Defenders of the Faith

The other day, this Ross Douthat column was sent to me and posted here in the comments. The reason is Ross appears to be riffing on some of my themes, particularly with regards to the managerial elite. It’s rare that anyone uses the language of James Burnham, much less his ideas, so I can see why people would assume some connection. I doubt Douthat reads this blog, but I’m flattered nonetheless. I know he reads Steve Sailer, so maybe he has run across this site too.

The thing is, Douthat is a scribe for hire and the people paying his rent are not much interested in a bare knuckled critique of the status quo. There’s that and the fact that he falls into the same trap as the rest of the Conservative Industrial Complex. That is, he has spent too long getting high off his own supply. By that I mean he largely accepts, as gospel, the marketing materials that have spewed out of conservative media for the last three decades. Specifically, that Official Conservatism™ is a mass movement.

Mass movements appeal to those seeking to shed their individual identity and take on that of the cause they admire. A practical organization, like political party or an issue group, appeals to those seeking to increase their status by attaining practical goals like winning office or pushing through some policy change. Somewhere in the Reagan years, the people leading the political fights on the Right began to think they were “happy warriors” leading a quasi-religious movement, putting principle ahead of achievement.

At the same time, they were taking advantage of the expanding opportunities for self-enrichment that comes from rising to the top of political organizations. Many members of the conservative commentariat have become fabulously rich, while the lesser lights enjoy six figure incomes and comfortable lifestyles paid for by non-profits and the tax payers. John Kasich, one of those happy warriors, is worth north of $20 million, despite working in government jobs his entire life. Not bad for the son of a milkman.

Douthat and the other “reformers from within” can’t bring themselves to face this reality. The closest they come is when it comes to the Bush years.

The first failure was a failure of governance and wisdom, under George W. Bush and in the years that followed. Had there been weapons of mass destruction under Iraqi soil and a successful occupation, or had Bush and his advisers chosen a more prudent post-Sept. 11 course, the trust that right-wing populists placed in their elites might not have frayed so quickly. If those same conservative intellectuals had shown more policy imagination over all, if they hadn’t assumed that the solutions of 1980 could simply be recycled a generation later, the right’s blue-collar voters might not have drifted toward a man who spoke, however crudely, to their more immediate anxieties.

This sounds remarkably similar to the excuses made for Soviet communism, by Marxist academics in the West. They could not excuse the murder and squalor that were the inevitable end of communism, so they argued that the Russians had simply done it wrong. If they had only listened to the academics, things would be different. That’s Douthat’s claim with the Iraq invasion. He can’t admit it was a horrible blunder and the natural result of elite “conservatism.” Instead, he says it was just a good idea poorly executed.

The bulk of his brief is just an extended rant about the horribleness of the Dirt People.

The second failure was a failure of recognition and self-critique, in which the right’s best minds deceived themselves about (or made excuses for) the toxic tendencies of populism, which were manifest in various hysterias long before Sean Hannity swooned for Donald Trump. What the intellectuals did not see clearly enough was that Fox News and talk radio and the internet had made right-wing populism more powerful, relative to conservatism’s small elite, than it had been during the Nixon or Reagan eras, without necessarily making it more serious or sober than its Bircher-era antecedents.

I’d offer a more sober interpretation. What happened in the late 80’s is that so-called conservative intellectuals figured out they could get as fabulously rich as their liberal buddies by slapping the word “conservative” on just about anything and selling it to decent people, claiming the proceeds were going to finance the fight against the Left. The reason the Dirt People are pissed off is they have finally wised up to the fact it was all just a hustle. They’re pissed because they were made to look like fools by people they trusted.

The somewhat comical part of the column is in his conclusion.

So it is that today, three generations after Buckley and Burnham, the academy and the mass media are arguably more hostile to conservative ideas than ever, and the courts and the bureaucracy are trending in a similar direction.

