An Explanation That (Unfortunately)Makes Sense

As the Republican Party has morphed from a traditional political party into a White Christian Nationalist cult, pundits and academics have spent a lot of time studying the “base”–the GOP voters who have embraced the radicalization–and have developed a variety of theories about why so many “average Americans” have succumbed to its appeal. (Most of the research projects have come to the same conclusion I have: it’s pretty much all grounded in racism.)

Much less time and attention has been directed toward analyses of the conservative intellectuals whose theories of society were protective of tradition and who proposed policies justified by those theories. A few of them–especially those who were also political strategists–have been horrified by what the GOP has become, and departed, but most have embraced the mob dynamic.

The question is, why? Surely they are bright enough to see how destructive–even nihilistic– today’s GOP has become.

A recent essay by Damon Linker in The Week explored that phenomenon.Linker was once a part of that conservative intelligencia, working for four years at First Things.

Much has been written about the transformation of the GOP over the past several years from the party of Ronald Reagan to the party of Donald Trump and his populist imitators. But at the same time a parallel change has been taking place among conservative intellectuals.

This evolution of ideas and temperament has been catalyzed by the political shift to Trumpian politics, but it isn’t reducible to that change. Ideas, like psychological dispositions, shift according to their own logic. What we have been witnessing among growing numbers of conservative thinkers is a process of self-radicalization driven by the interaction of political events with prior ideological assumptions and moods.

Linker says that what he terms “self-radicalization” has been triggered by hope.

As he explains, during the George W. Bush Presidency, when the intellectuals within the First Things community met  to discuss the state of the country and the world, those meetings regularly “devolved into a cry of cultural despair, even though a friend and ally was then ensconced in the White House.”

That’s because the people in the room were profoundly alienated from the moral, cultural, and spiritual drift of contemporary American life, and they didn’t expect that to change. They supported the Bush administration and were willing to provide a public defense of its policy agenda. But in private they doubted any of it would fundamentally change the most troubling trends unfolding around them. Abortion would remain legal. Homosexuality would keep being normalized and even celebrated. Pornography would continue to permeate the culture. Euthanasia would become more widely accepted. Secularism would persist in its march through the country and its institutions.

According to Linker, despair has generally been the default disposition of these opponents of  cultural, moral, and political change. Despite the arguments  they marshaled against such changes, most (at least according to Linker) doubted they would be able to stem the tide. They fully expected to lose the fight for the culture.

By the time Trump burst on the scene in the summer of 2015, the traditionalist right had nearly given in to outright despair, even in public, with many moving into a purely defensive position. No longer hoping to reverse the direction of the culture, they now hoped they might merely receive modest federal protection from persecution at the hands of emboldened secular liberals.

Their embrace of someone like Trump might seem strange for defenders of “moral purity,” but Linker explains. They might not win the culture war, but in Trump, they saw someone who could tear down “the administrative state” and destroy government’s power to enforce liberal rules and regulations. He could rally popular opposition to “the reigning consensus of bending history toward justice defined in liberal-progressive terms.”

Trump or a populist successor “could at long last give conservatives their chance — not by slowing an inevitable march to the secular left but by razing the liberal edifice altogether, making it possible to found society anew on properly conservative foundations.”

In other words, if you can’t change it, destroy it.

Linker’s final paragraphs are chilling.

What comes next for these conservative intellectuals? Are they prepared to offer unconditional support for another Trump run for the White House, despite his treacherous words and deeds during the two months following the 2020 election? Are there any lies from the candidate or potentially reinstated president that would prove to be deal-breakers? Any acts or policies that would be considered a bridge too far? Or would they be willing to countenance just about anything in return for a presidential promise to crush the infamous enemy, the liberal-progressive regime that currently governs America?

We will learn the answers to these ominous questions soon enough.


  1. Linker almost sounds like he describes the scenes of a movie cast upon a screen for our viewing pleasure.

    Sadly, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi already tipped their hands and gave away the plot when they accidentally told a media person, “We need a strong Republican Party.”

    This was in response to a question about why the feeble Democrats were unwilling to take down the Republican party for their role in a raid on the Washington Capitol.

