“the GOP has embraced many policy positions—and attitudes—that have little to do with advancing human liberty. Throughout my career, conservatives and libertarians have been allies on many issues and at odds on others, but now we’re like residents of different planets.
For instance, both groups agreed on the dangers of Soviet expansion. Libertarians, however, warned that giving American security agencies too much power would undermine liberties at home. Conservatives and libertarians worked together to fight progressive assaults on property rights, but libertarians wondered why conservatives couldn’t see how the drug war undermined those goals.
Still, we had many opportunities to work together. Whereas conservatives in Europe never had a problem using big-government to achieve their ends, American conservatives were about “conserving” America’s particular traditions. Our nation’s founding fathers were classical liberals, so conservatives often defended libertarian ideals.
The Trump era solidified long-brewing changes in the conservative movement, as it moved toward a more European-style approach that wasn’t concerned about limits on government power. Trump wasn’t a political thinker, but a marketing savant who tapped into popular and often-legitimate resentments of the increasingly “woke” Left.
Republican politicians mostly stood by Trump, even as he shattered democratic norms and reshaped conservative policy prescriptions, less out of fear of Trump himself and more out of fear of the conservative grassroots voter. What does it even mean to be a conservative these days?
In 2020, the GOP dispensed with its platform and passed a resolution stating its enthusiast support for the president’s agenda. Party platforms are unenforceable, but they provide the faithful with an opportunity to create a mission statement. Apparently, being a conservative now means supporting whatever the leader happens to believe.
Such an approach is temperamentally and philosophically non-conservative, as are many of the goals of the Trumpiest wannabes. Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.), best known for giving a fist pump to MAGA protesters before some of them stormed the Capitol, recently introduced a plan to boost the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.”
“MAGA conservatives want libertarians to join their tribe, but their publications offer frequent attacks on the free market. The populist right wants to boost federal spending, impose draconian immigration controls, expand the power of police and spy agencies, step up the drug war and, well, stop when you see something of value to libertarians.
Since Reagan, conservatism has revolved around four concepts, explains Jonathan Last in The Bulwark, a right-leaning anti-Trump publication. There was “temperamental conservatism,” which worried about the consequences of progressive social engineering. There also was “foreign-affairs conservatism,” “fiscal conservatism” and “social conservatism.”
“‘Conservatism’ as it is now viewed by the majority of people who identify as conservatives—and who once believed in all or most of those four precepts—is now about one thing and one thing only: Revanchism,” Last wrote. Sure, I had to look it up, but “revanchism” means “a policy of seeking to retaliate, especially to recover lost territory.”
Yes, that “own the libs” approach has muscled out principled discussions about long-held conservative ideals and goals.”
“slow change rather than dramatic progress, a focus on prudence, trust in human liberty and variety, respect for societal norms, love of virtue, and commitment to social peace—are at odds with the nihilistic bomb throwing of a conservative populist movement that seems as radical at times as its progressive enemy.”
“So if white college-educated suburbanites really are turning to the left, why might this be?
The simplest and best explanation appears to be partisanship.
In their book Open Versus Closed: Personality, Identity, and the Politics of Redistribution, scholars Christopher Johnston, Christopher Federico, and Howard Lavine take a close look at the psychological underpinnings of people’s views on economic policy. What they find is surprising, and more than a little counterintuitive: Economic policy has become, to an extent, an annex of the partisan culture war.
Increasingly, Americans pick their party on the basis of cultural affinity: whether people like them, who share their cultural values on topics like race and immigration, are in one party or the other. This is why college graduates, who tend to be culturally progressive, are an increasingly Democratic bloc, and non-college whites, who have conservative cultural views, are increasingly voting Republican.
In contemporary America, identification with one of the two major parties is an exceptionally powerful psychological force. People who care about being a Democrat or a Republican tend to feel strong psychological pressures to adopt the entire policy slate of their party.
For this reason, Johnston and his co-authors argue that economic policy preferences flow downstream from partisan identity. Democratic partisans who are highly engaged in politics will tend to adjust their economic views leftward to fit more comfortably in the Democratic coalition, perfectly explaining the counterintuitive rise of the progressive white suburbanite.
“Individuals identify with the cultural liberalism of the Democratic party and adopt its approach to economic matters as a package deal,” they write. “Economic preferences [are] an expression of a more basic cultural division in the electorate.”
Open Versus Closed’s thesis fits in with a significant body of political science literature documenting that most ordinary citizens are only weakly attached to their policy preferences, and frequently adjust them based on cues from political elites.
And the core argument that educated voters will hold more down-the-line partisan views as polarization increases is supported by other studies.
A 2008 paper by NYU’s Delia Baldassarri and Columbia’s Andrew Gelman found that between 1972 and 2004, highly educated and politically engaged voters were much more likely than others to have consistently liberal or conservative views on all sorts of issues (social, economic, and foreign policy). A 2020 reanalysis using more recent data has found that voters have only become more ideologically aligned with their parties in the hyperpartisan 21st century — including on economic issues.