Reflecting on this harsh reality has confirmed some conservatives in their belief that the managerial order is inherently left wing, and that the goal of a conservative politics should be to sweep the managerial class away entirely. This is part of the appeal of Trump to a small cohort within the right’s intelligentsia, who imagine that his strongman approach can unweave the administrative state and strip the overclass of all its powers.

This idea strikes me as fatuous and fantastical at once. But is there an alternative? Continetti’s essay hints at one: to make intellectual conservatism a more elite-focused project, to seek “a conservative tinged Establishment capable of permeating the managerial society and gradually directing it in a prudential, reflective, virtuous manner respectful of both freedom and tradition.”

This path seems considerably more appealing (and more republican) than the dream of a Trump-led Thermidor. But is it any more plausible? To begin anew, at such steep disadvantages, what amounts to missionary work?

This is the heroin addict saying the cure is more heroin. This is the head of a company in bankruptcy saying only he can lead the company back to profitability. This is the nobleman, trapped in his castle, offering to lead the peasant revolt. It’s also an offensively idiotic characterization of what’s happening. Exactly no one imagines Trump as a strongman sent to sweep away the over class. That’s the sort of thing guys like Ross Douthat tell themselves so they can feel like heroes for supporting Clinton.

The fact is, democracy inevitably leads to one party rule. This is the lesson of history. If there is going to be an alternative to the dominant orthodoxy, it is going to be an alternative, not an echo. That means it will be anti-managerial, anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian. It will be opposed to the cornerstone beliefs of the ruling class. You can defend it or oppose it, but there can be no compromise. That’s the lesson of Conservative Inc’s failure. They sought compromise where there could be none, so they just sold out instead.

53 thoughts on “Defenders of the Faith

  1. Just out of idle curiosity, I’d love to see this idiot actually describe what he means by the term “conservative”. Douthat keeps using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

  2. “They’re pissed because they were made to look like fools by people they trusted”
    Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Charles Krauthammer..the list of snakes is almost endless. Watch these snakes carefully, they’ll want back in at some point. Hey, John McCain…the Hobbitts are PISSED!

  3. The Conservative Inc. gyrations to make themselves seem correct amidst all the evidence that they aren’t reminds me of the supporters of the Earth-centered planetary system as more and more observations piled up that contradicted it. Just one more crystal sphere will do the trick, right?

  4. I for one am ready for some ‘anti-democracy.’ It is no secret that universal suffrage would result in totalitarian hell. I think we are almost there what with the world of non-citizens voting for their slice of government cheese. That final paragraph above to spot on and succinctly put.

    • Right after we kill all the lawyers, we stop women from voting.
      That large female contingent of anti-sufferagettes was right: give women the vote and civilization is screwed!

  5. Actually post 9-11 I was hoping Bush would send the Air Force. Instead we sent US ground troops armed with rifles that weren’t as good as the ones a bunch of third world thugs had. Good lesson. The first lesson of war is don’t get your people killed. Kill the other guys.

    • Your boy “W” let his JAG-off corps initiate the pulling of punches that negated your last statement. Our guys were never allowed to “Kill the other guys” for fear of offending some fat-ass attorney, trained by leftist scum in law school!

  6. Douthat sounds like a heroine addict who is a component of the right wing of cultural marxism, who might have just enough of a lack of cognitive dissonance he is having an inkling how irrelevant he is to a disenfranchised plurality numbering in the millions. (Who I might add have guns and pitchforks. And maybe it might be dawning on him he is an enabler of the Big Lies, no matter how he couches he and his kinds cunning treachery to the base of bitter clingers. Because to put it in simple terms, when you con people who believed, and serve them up as suckers to be spit on for a few pieces of silver as chattel to the corruptocrats, well, your nothing but a fucking traitor of the worst kind no matter how high falutin’ your parsing.
    It’s no wonder there is an Alt-Right. It is the entire zeitgeist of deplorables, ungovernables, the dirt people that Douthat and his fellow cucks can not swallow. Like them or hate them, or despise them, we exist. We ain’t unicorns, we do not drink the koolaid, we didn’t grow from magic beans, and we did make all that and more, made no matter what flavor the chumps use to hide their rice bowls, dissimulations and lies.