    What good is watching a movie without the antagonists? You can’t kill or lock them up, or the movie ends. The spectators would lose interest.

    Even God needs a villain, or does he?

  2. I did research on Trumpism yesterday by Victor David Hanson and then looked at Dennis Prager in his interview in the Rubin report. What are they seeing is my approach. Not willing to label or stereotype liberals or conservatives at this point.
    Trudeau oversteps his authority? And with a eeak leader Putin marches in?

  3. Elon Musk intentionally empowered his engineers to isolate into an empty warehouse to deconstruct a conventional car battery and rebuild it better. A key element, cobalt, was replaced with an iron compound. After a useful life to power vehicles for long distances in between recharge stations, the battery can be repurposed for storage of solar power in residential homes. Tesla, in a few short years, became a trillion dollar market value to transform economy of single pod surface transport. Elon Musk applied first principles thinking to deconstruct and rebuild something of transformative value. Trump offered only a childish pouty mouth deconstruction with no vision for tangible better than ever before governance and the Republican Party with no other royal card in hand, went along with the most cynical poker face in Americannpolitical history.

  4. The “transition” from Republican Mayor Bill Hudnut’s administration in Indianapolis City Government to the Republican Goldsmith “administration” was confusing, frightening and at times shocking. Goldsmith’s “Transition Team”; small groups of Goldsmith clones, hard to tell one from another, simply wandered through the Metropolitan Development Department prior to the inauguration; not asking questions or staying long enough to know what was being done, how, why or by whom. People were fired randomly and replaced by others with no experience or knowledge of the area of government where they were placed. Staff was moved to different areas, given different assignments but maintained work loads we had been doing. Those of us who had been there just carried on our work knowing what needed to be done and when. It soon appeared to me that the “Transition Team” had taken an inventory of furniture, office equipment such as computers and soon came to haul them elsewhere. The first order from Goldsmith, we were then ordered to destroy all files and paperwork from the Hudnut administration and huge trash bins were rolled into all offices to dispose of them.

    Before leaving due to Goldsmith’s refusal to honor her contract with the City of Indianapolis and Melvin Simon Associates, the CFO of Circle Centre Mall entrusted me with the newer Mall computer. I returned from lunch one day to find the computer replaced with an older model, my bookcases were gone and books and files piled wherever there was space, including my chair. It was not unusual to have long time staff members just disappear and be told not to ask questions; or to see security come in and order employees to clean out their desks and then were escorted out of the office. We never knew if we still had a job when we got there in the morning or if we would be fired before the end of each day.

    “In other words, if you can’t change it, destroy it.” The second order we were told coming from Goldsmith was “If it ain’t broke, break it.”

    Such was the “transition” from one Republican administration to another Republican administration which was a microcosm of the Nixon administration. Reminders of those days came with the “transition” from President Obama to “The Donald”…and the beat goes on. Is there really an explanation for any of the Republican party’s actions then and what continues today with their control of government as the minority party?

    “What comes next for these conservative intellectuals?”

    “We will learn the answers to these ominous questions soon enough.”

  5. I had to laugh at the term “conservative intellectuals”. Maybe there are smart people who are conservative, but they are most assuredly not intellectual. That said, those who pass for intellectual in “conservative” circles are very few. What about the masses, over 70 million, who voted for the orange hairball in spite of the de-constructive ideologies coming from the cult leader?

    Can anyone lump the “BIG LIE” thinkers in with any definition of intellectual? No, cults don’t work that way. The so-called conservative intellectuals are still ideologues owned and operated by corporate/banking America who want to control the narrative, the power and the money.

    It doesn’t take any form of intellectual to understand that. The facts appear in all media – even Todd’s – every day.

  6. If you want to know what the “conservatives” are up to, listen to Steve Bannon. He has frequently spoken of the deconstruction of the administrative state as the goal.

    IMHO,if that is the thinking of intellectuals, they might just be the dumbest in history.

  7. Terrifying.

    And I make my way to the kitchen to find myself a stiff drink… at…6:40am. Great.

