Libertarian Party May 7 2016

Libertarian Party Meeting

May 7, 2016

Providence Square Grill

Donald Trump and Realignment of the GOP

The election of a “celebrity” as President of the United States has made a dangerous world even more dangerous. But, that danger is not limited solely to the pursuit of their nation’s interests by Putin’s Russian kleptocracy, President Xi Jinping’s totalitarian Peoples Republic of China, nor the radical Islamic regime in Tehran.

A far greater danger is domestic: the corruption of the intellect culture of America by revolutionary ideologies.

To examine the character of that intellectual corruption we must visit the ideas that shaped revolutionary France in the 18th century and 19th century Germany where German idealism was fashioned into what political theorists call “political religion.” 

The ideology of the French philosophes isdistinguishable from the ancient philosophers by their rejection of traditional order. The founders of German “Idealist humanism” rejected man’s humanity by asserting that man is divine. Collectively they contributed to the madness and bloodshed that shaped the 20th century.

The French philosophes infused the French Revolution and the killing fields of 18th century France with esprit revolutionaire, the spirit of revolution. That spirit is key to understanding Tocqueville’s search for understanding the stability of American democracy in Democracy in America.

In order to get a fuller sense of what Tocqueville meant, we must begin by taking a look at what he called “a new kind of religion,” or what Destutt De Tracy and Napoleon Bonaparte called “ideology.” [1]

Barry Cooper, a University of Calgary political theorist, explains that if it is the law of nature and human progress to eliminate prejudice and everything that is harmful, nature and history require that ever new prejudices and things that are harmful be disposed of.[2]

Referring to Hannah Arendt, Cooper explains that ideologies are “isms” that “to the satisfaction of their adherents can explain everything and every occurrence by deducing it from a single presence.” [3]

Ideology is a replacement or counter to reality because there is no reality to which the “idea” of ideology refers. Ideology does not refer to anything real.

The concept ideology, therefore, must be understood as “the logic of an idea” that somehow, by an act of human imagination, gets applied to historical events.

The French “ideologues” rejected reality as it is given in existence and thus we see in them esprit revolutionaire that had very grave consequences.

The Coming Realignment, Part Two

We struggle to find adjectives to explain the 2016 Presidential election, but “watershed” comes to mind.

A “watershed” is “a crucial dividing point,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary that has been operating since 1828.

That election split the Republican Party into two parts, the Establishment branch and a Nationalist branch.

The GOP Establishment can be described as “internationalist” in foreign policy, pro-business defined as “big” or corporate business, and “Liberal” in political philosophy. There are no “Tea Party” leaders in the GOP Establishment and none that are inspired by social or religious concerns.

A “Nationalist” faction, guided by a media entrepreneur, Steve Bannon, and led by a real estate investor from New York, Donald Trump, secured the GOP nomination for President of the United states and against all odds defeated the Democrat candidate, Hillary Clinton.

One of my colleagues describes this as a “rescue” of the conservative movement from its capture by the Establishment. That claim requires a bit of explaining since the modern conservative movement reveals three historical moments: the revolt of Western states against the Eastern Establishment in 1964, Ronald Reagan’s successful struggle to become President in the 1980 election, and the 1994 takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives led by Georgia Congressman, Newt Gingrich.

That was the political side of the conservative “movement.”  But movements are Leftist events driven by ideology or political religion and what occurred in 1964, 1980 and 1994 was not a movement. It was a gathering up of a community of political, economic and social “conservatives” who believed that it was now time to put America first.

The history of that uprising has been recorded by Dr. Lee Edwards in A Brief History of the Modern American Conservative Movement published by the Heritage Foundation in 2004. There are some great names in that history including Calvin Coolidge, Westbrook Pegler, Bob Taft, Bill Buckley, Friedrich Hayek, Whitaker Chambers, Barry Goldwater, Richard Weaver, Russell Kirk and Ronald Reagan.

The names of George Herbert Walker Bush and George W. Bush are not included in that history and the reason we face a realignment of the American political party system today is because Reagan’s successors were not political conservatives and because President George W. Bush destroyed the Republican “brand.”

That permitted a committed revolutionary socialist, Barack Obama, to secure election as President of the United States, not once, but twice, and gave Donald Trump the opportunity to step in and engage in a hostile takeover of the GOP.

