Donald Trump is the least of the GOP’s problems

There’s a good AP story this morning on the continuing crack-up of the Republican Party:

As he [Trump] skips from one gaffe to the next, GOP leaders in Washington and in the most competitive states have begun openly contemplating turning their backs on their party’s presidential nominee to prevent what they fear will be wide-scale Republican losses on Election Day.

Republicans who have devoted their professional lives to electing GOP candidates say they believe the White House already may be lost. They’re exasperated by Trump’s divisive politics and his insistence on running a general election campaign that mirrors his approach to the primaries.

The central weakness of the article—like so much of the reporting on the election this year—is that it posits Trump as the source of the party’s crack-up.

In actual fact, the seeds of the decline of the GOP and conservatism more generally were sown long ago. They have little to do with the weaknesses of any candidate or elected official, mistakes this one or that one might have made. To the contrary, they reflect the strengths and achievements of both the Republican Party and the conservative movement. Both the party and the movement are victims of their success.

The candidacy of Donald Trump, for all its idiosyncrasies, is symptomatic of two cycles of political time: one peculiar to the Republican Party, the other to the conservative movement.

As I’ve argued many times on this blog, presidential/party regimes in the US have a rise and fall. The first regime was the Jeffersonian Republican regime, which lasted from 1800 to 1828. The second was the Jacksonian Democratic regime, which lasted from 1828 to 1860. The third was the Lincoln Republican regime, which lasted from 1860 to 1932. The fourth was the FDR New Deal regime, which lasted from 1932 to 1980. We are currently in the fifth regime: the Reagan Republican regime, which began in 1980.

These regimes are inaugurated by presidents (Jefferson, Lincoln, etc.); they are carried on by presidents (Monroe, Polk, Teddy Roosevelt, LBJ, George W. Bush); and they are destroyed by presidents (John Quincy Adams, James Buchanan, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter). Other factors—social movements, the economy, international relations, cultural shifts—obviously play a huge role, but I’m focusing here on presidents.

As the Yale political scientist Steve Skowronek has argued, it is often those successor presidents, like LBJ or George W. Bush, who do the most to carry on the legacy of the inaugurating presidents, it is often these presidents who set the stage for the destruction of that inaugurating president’s legacy. These successor presidents (Skowronek calls them articulation presidents) so vastly over-use their power to extend the basic commitments of the party regime, to fulfill its unfulfilled promises, that they wind up shattering the regime itself. LBJ did it with his commitments to Vietnam, the War on Poverty, and the Civil Rights Movement. Bush did it with his paired commitments to the massive tax cuts and the Iraq War. In both cases, these presidents bring to the fore and empower the dissonant forces have long been restive under the regime—both African Americans and white supremacists, in the case of LBJ; the rank-and-file Tea Party and Christian Right versus the more elite business and national security types, in the case of Bush—who now see each other not as natural allies but as enemies. (It’s interesting, as Skowronek notes, that these articulation presidents often fought wars that helped destroy their regimes. Polk with the Mexican-American War, LBJ with Vietnam, Bush with Iraq.)

Donald Trump is now facing a situation similar to that of people like George McGovern in 1972: he’s the beneficiary of an unprecedented mobilization of one part of his party’s coalition, which put him in the place he’s in, but like McGovern, he can’t turn that coalition into something broader. Hence that quote in the AP story above:

They’re exasperated by Trump’s divisive politics and his insistence on running a general election campaign that mirrors his approach to the primaries.

Winning the GOP base is no longer a ticket to the White House, as it was for Reagan and Bush. Because the base is so at odds with the whole of the GOP, not to mention the nation.

So that’s one political time cycle: the rise and fall of presidential/party regimes.

But there’s a second, arguably deeper and more fatal time cycle: the rise and fall of conservative movements and regimes.

Conservatism, as I argued in The Reactionary Mind, is an inherently reactionary movement. This wasn’t my brilliant insight; it’s right there, as the book demonstrates, in the testimony of conservatism’s leading thinkers and practitioners, going back to Burke and Peel, the inventor of Britain’s Conservative Party, up through more genteel voices like Michael Oakeshott or George Nash, the court historian of the modern conservative movement in the US. The only difference is that my book takes their testimony seriously, while others tend to ignore it.

