Conservative intellectuals are at a turning point: Normalize Trump or resist him?

  
Via:  bob-nelson  •  5 months ago  •  14 comments

Conservative intellectuals are at a turning point: Normalize Trump or resist him?
In the span of a few days, two very different events unfolded that will, together, shape U.S. politics for the next decade.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


I n the span of a few days , two very different events unfolded that will, together, shape U.S. politics for the next decade. At a rally in Greenville, N.C., the president of the United States, though he later tried to deny it, egged on a crowd to chant “send her back,” echoing not only his own racist tweets from a few days earlier but also the language of American nativists down the decades.

President Trump at the White House on Wednesday.
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

From the 19th-century movements that sought to send emancipated slaves back to Africa to the anti-Catholic “Know Nothing” party and the Ku Klux Klan, the notion that only certain kinds of Americans are “real Americans” is one that we have heard many times and know very well.

“Send her back” also chimes beautifully with the modern language of the European far right, especially the Identitarians , a conspiracy network that believes in the existence of a secret plot, organized by Jews, to replace white Europeans with brown ones. The group, which assiduously seeks followers in the United States, calls repeatedly for “remigration” — in other words, “send them back” — and promotes the idea online whenever it can. Some of Trump’s followers surely recognize those ideas even if they don’t know where they come from. Already those ideas appeal to an extremist fringe: Both the synagogue shooters in the United States and the mosque shooter in New Zealand were inspired by them.

Many miles from Greenville, a group of intellectuals met in a D.C. ballroom. These were “national conservatives,” thinkers and writers trying, in the wake of the president’s destruction of American conservatism as we know it, to build something new in its place. This is not an easy task. If William F. Buckley and National Review laid the groundwork for Reaganism, the situation is now reversed: Trump’s 2½ years in office have undermined whatever remains of President Ronald Reagan’s impossibly sunny vision, and intellectuals are racing to keep up.

The question is whether it is possible — in the atmosphere created in the United States by Trump and in Europe by the Italian, Austrian and Hungarian far right, among others — for intelligent people to build on the word “nationalism,” as opposed to “patriotism,” without becoming, in practice, the Heideggers to his Hitler, or the Webbs to his Stalin: philosophers working, whether they acknowledge it or not, to justify the instinctive racism and vulgarity seen in Greenville and thus help make a corrupt president palatable to the wider public. This is not a new problem. As far back as 1927, in “ The Treason of the Intellectuals ,” French essayist Julien Benda denounced the “scholars, philosophers and ‘ministers’ of the divine” who “share in the chorus of hatreds and political factions” on both the right and left, and in retrospect he was correct.

It is still possible for American conservatism to avoid this trap. According to several accounts, the co-organizer of this “ national conservative ” gathering, Israeli academic Yoram Hazony, banned open white supremacists from the meeting and warned the conference against them. Many speakers chose unifying themes, focusing on a more communitarian, less individualistic vision of society, a path away from libertarianism that some European conservatives also want to follow.

But Tucker Carlson did use his moment on the podium to dismiss the problem of racism as boring. (“It can’t be fixed; it can’t be changed.”) One or two of the speakers are already established fellow travelers , active participants in the whitewashing of authoritarian nationalism in Europe. Hazony’s own book in praise of nationalism contains a bizarre and ahistorical description of the formation of nations: groups of families, clans or tribes that came together in some mythical pre-modern era and decided to be unified — a definition that might fit biblical Israel but clearly excludes the United States, as well pretty much every other modern nation-state. He also dismisses any forms of international cooperation as “imperialism,” understands almost nothing about the European Union and seems incapable of coming to terms with the idea that “patriotism” might be something different and distinct from “nationalism.”

But there is a reason that, in recent history, we have consistently spoken about civic patriotism and not nationalism in the United States: because we are not, and never will be, a nation held together by ethnic blood ties. In its way, this is what gives us our strength. All nations are imagined communities, and our imagined community is based on a uniquely inspiring set of principles. Americans have proved that they can be loyal to, and will fight on behalf of, a more complex, more cerebral national ideal, one derived from ideas of democracy and justice as opposed to blood and soil. By contrast, those who promote a narrower, nativist definition of America will weaken and divide us, as the president is already doing. They will teach us to hate one another and lose us the respect we once had abroad.

