Defending the Constitution Against All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic
What should conservatives who can't support the party of Trump do?
In his Atlantic newsletter, recently-retired Naval War College professor Tom Nichols offers his “Confessions of a Conservative Apostate.” His journey has been similar to mine, in that we both gradually shifted our views on multiple issues, both because of new insights gained through life experience and through honest intellectual labor. We were both already poor fits for the Republican Party by the time Donald Trump announced his candidacy for its presidential nomination, held our noses and voted for Hillary Clinton when he actually won it, and left the party entirely once it became clear that its leaders rallied around him, abandoning any pretense of the principles they had long claimed to hold.
After a lot of setup, he gets to this:
[M]any of us are now in a coalition with an array of groups to our left. Among our former comrades on the right, this makes us apostates, defectors, heretics.
Still, we cannot make a permanent home with our temporary liberal roommates: We don’t like the panties on the curtain rod, and they don’t like the notes we leave on the pillow. And yet, here we are, because none of the issues that would normally matter between right and left matter as much as the future of democracy. A conservative who cares about the future of the constitutional order must face the reality that the Republican Party has become a menace to the Constitution and our system of government.
Obviously, even a lot of people who really disliked Trump disagree with this. And I can even countenance that in some cases. If one’s overriding issue was ending what one saw as the scourge of abortion, voting for Trump was not only justified but mandatory. And, indeed, it paid off.
But neither Tom nor I were in that camp. Like so many of the early “Never Trump” conservatives, we’re national security professionals and the prospect of a moronic narcist in charge of our nuclear arsenal was enough to override other policy preferences.
While he thankfully didn’t order the destruction of the planet, Trump’s presidency was, in many other ways, even worse than I had feared. And his attempt to steal the 2020 election—and the rallying of essentially the entire national Republican establishment around his effort—makes the choice even more stark.
Still, Tom goes a wee bit further than me here:
What I am “conserving,” by being a conservative, is our political order and the future freedom to argue and advocate within that order. This is why, for the duration of this national emergency (one that began in 2017 and is not over yet), I approach policies and politicians with two questions that—again, for now—override my policy preferences:
1. Does this issue strengthen or weaken the Republicans as they continue to advocate for sedition and authoritarianism?
2. Does this political figure caucus with the Republicans? Will he or she vote to make Kevin McCarthy the speaker of the House and Mitch McConnell the majority leader of the Senate?
Everything else runs in third place.
I’m honestly not sure I even understand the first point.* We have a Democratic President and Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. If they pass a law that I would otherwise like, why would I oppose it if I think it somehow benefitted Republicans? Indeed, I’m not even sure I can play three-dimensional chess well enough to figure that out.
I’m largely on board with his second point but it seems extreme at the margins. By this logic, we should hope Liz Cheney is defeated. (Granted, she’s likely to lose her primary, making that a moot point.)
The practical effect here is that I will root for GOP defeats on policy even where I might otherwise agree with them. The institutional Republican Party must be weakened enough so that it can’t carry out the larger project of undermining our elections and curtailing our rights as citizens.
Put another way, it does no good to support small Republican wins on policy if the cumulative effect is to strengthen the party so that it is larger and more cohesive when it makes another run at destroying the Constitution. Politics is an ugly business; strategy requires some painful decisions. I believe we are in an existential political crisis, and I intend to act accordingly. (I wish some of my liberal friends would do the same, as I have argued here.)
So, fundamentally I agree with this. But I’m not sure how it works in practice. The only part of the Federal policymaking apparatus that Republicans control is the Supreme Court. So, I’m not really sure where the GOP is getting policy wins that I need to root against*
The strongest piece of the essay is this:
In the Before Times, we still argued over politics instead of whether communist Muslims had taken over our Venezuelan voting machines with help from the Italian space program. I felt like it was safe to throw elbows and do some partisan high-sticking; I believed that we were all in a giant bouncy house called the Constitution, a place where we might bump skulls or sprain an ankle now and then but where there were no sharp edges and there were only soft landings.
I don’t believe that anymore.