  7. Damn it Zman, sober up a little for 15 minutes and give us a quick take on the FBI move!

  8. This is when I start to understand why the Lefties sent the intellectuals to the camp. They wanted them to have to deal with real people for a change. I know it makes them feel SO superior to the dirt people, but really, we just aren’t as stupid as they like to think. And we seem to have longer memories. We remember how they treated the Tea Party. I’ve heard more than one Trump supporter mention this guy:

    And Paul Ryan is a hack. The only reason people like Ross exist is so that Democrats can point them out as “real” Republicans.

    • Ryan is bisexual. Won’t even commit to one side of the plate, or the other. Anyway, The lefties are the ones sent to the camps/firing squads/etc. These are the natural bitchers and complainers in a society; the Jonahs and Davids and Matties. Once they have served to put the monsters in power, they are *always* eliminated first. Look how the North Vietnamese commies lured the southern commies to their doom, during Tet? Look how one group of commies slaughtered another group of commies, in 1930’s Spain? This shit is hard wired; AKA a feature.

    • The lack of actual logic and reasoning among the so-called leftist (and cucked repub) intellectuals is symptomatic of the idiocracy institutionalized in so-called ‘higher education”.
      As you note: a huge contingent of Trumps support is coming from repub voters who have not voted in decades- white male baby boomers in the trades, middle management, business owners who actually received some of the last decent educations available. And our memories and faculties are quite good.

  9. I don’t read Sailer much, but I think that you are being too humble and Douthat was writing to refute you and possibly Codevilla. That he could not come up with anything that met the feasible, suitable, acceptable tests (just whining and fantasy, really), shows that Conservativism, Inc. is intellectually defeated. What’s next?

    • I have a large enough readership now that it is possible, but I suspect most of these guys are so concerned with coloring outside the lines they avoid anything that is heretical. I can tell that some of them read Sailer. That’s because they will repeat him verbatim on occasion and he tends to phrase things in odd ways so it is easy to tell when he is being pirated.

      I do think I got the word “Cankles” into the bloodstream. I was using that one for Clinton a long time ago in comment sections. If famous people start using my Cloud People/Dirt People riff then I’ll know I’m reaching the beautiful people.

      • I’ve used your Cloud/Dirt People labeling in replies to these Est types, numerous times on Twitter. Oddly, they always seem offended. Heh.

  10. What the GOPe and cucks don’t get is that this isn’t just a political spat that will fade with time or be patched up with sweet talk and some trinkets. This is a divorce. The spouse who worked to pay the bills and provide sustenance has walked out after he found her screwing his worst enemy. It’s over. Finished.

  11. I’ve felt this for awhile, but the political realignment seems to be coalescing around the Official Government Party, which is the State-approved party that if you vote for you will not be targeted, and which is borderless and unprincipled, and (for lack of a better term) an American party which is mildly isolationist, mildly protectionist, very independent minded, and which doesn’t just mistrust government, it really rather despises the Government Party that they now realize despises them.

  12. This latest development in the email saga looks pretty consequential. get the sense of something large rising to the surface with speed and intent…

  13. Ross makes the mistake of thinking that people are attracted to the same aspects of Trump that he finds repulsive (his personality, lifestyle and lack of government experience).

  14. Let me introduce mr douthat to a word he is unfamiliar with — constituency. As in he and his fellow cucks don’t have one. Ross, and Jonah, and the other chinless wonders in the cuckocracy lead exactly no one. They are my enemy and I will attempt to hurt them any way I can…

    • Look at what is happening to the fish wraps that these guys write for. Dead, and stinking up the joint. Things move fast these days.