But as I argued at the conclusion of The Reactionary Mind, if conservatism is an inherently reactionary movement, the greatest threat to it will be its success. Once it defeats the movements it was launched to overcome—and those movements will change across time, which is why conservatism, despite being a consistently reactionary politics, will also change across time, in response to the movements it opposes—it loses its raison d’être.

Modern American conservatism, I’ve long held, has succeeded. It essentially destroyed the labor movement, which was, in conservatism’s most recent incarnation in response to the New Deal, its original enemy. It also successfully beat back the Black Freedom movement, which was its second enemy. And it was able to defang the feminist movement, its third enemy. While all these movements are still around—the labor movement, only barely—they don’t have the same traction and forward momentum they once did.

Which is what has left conservatism in the place that it is, as I speculated at the conclusion of The Reactionary Mind:

Which leads me to wonder about the long-term prospects of the Tea Party, the latest variant of right-wing populism. Has the Tea Party given conservatism a new lease on life? Or is the Tea Party like the New Politics of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the last spark of a spent force, its frantic energies a mask for the decline of the larger movement of which it is a part?…

Modern conservatism came onto the scene of the twentieth century in order to defeat the great social movements of the left. As far as the eye can see, it has achieved its purpose. Having done so, it now can leave. Whether it will, and how much it will take with it on its way out, remains to be seen.

Trump is desperately trying to fashion a new reactionary politics out of the bits and pieces that are now left to it: a white nationalism that draws its animating energies from its hostility to a black president, immigration, and Islam. But the evidence is increasingly clear that that kind of politics simply does not possess enough appeal to propel him or any other similar candidate to the White House. Not, I would argue, because Trump is such a weak candidate (though clearly he is), but because these forces can’t supply the reactionary rationale for modern conservatism the way empowered and radicalized movements of workers, African Americans, and women once did.

It’s going to take a massive victory for the left—not at the polls but in the streets, as a comprehensive social movement of emancipation—for the right to recover its energy and animating purpose. Until that happens, the right might win an election here or there, but they’re essentially going to be in a free-fall.

Trump, in other words, is the least of the GOP’s problems.


  1. xenon2 August 15, 2016 at 11:18 am | #
    • Mars van Grunsven August 15, 2016 at 12:56 pm | #

      I think Corey said it much better, and at least he doesn’t say unfounded stuff like, “She has finally stirred up some emotion in women, even if it is just moderate suburban Republican women palpitating to leave their own nominee, who has the retro air of a guy who just left the dim recesses of a Playboy bunny club.”

    • Bill Michtom August 15, 2016 at 1:46 pm | #

      Wow! A brilliant analysis from MoDo. I am truly stunned.

    • Philip Chapman August 16, 2016 at 12:08 am | #

      What is ‘it’ that she said best? This isn’t really a comment, just an unexplained link

    • Tiercelet August 19, 2016 at 5:14 pm | #

      But that’s precisely what Prof. Robin is saying, too, just taken to its conclusion: reactionary conservatism has “won” when there is no longer anything for it to be a reaction against. Conservative ideas have been mainstreamed to the point that there is not considered to be any serious ideological opposition to them; such ideological opponents as do exist are hounded endlessly for failing to fall in line with the common-knowledge consensus.
      And, as there is no longer a progressive force to react against, conservatism will be listless unto dormancy until there’s actually something new to define itself in opposition towards.

  2. Roquentin August 15, 2016 at 12:00 pm | #

    One question: I’m a bit confused by you defining the Lincoln regime stretching clear from the Civil War to 1932. I can’t shake the feeling there should be a further subdivision within that span. How would you fit the Progressive Era into it? Did it not achieve a level of power and influence necessary to separate it from the Lincoln Republic as you define it? Women’s Suffrage and Prohibition were transformative moments in the US politically.

    Then again, I know from reading some of Marx’s work (what he published in the New York Tribune) that these things all seemed to run together: Abolitionism, Women’s Suffrage, Temperance so perhaps these things were just the fulfillment of the Lincoln Republic.

