Since the major news outlets are run by the Cult, all of the focus has been on how the Cult is dealing with the calamity of November 8, 2016. Even two months on, members of the Cult are throwing tantrums in order draw attention to their grief. For example, two degenerates had to be removed from a plane because they objected to Ivanka Trump riding on the same plane. Unfortunately, the plane was still on the tarmac when they were removed. Then there are the daily hoaxes, which are part of their grieving process.
Less noticed is the ongoing collapse of the Conventional Right into irrelevancy as it copes with the sudden realization that no one cares what they think. National Review, for example, has seen its traffic collapse since they went NeverTrump. The ridiculous person they have running the joint these days is out begging for money to redesign the site again. The implication is that bad technology is the reason no one reads National Review. The fact that they publish nonsense like this gets no mention at staff meetings, I bet.
While it is amusing to watch silly people like Charles Cooke struggle with the reality of his situation, there are some intelligent and thoughtful people in the Conventional Right trying to make sense of things. They correctly see the rise of Trump, and the emergence of a counter culture on the Right, as a dire threat to their thing. After all, why bother consulting the grovelers at National Review when they are always wrong and there are alternatives out there getting it right?
This long piece by Matthew Continetti the other day is a good read for a number of reasons. Continetti is married to a daughter of Bill Kristol and he is a true believer in the neo-conservative faith. Take that however you like. This is the first bit of interest.
I have been thinking about Gavin lately because his life and thought so perfectly capture the conservatism of Donald Trump. When you read Gavin, you begin to understand that the idea of Trump as a conservative is not oxymoronic. Trump is a conservative—of a particular type that is rare in intellectual circles. His conservatism is ignored or dismissed or opposed because, while it often reaches the same conclusions as more prevalent versions of conservatism, its impulses, emphases, and forms are different from those of traditionalism, anti-Communism, classical liberalism, Leo Strauss conservatism in its East and West Coast varieties, the neoconservatism of Irving Kristol as well as the neoconservatism of William Kristol, religious conservatism, paleo-conservatism, compassionate conservatism, constitutional conservatism, and all the other shaggy inhabitants of the conservative zoo.
Like most of the box-tickers in the managerial class, Continetti is largely unaware of what constitutes conservatism in English speaking countries. For men of the Conventional Right, conservatism is a list of policies and poses that define their relationship with Progressives. The idea that conservatism is a temperament, rather than a laundry list of policy proposals is alien to these guys. They are men of the multiple choice exam. Their options are always bounded by the number of choices provided to them.
Moving along, this bit offers a glimpse into the mind of the neo-cons as they face the dustbin of history.
Trump has always been careful to distinguish himself from what he calls “normal conservative.” He has defined a conservative as a person who “doesn’t want to take risks,” who wants to balance budgets, who “feels strongly about the military.” It is for these reasons, he said during the campaign, that he opposed the Iraq war: The 2003 invasion was certainly risky, it was costly, and it put the troops in a dangerous position, defending a suspicious and resentful population amid IEDs and sniper attacks. The Iraq war, in this view, is an example of conservative writers and thinkers and politicians following trains of logic or desire to un-conservative conclusions.
One of the things that never gets discussed is just how spectacularly wrong the Conventional Right was about the response to 9/11, particularly Iraq. Everything the neo-cons said about the Muslim world in the Bush years turned out to be wrong – disastrously wrong. There was a prohibition on pointing this out for a while, but Trump said it, in South Carolina of all places, and paid no price for it. Pretty much the only refuge for the neo-cons is to pretend that everyone was wrong and that Trump was just lucky in his opposition to the “invade the world” portion of neo-conservatism.
This bit is comical because it highlights the foreignness of the neo-cons and the Conventional Right.
The conservatism of Donald Trump is not the conservatism of ideas but of things. His politics do not derive from the works of Burke or Disraeli or Newman, nor is he a follower of Mill or Berlin or Moynihan. There is no theory of natural rights or small government or international relations that claims his loyalty. When he says he wants to “conserve our country,” he does not mean conserve the idea of countries, or a league of countries, or the slogans of democracy or equality or freedom, but this country, right now, as it exists in the real world of space and time. Trump’s relation to the intellectual community of both parties is fraught because his visceral, dispositional conservatism leads him to judgments based on specific details, depending on changing circumstances, relative to who is gaining and who is losing in a given moment.
What he is alluding to here is the deeply held belief, among Conventional Conservatives, that the true leaders of society are the men who manipulate ideas, not the men who manipulate other men or manipulate things. The great revulsion for Trump among our betters is they see him as a man that makes his way managing people things. He is not a man who operates in the realm of ideas. Therefore, he is disqualified from leading society. Continetti sees himself as Trump’s intellectual and moral superior.
This bit is laugh out loud funny.
His is a blunt and instinctive and demotic approach arrived at after decades in the zero-sum world of real estate and entertainment contract negotiations. His are sentiments honed by immediate, knee jerk, and sometimes inelegant reactions to events and personalities observed on Twitter or on “the shows.” And the goal of his particular conservatism is not adherence to an ideological program so much as it is to prevent the loss of specific goods: money, soldiers, guns, jobs, borders, national cohesion.
Guys like Continetti would not last five minutes in the world of real estate or the world of fast food, for that matter. If he were to get a job with Trump’s organization, it would be as a doorman or desk clerk. Maybe in a decade or so he could be in a position to make a decision, like selecting a cleaning contractor or a building maintenance vendor. The reason the Conventional Right is in crisis is that normal, conservative people, have grown weary of the smug condescension from useless know-it-alls like Continetti.
In fairness to Continetti, he does seem to be figuring it out a bit.
It is this specificity of attachment rather than adherence to a program that explains the divide between street corner conservatives and their political brethren. Many of the conservatives in Washington, D.C., myself included, arrived at their politics through study or experience at university, by encountering a great text, the coherence of natural law, the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, or the economics of Smith, Ricardo, Friedman, and Tullock. That is not the case for the street corner conservatives.
Continetti cannot bring himself to contemplate how the people he labels “street corner conservatives” arrived at their positions. That would require a degree of self-awareness that he lacks. He is far too concerned with distancing himself from these people, because Conventional Conservatism is nothing more than a buffer between the dominant ideology of Progressivism and the rest of us. In their heads, they are standing athwart history yelling “stop”, but in reality they are standing in front of you yelling “stop.”
I’ve gone way too long so I’ll circle back to this another day, but the whole vibe from the Conventional Right is of a collection of middle managers after a takeover. They are still wrapping their heads around the fact that the guys coming in are now in charge. The old company men will have to demonstrate their worth or be tossed out like obsolete furniture. In the end, they will come around, because they have no choice, but there will be plenty of moaning and complaining along the way.