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.

39 thoughts on “Consensus and Crisis

  1. Wouldn’t rule Le Pen out. Think she has a good chance , but even if elected the elites will stop her much like they did Trump.

    The machine is too deeply entrenched. The unwashed masses are still fat, happy and stupid. The drones will need some serious pain inflicted in their daily lives before any kind of real revolution could begin.

    Right now they seem happy trying to effect change through the ballot box instead of the bullet box.

    Trump is a start. Hopefully the momentum will continue.

  2. I’m a former paleocon, now AltRight. Pretty damn happy to have Tulsi as my rep. I may not agree with her on economics, but her willingness to flip the bird to globalist schemes is valuable indeed. Love that woman.

  3. In Animal House, the Kevin Bacon character, shouting “all is well”, gets trampled and the John Belushi character becomes a U.S. Senator. Life appears to imitate “art”.

    I don’t like how things are teeing up for the near future, but it makes perfect sense to me. It is easy to understand why things are playing out the way they are. Those on the other side of things are rightly (from their point of view) angry and petrified. All is not well, and the only way things won’t change in a big way, is for them to impose a serious inquisition. Things are in motion, there is no going back now.

  4. Well the elites do control the public argument since they do control the MSM which has served as their attack dog and censor for decades. I remember how they took “free trade” , immigration and demographic destruction off the discussion table.

    So there won’t be open and honest discussions about these with the elites or their tools. They don’t want it. All they want us to do is STFU and die. That became quite clear during the election when the establishment organ TNR was giving space to genocidal hacks like Kevin Williamson or the WSJ with Charles Murray acid tongue attacks against whites and Trump supporters.
    Lastly. the only debate we’ll ever have with the elites will be with hot lead. Because they won’t change their minds and really hate our guts. All the dirt people are waiting for now is the trigger that sets it off.

    • I hope you’re wrong, but the only thing I can see with the ability to prevent civil war is a massive spiritual revival. But many of the folks here and on other blogs that get a lot of other things right are downright hostile to Christianity, so I don’t see it happening. But who knows. Nineveh, the largest city in the world at the time, converted overnight.

  5. It seems to me that you are conducting a high-minded analysis of the superficial problems in our society. This is like discussing the various means and options associated with how best to trim the hedge while ignoring the root-rot that is killing the plant in the first place.

    A non-trivial cohort of our population is devolving at an accelerating rate. On average, we are becoming seriously obese, we are losing the ability to think rationally, we are losing our work ethic (and replacing it with government dependence), we are becoming addicted to mass communication devices (and growing more hive-minded with each passing day), and we are becoming the opposite of robust (which it took us about 2 million years to acquire).

    The paradigm for fixing this root problem is not on the menu of PC choices.

  6. I find Tulsi Gabbard impressive. She’s young and good looking. She was in the military. She’s not white, not male, and not Christian. She’s basically the ideal Democratic candidate for office. If she would just go on TV and say “Assad must go” she might end up president. But so far she won’t. Rare to see a politician with integrity.

    • I see Gabbard as the female Obama: mixed race, good looking, silver-tongued, opportunistic, extremely liberal, from Hawaii, wants to be president, total faker.

    • I think Gabbard is principled. She never will be considered beyond the House because the war machine greases the Democrats so much these days.

  7. “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”

    Policy is not decided through political discourse. Policy is decided on another level, then political discourse is generated to gradually triangulate towards acceptance of the policy. It’s a Hegelian process:
    A: Stealing is wrong.
    B: Stealing is right when (insert special case scenario)
    Consensus: Stealing is right when (a subset of the special case scenario)

    Next time, the discourse starts at the consensus.

    It goes this way until it turns out, for instance, that there is practically no such thing as private property except in theoretical special cases, the opposite of what the discourse started from.

    The policy which the discourse exists to support has been, for the last 100 years, what Orwell called “oligarchical collectivism.”

    With the failure of that policy on every level, the disconnect between policy and discourse is becoming obvious. One way or another, the next step will be another Hegelian synthesis.

    • Great comment. (I would have stopped at that but the thingy tells me I need more than 14 characters.)

  8. Here, here. Excellent piece.

    To paraphrase Mark Steyn, if citizens can’t receive solutions from legitimate political actors they will turn to illegitimate politicians. Without quibbling about what constitutes legitimacy, this absolutely is correct. The West is deep into the process of rejecting the consensus of the post-Cold War era. The unhinged, near-psychotic reaction to Trump across the spectrum has everything to do with loss of power, prestige…and legitimacy.