  3. Will G-R August 15, 2016 at 12:07 pm | #

    You seem to be implying that the American fascism of which Trump is an embryonic figurehead is actually on the decline, which it will only be able to reverse after a broad victory for the First-World left provides it with a new raison d’être. Not to state the obvious, but it’s easy to see the raison d’être for a new white reactionary politics: the declining economic position of the Western working class in the global economy, resolving the unnatural distribution of wealth that existed back when the West had nearly-unlimited free rein over the collection and recycling of global capitalism’s economic surplus. In the long term capitalism is fundamentally incapable of serving the economic interests of the working class, yet liberal capitalist ideology has spent the past century assuring a small segment of the global working class (namely, First-World white male workers) that it can, via the American Dream and other such ultimately unsustainable myths.

    IMO the possibility worth being truly terrified of is that these myths will be like salt, impossible to remove from a population into whose ideology they’ve already been sprinkled, and that this will give First-World fascism an inexhaustible supply of political vitality. Hell, it’d be nice if left-liberals up to and including self-proclaimed socialists like Sanders could stop pouring from the saltshaker themselves, the way they’ve been doing by centering so much of their anti-neoliberal appeal on a nostalgic vision of the good old days before the neoliberal assault on social democracy. (Make The Welfare State Great Again!) The bottom line is that given how necessary these sorts of fantasies are even in neoliberal ideology, e.g. the teleological upward trajectory postulated by mainstream development economics, this antagonism doesn’t seem like it could ever truly be resolved without resolving the ultimate crisis of global capitalism itself.

    • Roquentin August 15, 2016 at 12:34 pm | #

      In defense of Corey’s argument, white supremacy has always been a key part of the foundation of modern conservatism. It’s just more obvious with Trump because he’s gauche and lacks the tact to couch the rhetoric in innocuous sounding euphemisms.

      The foundation of the coalition which would eventually dominate US politics by 1980 was formed by Nixon and the merger of the Rockefeller Republicans and the George Wallace Dixiecrats who crossed party lines to preserve White Supremacy in the South. I’ll have none of this talk of Trump’s racism being a new thing. Honestly, the “dying embers” theory sounds more plausible to me. Trump is hammering on the same key of the organ with all his might that used get that demographic dancing, but they don’t exist in large enough numbers to win things on their own anymore.

      However, I agree with you that capitalism as it is currently practiced will only fan the flames of this antagonism. The only thing that has changed, frankly is that they don’t have the numbers. As the old age away and the young come of age, their numbers are only going to shrink further. The GOP hitched its cart solely and exclusively to demographics which were shrinking, a strategy that looks suicidal in hindsight. White, Christian (particularly church going), rural, and last and most importantly the upper middle class who are being destroyed by the very polarization of wealth they championed.

      Just to emphasize, they don’t have the numbers anymore. That is why that bullshit about Voted ID laws is so important to the GOP. The only way they can win is by putting their thumbs on the scale. It’s only going to get worse and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer group of people.

      • Will G-R August 15, 2016 at 2:05 pm | #

        We agree, and I assume Corey would agree as well, that it’d be stupid to cast Trump’s xenophobia as somehow divorced from the traditional rhetoric of racist politics in the US, including the Southern Strategy-era GOP. As long as the demographics are such that white working class can’t form a winning electoral bloc on its own, the immediate problem is the US system of institutionalizing grand coalitions entirely within the space of two major parties, which leaves the ideological inertia of the “alt-right” fascist appeal with nowhere to go. Either the fascists solidify control over the GOP and drive the US toward a one-party establishment centrist regime under the Democrats, or the two-party system has to fall apart entirely and allow for the meaningful electoral representation of a National Socialist American Workers’ Party (which could then potentially seize power by joining forces with a rump establishment centrist party in opposition to the left, the way the Nazis did after the election of 1932). Neither outcome is necessarily encouraging for the future of anything that could be called “democracy” with a straight face.

        • Dan Knauss October 17, 2016 at 2:38 am | #

          You might all be underestimating the size, diversity, and growth potential of the “bits and pieces” of the conservative movement that have been fighting the neoconservative-led “Reagan revolution” from within since the mid 1980s. It’s not just “the white working class” behind Trump; that’s not even his primary constituency. Of course it can’t form a winning bloc on its own, but it probably will pull both parties on immigration and other issues. That will feed the old and new “alt” right, which has plenty of places to go as an international identitarian movement feeding on xenophobia, Islamophobia, and liberalism’s failure of nerve.