I’ve also been thinking about something Charlie Sykes said in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Charlie asked how he, a pro-life stalwart, could now be so concerned about finally getting what pro-lifers have wanted for 50 years with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The answer, as he wrote in June, is that he simply does not trust today’s Republicans to act in a humane or responsible manner. Neither do I.
In fact, I do not trust the GOP to enact conservative policies in any but the most repressive and cruel fashion. I do not trust that their goal is limited government; I believe their goal is limited democracy, and specifically, limited only to themselves and people who think as they do.
Are the Democrats any better? Of course they are. I have never been shy about noting the totalitarian streak on the American left, but the Democrats have not been captured by their fringe. More to the point, they are not institutionally capable of implementing the plans of their young-Stalinist wing. (Let’s face it: On most days, the Democrats couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery.) And they are led by Joe Biden, a fundamentally decent man. I disagree with many leading Democrats, but I do not think they are delusional authoritarians, and for now, that’s a lot.
The conservatives, in any case, have become completely un-conservative. The traditional conservative emphasis on law and order and on limited government has not held the GOP’s theocratic-nutball wing in check. The same people who decried the growth of executive power now worship a sociopathic real-estate con man as a demigod. The party that prided itself on its national-security cred is now voting against admitting Sweden and Finland into NATO like some early-20th century isolationist know-nothings. Even Republicans who should know better cheer the Supreme Court siding with a high-school football coach pulling his players into prayer sessions. And as my Atlantic colleague Jerusalem Demsas recently pointed out, Republicans went from “giving abortion back to the states” to trying to figure out how to allow those same states to interfere with the rights of Americans to move freely in their own country.
It’s not even a particularly hard choice at this point. While there are pieces of the Democratic agenda I still oppose, there’s essentially nothing in the current Republican agenda that I find appealing. Even its foreign policy has gone cuckoo.
But, as Tom rightly notes, the fight is really about something more fundamental than our policy differences:
My ultimate loyalty, however, is to the Constitution. Especially in the wake of the January 6 insurrection, I now regard every elected and appointed seat held by a Republican as a possible vote for autocracy, and every Republican victory, no matter how small, as one more advantage for a party whose litmus test for membership is accepting Donald Trump’s lies and whose platform seems to be that the next free and fair American election will be the last free and fair American election.
While there are still some sane people in the Republican leadership, they’re almost all cowards. A leader who is afraid to tell his followers the truth—let alone when democracy itself is at stake—isn’t worthy of the name.
Fundamentally, too many Republican leaders have decided that their party simply can’t win democratic elections because their views aren’t popular. Rather than modifying their policy proposals—the way our two-party system has survived as long as it has—they have instead resorted to rigging the game to make it harder for groups likely to vote Democrat to vote.
Thankfully, when Trump tried to get Republican secretaries of state and other election officials to overturn the will of their voters when Democrats managed to organize high turnout despite the obstacles Republicans had put in place, they finally did the honorable thing and refused. In many cases, they have been rewarded by being ousted in the primaries in favor of officials likely to comply next time.
I’ll never be at home in my current coalition. That’s the nature of politics. But if joining with Democrats to stop an authoritarian takeover of the United States means that I have to grit my teeth and endure silly arguments about student loans and preferred politically correct terms, so be it. One of the things conservatives believe in—or this one does, anyway—is that human nature, immutable and indomitable, can fix most of our problems, and that after doing enough dumb things we’ll come to good solutions.
But to find those solutions, we need to maintain a system of constitutional freedoms under the rule of law. If we lose that, the rest is meaningless.
Ultimately, we can hope that the current Republican Party is washed away and replaced by another entity that can offer a competing policy agenda. But the fight right now is over whether we’ll have elections that matter.
Which brings me to a point Tom makes in a piece published on the anniversary of the Capitol riot:
This is a vow that you would choose the continued existence of our Constitution over any other political priority that might be dear to you. It means that as much as you think some of our institutions are screwed up, you will respect them even while you work for change. It means you will go to the barricades for the basic rights of the worst human being you’ve ever met if those rights are threatened. It means you grit your teeth while defending the right to burn flags or engage in racist hate speech. It means you will respect the limits of political victories and, yes, accept the necessity of political losses.