    Open borders and free trade fetishism are about to become illegitimate political positions after being the consensus for nearly four decades. Those who profited handsomely from the arrangement have the means to fight a long, nasty civil war but lack the will to do so. The future, if not the present already, belongs to yesterday’s illegitimate political actors.

  9. Civilization requires the individual to be at the center of it all; without the individual as the prime mover, there is no chance for a successful civilization. The USA had a few years where religion and government did not address the same issues; religion addressed man’s soul, while government protected his liberty.

    Today, government and religion are redundant in competing for mankind’s soul and both seek to diminish his liberty. The citizen/voter today has, for the most part, confused knowledge for wisdom and such confusion works to the detriment of both government and freedom.

    • Sadly both Religion and Government have confused and confounded those two issues of soul and liberty. Note George Will’s tome “Statecraft As Soulcraft”.

  10. ZMan, you, and every other blogger that tries to make sense out of things like politics, are over intellectualizing this. There are much simpler explanations. But, writers do not want simple explanations. Why? Because you would have nothing to do if you didn’t complicate the issues.

    Politics is not some inscrutable process that has to be explained. Actually trying to find some hidden meaning that has to be explained in psychological or metaphysical mumbo jumbo allows those that really do control things to over analyze everything until reality becomes mental masturbation. Even stupid people are capable of understanding things….if they are given correct data. The ruling class never allows correct data to be presented, only disinformation. The job of the media is to distract the masses from what is happening by providing thousands of “possible” explanations. The majority throw up their hands and think it is just too complicated for me to understand. The fact that happens is proof that the elite know exactly what they are doing.

  11. How you churn out these insightful essays daily is beyond me. Almost prolific considering the average output of others who do this professionally.

    I thank John Derbyshire for finding this blog.

  12. Tocqueville discussed this issue in Democracy In America. He noticed that there was a certain range of issues that could be discussed and that all else was proscribed, and he too attributed this tendency to being a feature of democracy, or popular government. I don’t think Tocqueville goes far enough in developing his idea, and the implications of forcing ideas underground, but I think there is a parallel between this and the system of scientific paradigms described by Thomas Kuhn in his idea about scientific revolutions. The next big thing is never really new, it simply wasn’t acceptable, but when its time comes, it seems like it comes out of nowhere. We may be about to witness a paradigm shift in politics.

    • I tend away from reductionism for this reason. Open borders, for example, was not a well thought out scheme to remake the voter roles. It just evolved into an accepted belief from previously held beliefs. It was the natural next step in multiculturalism, which has become the legitimizing ethic of the ruling class. It replaced Christian piety. They believe they are on top because they are virtuous people and virtuous people embrace multiculturalism.

      If all of a sudden you can be virtuous and reject multiculturalism, then PC dies quickly, just as Christian piety in the ruling class died in one generation. What replaces it is the question.

      • I’d posit that actual (doctrinally consistent) Christian piety became Smorgasbord Christianity where you pick up the fundamental aspects of Christianity that you like and discard those you don’t. Old Prog Feminism and its emphasis on ‘niceness’ was certainly a big part of this. Telling elite females they are sinners (just like the rest of us) is absolutely not ‘nice’ in any way: The real sin is making them feel bad. And their social network friends will enforce this ethos via the usual Middle School Mean Girl Status Sorting that some females with too much time on their hands are prone to fall into, regardless of age.

        Since standards must be gone else Smorgasbord Christianity can’t work, then it’s not much of an intellectual jump to expand the ‘niceness’ principle to cultural relativism: It’s also not ‘nice’ to say that some cultures are better than others. Globalism is then Smorgasbord Multii-Culturalism insulated by elite female network power.

        Interestingly, Cultural Marxism is a systematic effort to shore up the glaring idiocy of applied Multi-Culturalism (along with modern feminism). ‘It is no accident’, as old time Bolshiviks used to say about economic driven class conflict, that Cultural Marxism is dominated by elite females and their captured institutions.

          • Thanks for the kind words. But without the Z Man’s lead post to bounce off I doubt I’d have come up with my reply unbidden

            I should add that males with too much time on their hands also come up with dangerous foolishness, just different foolishness, often starting with, “Hold my beer and watch this.”

