Friday, April 1, 2016

Coach to Conservatives: This is a Football

Back in the day, George W. Bush campaigned for a kinder, gentler America. It reflected his own personal decency, and the need for Republicans to soften their image, carefully burnished by Democrats, as witch-hunting bigots.

Looking back, I’m not sure the tactic was such a good idea. In retrospect it looks like an act of unconditional surrender in the culture wars. It has ended up meaning that liberals and activists can call out anyone they want as racists, sexists, homophobes, and conservatives and Republicans can’t. Because racism, sexism, homophobia.

Then along comes Donald Trump with his insult politics and the whole white working class prairie catches fire. He catches the rest of the field flat-footed. The other candidates are all house-trained and know, from experience, that a wrong word can trigger a media avalanche that buries their campaign and their career.

Corporations know which way the wind is blowing; that’s why Starbucks pushes its lefty Civility campaign, and activist outlets like Color of Change are busy intimidating corporations from advertising on FoxNews or sponsoring the Republican National Convention.

It probably makes sense for Starbucks to go all lefty. After all, the coffee-house and artists and writers go together like Sartre and Beauvoir.

So how does the right fight back for the right to stand without fear and intimidation in the public square?

If you read a lefty tract like Michael Mann’s Sources of Social Power you are shown a world in which the capitalists are engaged in a class war with the proletarianized working class, and the middle class in the middle has to decide which army to join. The very heavens are politicized. In reality, most people are people and they just want to get on in the world.

John D. Rockefeller, the clerk at a commission merchant, starts a business buying and selling barrels of oil, then expands into transportation, then pipelines and railroad unit trains and refineries, and pretty soon he’s put whaling Capt. Ahab out of work and taken over the whole illuminating oil business. Did John D. Rockefeller want to take over the world with his Standard Oil in a global power play? No. He retired at about 50 and invented modern philanthropy. Did he accumulate a vast fortune and then watched it trickle down to the workers and the traditionally marginalized? No. He made a fortune because he reduced the price of illuminating oil from about 80 cents a gallon to 8 cents a gallon, and successfully “scaled up” his business to meet the extra demand he provoked by reducing prices by 90 percent.

Was this capitalist di tutti capitalisti trying to screw the working class? Was he hatching a cunning plot to seduce the middle class into supporting his designs by giving them corporate pensions? No. He was just a kid that stumbled into a way to create a safe, inexpensive illuminating oil and had the smarts and the luck to make it big. Along the way, of course, he had to learn how to play politics, because state legislators didn’t think you should get rights-of-way for pipelines from Pennsylvania oil wells to New Jersey refineries without paying $200 to Pass Go, and because farmers didn’t think that oil unit trains should get lower rates than their carloads of grain.

Corporations and capitalists, whether they like it or not, have to live in the public square and deal with governments that want to loot them and activists that want to bully them. This means that cultural leaders need to counter the leftist shame-and-blame culture with a counterforce. It is a measure of the failure of libertarians and conservatives to do this in the face of the cultural Marxist identity politics that it took a complete political neophyte like Donald Trump to cut the Gordian knot and send the lefty culture warriors scurrying to their burrows for a magical moment.

And it is completely reasonable that Trump should have excited the white working class above all others in his wrecking-crew campaign. It is the white working class that has borne the brunt of leftist identity politics in the last half century, and they have been dying from despair.

I have always felt, ever since the Reagan years, that the Reagan politics of supply-side economics and deregulation was vulnerable to a lefty counterattack because it was not based on a cultural revolution that could marginalize the leftist culture of identity and the internal colonialism of adminstrative, bureaucratic government with something that could inspire Americans, and especially young Americans to reject the shabby top-down compulsion of big government. And so it is: when auditing courses at the University of Washington in recent years I kept encountering good little girls that parroted the lefty line that politics equaled a protest march to City Hall.

What would it take to create a moral cultural movement that created a generation of good little girls that parroted the idea that freedom and responsibility were the highest and best things for a good little girl to aspire to rather than to wave a sign at a TV camera in the safe space of a community-organized rent-a-mob?

The fact is that the so-called conservative movement has failed to do that, and the Trump phenomenon has announced that fact to the world. There is a feeling that we must all start over, reciting the coach’s age-old insult to his defeated team: “This is a football.”

No comments:

Post a Comment