Without this commitment, nothing else matters. Without the Constitution, there is no advocacy and argument and negotiation under the aegis of law and equality; there is only an eternal struggle for the upper hand and the constant attempt to use temporary advantages to exterminate the rights of opponents.
Another requirement here is that you must be an adult in age and in spirit. You may not whine. You may not bellyache about unfairness. You may not wishcast about how great things would be if only the Founders hadn’t included that stupid Electoral College or the Second Amendment—or the Fourth, Fifth, Eight, Tenth, or any other.
We spend a lot of time at OTB on this wishcasting. Steven and I are both political scientists by trade and he’s a specialist in comparative political institutions. It’s absolutely vital to a lot of the debates that we have here for people to understand that the way we conduct elections has a major impact on shaping their outcomes.
Is there something profoundly undemocratic about a system where Donald Trump can be President despite the fact that 3 million more Americans voted for his opponent than for him? Absolutely. Is it unfair that California’s 39,237,836 people have no more say in the United States Senate than Wyoming’s 576,851? No doubt. Should we take into account the impact that gerrymandering has on not only the partisan representation in the House but also the limits it places on voter choice? Definitely.
We are, alas, more-or-less stuck with these rules. The Electoral College and Senate aren’t going away. We could conceivably increase the size of the House of Representatives and change the rules for how districts are drawn—or even do away with districts altogether—but there’s next to zero momentum for doing that and it would require Democratic supermajorities to make it even conceivable.
So, like it or not, we’re going to have to save our imperfect democracy within the rules of a game that’s somewhat rigged in favor of the other side. That’s going to require keeping folks like Tom and me in the tent and getting a lot more to join us. .
*UPDATE: It finally dawned on me to simply ask Tom what he meant there. Essentially, he has adopted this viewpoint going back to 2017—so he was rooting for Republicans to fail in order to make it harder for Republicans to keep power when they had it. Which makes sense strategically,
Yes, that. But I think, too, the Democratic Party is going to have to come to terms with the fact that it, as a collective actor, is going to have to use its opportunities to tweak the rules towards democracy when they have the chance. At the moment there is no widespread understanding of this fact and there is zero urgency. There is, instead, the belief that things will just “get back to normal” at some point or, at least, some message or strategy will flip a switch and they will be able to govern.
The peril ahead is that I am not sure when the next window to even try tweaks will be available. It certainly won’t be in 2023 and 2024.
@Steven L. Taylor: Thanks and fully agree. They couldn’t even get Manchin and Sinema on board with some relatively minor standardization of voting rights practices.
@Steven L. Taylor:
100% THIS. I’m repeating it because it’s true. The issue is that a number of Democrats are “institutionalists” who are more interested in preserving the appearance of norms on an institution’s facade rather than dealing with core structural issues. So Manchin and Biden, as examples, don’t want to go near any form of filibuster reform despite it being such low-hanging fruit.
Of course, this might also have to do with the lack of centralized power within our political parties that someone or other has been droning on for years about on some obscure website.
My wife is in this club. Lifetime Republican whose mother was a 9 term representative in the New Mexico house chamber, though neither of them ever left panties on the curtain rod.
Politically, I’ve pretty much been in the middle. I categorize myself in various ways, not always consistently. At various times, I’ve considered myself a rationalist, a Rockefeller (or liberal) Republican, a fiscal conservative/social liberal, a centrist, etc. Until Trump, I’ve never been too concerned about who was in charge. Although I voted for Obama, I wouldn’t have been all hot and bothered by either McCain or Romney.
That all said, the political disease (although long in dormancy until its reemergence under Gingrich) infecting this country is potentially fatal. Do we let it run its course? Or do we actively fight it? I’m in a pretty dour mood these days so I don’t have a ready answer.