        • There was some structural adjustment of society’s male/female norms half a century ago brought about by the destruction of the old order and large shifts changes resulting from WW1&2 but this bears to no resemblance or relationship with this current toxic ‘feminism’.

          The term has been hijacked as cover for globalists. This is evidenced by the fact that those calling themselves feminist are in no way interested in the welfare of females and don’t even pretend to be. They are just another device of the cloud people.

          If they are challenged on their anti female agenda (rather than their anti male agenda) they unravel and it gets ugly.

      • The open borders push also has an actuarial aspect, as the curators of social democracy have noticed that the numbers aren’t adding up going forward. Western Civilization isn’t producing enough babies to pay for the welfare state going forward. Since the welfare state is sacred, drastic measures need to be taken to prop it up.

        • but they didn’t prop it up, they put more weight on it! that point gets glossed over, a lot. the immigrants the world over are dead weight to any society.

    • Tocqueville, on our consciousness–“Time does not arrest its course for nations any more than for men…When we think things are stationary, it is because we fail to see their movements. The evil which one suffers patiently as inevitable seems insupportable as soon as one conceives the idea of escape from it.”

      Trump- “The mental habits which suit action do not always promote thought. The world is not directed by long and learned proofs. All its affairs are decided by the swift glance at a particular fact, the daily examination of the changing moods of the crowd, occasional moments of chance, and the skill to exploit them.”

      The past–“Americans have…applied remedies, which none but themselves had thought of before, to those evils they share with all democratic nations and, although they were the first to try them out, they have succeeded.”

      The future–“I have made the distinction between two types of centralization; the one called governmental, the other administrative. Administrative centralization only serves to weaken those nations to submit to it, because it has the constant effect of diminishing their sense of civic pride. One can appreciate that with the increase of centralization the capacity of the one and the incapacity of the other become more striking. How can liberty be upheld in great matters amongst a multitude which has not learned to make use of it in small ones?”
      “Governmental centralization exists solely in America; administrative centralization is almost unknown there. In the United States, the majority, which often has despotic tastes and instincts, still lacks the most developed tools of tyranny (administrative). If the direction American societies took…combined the right of total command with the capacity of total execution…freedom would soon be obliterated in the New World.”
      “The unity, the universality, the omnipotence of society’s power, and the uniformity of its rules represent the outstanding feature of all the political systems invented in our day. They recur at the heart of the strangest utopias. The human mind still pursues these images even in its dreams. I am of the opinion that, in the democratic ages which are opening upon us…. that centralization will be the natural government. The pleasure it procures them of interfering with everyone and holding everything in their hands atones to them for its dangers.
      Not only is a democratic people led by its own taste to centralize its government, but the passions of all the men by whom it is governed constantly urge it in the same direction. It may easily be foreseen that almost all the able and ambitious members of a democratic community will labor unceasingly to extend the powers of government, because they all hope at some time or other to wield those powers themselves. It would be a waste of time to attempt to prove to them that extreme centralization may be injurious to the state, since they are centralizing it for their own benefit. Among the public men of democracies, there are hardly any but men of great disinterestedness or extreme mediocrity who seek to oppose the centralization of government; the former are scarce, the latter powerless.”
      “It must not be forgotten that is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. Subjection in minor affairs…does not drive men to resistance, but it crossed them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own free will.”

      • Wow. Tocqueville was amazing in his insight.

        Thank you for sharing his wisdom here, disturbing but necessary.

      • True, but some of us have been waiting, trying to get things moving (and failing) for forty to fifty years. It took a very thick skin to make an ethnic or folkish argument forty years ago.

        One thing we didn’t realize is that a revolution cannot be generated by sheer force of will. It takes the energy of social discontent or pressure. We also didn’t realize that the setting up of organizations, if premature, is just another kind of activity trap.

        Selfishly, people like me yearn to see the tide turn before we check out. I would like to participate in the revenge/settling of accounts phase but I probably am too old and will miss that part.

    • Someone has to be John Brown. But he died 1859, almost two years before the Civil War began.

    • I’ve lost the exact quote, but someone (maybe Stalin) said words to the effect that sometimes one-hundred years of history sometimes happens in two weeks.

      Victor Hammer, the brother of industrialist Armand Hammer, said that the Bolshevik revolution was so exciting because something like 8,000 men had orchestrated a take-over of one-eighth of the world overnight. Things move in slow motion and then they march in double-time.

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