    P.S. John S, I can’t figure out what you’re saying. I _think_ it’s largely some “do your own research” conspiracy theory crap, but I’m not sure. I agree that my government’s use of the war measures act is very worrisome, even wrong, in my opinion. But do you mean to suggest that an example of a centrist party doing something authoritarian shows that all parties and political persuasions are equally at fault in this area? That would be wrong. It’s like mens’ rights activists pointing to a specific (often debatable) example of women having an advantage over men and concluding women clearly already have all the advantages. So, do you want to explain further?

  8. If one truly wants to understand the political, economic, and cultural divide in the nation one needs to listen to more than the college educated pundits of the “think thanks”. A trip to any truck stop will give you more to chew on than a greasy burger.

  9. Excuse me for a moment as I share some news that relates to yesterday’s subject matter. From the Boston Globe… Eli Lilly announced that it is building a $700 million genetic medicine research facility in the Boston area.

  10. Good morning Todd and good morning Vern!

    You guys, wow 🙃

    Vern, remember old Jim Jones? He literally had those folks drinking his Kool-Aid, unfortunately the Kool-Aid was mixed with cyanide.

    The search for power, knows no boundaries. And Todd is right about an antagonist, because if there actually is none, one has to be created.
    They’re always has to be a boogieman under the bed.

    When those who sought power realize that religion was a perfect banner to face the boogeyman under the bed, they just developed another Kool-Aid to feed their victims. The dumbing down of america, and especially this public school system, has led to a Kool-Aid that’s been laced with intellectual lead!

    Conservative ideals were definitely the beginning. Because “conservative” always meant cutting the social safety net before anything else. Conservatism was always a precursor. It ended up to be, “better us than them.” They’ve always used race, the “Welfare Queens,” Willie Horton,” and the like. But put a brown face on the villain? And it makes that lead laced Kool-Aid go down so much easier.

    It was always a vehicle to gain power. Just like Jim Jones, he wanted power he saw himself as a king. But what happens when a movement, one with such animus, finds a leader who is a permission slip. It’s almost like somebody poured vinegar into the baking soda! And, we all know that current political parameters cannot put that concoction back in the bottle after it’s eruption.

    Historically, these sorts of movements which are usually against secular ideals, end up badly.

    Justin Trudeau started something that worked against the religious fanaticism up north. The leader of the group that had been causing the blockades and endorsing the anti-vax propaganda, ended up in an Ottawa jail. He had enough of that and said he was done with it.

    When you allow a political virus to spread such as what’s happening today, and you think that a Band-Aid will solve the problem? You’ve only deluded yourself. And over the past several years or so, we’ve seen plenty of willful delusion.

    A visualization would be, My Auntie had stage 4 breast cancer. What if the doctor told her all they had to do was take out the easily visible lump? Well, we all know what the outcome would be. But it had to be a radical surgery. Removal of muscle and tissue, lymph glands, Radiation and chemo, She Made It! There has to be something radical to change the trajectory. But that won’t happen, at least it doesn’t seem like it will.

    If it does happen though, it’s going to bring with it the destruction of religious institutions. Because the religious institutions long ago gave up actually being religious or in the Christian sense, Christlike.

    And, it’s not just Christian, Islam has been infected by the same disease, and let’s not leave our judaism, because we can see what happened with Judaism and Benjamin Netanyahu. Oh for the days of Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin. Two good men gunned down because they were truly trying to find peace. But Peace would destroy the boogeyman that subversive groups needed to retain/gain power. And, two good men had their demise sealed because of it.

    There is no scriptural basis for what’s happening today, because, religion has been so radically invaded, that most people hate it because of the men who have manipulated it. And that’s really sad.

    Proverbs 2:10 through 15, reads; when wisdom enters your heart and knowledge becomes pleasant to your soul thinking ability will keep watch over you and discernment will safeguard you and save you from the bad course, from the man speaking perverse things, from those leaving the upright paths to walk in ways of darkness, from those who rejoice in wrongdoing, those who find joy in the perverseness of evil, those whose paths are crooked and those whose entire course is devious.

  11. John,

    Your summative comments today spoke to the nature of the primitive human mind: The lust for power (Alpha males) and control over others. Jim Jones was the ultimate cultist, but he wasn’t the coward that is Donald Trump. Trump is a phony from the word “jump”. He and his offspring are gutless cowards serving ONLY themselves like the good little con people they are.