“If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.” — David Frum
Republicans might not be winning the popular vote, but they’ve lost, in most cases, by small enough margins. Where they are unpopular is with younger people, and ‘young’ in America is now basically up at least the age of 45. Their authoritarianism is just what happens when a bunch of authoritarians who have always been authoritarians lose any relevance to actual people in the prime of their lives. All of the blah blah etc about losing the non-college vote misses the fact that the working class without bad backs and aching knees are probably split about Republicans.
Point being–the Republican party hasn’t changed at all. It’s just grown more hysterical while it loses influence amongst the younger generations. Nichols, for example, thinks that cancelling student debt is a silly argument which he has to endure. Regardless of what your position is, college is not some luxury handbag. It’s the path to the middle-class and costs have skyrocketed. Calling it ‘silly’ to think that a normative aspect of American life should end in crippling amounts of debt is bizarre. It’s more or less admission of being a dull asshole without any real contact with anything other than the media targeted to your demographic. Not only that–gritting your teeth and enduring an argument. Guy loves democracy so much as long as it doesn’t annoy him. He’s just one tick to the left of the line cutting him off from snowflake MAGA.
What I think is ultimately going on here is that Gen-X is too small to ever take political control of society abd the fact this means control is going to shift directly from Boomers to Millenials is creating a much larger culture shift than normal. The boomers are trying to prevent this shift, but are ultimately doomed to failure because they’re not immortal
Gen-X has been kept mostly out of politics because of the drug war, Reagan, and the bleakness of the Clinton years and its compromises about welfare, the free market, and gay marriage, and then the final idiocy of the Iraq invasion. I’m in Gen X, and I don’t know a single Republican or anyone my age who thought drugs should be illegal, who was against gay marriage in the 90s, or supported the Iraq War. I know how to make compromises like any other adult, but the repetition of it all, the endless dumbness of gay marriage opponents, climate change deniers, the people who voted for Bush in 2004 and thought Saddam was behind 9/11, or the Greenspan/Phil Graham-style believers in the market economy, just choked the political life of most talented people my age. They just did other things–some cynical, others not so, and tried to rationalize their way into politics. I remember when Obama hedged on gay marriage, and it was so blatantly cynical and obvious that it just flew right by as a thing a politician has to do in order to appeal to morons. That type of cynicism is not constructive to any kind of real compromises.
I think you said a lot right there. College educate people increasingly lean D. And it’s not just because of economic circumstances.
Nichols talks a lot about loyalty to the Constitution. I’ll go further. It’s become a matter of loyalty to reason and objective reality. I could expand on that, with examples, for hours, but let me just point out that Trump, and DeSantis, literally killed people by opposing masks and vaccines. And not out of any conviction on “the science”, but because they saw political advantage in doing so.
Prof. Joyner, you’ve been really outdoing yourself recently. This and Monday’s piece on “Democracy Dies in Dumbness” are superb.
This all feels like the Caine Mutiny… I can’t wait for Lt. Barney Greenwald to get drunk and dress down the sane GOP officers for not doing more from the beginning to help the old elephant, Captain Queeg, before he lost his mind. Had they helped their old elephant, the mutiny would likely have never happened. Also, God help those among the GOP who played the roll of Lieutenant Tom Keefer.
Whoa! Is THAT ever a load off MY mind! Here all this time, I was worried about the continuing tax cuts for the rich, the gutting of regulations, the social safety net, trigger laws on abortion, eliminating the mandates in the Affordable Care Act… I could go on, but I don’t need to because the GQP isn’t trying to do any of those things–and hasn’t been. It’s all been somebody else. WHAT A RELIEF!
Given the Democratic Party’s long history of strong corporate support and its support for democracy, I think it’s entirely possible that the Republican party is replaced by….the Democratic party, and that the most ardent liberals, labor, and racial/societal minorities spin-off from the Ds to create a new Liberal party.
That would create essentially three major political parties in the U.S. – the unhinged MAGAs, the Conservative/Centrist (by U.S. standards) Democrats, and the Liberals.