  4. fosforos17 August 15, 2016 at 12:10 pm | #

    Whatever can be said about this extraordinarily dubious periodization of US political history (how can you possibly view as comparable Polk’s triumph in the Mexican War, by far the most successful war of conquest in history since Genghiz Khan’s, to LBJ’s disastrous defeat in Vietnam?) it fails completely to reckon with the new reality established by the 1963 coup d’état. since then the party-political game has been overshadowed by the power of the military-industrial complex and its deep state. Every president since 1963 has been either a direct delegate of that MIC (Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, the Bushes, WJClinton) or its benighted captive (Carter, Obama). Now the MIC for the first time is nakedly showing its monolithic unity behind HRClinton. Once this is grasped, it is easy to see this 2016 campaign as the very first to feature a general, though utterly inchoate, popular revolt against the consequences of the MIC regime. A revolt whose initial stages were, as totally to be expected, vitiated by the leadership of two incompetent personalist politicians, Sanders and Trump.

  5. b. August 15, 2016 at 1:01 pm | #

    I don’t buy this argument. For one, “conservative” as sold – and its proponents might and do misrepresent – is supposed to preserve a status quo, which, with any latency in the feedback loop, will make it “reactionary” after the fact of change.

    But Reagan and Bush – and WJ Clinton and Obama – are, subsurface, radicals. Reagan called into question the legitimacy not just of an instance of government, but the very concept, and Clinton completed his second term by completing this agenda. The illegal aggressive war of choice in Iraq (and the unconstitutional, illegal acts of war since) challenge the very concept of sovereignity and international order, as do unlawful CIA drone operations and covert JSOC warfare, as does surveillance – and Obama completed Bush’s agenda. The notion of Too Big To Fail/Jail corporate entities and executives and the aiding and abetting of subverting the bedrock of property law (MERS, foreclosure fraud) has drastically eroded the rule of law domestically as well. If we look back over the past decades, we see radical change into new territory, not reactionary restoration. The level of inequality, the impact of money on elections, the emergence of one-party establishment signify radical change, even if only extrapolations of trends going many decades.

    Furthermore, the cycles of US politics are determined by increasing corruption, oligarchy networking, and a proliferation of “too big to challenge” rackets molded on the original self-licking ice cream cone of military procurement (as conservative Eisenhower fostered, and then denounced in is CYA address). National “defense” and “security”, health insurance (as a proxy for actual care), mortgages, car loans, student loans all have in common that they are systemically critical for a functioning society, and hence present unassailable pathways to extract personal profit through the channeling of tax revenue. I find it ludicrous to consider “principles”, conservative or otherwise, to be the defining concept for political actors. If you want to make a case that these cycles are representing diminishing returns on delivering “unfilled promises” to wealthy donors as well as barriers of entry for new “emergent” elites to claim their seat at the trough, I can agree with that,

    Finally, the rank and file of Republican voters – especially those that support or consider supporting Trump – hardly feel like they “won” anything. The US right wing’s propensity to see and sell themselves as an aggrieved party of victims might superficially support your argument, but frankly, it rather looks like after 40 years of culture war placebo, the real question is whether GOP voters will learn to focus on their real – primarily economical – grievances, or whether their “mispresentatives” will succeed quickly in selling themselves as a reaction to HR Clinton’s “success” – starting in 2017, then midterms, then 2020. Obama might represent unitary overreach at the end of the Reagan cycle, but the Trump voters do not exactly claim him as their own, and the establishment is not keen to draw attention to his actual accomplishments.

    • b. August 15, 2016 at 1:01 pm | #

      // Post comment button vanishes in Chrome for long posts…

      If the GOP had to lose against Clinton, it’s best for the GOP that Trump loses. Without Trump, the Democratic Party might not actually have a candidate, given that he makes Clinton “too big to fail” for the establishment. I’d expect that Trump is indeed the GOP’s biggest problem as long as Clinton remains the least of the Democrat’s problems.

      • Bill Michtom August 15, 2016 at 3:03 pm | #

        About comment button: on a phone, try turning it landscape. On a computer, adjust the zoom.

        • b. August 26, 2016 at 11:57 am | #

          Tried the zoom right there and then. Didn’t work. Chrome, fwiw.

  6. ronp August 15, 2016 at 1:09 pm | #

    Wow, I disagree about the black power movement and feminism — I think we have made huge progress at least culturally. Yes on enabled government policy it is still pretty bad.