Having left it myself, albeit quite a while ago, I have some sympathy: The conservative movement is at a real turning point. But its most intelligent thinkers will soon have to decide whether they will continue to normalize Trump, providing him with the intellectual framework to indulge the dangerous impulses on display in Greenville, or whether they will try to create something that gives the Republican Party, at least, some viable alternative once Trumpism fails. If they can bring themselves to abandon the word “nationalism,” that will be a good sign.


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Bob Nelson
1  seeder  Bob Nelson    5 months ago

Please
 - read the seed before Commenting.
 - Comment on topic ( CoC Rule N° 4 ).
 - cite the portion of the seed on which you are Commenting , to enable us (myself and Mods) to observe whether your Comment is effectively on-topic. I will request "deletion / off-topic" for any Comment that is not clearly tied to the seed.

Thank you.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
2  seeder  Bob Nelson    5 months ago
... in recent history, we have consistently spoken about civic patriotism and not nationalism in the United States: because we are not, and never will be, a nation held together by ethnic blood ties. In its way, this is what gives us our strength.

The very intelligent (conservative) Anne Applebaum presents a vision of America that is at once depressing and hopeful.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
3  seeder  Bob Nelson    5 months ago
I will request "deletion / off-topic" for any Comment that is not clearly tied to the seed.
 
 
 
JBB
4  JBB    5 months ago

It is about time that conservative intellectuals turned on Trump. Both of them...

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
5  FLYNAVY1    5 months ago

My wife is both conservative and a historical republican.  She saw Trump for the shit-hole he is, and has voted straight dem, and woman every chance from 2016 on. 

I think what helped is that I made sure she was listening and reading from the BBC and Reuters.  She now admits that Fox news is nothing but a propaganda fix for far right conspiracy junkies. 

 
 
 
Ender
5.1  Ender  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @5    5 months ago

I compare people that like trump to people in an abusive relationship. He may be a misogynistic, nasty pig yet one running back to him and begging to be around him makes them look nothing but pathetic.

I want to say, just stand up for yourself and have some self respect. I have zero sympathy.

(not a comment toward your wife)

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
5.1.1  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Ender @5.1    5 months ago

She admitted that for so many years all she did was listen to the propaganda from conservative talk shows back since the early 1990s.  When we met in 2007,  I asked her how have conservatives served the needs of women. Once the lightbulb went on, the conservative shows got turned off, and she started doing the research on her own.

She's been cursing her conservative votes and support ever since.....

 
 
 
Dulay
5.1.2  Dulay  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @5.1.1    5 months ago

My mom had that same revelation after her vote for Nixon. That was the last time she let my father influence her vote. 

My mother in law told me that she watches Fox when she needs a good belly laugh. 

 
 
 
WallyW
6  WallyW    5 months ago

'Trumpism' is the new normal.

It won't be going away after he's gone.

Learn to deal with it as intelligent adults.

 
 
 
Dulay
6.1  Dulay  replied to  WallyW @6    5 months ago
'Trumpism' is the new normal.

It won't be going away after he's gone.

Learn to deal with it as intelligent adults.

How about you help by giving us an intellectual definition of 'Trumpism'.

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
6.1.1  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Dulay @6.1    5 months ago

I can hardly wait for that post.

 
 
 
WallyW
6.1.2  WallyW  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @6.1.1    5 months ago

You tell me.

It's the lefties doing all the bitching, whining, and complaining.

 
 
 
Dulay
6.1.3  Dulay  replied to  WallyW @6.1.2    5 months ago

Deflection isn't an act of an 'intelligent adult' Wally. 

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
6.1.4  FLYNAVY1  replied to  WallyW @6.1.2    5 months ago

Trumpism =  (Racial Division + Self-Dealing by Trump & family) at the expense of  American morals/norms.

 
 
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