August 8, 2020


Identity Politics Conservatism: Conservative elites trying to come up with the next stage of Trumpism are out of touch with what Republican voters actually want. (JONATHAN V. LAST, AUGUST 8, 2020, The Bulwark)

I'm open to changing my mind--these are just theories, after all, and more evidence will accrue--but I am deeply skeptical of the Conservative Reformation Theory.

The other view--let's call it Identity Politics Conservatism until we come up with something better--is largely agnostic on questions of policy. Do these people want tariffs, or free trade? Do they hate socialism, or do they want the government picking winners and losers according to the national interest? Are they pro-life, or are the deaths of 160,000 people just something that "is what it is"?

The Identity Politics Conservatism theory would say that these people don't care a whit about the policies--they care about who is doing the policymaking. Like old-guard Leninists, their primary concern is: Who? Whom?

In case you're too young for Lenin, when you go from his original Russian--кто кого опередит?--his bon mot translates as "Who will overtake whom?" And in practice, this was more precisely carried out as "Who will obliterate whom?"

The logic of Identity Politics Conservatism suggests that all of this think tanking and speechifying is--at best--tertiary to what these voters care about. They do not want a new strategy for bringing tech giants to heel.

They want Lafayette Park.

But for the New Testament a case could be made that Identitarianism is a form of conservatism.  After all, the Old Testament is not just tribalist but elevates one tribe above all others by Divine right.

Conservatism, on the other hand--or at least Anglo-American conservatism--proceeds from Christ's acceptance of the gentiles as His people too.  This is best expressed in the American Founding text: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

That "all men" is the game-changer that separates us off from the European Blood & Soil Right and, indeed, from the Israeli Right.

Messrs. Last & Brooks may well be correct that the GOP will just deteriorate into a redoubt for elderly white men who want an identitarian institution of their own, but the demographics of such a turn mean that it would be an insignificant party.  

Moreover, while it is certainly true that the Right is hysterical about "who governs"--as seen in the explosion of racism against President Obama--it is not the case that they are unconcerned with policy.  They are united behind opposition to immigration, to civil rights, to affirmative action, etc. and in favor of maintaining the welfare programs that benefit older whites, as witness the Tea Party, a protest against not just a black president but their delusion that he might redirect their welfare money to minorities.

The reality of such a racist fringe party is that those they hate and fear will be the ones wielding the force in Lafayette Park.  

Posted by at August 8, 2020 11:18 AM