I would ask you to consider that the answer to the question in your sub-headline…
… lies in your coming to grips with Nichols’ first question to himself on policy:
In our binary system, I believe this criterion is better understood in the inverse – does this issue strengthen or not the Democrats? Because the only way “the current Republican Party is washed away and replaced by another entity that can offer a competing policy agenda” is for the Democrats to win (up and down the ticket) and keep on winning. And that means it is not enough to root against Republican policy wins, you also have to root for Democratic policy wins you don’t agree with.
As Nichols notes, in this political moment, even if you were to believe, for example, that abortion is a scourge, you would still not allow abortion policy to be the overriding consideration for your vote. Now is not the time, as Nichols goes on to describe:
This thing that conservatives like Nichols believes, is something this liberal believes wholeheartedly as well. So, in this national time of division, there is common ground. We can weather outcomes which consider dumb in the extreme knowing that, if (and only if) we can save our system of constitutional freedoms, we can have that fight another day.
Nichols sees that if the sedition and authoritarianism friendly GOP of today wins, we lose it all, including our ability as a country to recover.
@Stormy Dragon: Frum’s thought brings up a feature of the situation that I’ve thought about for a long time. The Republicans may well be who they’ve become because conservatives are all gathered into one party now. Central, though maybe unspoken, to conservative philosophical viewpoint is that the government needs to be run by “our betters”–who. coincidentally, all happen to be fellow conservatives. Add a soupcon (no cedilla for the “c”, sorry) of the dispensationalist evangelical predisposition for the day when “The Lord will rule them with a rod of iron,” predispositions among other camps for “tough manager” types, and the general love of having a strongman from our side in charge (a disposition that shows up on the left, too), and it becomes pretty obvious why Frum comes to his conclusion.
Maybe what the country needs is to redistribute conservatives across a larger political spectrum again instead of letting them stay concentrated in one place. Concentrated sweetened lemon juice is simultaneously too sugary and too bitter to drink. You have to add 3 1/2 parts water to make lemonade.
@Stormy Dragon: @Modulo Myself: We should make Dark Money by Jane Mayer required reading. Of course if we did, DeSantis would ban it.
In 1980 David Koch ran for VP on the Libertarian ticket. He ran because as a candidate he and Chuckles could put unlimited family money into the race. They did amazingly well, garnering 1.1% of the vote. Almost a blip. They realized that their glibertarian “ideas” could never gain a majority, so they started figuring out how to control without a majority. This tied in nicely with the Birch/Goldwater “republic not a democracy” sentiments and the “Powell Memorandum” and a long list of people with too much money congealed around them, eventually funding the Kochtopus.
The Kochtopus has gifted us with, among other blessings, the Tea Party, The Federalist Society, Mike Pence, and the REDMAP project. It sounds like a conspiracy theory, except that a lot of it is right out in the open if anyone cares to look, but they set out forty years ago to find and exploit every anti-democratic flaw in our political systems. And they’ve succeeded. This shit did not just happen. There are villains in this story.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: I’ll likely reach out to Nichols when I have a chance to clarify what he means. My point is simply that the GOP can’t legislate with a Democratic President and Congress.
@Scott F.: But that calculation works in both directions. Democrats passing very progressive policies could, in the short term, make it easier for the GOP to rally otherwise reluctant conservatives.
@Modulo Myself: “Regardless of what your position is, college is not some luxury handbag. It’s the path to the middle-class and costs have skyrocketed. Calling it ‘silly’ to think that a normative aspect of American life should end in crippling amounts of debt is bizarre.”
Not bizarre, meritocratic. The kids who come from families that can’t afford to send them to college don’t deserve to go if they can’t get scholarships. They’ll just have to work like I did.
And don’t bother bringing up that what I got paid was 250% of the minimum wage of the era. We’re not talking about that now! (Or that my rent was 15% of my gross income either. 🙁 )
What’s a conservative to do? What’s an American to do, that’s the question.
We have two (2) parties. One is insane, boiling over with hate and overt treason. One is just tedious. This is not a hard question. Vote Blue, no matter who.
I suspect that’s a big part of it. Boomers are acting the role of rather stupid parents trying to lock the kids in their room rather than let them get all footloose.
