Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

It’s true that on some of the most pressing of issues—immigration, trade, and foreign policy—Donald Trump’s “America First” positions are more align with traditional conservatism than are those of any other candidate. That is, they clash with the neoconservatism, the faux “conservatism,” that the GOP Establishment and its media apologists have promoted for decades as the genuine article.

Yet this being said, in Trump’s nearly 70 years, until very recently, he has done little to nothing to indicate that he has so much as an awareness of the classical conservative tradition, much less a commitment to it. Even if he really believes all that he is now saying, the inability of one person, even if he is the President, to accomplish what Trump vows to achieve supplies grounds for skepticism.

Nor is the Supreme Court, as so many Republicans would have us think, necessarily a sufficient reason to vote for Trump. Republicans play the Democrats’ game when they attempt to scare voters into thinking that, unless the latter reward them with political offices, the opposition party, by way of its Supreme Court Justice nominees, will deprive them of their guns, speech, borders, etc. However, Article Three, Section II of the US Constitution explicitly states that “the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make” (emphasis added).

In short, Republicans could’ve ended years ago judicial tyranny by simply exercising their Congressional authority to determine which topics would fall within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

Had Republicans done so, however, they would’ve imperiled their political fortunes. Thus, in this era of Big Government, “Constitutional conservatives” (and Trump as well) drone on as if the Constitution doesn’t permit the people’s elected representatives to prohibit nine lawyers from running roughshod over the rights of the citizenry.

The final reason that’s given for supporting Trump, that it’s necessary in order to defeat Hillary Clinton, fares no better than the preceding two.

If the choice between Trump and Clinton really is, or is plausibly perceived to be, a choice between two evils, then the only conscionable course of action is to abstain from voting for either: As Saint Paul says, we must never do evil so that good may come from it. Or, wishing to refrain from using the language of evil, we instead regard one as being “not as bad” as the other, the question then arises as to what this can mean? It’s conceivable that a candidate who is worse in the short-term may prove to be better, for one’s party and one’s nation, in the long-term. Or perhaps the differences between the two candidates simply aren’t sufficiently substantial to justify a vote for one over the other.

I believe that Trump qua the man is not as bad as Clinton. I also believe the same about many other Republicans—and Democrats, and third party candidates—who I wouldn’t vote for on this account.

There is one decisive reason for conservatives and libertarians to vote for Trump, but it has more to do with the Trump candidacy, or what Ilana Mercer calls “the Trump process,” than Trump the person.

For decades, there has been a virtual consensus across the political spectrum that “Washington,” or “the System,” is “broken.” At any rate, that Americans share this intuition explains why those politicians running for office every election cycle repeatedly assure us that they are the candidates to “fix” the mess—even though they never do anything but further grease the wheels of the Government-Media apparatus.

Trump, in stark contrast, and in as little as 14 or so months, has ripped the System asunder. He hasn’t just talked about the cancer. He has vindicated in spades the suspicions of citizens by revealing just how advanced it is. Beyond this, Trump, through his “creative destruction,” as Ilana Mercer describes the Trump phenomenon in her latest book, has spared no occasion to administer heavy-duty blasts of chemo. Whether he recognizes it or not, Trump seems to instinctively know that before the patient can get better, he must get worse. He seems to know that the treatment is sometimes worse than the illness.

Notice, I’m not backing Trump because of what he promises to do in the future. I’m backing him because of what he’s done already. Trump has been a one-man wrecking crew, shattering the sacred cows of both the Democrat and Republican wings of the Establishment. He has driven those in the “mainstream” media to relinquish the remaining vestiges of their authority by abandoning so much as the pretense of “objectivity” in their coverage of him even as he has unveiled the hypocrisy, opportunism, and pseudo-conservatism of their counterparts in the “conservative” media.

If things are ever to change for the better, this shaking up is necessary. There is another respect in which Trump is carving the time continuum of our political universe into two epochs, B.T. (Before Trump) and A.T. (After Trump):

In serving as the voice of tens of millions of previously voiceless Americans—the early 20th century political theorist William Graham Sumner referred to them (collectively) as “the Forgotten Man”—the very person of this unapologetically wealthy, white, heterosexual man symbolizes at once a resounding repudiation of the Politically Correct Zeitgeist propping up the Establishment and a profound psychological victory for millions over the cultural powers that have demonized them for far too long.

