovich is the sort of flourish that a guy like Trump would find amusing.

It’s also a reminder to the political class that Trump is a fast learner and he is willing to play the hardest of hardball. Trump is a leverage guy. He always looks at what he has in order to leverage it to get something else. He’s just turned this Russian hacking nonsense into a weapon he can now use on the political class. The Republicans don’t want to go to war with the Democrats and the Democrats don’t want anymore of their soldiers getting dimed out to ambitious bloggers looking to make a name for themselves.

It is the inevitable end to Proportionalism. In the 90’s, the Left made all sorts of compromises in order to win elections with the Clintons. The Right decided to do the same the following decade with Bush and the neocons. As a result, the political class lost their moral authority. Team Obama had no reason to obey the rules, because no one was obeying the rules. There was always some proportionate reason to justify violating principle. After all, they let the IRS caper pass. Why not some domestic spying?