Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Don't count the Republican party out

It is, of course, slightly encouraging to note that conservative intellectuals are (all too slowly) becoming disenchanted with the Republican party. But don't count the Republican party out quite yet.

I was young during Watergate, but I remember: a president forced to resign, many of his closest advisers tried, convicted and jailed, the Republican party in disgrace. Four years later, Ronald Reagan is president and G. Gordon Libby soon has his own radio show. I was a little older after Reagan & Bush pere: a half-trillion bailout of the Savings and Loans, contempt of Congress and outright treason. Eight years later, Bush fils is president and every obvious failure and excess of the Reagan administration is not only repeated but expanded by an order of magnitude.

The Republican party is taking the exactly correct strategy: temporarily give up the intellectuals and protect the base. Revolutions — including the American Revolution — have been won outright with the enthusiastic support of only 20-30% of the population. Intellectuals are whores: they'll come up with reasons to support whoever takes political power. If and when the Republican party uses their solid base to regain political power, the intellectuals will quickly fall into line.

(It was misguided of the Russian and Chinese revolutions to directly attack the privilege of the intelligentsia. Just because they're whores doesn't mean they're not powerful. Intellectuals do not need to be persuaded or coerced. They can be bought off — cheaply — and will then enthusiastically support and defend any cause, even one as retarded as the far-right neoconservative agenda.)

There are two issues that leave me unimpressed by conservative intellectual "apostasy". First, they are not correctly identifying conservative ideology as foundational to Republican excesses. The theme, rather, is that the Republicans have somehow become "unconservative". Second, the liberal bourgeoisie has not itself created a coherent unifying narrative to capture their own intellectuals: the liberal intelligentsia is all over the map. Thus the conservative intellectuals disenchanted with the logical consequences of their ideology have no ship to jump to.

(Of course the real problem is not the moral and practical failure of conservative capitalism, but of capitalism in general, conservative and liberal. But that's an issue for another post.)

There's simply no reason for history not to repeat itself: a (more or less) liberal Democratic president, taking office with high hopes but without a coherent unifying intellectual narrative ("hope and change" is a slogan, not a narrative), later dashed to pieces by its own inevitable mistakes and compromises.


  1. Dude, why you gotta be such a fucking downer? I was all in a good mood what with Specter deserting the sinking ship, and you go and post this maudlin crap?


  2. Well for starters, the American Revolution was lead by the intelligentsia, was it not? And the revival of the Republican party came from exploiting the religious nutters, which they absorbed a horde of via the Dixiecrats leaving the Democratic party because Johnson's liberal policies upset their delicate, religiously inspired hate-filled sensibilities. Now those nutters effectively control the party.

    I'm sorry, but I don't see your bleak future. What I see is the very real potential of having the Republican party splinter into 2 to 3 separate parties, with one of them becoming the Christian party.

  3. Well for starters, the American Revolution was lead by the intelligentsia, was it not?It was indeed. My point, though, is just that a committed minority can pull off a successful revolution.

    The Republican party, when it's in power, is very skilled at courting and supporting what passes for their own intelligentsia. The Democratic party, not so much.

    Obama is going to make mistakes and compromises. The problem is that the Democratic party has not been and has not begun to nurture their own intellectual school to justify and excuse those mistakes and compromises. The conservative intellectuals have deserted only the party, not the fundamental principles the party is based on. A few years out of power and they will forget the consequences of those principles.

    Of course I might be wrong: One can only speculate.

  4. My point also is that you don't win over the intelligentsia by being right, and you don't lose them by being wrong. You win them by a) being powerful and b) courting, flattering and buying them off with minor privileges.

    The mistake the communists made was their open hostility to the intelligentsia. The Democrats are neither being powerful nor using their power to court the intelligentsia. Their mistakes will thus be magnified.

  5. Dude, why you gotta be such a fucking downer? I'm a revolutionary communist. It's not like I'm actively searching for reasons to be optimistic about liberal capitalism.


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