Whether he wins or loses in November, Trump has already won, for he’s succeeded in emboldening scores of Americans who would have otherwise remained disengaged, Americans who will not go quietly away or back to voting for Bushes, Kasichs, and Romneys. He has made it acceptable, indeed, necessary, to talk aloud about issues that had long been neglected by partisans of both parties.

Trump is no traditional conservative. He’s no libertarian. Yet he has taken a crucial first step, a step that no one else had proven willing to take.

And for this, he has got my vote.

What exactly is a “NeverTrumper?”

Not everyone who opposes Donald Trump’s candidacy is a NeverTrumper.

A NeverTrumper, first of all, must be a Republican. Secondly, he or she must oppose Trump.

For example, “libertarians” like Ron Paul refuse to endorse Trump, but this is only because they refuse to endorse any candidate who they believe will further the cause of Big Government—and Trump they believe, quite implausibly, will further this cause.

NeverTrumpers, in contrast, are Republicans who self-identify, not as libertarian, but as “conservative.” They too claim to resist Trump because of the threat that he allegedly poses to “limited government,” the Constitution, and all things “conservative.”

Tellingly, they loathe “libertarians” like Ron Paul at least as much as they loathe Trump. These Chicken Littles who now scream about the death of constitutional government in the event of a Trump presidency not only didn’t back Paul when he ran as a Republican for their party’s nomination in 2008 and 2012; they oscillated between treating him as a non-entity and demonizing him as a nut and worse.

Moreover, NeverTrumpers who wail about the destruction that Trump promises to visit upon “conservatism” and “limited government” and who insist that he is a fake are the same scribblers and chatterers who have resoundingly endorsed George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney—proponents of Limitless Government all of them. This brings us to our next point:

While liberty-lovers like Paul refuse to endorse Trump, NeverTrumpers are anti-Trump. While folks like Paul are anti-Big Government, NeverTrumpers are anti-Trump. The latter exhibit infinitely more passion and commitment to stopping Trump than they’ve ever shown with respect to stopping either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. In fact, it is not a stretch to describe their attitude toward Trump as obsessive, even fanatical, for they not only want for him to lose; they want for him to lose in a landslide.

Most disturbingly, NeverTrumpers seek the total humiliation of Trump and all of the Republicans, both old and new, who support him in unprecedented numbers.

Why?

I think that there are two reasons for this, one political, the other personal—very, very personal.

Politically speaking, Trump’s positions on such big topics as immigration, trade, and foreign policy clash in important respects with those taken by NeverTrumpers. It isn’t, though, that they clash with conservatism. Though they won’t tell you this, though they will have you think otherwise, the problem, as far as NeverTrumpers are concerned, is that Trump’s views on these matters clash with their neoconservatism.

And, as has been often pointed out by students of the conservative intellectual tradition in Europe and America, not only is neoconservatism not a species of conservatism; in many critical respects, it is essentially of a piece with the leftist progressivism that it purports to resist—even if it is a more moderate leftism.

This is correct: NeverTrumpers are not genuinely conservative.

Of course, that they aren’t conservative doesn’t imply that Trump is. He is not. But those of his positions that really seem to elicit the ire of neocon NeverTrumpers approximate much more closely the perspective of an older American right than anything that the NeverTrumpers have ever offered in the name of “conservatism.”

It is at this point that the political and the personal intersect.

Trump has exposed neoconservatism for the faux conservatism that it has always been. In the process, he has exposed them as the frauds that they have always been. The neocon brand and its advertisers have been severely damaged (whether they have been irrevocably damaged is another question).

Yet Trump has continually left neocon politicians and their media apologists with eggs on their faces:

In a 17 person GOP presidential contest, Trump came from nowhere to crush the best, brightest, and most skilled that the party had to offer—all the while drawing in record numbers of primary voters. From the moment that he entered the race throughout the better part of the year, those who for decades had been regarded as “conservative movement” oracles and gurus, writers and talking heads on television and radio, repeatedly assured us that Trump’s demise was imminent, even as he just as often proved them wrong—spectacularly, epically wrong.

