It is much to my chagrin, and even more so to my pride, that I must admit, despite my past confidences, that I have been enormously and abjectly wrong. I have been wrong about the collective opinion of conservatives within the American electorate; wrong about the political tendencies of those with whom I assumed I shared a mutual ideology and commitment to principle; and, more than anything else, wrong in my estimation of the character of the American voter.
The so-called “Radical Middle” which has emerged from their foggy, mud-ridden bog in support of a demagogue on par with the Gracchi came as a surprise. I honestly thought more of Americans. I thought more of their defense against the whims of rabid idiocy and petulant ignorance which has so plagued the tragic decline of American conservatism. Since at least the 60s, if not before with the rejection of Robert Taft and the Old Right, there has been a synthesis of constitutional ideological conservatism with what can be no more simply described as political opportunism, preying upon the simple vices of simple men whose perspective is trapped in a nostalgic sitcom on TV Land. And this synthesis has been the seed upon which the weed gracing every form of media has rapidly grown.
I am a conservative libertarian. I agree wholeheartedly with the political logic that the likes of Rothbard, Hayek, Mises, and their ilk have developed throughout the 20th century, but I also agree with the importance of institution and community in developing a culture of freedom. This is not in opposition to these thinkers, but, I think, necessary to the realistic application of their ideals. Humans are social animals. They crave community; they desire the approval of others; they desire a society.
The difference between a libertarian and a conservative, in my view, is one of emphasis. Libertarians emphasize the individual to a fault. The importance of individual liberty is, and should be, the paramount concern for purely political discussion, but people do not often view political discussion as being purely political. People see politics as more than an argument over the role of government, but over the defining culture which they seek to belong.
This is why statism and central governance is so doomed to fail. It seeks to implant upon the infinitely unequal the shackles of equality. Self-governance and emphasis on community is the only way to balance the necessity for little to no state with the necessity for humans to belong to groups. When the resources of a given society, including the resources of defining a society’s image, are dictated, they are worth going to war over.
In my mind, this is where the resentment of Muslims, the “1%”, Hispanics, and any other group at the center of a political bullseye emanates. To some, the disadvantages presented to them in an age of statism is most assuredly due to “the Other.” The crippling of 20th century manufacturing by unionized labor, liberal governance, and poor Federal Reserve policy has not those causes to blame, but “Mexicans” who have simply stolen jobs from the more deserving natives or “the 1%” who are too greedy to allow for similar growth in lower percentile demographics.
It is through this lens which I see the current state of American politics as nothing more than a devolution into the absurd. Both sides of the American political spectrum have so wholehearted rejected any intellectual foundation upon which they may have once been built and replaced it with vacuous ignorance and short-sighted emotive appeals. Where Buckley exclaimed to stand athwart history and yell “STOP!” referring to the progressivism of American liberalism, he would today stand athwart a scared rabble emerging on his own sideline pleading that they simply read a book.
If there ever was an election which embodied the microscopically narrow ideological gap which has existed between the two major parties, then a more demonstrable example than this one can hardly be found. Nor one where people of principle have been so quick to cast those principles aside for the vicarious self-aggrandizement they’ll receive by ushering in the oafish buffoonery of a similarly self-aggrandizing narcissist whose insecurities over his tiny, cocktail-sausage-like hands could break down decades of international relations at a single off-the-cuff comment by some foreign diplomat.
Ultimately, I am left with the bittersweet sensation of watching the destruciton of a party whose arrogant comfort in decades-old ideas built upon the assumption of zombie-like, base obedience crowded out better men from being taken seriously, but only to be replaced with a manifestation of every caricature that snobby, college-liberal fans of Gore Vidal have thought themselves so clever to post in their secret Facebook groups.
This election is everything I wished politics would never be and I don’t see how Republicanism can recover.
America is a joke.