I suspect most people who read blogs like this get their news and commentary from alternative sources, rather than conventional outlets. People in our thing still watch the cable shows on occasion and drift over to mainstream news sites, but more as visitors than partisans. Listening to a guy like Sean Hannity rant about how the Democrats are the real racists is uninteresting. The old Red Team versus Blue Team stuff is no longer relevant to the sort of people reading sites like this one. Our politics is outside that stuff.
The few times a month I bother to scan National Review, I feel the same way as when I watch a B-movie from the 1980’s. Yeah, it reminds me of that time I got to second base with Sally Sugarpants, but the movie is still terrible. Even more so now. Reading one of the bugmen NRO employs to write copy, tub-thump about their principles, I wonder what it must be like to live trapped in amber. Conservative Inc is a Potemkin village, where the people carry on as if nothing has changed since 1984. It’s creepy.
There is a reason, beyond the financial considerations, why these people cling so tenaciously to the past. They have nowhere else to go. They have always lived in a world, whose map is a tiny intellectual zone dominated by the Left. Around it is a blank space labeled “Here Be Monsters.” Even for those who figure out that the old Left-Right paradigm is no longer relevant, their fear of what’s out there has them staggering around on the fringes of the old world, like homeless beggars looking for a place to lie down.
This probably explains some of the Bernie Bros too. They no longer can tolerate Progressive Globalism, but they fear association with the Right, so they have staggered over to 19th century socialism. They don’t really embrace Bernie Sanders or his anachronistic politics, but they have nowhere else to go. It’s a form of populism they can embrace, without changing parties and supporting Trump. The Bernie Movement is just a convenient doorway for them to sleep in while the world sorts itself out.
My sense is libertarians got a boost in the 90’s and 2000’s when Gen X and Millennial males decided that Clinton degeneracy and Bush stupidity were not their bag. Libertarianism was a safe place to hide. On the one hand, it allowed for mocking of the Left, but it also allowed for a rejection of Bush-style conservatism. The reason libertarianism is now collapsing is that so many of those folks have made the trip over to the Dissident Right. Most of the alt-right is former libertarians, for example.
Still, there are a lot of people who broke with conventional conservatism in the Bush years, but remain lost in the wilderness. Rod Dreher and the people at American Conservative are good examples. A guy like Dreher gets that people like D’Souza are venal grifters and neocons like Jeff Flake are clueless airheads. He gets, to some degree, why Trump resonates with whites. The trouble is he remains stuck in that old Progressive paradigm, where politics is a binary world of Left versus Right.
The center remains to be grabbed by a politician (or political party) that can move to the left on economics while either moving to the right on social issues, or at least making a firm stand against the loony leftism that has taken over the Democratic Party. A tolerably center-right party would not necessarily campaign for socially conservative initiatives, but it would stop using the federal government to push the causes of the progressive fringes.
This is complete nonsense that only makes sense if you refuse to acknowledge the last 25 years of political history. He’s basically describing a less personally degenerate version of Clinton or a less violent version of Bush. In other words, unable to consider any of the areas outside the well mapped safe zones of conventional politics, lost souls like Dreher stagger around reinventing the same stuff over and over, with decreasing levels of enthusiasm. Even these so-called centrists get tired of the same gruel.
Dreher is not an exception. There are lots of people who find themselves wandering around unfamiliar terrain, but relying on the same old maps they got in the 1980’s. They are like people transported from that era, wearing thin ties and listening to Flock of Seagulls on their Walkman, baffled by the sites and sounds of the current age. They know the world has changed and is changing rapidly all around them, but they stubbornly cling to what they know, mostly out of fear of those monsters on the map.
As I’m fond of pointing out, a political map devised by 18th century radicals has little value today. The spectrum with Right at one end and Left on the other no longer exists. The political map is now ideological spheres that do not overlap in most cases. Where they do overlap is in the area of public policy and not ideology. You are either in the ideological camp based in biological realism or you are in the camp that embraces the blank slate and egalitarianism. If you reject both, you are a lost boy, staggering around in the darkness.
That’s the challenge for our team. The blank slate is taking on water, but that does not mean their members will rush to the life boats of the Dissident Right. As I pointed out in the most recent podcast, bringing these people out of the darkness is a slow process. They first have to come to terms with the fact that their political map is no more useful than a map of America from the age of sail. Of course, it also means punching holes in the old paradigm, making it hard for guys like Dreher to cling to those moderate fantasies.