The narrative of what, exactly, happened to conservatives in order to inflict a President Trump upon us all is by now well-established.
Post-WWII, two factions emerged on the Right: the angry, highly negative Long Island Republicans who gave us Joe McCarthy and the John Birch Society; and the William F. Buckley wing, represented today by his National Review magazine and its competitor, the Weekly Standard. For decades, the Buckley wing was in command of the GOP, with the rageheads, racists, and conspiracy-theory cranks of what was called at various times the “paleoconservative” or “populist” Right serving as begrudging but more-or-less loyal foot soldiers — because as much as they didn’t care for Goldwater, Rockefeller, or anyone named Bush, these guys sure hated Democrats a lot more, and their votes were guaranteed every fourth November.
Sure, the populists had a few backbenchers in Congress but, especially following Pat Buchanan’s 1992 “culture war” convention speech — which will show up again here — they were kept out of the most visible leadership spots of the party. As they grew increasingly bitter towards the GOP establishment (or “GOPe” in their lingo), an alternative media universe sprang up for them — first as newsletters and primitive pre-internet computer bulletin board systems; then as talk radio and, to some extent, FoxNews (which actually tried to serve both wings of the right, until the past year or so), on to internet forums and reddit, and finally Breitbart and its many imitators.
It’s easy, and wrong, to dismiss all of these people as white supremacists or alt.right. Some are better described as “alt.light” or white “nationalist” instead. Mike Cernovich instead of Richard Spencer. I wrote more about the distinction here.
Despite the populists’ growing power and confidence, the establishment really did assume they could keep things under control under Jeb Bush, with Marco Rubio as his understudy. Queue the #TrumpTrain and, well, here we are.
This is important, because something analogous is going on with the other side.
The far Left views mainstream liberals and the Democratic establishment with the same contempt your typical Breitbart editor feels for the “GOPe.” Sure, they’ll attend the same protest marches and will reliably vote Dem, in opposition to the Republican candidate if nothing else. But for DNC leaders to just assume their support may be making the same fatal mistake of the GOPe before them.
As McCay Coppins notes at the Atlantic:
The Trump era has given rise to a vast alternative left-wing media infrastructure that operates largely out of the view of casual news consumers, but commands a massive audience and growing influence in liberal America. There are polemical podcasters and partisan click farms; wild-eyed conspiracists and cynical fabulists. Some traffic heavily in rumor and wage campaigns of misinformation; others are merely aggregators and commentators who have carved out a corner of the web for themselves. But taken together, they form a media universe where partisan hysteria is too easily stoked, and fake news can travel at the speed of light.
I remember an amazing sight from Occupy Wall Street’s brief revival in 2012. Two left-of-center protesters, sitting side-by-side, had messages for the police. One was, “I (heart) the NYPD!” The other: “FUCK THE PIGS!” I’m pretty sure only one of these two went on to fervently cheer on Hillary.
The main thing the raging left shares with the Breitbart Right: they are fueled primarily, perhaps only, by hatred of the other side.
This isn’t new. Read any communist screed written in America from the 1960s to today and you will read very little extolling the virtues of a classless society or a dictatorship of the proletariat or any other positive selling points. Rather, it is all nonstop anti-American ranting indistinguishable from the anti-American ranting of Iran’s very much non-communist leaders. A “tankie” on social media will gladly outline 50 ways why I, due to being an American citizen, am worse than Hitler; but ask them to write two sentences describing dialectical materialism, and you’ll get nothing but embarrassed silence while they hurriedly search Google.
Indeed, the quickest way to get thrown out of a communist or anarchist meeting is to say “America is not the worst country in the history of all time” — but most of the rest is negotiable. For instance, note the grouping of “communist” with “anarchist.” Why are these two wildly divergent philosophies basically interchangeable among the far left? It’s because the philosophy is subordinate to the hate, and they sure as shit are united in their hatred of Americans. Same with the various splinter factions of the alt.right uniting in their hatred of Jews and black people.
But, just as the alt.right represents only a small faction of the Breitbart Right, so do the communists and anarchists represent a small faction within the far Left. Bridging the gap are people uncannily duplicating many of their “alt.light” counterparts’ strategies. There are the conspiracy theorists like Louise Mensch, selling any batshit tall tale their fans want as the Lord’s truth — the mirror Alex Joneses. There are the monomaniacal anti-Republican websites and Facebook pages — the reverse Free Republics. There are the just-plain-cranks — Seth Abramson serving as the shadow Mike Cernovich. Then there’s cable-news host Joy Reid happily copying the cynical hucksterism of her counterparts such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.
Their enemies have noticed. As the extremism arms-race ratchets up, the Trumpist right is only too willing to crank up the heat. As per Dana Loesch’s infamous NRA tirade,
“There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself. And in that struggle for the soul of America, they are on the other side, and Donald Trump is on our side. … The mob was heading in, to ransack and loot the apartments of the terrified old men and women. When the troopers arrived, M-16s at the ready, the mob threatened and cursed, but the mob retreated. It had met the one thing that could stop it: force, rooted in justice, backed by courage.”
Oh wait, that’s actually from Pat Buchanan’s 1992 convention rant, other than an obvious edit. (Told you it was going to show up again.) Don’t forget: He had the same objective as Dana Loesch and Joy Reid, as Louise Mensch and Alex Jones, as the Antifa and the Proud Boys street brawlers: to keep Americans bitterly divided against other Americans, at least partly for his own personal power and profit.
I don’t know if a liberal Donald Trump will emerge. But with a pathetically weak and confused Democratic Establishment having no real bench from which to draw for 2020, and from the precedent that has now been set, it is hardly outside the realm of possibility that Mark Cuban, say, will turn and embrace the worst aspects of liberalism to secure the nomination — and the party.
There is a reason why the hucksters and the conspiracy theorists and even the communists might start sounding attractive these days to regular liberals. Their rage and their fantasies sound sweet when Trump’s latest barely-coherent tweetstorm is in the news again. But they do not want what’s better for regular Americans of any political stripe, including your own, no more than Hannity does. Do not buy their snake oil, or the Democratic Party will surely be left as utterly corrupted as the GOP, and with it, the remainder of the nation.
Because that’s the end game here. The dissolution of the United States of America via Article V Convention. You will be hearing more and more about this in the coming years, if the extremism just keeps going. Is that what what we really want?