Note: I have a new post up behind the green door. This is a review of the next film on the top-100 greatest movies, Unforgiven. I’m a fan of Eastwood, so I’ll probably be doing more posts on his work.
One of the things that was debated on the fringes of politics the last few years is whether this period was a replay of the late-60’s and early 70’s or a replay of the early and mid-60’s. Were we heading to some new and much worse phase of radicalism or was this a rear guard action as this spasm of radicalism burned itself out? Put another way, was this the dawning of the age of Jonquarius or the sunset of the radical awakening that was kicked off in the 2000 election?
The outright theft of the 2020 election tells us that we are probably witnessing the end point of a radical phase, rather than a beginning. The reason, to stick with the historical comparison, is that Trump is clearly Nixon in this drama. The Left, which controls both the aesthetic and the cultural norms of official Washington, reacted to Trump just as their analogs reacted to Nixon a half century ago. They were willing to break every rule to get rid of him and finally did it.
The way they have rid themselves of Trump is interesting for a few reasons. One is that they did it in reverse order this time. For a backward age, in which everything is a deliberate attempt to reboot old franchises, running the old Nixon playbook in reverse suggests the cosmic forces have a sense of style. Instead of rigging an election to keep Nixon out and then impeaching him after he got into Washington, they impeached Trump first and then rigged the election to throw him out.
Those old enough to remember Nixon will recall that long after Nixon was gone, the Left still groused about the man. They made movies trying to portray him as worse than they painted him while in office. They used him as a pejorative when assaulting Republican political opponents. Everything that made lefty sad in the 1980’s was called Nixonian, as if Nixon was the face of evil in the world. Nixon was a great enemy that served them so well, they could not bear to let him go.
You can be sure this will be true of Trump. In order to keep their conservative toadies in line they will be calling them “Trumpian” whenever they dare speak out of turn or show any signs of life. Republicans, of course, will fully embrace the term to police their ranks for anyone that questions the oligarchs. For the political industrial complex, the Trump era will be like a brush with death. It will color their perspective on everything and modify their politics long after Trump has left their midst.
To further bolster the analogy is the fact that Biden is a vegetable. Carter came in after Nixon, but exactly no one in Washington respected carter. They laughed at him to his face and treated him like a servant. They were slightly embarrassed by him, but he was a necessary place holder, so he was tolerated. That’s Biden. He was installed as the nominee and now president because the political class does not know where they go from here, so they put in a place holder.
With Carter, the promise was that all the professional hacks would get their jobs back and begin to rebuild an activist foreign policy and continue remaking the post-industrial economy, while the establishment found some better front men. This is why the neocons were all on the Mumbly Joe bandwagon. They expect to slither back into the foreign policy side and begin preparing for war with Iran next decade. The bankers will get their men back in to restart the globalism process.
The thing to keep in mind with historical analogies is they are never perfect and only a fool gets hung up on that fact. They’re comparisons, not replications. The reason they are useful is people don’t change all that much from generation to generation. The people who pushed out Nixon in the 1970’s are not all that different from the people involved in the coup against Trump. Many were around back then. That means they will react to the aftermath in a similar way.
That said, the differences are important. There is no conservative movement brewing this time to be a useful gatekeeper for the establishment. Conservatism has been so discredited; few Trump supporters will be fooled by their efforts to legitimize the shenanigans that have gone on during Trump. They will try, of course, but the result will be a further discrediting of themselves. Too many people are wise to that game now for it to work on anyone but the extremely stupid.
Further, there is no new thing on the horizon this time. The reason Buckley-style conservatism got off the ground is the people in charge immediately saw it would be a useful foil for them in the charade of democracy. Buckley’s over-the-top Brahman act legitimized conservatism. A vulgar little dwarf like Ben Shapiro is never going to be able to pull that off. The fact is, the bench of Conservative Inc. is full of misfits and mediocrities, best suited for parody, not legitimacy.
The point here is this era is probably not the beginning of the end as many disappointed dissidents would have you believe. There will be no internment camps for racists or truth and reconciliation commissions. Instead of the beginning of the end it is just the end of a cycle of radicalism. Just as the New Left spent their last bit of fervor ejecting Nixon from Washington, our woke crazies of this age have spent themselves now. Their reason to exist is about to leave town.
Further, this may signal the end of another story. That story is the tale of the American Empire that began in the middle of the last century. After conquering Western Europe and much of Asia, the American Empire engaged in a long face-off with the Soviet Empire. Just as the Peloponnesian was a multi-generational affair, the Cold War spanned close to three generations. It changed the culture of America and cast a long shadow after it was over.
The first truly imperial generation rose up in the middle of the last century too. They remade the culture and economy in their image. The story of the last 70 years has been the story of that generation, but just as the empire is in decline, so is that generation. The weird backward-looking nature of modern politics, the endless cycle of reboots and remakes in Hollywood, the stalling of technological advance, all suggest we have reached an end point.
The multi-generational cycle that was kicked off with the start of the Cold War and the struggle between two global empires may be reaching its end. All the old purposes that drove that cycle are gone now. There are no communists. There are no Nazis to hunt as a reminder to remain vigilant. Every battle in the culture war has been won. There is nothing left to do, so the imperial generation has been replaying old fights in a politics of nostalgia, but now their time has come to an end.
That is probably what we are witnessing. The generation that made a fetish of free speech, good government and democracy, is now closing the show with censorship, corruption and now the undermining of democratic legitimacy. They are not doing this because of Trump or what he represents, but as one last replay of a drama that has outlived its reason to exist. It’s fitting that the capstone of this generation’s nostalgia politics will be a man who cannot remember yesterday.
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