Trump further reinforced the impression of incompetence and dishonesty on the part of neoconservatives when he expressly, unabashedly called out their Iraq War for the catastrophic failure that time has shown it to be. He went beyond this, however, to name names and specifically charge “conservative” President George W. Bush and his administration with having lied in order to drag America overseas.

And Trump did all of this in the midst of a primary debate in, of all places, South Carolina, a state in which Bush continued to enjoy considerable popularity and whose most well-known elected representatives openly endorsed Marco Rubio.

Still, Trump prevailed with ease in the Palmetto State.

While they make effort after effort to shame Trump, Trump’s record of successes has continually shamed the NeverTrumpers. He has put their very integrity, to say nothing of relevance, into radical question. Thus, his neocon critics are aching for him to lose royally in November so that they can have the satisfaction, at long last, of saying, after nearly 18 months of being wrong, that they were right.

Of course, even if Trump loses, only arrogance that is as invincible as the ignorance that they have shown up to this point could permit them to claim that they knew he would lose.

But such is the frame of the mind of a neocon NeverTrumper.

‘Tis the season for pollsters.

As pollsters ad nauseum bombard us between now and November with a dizzying array of ever-fluctuating numbers, voters would be well-served to bear in mind that for all of their idealistic Democracy talk of “the will of the voter,” they know that the latter exists only as an object to be manipulated.

The 20th century English conservative philosopher Michael Oakeshott put the epistemological point well when he noted that what we see depends upon how we look. You can take it to the bank that those in the media treat this proposition just as axiomatically as did Oakeshott.

And polling “data” is one especially effective device by which they seek to shape—not inform—their audiences’ perspective.

The pollster has occupied in politics a place equivalent in importance to that which the priest has traditionally occupied in the Catholic Church: Just as the priest has been regarded as speaking infallibly when speaking about certain matters pertaining to the faith, so too has the pollster been regarded similarly when he speaks to political matters. The pollster can also exploit the contemporary mystique revolving around “science” through his numbers-crunching—even if it is only “social science.”

Joseph A. Schumpeter was an early 20th century political theorist who exposed long ago the metaphysical fiction of the rational voter presupposed by “the classical doctrine of democracy.” This fiction remains very much in play today—as evidenced by the use of polling data and the like.

To put the point another way, Schumpeter argued convincingly that media partisans manipulate voters.

The ideal of democracy ascribes to “the will of the individual an independence and a rational quality that are altogether unrealistic.” The reality is that the voter’s will is “an indeterminate bundle of vague impulses loosely playing about given slogans and mistaken impressions.” Such an entity cannot “observe and interpret correctly the facts that are directly accessible to everyone and…sift critically the information about the facts that are not.”

This being so, it follows that, standard clichés aside, “the will of the citizen per se” is not “entitled to respect,” for only if “everyone would…know definitely what he wants to stand for” would such respect be warranted.

Yet this is most certainly not the case.

If the voter’s will was something determinate, then its assessment of facts, “according to the rules of logical inference,” should permit each person to render “a clear and prompt conclusion as to particular issues,” a conclusion of such “a high degree of general efficiency” that “one man’s opinion could be held…to be roughly as good as every other man’s.”

Moreover, this reasoning would have to transpire “independently of pressure groups and propaganda, for volitions and inferences that are imposed upon the electorate obviously do not qualify for ultimate data of the democratic process.”

Schumpeter observes that “the popular will” is “manufactured” in “exactly” the same ways in which the consumer’s will is manufactured via “commercial advertising.” He notes that we “find the same attempts to contact the subconscious,” “the same technique of creating favorable and unfavorable associations which are more effective the less rational they are.” The popular will is manufactured by way of “the same evasions and reticences and the same trick of producing opinion by reiterated assertion that is successful precisely to the extent to which it avoids rational argument and the danger of awakening the critical faculties of the people.”

To repeat: The voter’s will “is largely not a genuine but a manufactured will.”