  15. The highlighted portions are stunning for their lack of self-awareness. That would describe most of us at one time, would it not? If I were paid six figures to think otherwise I may never have swallowed the red pill. For me, a five figure man, the most important moment in “Witness” is when Whitaker Chambers announces to his wife that are going to leave the winning side to join the losing side. I had no awareness forty years ago how prophetic his understanding was.

  16. Busy today so not much time to write anything thoughtful. In the same vein as the column from Douchehat, check out this drivel from Peter Weiner over at NRO:

    The level of delusion among the professional conservative class defies belief. Having been resoundingly rejected by the base of their party they now believe they hold moral authority to redefine conservatism after Trump. Do these guys wear Superman pajamas to bed??

    Separately, I’ve been reviewing the polling data on Real Clear Politics and now believe that the Electoral Vote count is:
    Trump: 266
    Clinton: 218
    Undecided: 54 (CO, NM, MN, WI, PA)

    If Trump wins any one of the undecided states he wins the election.

    You’ll know the election was rigged if Trump loses NC.

    • Having abandoned their base for two years after being given power in both houses by that base to oppose Obama, they are disheartened to be rejected by that base.

  17. “Hey, horribly misguided and foolish Trump supporters! Sure, some mistakes were made, but really the Beltway establishment is not that bad, at least when compared to that icky Hitler Trump. I mean, look what’s it’s done for me – and I’m a fully vetted and approved voice of dissent! And if you just give us another chance we promise to listen to you more, really we do. And then we’ll tell you what’s good for you, because, let’s be honest, you proto-fascist Brietbart readers just can’t think for yourselves, and lack that je ne sais quoi that I like to refer to as intellectual respectability. I know that sounds terribly condescending, but you know it’s true. Because, as we all know, you need us more than we need you. Yes, this is some tough love, but it’s because deep down all us GOPe pjyama boys of the beltway really care.”

    Your best friend ever,

  18. John Derbyshire recently made some insightful comments about how–for roughly half of Jews–it’s always 1890 and the Cossacks are always coming. While those imagining Trump to be a strongman are just having these Jewish vapors, it’s no coincidence that the zeitgeist is exactly the sort that elevates strongmen.

    And if the vote is rigged this time, perhaps all the paranoia will be justified after all…

    • The vote was rigged in 1919, mon. Like the Z said, this is not a thing to be reformed–it is the reformer. One submits, or rejects.

      • So who killed that 6 million? The NAZIS? Or those who allowed the NAZIS to proceed? FDR could have ended WWII in 1943, with a total defeat of the NAZIS by German anti-NAZIS. That he didn’t, was testament to his enthrallment with Stalin and the need to totally destroy Germany for Stalin’s benefit. So how many American men died for FDR’s infatuation with Stalin? Let alone the vast bulk of those 6 million Jews. They died for Stalin as well.

  19. “without necessarily making it more serious or sober than its Bircher-era antecedents.”

    Never mind the fact that the Right-wing populists were, what’s the word?, oh yeah, RIGHT, and the Conservative elite were wrong, both then and now. Douthat forgets that modern Conservative Inc. heroes like Reagan and Goldwater were products of the populist right, that the Republican Establishment hated both, and that they only became heroes in retrospect. Had Douthat been an adult in 1980, he’d be supporting John Anderson, and writing long, thoughtful essays about how Reagan’s crew were destroying the party of Rockefeller and Nixon.

    Any “conservative” who supports the managerial state in its present form is a traitor, full stop. That should be obvious even to idiots like Douthat. Of course, it probably is…

    • I think the GOP establishment hated Reagan more in ’76 than they hate Trump now. They were absolutely furious at him and blamed him their general election loss (ignoring their mediocre candidate who stood for nothing).

      • Never underestimate the devotion people have to the entities that create their paycheck. If I went Godwin with the idea, it would explain a lot of what happened. “Just following orders” and all.

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