Jonathan V. Last—one of the only conservatives still worth reading—took after me on Twitter the other day. Since I can’t stand Twitter, I’m replying here.
Last’s point, which is not new, is that Trump is doing terribly, so I must be terribly depressed right about now. Well, I’m not feeling tip-top, J. V.! You?
I remain amazed at this persistent misinterpretation of a simple point. The argument of my initial essay was “If X happens, Y follows, and Y will be very bad.” Since X now seems more likely than ever, of course I’m upset. Can’t anyone read?
To the rest of you, I ask: have you noticed that the sorrow-not-anger tone of most #NeverTrumpers has now been abandoned almost completely?
The pose all along had been: “I’ve always found a way to support every Republican nominee and mostly have been proud to do so, even when some of them had not been my ideal candidate and I found serious reasons for disagreement. Trump is the first one I consider beyond the pale, because of” — the reasoning varies a little. “As such, I simply cannot vote for him, and I find that to be the saddest thing ever to happen in my political life.”
Then, if the person is not an indiscriminate neoconservative warmonger who was really a liberal Democrat all along, he would continue: “I cannot stomach voting for Hillary either. I have always disagreed with her about everything, and find intolerable her record of lawlessness, corruption, and contempt for American norms.”
Rise of the Giddy-Cons
That was the pose anyway. The pose has been dropped. It’s now abundantly clear that most of Conservatism, Inc. wants Trump to lose and is giddy at the prospect. They’re dancing not just on his political grave (prematurely, and perhaps mistakenly) but on the supposed despondency of the rest of us over Trump’s presumed impending loss.
Let’s be clear what this really boils down to, in a functional sense. It means: “We’re thrilled that Trump is going to lose. And if that necessarily means a Hillary win, well, we’re fine with that, with the certainty that the country will keep moving left. We have no problem with another four or eight years of strip-mining the heartland with ‘free trade’ and giveaways to high-tech and high finance. We have no substantive objection to granting de facto or de jure amnesty to 12 million or more illegal aliens. We will present no serious opposition to allowing 1-2 million young Muslim men into the country. And when Hillary goes pedal-to-the-floor on the entire Prog-left agenda—socially, culturally, and economically—that’s OK too. We’re happy about this because it will be just desserts for all you deplorable trogs who didn’t listen to us but instead supported Trump against our orders. We’re content to hand the country to a woman and an agenda we’ve outwardly spent our whole careers opposing just so you can eat crow.”
I left out foreign policy because that’s the one escape-hatch for “conservatives”—especially neo-cons—to support Hillary for some reason other than spite. She’ll still start wars and bomb other countries because bombing people is “conservative”!
Last and all the other giddy-cons would of course deny that they harbor any such thoughts. But this is unquestionably the practical, effectual truth of their giddiness. If they genuinely oppose Hillary and her policies as they claim, then they can’t truly be excited or even complacent about her ascendency. Their joy can only be explained by some other factor. The reason I’ve offered is admittedly speculative—I’m not a mind reader—but it fits the facts and it’s one of only three I can think of.
How Bad Could It Be?
What do they expect from the outcome—the regime—they are manifestly rooting for? The second possible explanation is they must think a Hillary Clinton administration won’t be so bad—for them. Does this mean they admit, if only implicitly, that it might be bad for the rest of us?
Outwardly, of course, the pose remains: “No. It won’t be that bad. How could anyone think it will be that bad?
“Yes, we’ve been fulminating for a generation against this specific person, her specific policies, and those of her party. Did we mean it? Of course we did! So why are we acting to help her win now? What a question! We’re not doing that! We’re merely denouncing her opponent as uniquely unfit in the history of the republic. So we don’t think her policies will be that bad after all? Oh, they will be bad. But survivable. The same way that Obama and the past 100 years of Progressive liberalism have been survivable? Well, when you put it that way—yes.
“Do we think that mass amnesty and massive refugee inflows won’t tip the electorate permanently into Democratic Party’s camp? No, of course not. That’s racist! All we have to do is Refine Our Message. Bring out the “natural conservatism” of Family Values Hispanics and Religious Muslims.