    Also what about progress on LGBTQ rights – huge progress there too. So yes conservatism triumphed, but progress has been made.

  7. Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant August 15, 2016 at 3:55 pm | #

    Conversely, conservatism’s continued free-fall will actually depend on the absence of any kind of massive left victory. Does that mean (*gasp*) that the joys of seeing a (likely) face-plant splat of the conservative movement will require that the left keep in check its more utopian impulses in order to disincline reaction’s reinvigorated revival (not that anyone thinks a massive left victory is on the horizon, mind you)? Or is it the case that the three enemies of conservatism — labor, the New Deal, and the Black freedom movement — are so thoroughly defeated that conservatism has lost its lust for life, and Trump is just the most visible evidence of its anemic condition?

    My first guess brings me to see things a little differently. I am inclined to attribute modern conservatism’s troubles not to its victories but to its own pathologies. It ate at its own soul because it produced nothing of lasting value that its beneficiaries could enjoy. Everyday cons are not eating better now because of its successes. It may have beaten back Civil Rights – but is White Joe Six-Pack seeing higher wages for himself and at a job he can walk into right out of high school graduation? Wanna bet that his wife working a low-wage job in the local Wal-Mart has to hide in the women’s room from her harassing boss? Or that the local school teachers for his kids left the state altogether (*cough* Kansas *cough*) to find work in more brain-friendly environs that will pay better because of it? THOSE are the wages of modern conservatism. Economic vulnerability at the very least.

    My second guess is that a re-alignment in American politics — rooted as much in demographics as it is in politics — is a-bornin’ at this moment, and it surely tilts left-of-center, and it also threatens modern conservatism. This, I hasten to add, has not a lot to do with the fresh and tasty goodness of left politics as much as it does with the vomit inducing policies of the right finding a growing number of uncooperative victims relative to a shrinking number of its a-hootin’-‘n’-a-hollerin’ cheerleaders.

    American reaction needs a vibrant – and protected – constituency, energized because it has something to protect/get back. Now, however, its mean politics is visible for all to see, and the materiality its troops think they are (but mistakenly) protecting has been lost years ago thanks to the anti-New Deal reactionaries they, those troops, voted for – and their Democratic helpmeets.

    As this re-alignment continues, is it even true that conservatism will get its mojo back? What would trigger it? What would it look like, in a nation that by 2050 will be more than fifty-percent non-white? We have no cold war excuse and Muslims (because racialized) will not be forced to work as stand-ins for communism. The conservative movement desperately needs a new Southern Strategy to save itself. It ain’t got one now and it won’t get one anytime soon, if ever.

    Yes, reaction is resilient but I don’t think that the menace it was in the past can be replicated in the future, even as it does try to go zombie on America.

    Thanks to its own actions American reaction has filled the bathtub with the very water it can be drowned in. What surprises is that conservatism, as a movement, is plunging its own head below the water’s surface and inhaling deeply. I only hope that enough progressives are smart enough to help it hold its head down and not stand idly by, merely tsk-tsk-ing in misplaced pity.

    • fosforos17 August 15, 2016 at 5:04 pm | #

      Of course American reaction has something to protect. That is why it (aka the one percent) has mobilized monolithic support, across their entire corporate media and auxiliary troll types like David Brock, to make sure that their tool, HRClinton, moves smoothly onto presiding over their state apparatus.

      • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant August 15, 2016 at 6:16 pm | #

        But what is that thing that American reaction can “protect” without first mobilizing the disgruntled troops willing to do the low level dirty work of intimidation against reaction’s usual victims? You gotta feed those folks and the exhilaration of released anger against the weak may not — this time — be enough to go on if the materiality of lived existence become ever more precarious, and the numbers to mobilize folks dwindles over time. The one percent alone is not how I would define “reaction” so much as I’d call them the powers-that-be that can fund street-level reaction (see the Tea Party and the reaction to Obamacare).