They told people what they wanted to hear. Their audience was very weak-minded, and wanted to rationalize (like everybody, not just the weak-minded) their own choices. The whole basis of Reaganism was an attempt to say the same thing–that a world composed of greedy individual agents acting only in their self-interest actually makes the world a better place. So wow, get out, you mean what I’m doing is great? What a strange discovery!
Regardless, in 2022, when an actual problem occurs (like a dearth of housing stock) the claim is that we need to do this; we need to do that. There’s always a ‘we’ for libertarians, regardless of their ‘priors’ or whatever ideological jargon these people have been told to use. The market is completely failing (as it should–why would capital go to things with lower rates of return?) and there’s not even a professorial Friedman-like figure to drag out with a bunch of pseudo-equations. It’s all just resentment, web3 and Elon Musk-style frauds, and fear of kids asking for debt relief.
I note that Nichols doesn’t engage in the whole “The worst enemy of America is liberals” business. I think that may well be the emotional core of what’s wrong with Conservatives/Republicans. The notion that it will be ruinous for the country and for our future if “those liberals” ever get to do what they want. The “Satanic pedophiles” nonsense is sort of a caricature of this belief, which is held by so many more people.
Personally, I don’t want to ever hold such a blanket view.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
The thing is if you’re confident about your position, you aren’t gritting your teeth and feeling imposed upon by the arguments of others. I think student debt relief (or the defund the police) might be bad arguments in mainstream politics, but you can’t make me threatened by them. Student debt is going to get worse. The police are not reformable. They will not get better, ever. I can be disillusioned enough to say well what can you do this is America, but these guys are just seething with anger about every little thing. Tom Nichols doesn’t think debt relief is a silly argument, I suspect. He just doesn’t know how to deal with anything beyond his comfort zone he had in 1999, which is actually quite a silly and remediable problem.
“My point is simply that the GOP can’t legislate with a Democratic President and Congress.”
Not every danger caused by Republicans occurs at the Federal level. A Governor Mastriano in Pennsylvania will support Republican dreams of authoritarianism, even without any change to Congress.
Otherwise, an excellent piece, both yours and the one you are discussing.
Maybe tangential to this discussion and this point, this is just data but both Cheney and Kinzinger voted for the Respect for Marriage Act and Right to Contraception Act.
The Right to Contraception Act had just 8 Republicans.
Not sure if this means anything WRT to the discussion above.
Nancy Mace (SC) appears to be one of the eight. Mace says if South Carolina bans all abortions, then it’s incumbent on them to ensure that all women have access to contraceptives.
I agree to a degree with the key being where on the spectrum does “progressive” become “very progressive.” Overreach could blow it all up.
I’d only stress that in a time of existential crisis, the burden has to be on the reluctant conservatives to end their party’s capture to their fringe, so they are going to have to hold their noses and adjust their threshold for acceptable progressiveness to the left. For the time being, at least. As Nichols has clearly done, I would note.
That’s the hobby horse I’ve been riding around on. I’m with Mary Poppins: a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Seduce, don’t hector.
IMHO, most of the battles you ride your hobby horse into come down to which point on the continuum one should set the threshold for “acceptable progressiveness” and what tone of voice should used for the battle cry. Importantly, it is a continuum and resistance could present at all points of the line.
Seduction is an art and attraction is a matter of taste. I’ve found it helpful to listen more than I talk, so I can gauge what resonates or repels, then adjust. YMMV.
In terms of acceptance I think it’s about the velocity of change. 20 years ago gay marriage was absurdly unlikely. But groundwork was laid and by the time it happened, it elicited mostly a collective shrug. That is the pattern – liberals propose X, conservatives attack X, the liberals prevail eventually, and conservatives grudgingly accept. Everything from rock and roll and long hair on men, to premarital co-habitation, to equal pay for women, women in the military, gay marriage, etc… We propose change, they raise money off fear-mongering, we mostly get our way, and they move on to their next grift.
It’s like telling a joke: all in the timing.
