Reagan vs. Trump, AI, media changes, and “complete overthrow?”
Thanks for answering my questions, John! A lot of great, thoughtful points here!
I was going to email you about this, but I may as well just leave it as a comment and invite others to discuss also. While I don't agree with everything you've written here, I do with much of it. However, I see one point in particular where I differ with you:
"To begin with, I think of the Republican Party as being split between a populist and an establishment wing that have a few marginal differences in their philosophical views, but some significant differences in what they prioritize.
Although Reagan was much more ideologically principled than Trump, both of them came out of the populist wing of the Republican Party. So, while there's definitely an ideological gulf between Reagan and Trump, there was probably an even bigger one between say Reagan and W/his dad/Dole/Romney/McCain."
I strongly disagree that the Right - and by extension the GOP - are only split between 2 sides, a populist side and an establishment side, nor are these differences at all "marginal" philosophically. They are MASSIVE.
I see it more breaking down into 3 camps:
1. The "soft" "squishy" center-right which gradually shifted from corporatist "Rockefeller Republicanism" in the 1960s to corporatist neoconservatism by the 00s. This is the Bush family, the Romneys, the Kristols, Fox News, and so forth. The Bulwark today.
2. The principled "Hard" conservative mainstream which combined anti-communism, hawkish foreign policy, libertarianism, and social conservatism. Frank S. Meyer was the primary theorist who created this "conservative mainstream" ideologically, by balancing what was once called "traditionalism" (social conservatism) against what was once called "individualism" (libertarianism) and gluing them together with anti-communism. This is Buckley, National Review, Reagan, and was the primary ideology of the Right and the GOP in the 20 years following Reagan. The only high up political figure I see still adhering to it today is John Bolton. It's the Dispatch and Jonah Goldberg and David French today.
3. The authoritarian-sympathizing "Far" populist-nationalist-conspiracist right. This is the isolationist conservative movement of the 1930s and 1940s, before Buckley and anti-communism came along in the 1950s. It's the John Birch Society, whose ideology has proven way more influential and resilient than I first realized when we began collaborating over a decade ago. It's been reinvented by the antisemite Pat Buchanan as "paleo-conservatism" and the antisemite Ron Paul as "paleo-libertarianism." And now it's been reinvented into Trumpism which is largely one and the same with the pro-Putin wing of the Right.
Now, when I had my ideological shift away from the left from 2007-2010, I analyzed all this stuff really carefully for years because I realized quickly that these 3 different ideological camps had totally different philosophies and were largely only held together first by anti-communism and then by hating the Democrats more than each other. There were so many different activists and philosophers and professional ideological entrepreneurs that I realized I couldn't embrace them all, I had to pick my principles and then make my choices of who was principled and legitimate, who was just out for money and fluffing up corporations, and who was totally crazy.
I ultimately picked the hard right Reaganite libertarian-conservative hawk camp, partially because I saw counter-Jihad and counter-Islamism as a replacement for anti-communism. I had become convinced that a hawkish foreign policy to defeat America's enemies had been proven right by history and that it would still work today. I still hold those views still - I am still hawkish as hell and every bit as opposed to the antisemitic, genocidal Islamists as I've ever been. (With the small caveat that the Jihadists and Muslim Brotherhood had a terrible time in the 2010s so they're just not quite the threat they were 10-15 years ago. I'm not as worried about them overall as I used to be, though they're still a threat, especially Iran, which I regard as equivalent to Nazi Germany.)
But at this point Reagan and Buckley are dead and many people like you have made the same analytical error which you articulate here:
"Let me also add that as much as I loved Reagan, I have long thought the Republican Party needed to move past his agenda. The reason being the world isn't the same as it was in 1980. There are new challenges, new realities, and one of Reagan's biggest issues was defeating the Soviet Union, which he succeeded at."
I do think the world is largely the same as in 1980. (And not even all that different from how it was 500 years ago or in Biblical times!) Know why? There are still tons of evil, godless, authoritarian slave states all over the planet which threaten free peoples and free states. And Russia is still one of them. Here's another thing I learned in my pawing through various right-wing philosophical books and histories: Russia itself was always the problem, not just the USSR and Communism. Russia was a terrible, evil country both BEFORE the Soviets took it over, and AFTER the Soviets took over. That sad, frozen wasteland has never valued freedom like we Americans do. It has always been essentially a depressing, alcoholic slave state ruled by a czar with an iron-fist. And it still is today. Putin has oppressed his people for decades and now is committing genocidal war crimes in Ukraine. And so many Americans just don't care. They think the world stops at the US's borders and we shouldn't be concerned with anything but our country's own domestic affairs.
And Putin's not the only authoritarian threat at all. There are still Iran, North Korea, and China to name a few others. Hawkish Reaganite foreign policy which doesn't tolerate authoritarian bastards waging imperial wars of conquest wasn't something that became obsolete once the Cold War was one. It is a perennial philosophy, time-tested by history. We needed it before World War II and we need it still today. This approach to the world was relevant in Moses' time and in the medieval era too. It always is relevant because the evil and cruelty of human nature remains entirely consistent throughout our species' history.
But alas, the polls are more than clear: the #AlwaysTrump populist-nationalist-conspiracist ideological tradition has come now to dominate the whole Right and has taken over the GOP as well as virtually all of right-wing media. I blame social media and the internet more broadly for it. It used to be that these sorts of voices were confined to tiny, obscure little magazines and newsletters at best. Nowadays they've had nearly 30 years of having an equal seat at the table with everyone else. And because of the nature of their narratives, the algorithms of social media are biased in their favor since social media favors emotionalism, provocation, over-the-top rumors, and trivial gossip, etc.
OK, I should probably stop my ranting and just make my own post elaborating on these points. You're smart, you get the picture I'm painting here. Perhaps this puts into more context why I no longer regarding myself as really a right-winger anymore and have shifted more toward focusing on Zionism, an ideology which the mainstreams of both parties embrace. It's only on both the Far Right and the Far Left where you find people crazy and hateful enough to be anti-Israel.
OK, enough ranting from me. Good post.
Thank you for patiently answering my question. I enjoyed reading your answers to all the other questions a lot and would like a monthly Ask Me Anything post.