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Nationalism Triumphs Tonight; Quo Vadis Conservatism?

I was always taught that philosophy follows cultural shifts.  Descartes’ cogito embodied the Enlightenment.  Kantian idealism presaged the modern industrial era.  Nietzschean postmodernism and the triumph of the will presaging the rise of political religions.

Heidegger and authenticity…

Tonight, the American people transitioned.  The endurance of human will and life, that one could bend reality to personal demands?  The Nietzschean emphasis on “hope and change” has now been replaced with a demand for authenticity — and that nemesis for the Obama era has arrived in the personality of Donald J. Trump.

Since July, I have been promoting a prediction matrix on social media [1], one that successfully predicted the path of the election:


(1) Hillary’s numbers will recover this week (July).
(2) Trump’s numbers will bounce about 5pts in the RNC convention afterglow.
(3) Trump’s numbers will settle out.
(4) DNC does their Roman triumph; Hillary sees a 5pt lift.
(5) Press declares the election over.
(6) Hillary’s numbers settle back out in September.
(7) Trump campaign will claim to be “closing the gap”
(8) By mid-October, Hillary will still have a 5-7pt lead.
(9) America loves an underdog…
(10) Trump will narrow the gap.
(11) Denouement.
(12) FIN.

On Monday, I made a prediction that Trump would indeed win the election with a margin of 270 to 268, musing on the idea that Trump might possibly win Pennsylvania before Michigan.  Certainly, no one saw Trump winning Wisconsin…

…and yet tonight, he is going to win all three with an electoral college lead of 306.

As of right this writing, John Podesta has refused to concede the election for Hillary Clinton.  That is perhaps the wrong move.  Just as Trump was pressured to accept the outcome of the election, so too should Clinton.

The concern here is twofold.

First, the conservative movement is perhaps at its lowest ebb since the Nixon era.  McCain’s 2008 effort generated a very similar number of votes as Hillary’s 2016 effort — and yet Hillary still won Virginia, suggesting a depressed GOP turnout in the Old Dominion and a failure of the logistical train within the party.  The populist/nationalist movement has effectively eclipsed the conservative movement in a manner very similar to the way the progressives eclipsed the liberals in 2008 — and for defenders of freedom, this is a concern that cannot be ignored.

Second, the nationalist realignment that has just occurred is something that will take months to sort out.  Rockefeller Republicans are back in a big way.  The Reagan Democrat is back in the GOP fold, having smashed through the “big blue wall” in places such as Pennsylvania and Michigan.  Nationalism is now a permanent feature of the American political framework.  These are features that cannot be ignored in an economy where creative destruction has proven to be far more destructive than creative.

Yet as of right now, Speaker Paul Ryan will remain firmly in charge of the House Republicans, and a Senate Republican leadership more firmly in place than before.  In fact, not only does Trump walk into the White House with a clear, unambiguous mandate — he walks into a Congress more firmly held by Republicans than what George W. Bush had in 2000.  What’s more, the Obama legacy is now in tatters… there is nothing left.  The brief moment of progressives in political power has ended (at least for the moment).

The opportunities to roll back Obamacare, enact pro-life legislation, offer a strong and serious replacement to the late Justice Scalia, a repeal of the Johnson Amendment, and rolling back the bevy of Obama-era executive orders are all on the table — should Trump keep his word.

Yet the qualities of the nationalist movement are also on demand: trade wars with China and Mexico, the immigration deportation force, a ban on the immigration of Muslims to America, a more protectionist economic stance and a more bellicose foreign policy stance — these too are all on the table.

What interests me here is this transition — and yes, the opportunities for realignment — away from this will to power and more towards the politics of authenticity.  Much of what predicated the rise of nationalism and Trump’s election to the White House was a rejection of the progressive effort to radically transform America.  If politics follows culture, and culture follows identity… then that tribal identity — a term that has gained currency in recent years [2] — that turn to authenticity, is the turn away from the postmodern.

Whether Ryan can keep the flame of human freedom alive in such an environment remains to be seen.  Trump will have to work with Ryan in order to pass whatever overlaps between the conservative and nationalist wings of the Republican Party.  The Senate Republicans are poised to appoint conservative federal judges.  This new White House will be filled with true believers who know that the first 100 days will be critical — and the space where the most can be done to unwind the Obama/Bush era.

If someone wanted to reach for something simple yet profound here?  Authenticity triumphed over change.

Where that leads America?  I don’t know.

Conservatism’s rise and fall has been predicated before.  Previously the challenge had come from the pragmatic center; rarely has it come from the right.  What I fear — and I will say this clearly as someone who did not support Trump’s candidacy and still holds tremendous and very serious reservations about the future of the movement he represents — is that the 2018 midterms will prove to be a clarifying effort… one that sees a resurgent progressive wing of the Democratic Party take out conservative leaders much in the same way as Republicans began knocking off conservative Democrats in the Clinton era, thus pushing the political parties further and further away and making conversation — and politics — less possible, more imposing, more radical (radix) in its approach.

…but the conservative movement has some soul searching to do.  The party of Ronald Reagan is gone; the party of Donald Trump is the Republican Party today.  One still believes that conservatism has something unique and optimistic to offer, one that defend human freedom and believes in the principles of free minds, free speech, and a free society.  Whether those gifts will be well received by the nationalist movement (or even recognized as gifts) remains to be seen.