In recent years, the Koch brothers/Tea Party wing of the GOP had purged all moderates from the party, to the point where anyone who was on record supporting the continued existence of any federal agency, said Mexicans were people, or spoke even theoretically about the utility of taxes was drummed from the candidate rolls.
Their expected endgame here was probably supposed to be the ascension of some far-right, anti-tax, anti-government radical like Scott Walker, or even Cruz.
Instead, this carefully cultivated “throw the bums out” vibe was gluttonously appropriated by Trump, who turned the anger against the entire Republican Party before surging to victory on a strongman’s platform of giant walls, mass deportation and extravagant job promises that made the moon landing or the Bernie Sanders agenda of free college look incrementalist in comparison.
Matt Taibbi on the death of the Republic.
Incidentally, sometimes people wonder why the Australian conservative party is called “the Liberal Party”. Well, it’s essentially because we’ve already gone through our own, milder, version of this, back in the 80s and 90s. If you’ve ever heard anyone talk about the Libs “kicking out the wets”, this is what they’re referring to. And no, we didn’t invent it: we imported it from Thatcherian Britain.
Back in Ye Oldene Dayes, the Liberal Party really was a “liberal” party in the sense of “classic liberalism“. Classic liberals like civil rights as they emerge from the removal of government regulation on the private lives of citizens,1 as well as free markets and capitalism.
The problem with Olde Skoole Liberalism, however, is that by the late 20th century it decided that it liked the “free markets and capitalism” part of its ideology moreso than the “civil rights” side.2 What happened was an era of “economic liberals” making deals with hard-line right-wing social conservatives, trying to absorb their voting bases. Reagan did it first, by courting the evangelical community in the US, and the success spurred Thatcher to pursue something similar in Britain. The meme spread to Australia, now attached to the wet/dry terminology, et voilà. This is why the Australian conservative party is named the way it is.
This is also why nothing that’s currently happening with the GOP is of any surprise whatsoever to anyone who’s done PolSci 101. Trump is the Revenge of the Working Class; conservative parties have had forty years of taking working class votes on social issues and shitting all over them on economic ones. They’ve off-shored jobs and slashed wages and restructured taxes and done it all in complicity with a media which, let’s remember, are also deeply in the pocket of the “economic liberals”, a.k.a. the political right. People have seen their quality of life decrease and their children’s futures shrivel, and they’re angry.
The problem is that when the proletariat get angry, the second group they take it out on is the political and economic elite. The second group. The first group they take it out on are immigrants and other minority communities. Because the political/economic elites know they’re next on the list, it’s in their interest to make sure the proles never graduate from thuggish nationalism to outright revolution.
Thus, we get demagogues like Trump, who use nationalism as a weapon.
And the way out of Trumpdom? We’ve seen it before, and it’s harsh and its bloody.
In other words, what I’m saying?
Good luck, America. You’ll need it.
- If you’re thinking, “Gee. They sound white.” Congratulations! You’ve correctly read the foreshadowing in this plot! [↩]
- Again, if you’re thinking, “Funny. That coincides with about the time when groups like black people and women were wanting rights as well!” Then, again, congratulations on your prescience! [↩]