This is very much to the point:
@Jay L Gischer:
No, he doesn’t, thankfully. But he also doesn’t say much about what he means by still being a conservative. He pretty much admits to feeling only a difference of degree on many issues. Mostly he talks about “a conservative temperament” and “the balance between freedom and responsibility”, and such. He doesn’t seem to have any clear answer why he doesn’t just become a Democrat. (He links to a 2015 piece of his that calls leftists “The New Totalitarians”. He seems to not recognize a difference between social pressure as in “PC” and “cancel culture” and regulating speech through legislation. like my Gov. DeUseless. His big, bad example is George Takei calling Clarence Thomas “a clown in blackface”. I wonder if seven years later Nichols still feels that’s so far beyond the pale?)
It’s now a commonplace to hear anti-Trumpers say something like, “OK, my Republican party has gone completely batshit crazy, but where do I go? Obviously I can’t be a Democrat!” But nobody ever seems to say quite why. I suspect, as Nichols hints, the reasons are psychological more than policy, and might not stand up to serious introspection.
If you believe it is as much of a threat as the scientists say it is, it matters more than whether this particular country remains a democracy. And if you believe that the scientists are being conservative in their projections…
Now, I happen to think we have completely shit the bed on this, and that there will be no meaningful action, and that a massive amount of suffering is already baked in, but it will likely be mostly tolerable in the Pacific Northwest for the rest of my life… so I’m more into making the next 30 years comfortable for me.
And conveniently, the “make the next 30 years comfortable for me” Party is also the most socially acceptable “solution” to climate change, so I don’t even have a moral conundrum there. And I lack the skills to overthrow the government, so I’m completely in the clear.
But, if Biden were to seize absolute power and implement the Green New Deal by force, I’d be ok with that. Might prefer someone younger, so we can avoid the squabbling when he inevitably dies.
Like that, but for billions of people, not just a few clumps of cells.
(Climate change will likely not be an extinction level event for humanity. But a pretty significant culling. Lots of places will become barely habitable without some very different infrastructure.)
If conservatives stood back and looked at the last 50 years of liberalism honestly, they’d be forced to admit that liberals are almost always right, and all conservatives have done is to delay changes that made perfect sense. See: social security, medicare, civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, trans rights, worker safety, Obamacare, Iraq 2, etc… And we’re right about (most) trans rights, climate change, economic inequality, guns, cops, etc…
But what are you left with once you realize that your entire contribution to American politics has been to be wrong and wrong and wrong before eventually accepting change?
The problem with liberals is not that we’re wrong, but that we’re right too soon for the slow kids in the class, and right too vociferously, and that we have outsourced our process to Twitter, which inevitably makes things worse.
Given that we expect the Republicans to make gains in the midterms, I’m not sure where you are going with this.
Plus there are those pesky states. I believe you live in one.
But, yes, if the Democrats can remain in power, in perpetuity, through entirely democratic means, then yes, the power of the Republican Party can be blunted and their descent into insanity will have no practical effects.
Other than that, great piece.
There will be some bad effects for North America, but as with most things the worst of it will hit the world’s poor. A lot of people will starve, a lot will die of disease exacerbated by climate change, there will be desperate migrations and that will set off wars. There acttually is an upper limit to temps that humans can endure for a long period. Bangladesh can’t be saved with all the infrastructure in the world. Venice is done for. The Dutch will manage, if anyone will, but I wouldn’t place any bets on the NC barrier islands or New Orleans. Here in SoCal I expect we’ll be drinking desalinated sea water.
I expect compassion fatigue will set in pretty quickly and the wealthy countries will seal their borders and avoid watching international news coverage. Eventually population decline (baked-in demographic changes plus starvation) and emerging energy technologies will restore some balance. Just too late to ave a few hundred million or so Africans and South Asians.
It would be wonderful if your theory applied beyond the…
of the population that actually deliberately thinks about its political positions. Alas, the type of separatism characteristic of fundy Christians (and christianists for that matter, though the second have market share considerations they embrace, too) weighs heavily on the calculus here. While I’m sure that your motivations are good and will allow that Nichols’ probably are also, too many on the right are probably closer to the Glenn Beck formulation. I heard him explaining once on his radio show that he wished that he could sit down with liberals to work out the solutions to the problems of the day but that it’s impossible to sit down to discuss issues with people whose very existence in dedicated to destroying the American way of life.
