Two months ago I advanced the thesis that the Left (generally speaking) bred its own Nemesis, in the form of Donald Trump. Interestingly, Trump has succeeded largely for the same reason left-leaning Democrats have achieved so many of their successes, by leveraging the attention of the major media.
Of course, as is known, the political and cultural Left garners loving attention and intellectual cover from the media. Trump garnered media attention more in the way celebrity gossip and train wrecks garner attention: out of prurient interest. Trump egged on the media, and gained hatred of many, by taunting the establishment arbiters of taste. That is, more accurately, by fearlessly breaking the taboos the Left had set on political speech in America and around the world.
And many Americans ate it up. Trump’s core constituency, the “under-educated” (“I love the under-educated,” Trump said, and I am sure he meant it) amongst the GOP voters and the growing mass of independents, has been seriously mistreated by America’s liberal elites, who despise Flyover Country. And Trump gave mouth to the deepening rage against the intelligentsia and government-employee classes, and profited thereby.
And he also instantiated the proof against this class’s favorite hobbyhorse, campaign finance reform. The Left generally likes regulating campaign finance because leftists pretend that, without Big Corporate Money, there would be a more level playing field, “for the little guy.” But that is hardly the whole story. Since the Left instinctively realizes that it has the advantage, ideologically, in the marketplace of ideas, with the schools and media outlets mostly square and set in the Left’s own camp, campaign finance reform is a way for the Left to secure a raw advantage.
Donald Trump showed that anyone willing to play the media’s weakness for spectacle can get around much of the financial regs. He leveraged billions of dollars worth of attention, just by speaking out to Power. Campaign finance reform is a way for the Left to rig the system in their favor, and the Nemesis the Left bred found the Achilles Heal in this contest.
But there are other lessons to be learned. The Republican Establishment bred its Nemesis, too. As I have been writing these last few days, Trump’s appeal comes in part from his utter contempt for the “stupid people” who run the country . . . including those who run the party he contends within.
The long history of betrayal by the official GOP spokespeople of nearly everything the party stands for (except war) placed manure on the field that Trump now harvests.
By these betrayals, the Establishment Right weakened the direction and sense of purpose that the Reaganites have tried to muster, and which the Tea Party tried to re-focus more narrowly.
It is probably true that the GOP insiders never really believed in the Reaganite vision. “Limited government” has limited appeal to a major party, which lives and dies by granting special favors, by inculcating a general sense of grievance and hope for advantage. And because of this realpolitik, Republican politicians ground their gears for three decades, never really limiting government, always contributing to its growth, especially of its debt. They were all talk and no action.
The modern, Reaganite GOP has always been a lie.
And lies have consequences. People begin to figure things out. And many, many Republicans, along with a large swath of Democrats and independents, begin to look not for principled leadership, but, instead, charismatic leadership (note: it is still the case that Trump has won mostly in open primary states, and lost, generally, in closed ones, thus showing that his most important constituency is not Republican as such, but populist-independent). The Tyrant thus appears on the scene, offering vague promises of greatness, and a barely sub rosa agenda of destruction.
That destruction is not just set against the mainstream Left, but against the mainstream Right. The Republican Party itself.
The Right, too, bred its Nemesis.