It is fair to say that American conservatism is dead, at least the version that has been sold to us by the conservative industrial complex. They still rake in millions from corporate donors, but the public audience for this stuff is largely confined to rest homes in the sun belt. Flag waving and tax breaks for corporations is just not the crowd pleaser it was a decade ago, much less forty years ago. Conservatism as a political force is headed to the dustbin of history.
The question is, why did it fail? Lost in the endless stream of outrage, real and manufactured, is the fact that the winners are ridiculous. Conservatism lost to men in sundresses demanding to wave their genitals in the face of school children. They lost to people who think Hitler is hiding under their bed. They lost to childless middle-aged women drunk on cheap wine, complaining about men on Twitter. It took effort to lose to this collection of bourgeois misfits.
One reason conservatism failed in America is that conservatives could never accept that people lie in politics. In fact, lying is an essential part of politics. The reason is you must paint your opponents as the bad guys and your side as the good guys, which means gross exaggeration. Conservatives never accepted this. Instead, they demanded as much factual accuracy from their side as possible. When people on their side would exaggerate, conservatives were there to set the record straight.
This was not the result of stupidity. American conservatism evolved into the 1980’s as the antidote to politics. They used to make this point in the Reagan years. Conservatism was the lack of politics. Instead, it was just problem solving. That was very appealing to people who did not like rolling around on the mud with left-wing kooks, but it was a terrible way to engage in politics. It is part of what made conservatism the beautiful losers described by Sam Francis.
Related to this was the fact that American conservatism embraced the libertarian idea that people are motivated by rational self-interest. For conservatives in the 20th century, people were not spiritual beings, so much as moist robots who naturally responded to incentives, particularly economic incentives. This is why conservatism was the accounting department for the welfare state. The only way they could relate to their audience was through the jargon of popular economics.
Another result of this was the habit of conservatives to rely on charts and graphs in response to moral claims. The Left would demand we do something about some victim group and conservatives would respond with a table of figures showing that the victims were not really victims. It was not that it made conservatism heartless, but that it made them seem brainless. They kept falling for the same traps, eventually succumbing to the moral claims of the Left.
That is the probably the main failing of American conservatism. To this day they insist that politics is about solving problems. This is false. Politics is always about friends and enemies and those are defined on moral terms. No one wants to fight someone for making a math error. Politics is so nasty and feral because the opponents see one another in moral terms. The other guy is the bad guy because he does not love what you love and hate what you hate.
The Left has always understood this. The reason that the demand for Nazis exceeds the historic global supply is the Left always needs villains. Even when their opponents agree with them, they still call them the worst names in their book. Donald Trump would have been happy to make generous deals with the Democrats, but they needed to hate him more than they wanted a deal. This is why the Left steamrolled conservatives on every issue. They work only in morality, not facts and reason.
This inability to understand what drives politics may explain the inability to accept that their opponents genuinely believe what they are saying. Much of what makes up conservative commentary is a claim that the Left does not actually believe what they are saying, but instead they are using it as cover for money and power. For conservatives, everything is reduced to money and power, because this is what motivates the moist robots they imagine as their audience.
This is why conservatives have always underestimated the Left. Because they cannot accept that these people believe what they are saying, they just assume they will stop saying it once they have money and power. Instead, the Left uses their newly acquired money and power to act on what they said and produce more outlandish things they can push onto society. When you think people are moist robots, you stop believing that people can be evil, which is how evil triumphs.
Finally, the great failure of American conservatism will be seen in the Republican primary that kicks off this summer. The field challenging Trump will insist that everyone must rally around cleaning up the mess created by the Left. They will make the oldest of conservative arguments. That is, you must forget about the crimes committed against you by the other side and instead rally with your fellow citizens, even the ones who hate you, to fight for America!
Of course, this requires you to not get anything you want and instead normalize the latest insanity from the Left. You see, it is your duty as an American to sacrifice your interests for the nebulous concept of America. This was powerful magic forty years ago when the country was 85% white and had a handful of foreigners. In a country being overrun by migrants and hyper-racialized lunatics attacking white people, this rallying cry sounds like a suicide cult.
Robert Lewis Dabney famously described conservatism as “merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition.” This was always true, for sure, but it worked for a long time because the radicals were still aspirational, rather than suicidal. The dialectic between the Left and the Right in American was a useful engine for maintaining the ruling class consensus. One side proposed, the other side opposed, and the consensus was some compromise.
This changed just as conservatism reached its peak. The triumph of conservatism in the 1980’s was followed by the descent of progressivism into the dark, suicidal politics of nihilism and Gnosticism. Conservatives have never come to terms with this and as a result have been a steep decline ever since. As America descends into tribal politics that must follow the transition to majority-minority demographics, conservatism will become a museum piece and then forgotten.
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