[Part 2 of too-many on what happened, why, and whether we should care. Spoiler alert: YES.]
How many times have you heard that there were no differences between the two parties? Or described yourself as a centrist, independent, moderate, blue dog, or any of the other euphemisms for socially-liberal-fiscally-conservative? How many times have you said the only differences between the American parties were whether you preferred to lose your personal liberties or your economic ones? Isn’t that the really the default—the position of good people who judge, correctly, that politics is too dirty to be too involved with, but who vote to be good citizens?
As a political movement, conservatism, especially social conservatism, is dead. It killed itself. And now pretty much all of us who aren’t evangelical weirdos are breaking out our dancing shoes for the impending grave-top ball. Even the libertarians are coming to this party! Isn’t it great that, as a culture, we can all come together to celebrate the death of the social cons?
When 90% of America agrees on something, THAT IS A WARNING.
So before we inter the ashes of conservatism, let’s dissect it. As we gander at the entrails, we’ll get to know the body. And maybe, in the end, you'll mourn with me.
I guess we need to spend a minute first on anyone shouting to check the pulse. To them, I say ENOUGH. The only issue in this election that should have mattered was the impending fiscal collapse. That’s obvious to anyone who cares to see it. Hell, it’s even obvious to those who care to feel it – through misery of themselves and their neighbors.
If mainline conservatism couldn’t explain the situation to voters, nor less explain why they shouldn’t vote again for a President whose spending leaves drunken sailors slack-jawed, then conservatism as an influence in American politics is finished. The body is cold.
But wait . . .the NRO-types think they see a twitch.
Uh, guys? That limb isn’t a part of this body. How can it be? For all of the personal successes of the individual Republicans and establishment as whole, we know now unequivocally that those successes have come despite the near-perfect completeness of their ideological, messaging, and electoral failures. The ability of Republicans to win elections is exactly and inversely proportional to the “conservative” fiscal policy they’re able to enact. Don’t believe me? Let’s ask Boehner. He’s on the phone? Yes, I’ll wait. Oh, I think I hear him: We are deadly serious about cutting spending. Yes, that’s him. We’ll want to cut at least two days’ worth of deficit from this year’s spending . . . No, one day isn’t enough . . . fine, let’s compromise on six hours. . . . What? LOL. Of course I was kidding. . . Yes, 8 o’clock tee time. Oh, erm, maybe we should try him later.
In the aggregate, Republican politicians are no sleazier and disgusting than the Democratic ones. The incentives are skewed, our system stacked against the sane and sober. But until this time around, I hadn’t ever clearly thought about the fact that this awful system is actually made of people. The system self-selects for cravens, narcissists, and sociopaths, but – and this is so obvious in retrospect I can’t believe I never followed this thread before -- the mechanism by which “the system” selects politicians is through actual people literally selecting. I always thought the system was the problem. But it isn’t, is it? That’s an honest question, because all I can think, now, is that we (America) has the system we want. For both sides’ squawking about special interests and margin of fraud and everything else, the people have made their preferences known.
That’s my mistake, for assuming that most voters would be informed, and that informed people wouldn’t vote for this. But I didn’t realize that as much as voters want to vote, they want more not to have to choose.
And American voters have discovered they can be bought. They like it so much that they’re selling themselves for imaginary money. Partisans will adapt, thus to ensure their expanding control of the real money (while there’s any left). So the Republican checkbox will stay on the ballot, and voters will sometimes check that box. Even prostitutes like to pretend they have standards. “I’m voting for gridlock,” they’ll say.
I’m utterly sure Republicans will win elections here and there. I’m equally sure it won’t matter. The two-party government needs a minority party to make the majority possible. (I think we ought to just drop the fake-descriptive labels and just call them the Reds and the Blues.) In the coming collapse, Republicans will argue that the Democrats caused it, and the Democrats will argue that Republicans wouldn’t have fixed it.
But while they argue forever about who’s to blame for what’s to come, on one point they’ll agree. Reds, Blues, and whores in unison: America has rejected social conservatism, and good riddance. It’s dead (of radioactive poisoning, they’ll explain). Reduced to a boogeyman to frighten children when necessary (and in what’s to come, it will be.)
Before they burn the body, let's climb the pyre.
To be continued . . .