Against Trump stands most of corporate America, all print and electronic media, organized religion, and the American system of higher education.

Since the French revolution when a revolutionary ideology that Alexis de Tocqueville called “esprit revolutionnaire” destroyed the ancient regime in France and attempted to control not only Western Europe, but the entire world, politics in the West is a confrontation between revolutionary ideology and traditional order.

What Donald Trump demonstrated in 2016 is that there is still an order, traditional in nature, rooted in love of country and its institutions, particularly the Constitution of the United States. Remnants of the historical conservative “movement” can be found in every state in the Union, and in voluntary organizations that heal the sick, feed the poor, and instruct the young. A vast “citizens” media has arisen to combat the Left in including Talk Radio, print journalism and electronic, Web-based media. An Australian, Rupert Murdoch introduced advocacy journalism and created Fox News, and a handful of conservative and Christian leaders have attempted to establish a presence in higher education to counter the Left University that dominates higher education. Jerry Falwell (Liberty University), Pat Robertson (Regent University), the Presbyterian Grove City College, the conservative Hillsdale College and the Catholic Thomas Aquinas College are just a few of dozens of colleges and universities fighting the Left’s control of the minds of college youth. Others have succeeded in establishing Charter Schools and advocating the use of “vouchers” that enable children of every social class to escape the American system of public schools.

My friends ask, “Can Bannon and Trump transform the GOP so it can keep its congressional majorities in 2018 and the White House in 2020?” Much will depend on what exactly Donald Trump believes and what motivates Steve Bannon. Those are open questions. Trump is not a political conservative nor is Steve Bannon, but they are better than anything the Left has to offer.

What enabled Donald Trump to be elected in 2016 will not decide the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election. And whether he will be challenged by indictments for illegal activities during and immediately after the 2016 election is an important, unanswered, question. But, it seems clear, if there is still a conservative movement that believes in traditional order, the leadership must organize itself. My suggestion is and has been formation of a national Conservative Party.

The Coming Realignment, Part 3

In American politics, Trump is unique, but if we look to England of forty years ago, we’ll find someone very much like “The Donald.”

In the mid-1960s, a British member of Parliament, Enoch Powell, commanded the attention of the British public by his stance against immigration and the British Labor Party’s Race Relations Bill.

Collapse of Britain’s empire after World War II generated a flood of immigrants from British India and other Dominions that threatened the racial makeup of England.

By the late 1960s, Indian Sikh’s were visible on British transit as bus drivers and Council Housing that had served a largely white British working class was roiled by the admission of non-white immigrants from the Dominions.

Enoch Powell’s stand against immigration attracted the support of British workers who had never supported Conservative politicians but felt threatened by the influx of immigrants.

When the Conservative Party won the 1970 general election, Powell’s supporters claimed that Powell’s stance on immigration guaranteed the Conservative victory.

Powell, unlike Trump, was an academic, a classicist and student of philosophy who early in his career was fascinated with the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.

Will to power is a strong impulse in all politicians, but Powell’s identification with Nietzsche went beyond the pale of English politics and raised concerns that Powell had not learned lessons from Britain’s battle with Nazi Germany.

Opponents of Trump express concern about his frequent verbal slights against women (the weaker sex), his failure to search for specialists in public policy who might inform and enrich his views, his self-confidence and absolute belief in his own intuition and judgment.

Those characteristics are compatible with Nietzsche’s concept of the Superman or Übermensch.

Trump’s appeal to strength against weakness is not necessarily Nietzchean, but

we should not be surprised, therefore, that a businessman, seemingly unprepared for public office, has found approval with Republicans after sixteen years of expansionist American foreign policies, exponential increases in the federal debt, expansion of government programs and destruction of the Republican brand by big-spenders from Kennebunkport. 

Though Trump has rejected the democratic religion that motivated the expansionist foreign policy decisions of George W. Bush, politicians motivated in the belief of their own superiority are not likely to retreat from using force in any confrontation with Iran, the People’s Republic of China or Putin’s authoritarian regime in Russia.

[1] See Gerhart Niemeyer, Between Nothingness and Paradise that contains a rigorous analysis of an ideological style that Niemeyer call the “total critique of reality.”  

[2] Barry Cooper, New Political Religions or An Analysis of Modern Terrorism (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2004), p. 12.

[3] Ibid., p. 13.