        Movement Reaction, I’d suggest, must exist very far beyond the one percent to be politically effective in the long term, and that uppermost sliver of the population is actually less violently reactionary in that “I’m-gonna-punch-that-young-Negro-in-the-face-as-the-cops-walk-him-out-past-me-in-the-Trump-rally” sense of the term in its emotional soul than the Joe/Jane six-packs that actually show up at Trump rallies. One-percenters only get their unencumbered, non-movement way under cover of quiet, midnight legislation. Really, there is no tee-shirted forty-five-year-old balding White guy who will carry a sign or threaten beat up a granola-chewing hippie just to protect his right to be ignorant of what is in his Oscar Meyers. For an actual reactionary movement you need street-level bodies: motivated voters and activists and church-goers and hard-hats and biker clubs and gun clubs and cops and firefighters and construction workers so on. You also need material — and sustained — highly “frictioned” cultural division across the whole of society. In sheer numbers, Movement Reaction is breeding fewer and fewer of those as time goes by while the people they usually hate grow in numbers and in restiveness and more tolerant of difference.

        Reagan was able to ride his Movement Reaction because he carefully targeted his victims, making sure to name them (the “welfare queen”, for instance) even as he also went after those who looked a lot like his own supporters (PATCO workers). Furthermore, his assault on the New Deal supports for those who voted for him did not kick into high gear until, I’d suggest, deep into the Bill Clinton Administration (“the era of big government is over”; NAFTA and the WTO; the repeal of Glass-Steagal) and on into Bush II. Reagan’s White working class supporters did not seem to realize that THEY, too, were on the menu. And his policies were not aggressive enough at the time to let that cat out of the bag. For that reason, Movement Reaction was able to slouch onward well past the 1980’s to present time.

        So, we are back to our question: what has reaction to protect in order to sustain the mobilized mass? If Hillary wins the election, that may be a turning point but those folks on the far right who hate her because Fox News told them to will still be there, seething. Other than that, what awaits the angry reactionary who sees his fortunes foundering on a shoals of a changing America? What will Fox and its Hillary-Hate-Industrial-Entertainment-Complex offer that guy? What is in it (reaction) for him? Without an answer to that question, reaction disarms itself and puts at risk a viable future for its movement. Reaction will still exist, but it may be difficult to call it much of a “movement” as time goes by.

        • fosforos17 August 15, 2016 at 6:27 pm | #

          What do they have to protect? Obscene wealth, obscene military power, total social control through militarized police forces and monopolized media, not to mention the NSA, CIA, and the whole alphabet soup of technologically sophisticated agencies of repression far outstripping Orwell’s worst imaginings. Are they to let smartass kids or ignorant white trash dream of interfering with all that? Not a chance!

          • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant August 16, 2016 at 10:34 am | #

            You have listed the instrumentalities — the agencies of repression — through which what is “protected” are solely the interests of the ruling orders, but we still need to know what is the stake for the rank-and-file, street-level movement reactionary, who will almost certainly be wholly ignorant of the crimes committed, supposedly, in their names and of the alphabet soup of agencies who would be tasked with executing those crimes. This clip illustrates what I mean when I use the phrase “movement reactionary”:


            Folks like the Whites in that cut are who I mean. One can bet that the crimes committed in, say, Latin America by American agents (such as those you reference) is likely outside their field of knowledge — and that they likely could not care less if they knew and, further, would likely support those crimes if they did care about them. What I ask is what is in reaction for THEM, back here, in a changing America? What food, now, will reaction put on their tables today? Back then, it was the pretty and segregated suburbia and the joys of seeing Negro heads get cracked open by cops in the city on TV. The reactionary voices that purported to “feel their pain” promised to reverse the gains of progressive activism and legislation. One can surmise that these people in that documentary clip voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980. I remember watching on TV an angry Archie Bunker yell at Mike Stivik, the “Meathead”, “You’re gonna get Reagan in ’80!”, in a show that aired in the seventies. But what they were not told was that THEY, too, would go on the neoliberal chopping block in the coming years and decades.

            So now we live in a time when the hated no longer fear the Movement Reactionary’s violence, and the White working class Movement Reactionary is overworked, underpaid, without benefits and seeing jobs flee the country. And even as segregation remains largely de facto while no longer de jure, many local suburban neighborhoods have become more racially diverse while others have seen white flight. I am an African American who moved with his family to suburban Bellport, Long Island in May of 1968 at the age of seven (I entered third grade that fall). I saw the documentary in that link when it first broadcast on PBS’ channel 13 in the early seventies — back when nerdy old PBS had BALLS! The area went from White to mixed to mostly non-White in less than half a decade. We saw our share, in person, of what is documented in that clip.