“Have we noticed that, so far, this has not worked anywhere? What do you mean? Cleveland Park and the Upper East Side are working fine! These are the best places to live in the whole country! Also, in the last six months, we’ve been on panels in San Francisco, Newport Beach and that new building next to the Big Dig. Those areas all look great! So what if they are all in bright blue states. That just shows that our ideas can thrive anywhere!
“That said, it’s clear that immigration is reaching the point of diminishing returns and perhaps some curtailment is in order, if it can be done in a non-racist way, but—what? A reason to support Trump, or at least oppose Hillary? Are you crazy?”
I will spare you more of this insipid banter. I toss it out only so that you may better understand the mind of the modern “conservative.”
Conservative Inc.’s Salad Days Are Done
Personally, I think what’s coming for them will not be as rosy as they assume. At first, little will change. At first. The think-tank, think-mag archipelago will go on as before. Subscriptions may be down a bit, but the checks will still roll in. For a while.
But I suspect that over time two things will happen. First, Conservatism, Inc.’s donors will wake to the enterprise’s utter uselessness and stop, or at least begin to slow, the money flow. In the beginning, this will feel like uncomfortable belt-tightening, but survivable. No conference in Palm Beach this year, but we still have the cruise! Then as the economy continues to drag and rates, returns, and yields remain rock-bottom low, the donors will pull the plug, calculating (correctly) that they’ve wasted quite enough for zero effect. Last may be personally insulated from this, since The Weekly Standard is owned by a very deep-pocketed billionaire. But the rest of Conservatism, Inc. isn’t and I expect it to dwindle into irrelevance—not in terms of influence (that already happened) but in funding, personnel, and size.
That is, if it doesn’t simply go out of business altogether.
If I may, as an aside, respond to an anticipated objection: How can this idiot Decius say that we have no influence while at the same time accusing us of electing Hillary? To which I reply: You have as much influence as the Megaphone—the mass media and cultural elites—allow you to have. When you are committing fratricide against “your” party’s nominee, of course the Left is happy to use the Megaphone to let you amplify its message.
But the time is coming when you will no longer be so useful, which points to my second expectation. I believe Left, as it increasingly feels its oats, will openly discard the pretense that it need face any opposition. It’s already started. This will rise to a crescendo during the 2020 election, which the Left will of course win, after which it will be open-season on remaining “conservative” dissent. Audits. Investigations. Prosecutions. Regulatory dictates. Media leaks. Denunciations from the bully pulpit. SJW witch-hunts. The whole panoply of persecution tools now at their disposal, plus some they’ve yet to deploy or invent.
The only ways out from under that will be to shut up, slink off, and find other things to do—not so easy when one’s entire career has been “senior fellow” and “contributing editor.” Or else keep modifying the message in the hope that the beast will eat you last. That shouldn’t be so hard—Conservatism, Inc.’s been doing it for a couple of decades at least. But it does bring us back to the first problem. The more feckless the “opposition,” the less interest from the donors.
It’s a pickle, isn’t it?
Maybe They See What’s Coming, After All
So yes, much of this does indeed make me sad. Not the demise of Conservatism, Inc. I don’t care about that—though I would be upset if The Weekly Standard went down, so hang on to your billionaire! I’m mostly sad about what I expect will happen to the country. Last and the rest of the giddy-cons seem to be happy or at least unconcerned about what’s coming.
Which brings me to my third speculative reason as to why. Maybe it’s cover, or projection, or a coping mechanism or some-such. Maybe they do see what’s coming, at least in part, and just can’t bear to admit it because they sense how bad it will be. And so resort to public denial and ridicule of those who speak up.
Let me close with another prediction. As what I and others (Angelo Codevilla, Jared Peterson, etc.) have predicted begins to come to pass, the attacks on us from the “Right”—the ridicule, vitriol, and straw-manning—will intensify. Conservatism, Inc. is dug in too deep—having called us insane and fools and much else—to ever admit that we were right, even a little bit. It will be desperate to spin every leftocalypse calamity as no big deal, and every micro “conservative” success as clear proof that the tide has turned and victory is around the corner. Which is to say, the gulf between their rhetoric and observable reality, now merely oceanic in scale, will become galactic.
Whereas if conservatism manages to turn the ship around, win consequential elections and do things with them—enact conservative policies that make real differences in real people’s lives—I will be the first to say, “You told me so, and I was wrong.” I would be delighted to do so. But then again, I don’t want what I fear is coming.