Tuesday, February 2, 2021

On Medium: How Democratic Triangulation Drove Republicans into Trumpian Lunacy

Here's an article on centrist liberalism and the slide into a right-wing cult.


  1. Growing up in the 90's I was baffled by the intense hatred conservatives (especially Rush Limbaugh) evidently felt for Bill Clinton. The president seemed to me to be a solid centrist with no intention of rocking the boat or reversing the policies of his conservative predecessors. I didn't know about Glass-Steagall until much later, but kicking people off welfare, signing NAFTA, & turning the war on drugs into a crusade against casual marijuana users were not things that I would have expected any conservative to get up in arms about. So then, in your opinion, they might have been less hostile toward Clinton if he had behaved more like a democrat than a republican? Was it his usurpation of typically conservative perogatives that pissed off guys like Limbaugh & Gingrich rather than his half-assed attempt to improve healthcare or his extramarital dalliances? If so, then they are even more petty & disingenuous than I imagined. If republicans really believe in their platform, they ought to have hailed Clinton as one of the greatest presidents in recent history, his party affiliation notwithstanding.

    1. Well, in Clinton's case, the Republicans hated him for personal reasons, because they thought he was an unrepentant sinner and a hypocrite. If he agreed with the Republicans, why was he running as a Democrat? Gingrich's motives were more Machiavellian. He wanted the Republicans to dominate Congress the way the Democrats had, whereas modern conservatism ought to remain in the shadows as the pseudophilosophy it is. Gingrich was a zealot for his brand of social conservatism, which means he had to oppose the Democrats for every slight disagreement the conservatives had with the Democrats even though neoliberalism was aligning the two parties.

      Indeed, though, the mystery is why the Republicans didn't and don't publicly cheer the Democrats' neoliberalism. Partly, it's because the Democrats are rhetorically progressive, which is their pretense. In practice, also, Republicans became more extreme; they kept moving further to the right, wanting larger tax cuts and more privatization, trying out more and more uncompromising and self-destructive positions, so neoliberalism (free market economics) was no longer conservative enough.

      But I suspect there's also a more sinister reason, which is that the Republicans had to keep their unity with the Democrats secret, for fear of giving away the game of plutocracy. This is the constraint of the two-party system: the public has to feel divided to keep them engaged. Otherwise, they might start to wonder whether their democracy is a sham and whether unelected parties hold all the real power.

      In a neoliberal state, the politicians become managers, not leaders, and the real voting happens in the market when consumers choose to buy certain products. The voters have to feel in charge in a democracy, but in a capitalist society that contains private monopolies and oligopolies, an elite takes over in various ways. The underlying conflict, then, is between democracy and capitalism. Neoliberalism negates the former on behalf of the latter. So Democratic triangulation should prove self-destructive for that party too.