Hence “post-material materialism”: Material divides in the classic self-interested sense no longer define the contours of national American politics; people don’t vote their class. They still care about economic policy but come to their opinions for different reasons: They see them as an extension of their partisan identity and moral worldview.
This isn’t to say that white college-educated suburbanites are perfect progressive voters. At the local level, where issues feel more personal and less ideological, these voters often stand in the way of egalitarian policies. Think of the NIMBYs who oppose housing construction in their neighborhoods.
But politics is about working with the kind of supporters you have. And at the national level, the white educated suburbanites who have come over to the Democratic side in recent years are looking like solid supporters of a redistributionist party.”
“Ocasio-Cortez’s alleged “extremism” is her advocacy of a democratic socialist politics common among peer democracies; her signature policy proposal is a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent. Greene is a conspiracy theorist who has called for executing Barack Obama, claimed the Parkland school shooting was staged, and suggested a space laser controlled by wealthy Jews caused the 2018 California wildfires.
One advocates for left-wing policy ideas in good faith; the other spreads absurd, offensive, and even dangerous lies.
The most interesting part about the AOC-MTG comparisons aren’t the similarities between the two but rather the differences. That this is how “extreme” is defined with regard to each congressional delegation reveals that while one party has moved somewhat to the left in recent years, the other has flown completely off the deep end, breaking American politics in the process.
It also shows how poorly equipped some members of the media are to convey this essential fact.”
” Believers in boogaloo ideology — a focus on visible gun ownership, with some advocating for a violent civil war against the federal government — have shown up to protests in Minneapolis, Las Vegas, and other cities, sometimes wearing Hawaiian shirts (based on a movement in-joke) and carrying large guns.”
“members of the boogaloo movement are unlikely to be the majority of those arrested at either the protests or the violence. In Minneapolis, Seattle, Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta, and elsewhere, the majority of those arrested during the protests and violence haven’t been outside agitators traveling the country to start fights and cause violence. Rather, they’ve been people largely from the same places where they are arrested.”
“But here I am now, [and] it’s odd. I mean, I’m still, I can vote for centrist Democrats, but I’m too right of center. I’m definitely not progressive, but, I mean, there’s always overlap. I’ve always thought that the militarization of police has been a bad idea. The drug war has been catastrophic, as far as I can see. I think if states want to legalize [drugs], that’s up to them. I wouldn’t do it, but I’d even say psychedelics should be legal now. But it was weird because when I was at VMI, to [Republicans], I was a libertarian and then I worked with libertarians, and to them I was a statist cuck. You probably get this if you’ve been paying attention to right-wing stuff, but every libertarian agrees on two things: that there’s only one libertarian and it’s them.”
“America’s system of checks and balances requires unusual and even extraordinary levels of consensus to pass legislation. First, you need the agreement of the House, the Senate, the White House, and, increasingly, the Supreme Court.
More granularly, congressional power is diffused across committees. The Senate has built in a supermajority requirement, known as the filibuster, which effectively raises the threshold for passage from 51 votes to 60 votes.
This raises the question: If the problem is embedded in the structure of the US government, how did the US ever do anything big? The short answer is that for most of our political history, two unusual conditions held. First, the parties were ideologically mixed, which made compromise easier. Second, one party was usually electorally dominant, which gave the party in the minority a reason to compromise: If you can’t win, you may as well deal.
Both those conditions have dissolved. America’s political parties are more ideologically — and demographically — polarized than ever before. We’re also in the most competitive period American politics has ever seen. In a system like that, both sides utilize the system’s bias toward inaction to foil their opponents. You can see this in the rise of the filibuster over time. The rule has been around almost as long as America, but it’s only been deployed as an omnipresent veto in recent decades”
“The result is a system biased toward inaction.”
” This is representative democracy at its worst: A democracy that only represents those who know to show up at meetings most people never hear about, and so ends up handing power to special interests and aggrieved NIMBYs.”
“some of Andreessen’s examples really can’t be blamed on the government, at least not in a traditional sense.
America doesn’t have more ICU beds because hospitals have budgets to balance. You can’t both run a profitable hospital and maintain enough spare capacity for a once-in-a-century pandemic.
Similarly, the companies that make ventilators are private companies. They didn’t make more ventilators because there wasn’t demand for more ventilators. Same goes for surgical masks, eye shields, hospital gowns. Now, you can argue the government should’ve been stockpiling more of this stuff all along — and definitely should have been ramping up production in January and February — but a capitalist logic of efficiency prevails both inside and outside the market.
Take, for instance, the wildly successful Obama administration program to loan money to renewable energy companies that became infamous because one of those companies, Solyndra, was a bust. That program led to a slew of successes (including Tesla) and turned a profit to taxpayers. As Michael Lewis argues at length in his book The Fifth Risk, the problem, if anything, was that it was too cautious — so afraid of a Solyndra-like story that it wasn’t funding sufficiently risky investments. But they proved right to be afraid.
If even the government is forced to turn a constant profit on its programs and to avoid anything that might look like a boondoggle, you can imagine the pressure actual private companies are under.”