Schumpeter’s point is not that the voter is irrational in all areas of his life. Quite the contrary, for regarding those decisions in everyday life whose effects on him are immediately felt, he can usually be counted on to act rationally. But “when we move…farther away from the private concerns of the family and the business office” and toward, say, the domain of a presidential election, “individual volition, command of facts and method of inference” subside.

To put it more brusquely, “the typical citizen drops down to a lower level of mental performance as soon as he enters the political field.” That is, he “argues and analyzes in a way which he would readily recognize as infantile within the sphere of his real interests. He becomes a primitive again. His thinking becomes associative and affective.”

Along with ads, commentary, and, yes, “journalism,” polls are designed to “manufacture,” not reflect, the will of the voter.

 

 

 

 

 

During a heated exchange on my Facebook wall, a “friend”—I’ll call him “DB”—remarked that while I was “cool,” the rest of those posting on my thread, including family members of mine, were “faggots.”

As soon as I realized what he had said, I deleted him from my friends’ list.

Soon thereafter, evidently unaware that I unfriended this person, another friend of mine—someone who I do indeed know personally and who I’ll call “Ted”—contacted me privately to share his judgment that the use of the word “faggot” on the part of the offending individual was “problematic.”

In other words, Ted was upset primarily because of the specific insult that DB used as a conversation-spoiler. That DB spoiled the conversation by way of gratuitously insulting others was of secondary importance.

According to Ted, unlike any number of other nasty pejoratives, “faggot” has “a toxic past.”

Admittedly, the idea that a word has a “toxic” history is, at best, a vague one. I suspect that what Ted’s driving at is something like this: To use “faggot,” at least in the sense in which DB used it, is “careless and callous” because it perpetuates “intolerance” of “homosexuals.”

Where to begin?

First, while it is undeniably true that, for much, though not all, of its history, the word “faggot” has been used as an epithet to describe homosexuals, it has usually referred to homosexual men.

DB referred to “men and women” on my wall as “faggots.” These are, importantly, men and women about whose sexual orientation he knows nothing.

Second, “faggot” can and has also been used pejoratively to reference a “repellent,” but heterosexual, male.

Third, “faggot” needn’t be construed as a pejorative at all and, in fact, is “sometimes used within the gay community as a positive term of self-reference.”

Fourth and, most importantly, “faggot,” not unlike language generally—as, ironically, Ted himself unfailingly insists in our many conversations—has continued to evolve in its long trajectory from its sexually-neutral etymological origins. Interestingly, for an increasing number of people, particularly the young, “faggot” is evolving once more away from the sexual connotations that it’s acquired to mean something like “idiot.”

According to UrbanDictionary.com, “faggot” is no longer used to refer to a homosexual, but is instead a synonym of sorts for “stupid” and “loser.” Below is the example that is given:

Ralph: Chris hasn’t been answering his phone.

John: Yeah, he is probably hanging out with those other kids, that’s why.

Ralph: He is such a faggot.

John: Yeah, him and his faggot friends.

Given the context, it is unquestionably the case that DB used “faggot” in this last sense. That this way of speaking is indeed callous and crass, to say nothing of sophomoric, is not in dispute. Nor is there any denying that it can be offensive to homosexuals (and others).

However, the point is that Ted seems to assume that the word “faggot” has a life—a static life—of its own, that it must be offensive whenever it’s used—even when it’s used toward heterosexual men and women, or even when employed within the context of friendships such as that which “John” and “Ralph” have with “Chris” in the foregoing illustration.

The word, while it certainly remains a pejorative for gay men, has a range of connotations that are not limited to this.

Thus, it’s not at all clear how DB’s, Ralph’s, and John’s use of “faggot” perpetuates “intolerance” of gays. It’s even more difficult to discern what this can even mean given that Ted holds up as an example of such “intolerance” the Republican Party’s 2016 Platform! Pence, Ted declared, is representative of the platform in being “rigorously anti-homosexual.”

So, belief in the civilizational ideal of historical (heterosexual) marriage reveals an “intolerance” of homosexuals?! And using the word “faggot,” then, helps to promote such things as traditional marriage? In all fairness, this conversation occurred very quickly via private messaging, so Ted may have had more to say here.

But since he is the one leveling this charge, the burden is on him to prosecute his case.

 

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