            But back to the question: again, what has reaction paid to these people? What will it pay to them today? Other than the nostalgia that comes with cold-clocking a young Negro without fear of punishment (to make that Negro pay for his insolent bravery in showing up to protest at a Trump rally – an act that would have been unthinkable back in the 1960s) what material change will reaction bring to them? All we can be likely sure of is that reaction will harden if times for them don’t get materially better and that a reactionary in the White House will ABSOLUTELY NEVER do thing one to improve the lives of those who put him there.

            What is odd about reaction is that it is both a success (at beating back progressive activism, but only for the time being) and a failure (at making the lives of its supporters better in any material way). I think it is BOTH of these that put reaction’s future at question, at least in so far its ability to come back as the powerhouse that it was from late Nixon onwards.

          • fosforos17 August 16, 2016 at 12:26 pm | #

            You ask “but we still need to know what is the stake for the rank-and-file, street-level movement reactionary…what has reaction paid to these people? What will it pay to them today?” What is at stake, what the ruling state-monopoly-capitalist class wants and needs from these types, is solely passivity, passive ignorant acceptance of what is done to them in their own name. And what has the ruling class paid to these people, what will it pay to them, today, tomorrow, and for the rest of the short dismal future they have ijn store for the human race? Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment, 168 hours per week, 52.375 weeks per year, entertainment in every form ever invented and all the forms still to be invented. if you don’t see the Trumpe-l’oeil as entertainment, you don’t see Trump.

          • James Levy August 19, 2016 at 8:39 am | #

            I think The Enemy Combatant is making a powerful point. We all look to the material gains either promised or withheld and search for causality there. But the reactionary forces give their payoff in the realm of the psychological, not the material. They make people feel powerful, superior, “on top”. They feed the ego, not the stomach.

            I just got into a dustup at Nakedcapitalism because it is an article of faith there that Trump supporters are simply screwed over white workers who want their due via closing down immigration and restricting imports. The entire psychic appeal of Trump is dismissed and those who would raise it attacked. But I believe that Trump is a reactionary and that his appeal is overwhelmingly psychic, not material. Those workers know in their hearts that Trumprepresents a Republican party that is never going to become worker-friendly. But he’s rich, he’s “tough”, he’s got a trophy wife and he doesn’t care are what blacks or gays or women think or what offends them. He’s a personification of wish-fulfillment, just as Hillary Clinton is for an aging generation of upper middle class feminists (“you’ve come a long way, baby!”). Our politics have long been divorced from policy (“who would you rather have a beer with?”). We who have read Marx and take him seriously have a hard time with this postmodern reality. But, much as I hate it, I think I have to acknowledge its presence. People are not voting for trump for their material interests any more than they voted for Bush II or Obama (or will for Clinton) for that reason.

  8. skfigler August 15, 2016 at 5:30 pm | #

    Trump is “the last of the GOP’s problems” like diarrhea is the last of a gravely sick person’s problems. He will help the conservative cause only if he pulls out of the race to avoid becoming a “loser,” but hopefully that will not be enough to keep them in power.

  9. stevelaudig August 15, 2016 at 10:28 pm | #

    All empires collapse. The collapse takes different forms. What we are witnessing is the beginning of the collapse of the US empire, which began, in my opinion, in 1893, in Hawaii with the US war on the Hawaiians, that led to the ongoing post occupation genocide. The German Empire, collapsed [you pick a date] made a brief comeback in Hitler’s world tour of 1939-1945. The French fold with Vietnam and Algeria. the English, pick one Pak/India or Suez. The Russo/Soviet 1989. Serbian 1990s. It’s the US’s turn with internal collapse of consensus fueled by constitutional inequality being gamed for power 2000 Sup. Ct. installs minority president; Electoral college as a tool of reactionary regimes; the senate? please Wyoming 500,000 white people get 2 senators; California 38,000,000 “all people” get 2. And district gerrymandering. Trump and the current Repubs [who may continue to hold undemocratic power courtesy of undemocratic institutions [ala North] are merely evidence of the unmaking of a path to democracy. enough of the rant. Clinton II and Trump are not so different that they won’t go to each other’s weddings.

    • CallMeAl December 3, 2019 at 12:18 pm | #

      This was the coldest take of 2016

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