Color me skeptical on this whole “One of the things conservatives believe in—or this one does, anyway—is that human nature, immutable and indomitable, can fix most of our problems, and that after doing enough dumb things we’ll come to good solutions” thing. Partially because your “good solutions” may not match mine at all.
@Modulo Myself: I think that part of the student debt relief objection is captured in a statement I’ve heard several times in the few discussions I’ve had with people on it: “Nobody ever offered to give ME a break on MY student loans; why should we start now?”
A lot of conservatism amounts to “sucks to be you, eh?” thinking. That’s why they have to work so hard selling crap like meritocracy.
@CSK: So she’s in favor of chemically-induced abortions? Sounds pretty hypocritical to me. 😉
Ah, but if enough of us live as long or longer than the octogenarians in Congress and the White House, that’s another 20 years. Myself, I’m a happily retired Boomer — let the youngsters have a crack at fixing the problems.
Yeah, I figure there’s a fair chance that I’ll live to see on-shore batteries along the Pacific and drone-targeted artillery shelling northern Mexico. For the small portion who survive, permanent refugee camps that make Jordan’s look comfortable.
I am not at all sure we know this. He didn’t end up at the Capitol but that doesn’t mean he didn’t order it.
@Jay L Gischer:
Can you imagine? Climate disaster taken seriously and mitigated. Billionaires taxed. Folks neither dying nor going bankrupt due to lack of healthcare. Youth not bankrupted and hamstrung from education borrowing. Schoolchildren not used as target practice by nuts with assault weapons. 10 year rape victims not forced to travel hundreds of miles to terminate a pregnancy, lest she be forced to birth her attackers’ offspring. Vaccination normalized.
@DK: But you have to balance that against the horror of Chuckles Koch having to pay a little more in taxes and Exxon being forced to leave a few tons of carbon in the ground.
It seems the wormhole to Bizarro World is closed again.
I made my Republican to Democrat conversion slowly, over the period of the mid 90’s to the mid 00’s.
What I have discovered here in the one-party state of California, is that the Democratic Party is a lot more conservative than is widely known.
The AOC figures get ll the attention, but people like Obama, Biden, Gov. Jerry Brown and Newsom and about half of the CA legislators are what could arguably be called the Rockefeller Republicans.
That is, they are comfortable with the outlines of the New Deal and relatively hawkish on military and generally respectful of the mainstream religious culture.
And what most people don’t remember is just how left wing even figures like Truman were. Imagine Biden confiscating the Amazon webhosting servers, the way Truman took over the railroads!
Imagine Biden introducing gas price controls, as was done up until the late 70s.
I think the issues that divide the Republicans and Democrats today are not really economic issues, but cultural. And economic conservatives who make their peace with things like same sex marriage, find that their old home no longer values their capitalist bona fides.
@Smooth Jazz: Just stop. Your dude’s a traitor to the Constitution. Your “bot-like” responses on the honeymoon is all I need to know.
I hereby request Smooth Jazz be removed from the commentariat as a bot. There’s no further use engaging. I tried.
I appreciate James or Steven taking out the trash (I suppose it was one of them). But future historians will forever debate what the purpose or point of my Bizarro World comment was.
FWIW, my assessment of @Smooth Jazz is that it was an actual person. I don’t object to any banning or removal. That’s a person far gone enough that bringing them back might never happen, and at the least is a big, big project.
The repetition that made them seem like a bot is a feature of right-wing recruitment, as seen on, for instance, YouTube. It is full of counter-narratives and “thought-ending cliches” – little verbal nuggets that don’t have the logical conclusion the might purport to have, but are very effective at warding off countering thoughts and doubts.
No doubt they have soaked this stuff up because it ends precisely the doubts they would otherwise have. And the worse things get, the more committed to it they will be.
Like I said, a bad case, but probably a human, not a bot.