    The Republicans who follow this cult are doomed to failure – one way or another. But I digress…

    The Democrats MUST find ways to convince the rural populations that their support for the GOP is NOT in their best interests. How, for example, do corporate tax cuts favor the (still) independent farmer in Nebraska? Why can’t that message get delivered loudly and often to those who have been brainwashed that anything “liberal” is evil? No, liberalism is NOT evil. It is actually nurturing, you know, just like their hero Jesus wanted humanity to be. Why don’t Democrats quote the beatitudes from Matthew EVERY DAY in their campaigns. Sooner or later, that HAS to break through the muck of Republican hypocrisy, doesn’t it?

  12. Norris – an interesting analogy, but try this take –

    Musk didn’t destroy the battery – it still has an anode and a cathode, ions transporting charge, etc. He just improved upon some basic components. He is using iron; others are exploring replacing lithium with sodium.

    This improving upon the components would be like eliminating the electoral college or writing a law that would define, and ban, gerrymandering.

    The Trump party wants to destroy that “devil” electric battery, because god intended for vehicles to be powered by horses and for white “Christian” males to rule.

    This idea of destroying everything if you can’t win, so you can build it new from scratch – sounds like the Chinese Cultural Revolution. That is true revolution, but, I am not certain I want those results.

    I like the more “scientific” approach that we have taken.
    We had absolute monarchs, then monarchs with a parliament of “nobles” – then the “Americans” tried the Articles of Confederation, then the Constitution.
    We limited ourselves to white, property-owning, Christian males, and then slowly started to loosen those restrictions and ended up with something closer to universal suffrage.

    The “liberal democracy” proponents seek something that helps more people.

    The “conservatives” that Sheila cites have decided their end goal. They do not care about the means, be it gerrymandering, counting the votes themselves, or completely eliminating those messy election things. If their goals are concrete policies to be imposed upon the populace, we shouldn’t be surprised at their embrace of a would be autocrat.

    And Reagan, who imposed his anti-abortion views on all levels of government (why it took so long to find someone to head up the NIH, which had been outside of politics before Reagan). He wanted unions to be gone, and regulatory agencies gutted, so bosses could rule unchecked. He could get his way through the democratic process, but when the populace decided that they loved Reagan, but not so much his policies, well, then the democratic process had to be abandoned. The change in those “conservative intellectuals” isn’t that surprising.

  13. When I was born, local news and weather were found in the morning newspaper and national news took a half hour in the evening to summarize. Now there are multiple channels broadcasting 24/7 with news and analysis tailored for certain personalities plus endless social and entertainment media and the Internet to continuously worry and anger and threaten us, all sponsored by copious advertising telling us that we don’t have enough of anything so we need to keep our wealth in play to be redistributed ever up and away from us.

    Why is anyone surprised that we are now individually and collectively dysfunctional?

  14. Theresa, thank you for your “reality-check” report from the Boston Globe:

    “Eli Lilly announced that it is building a $700 million genetic medicine research facility in the Boston area.”

    The business community gives us painful truths the MSM may wish to avoid.

    It was at a 12/30/21 press conference when an Indiana insurance executive from One America said deaths are up 40% among people ages 18-64. He said most of the claims for deaths being filed are not classified as COVID-19 deaths. He said this was an unusual event. (Others have characterized it as ranging from six to 12 sigma in its extreme rarity)

    A Wall Street analyst said last week that seven other insurance companies, based on their February, 2022 data, reported having experienced similar death claim increases over 2019: Unum, Lincoln National, Prudential, Reinsurance Group of America, Hartford, Met Life and Aegon. Aegon has characterized these deaths as “indirect COVID.”

    The Wall Street analyst also revealed that traders are “shorting” stocks of Pfizer and Moderna, i.e. betting their stock prices will fall. They’ve grounded their investments on alleged fraudulent acts committed by these firms.

    The analyst said MSM reporting on these unfolding events, and revelations of apparent business fraud, has been notably absent. The business community, however, relies on methods of communication other than MSM.

  15. Vern,

    I agree 100%……

    Right you are Vern,
    Matthew the 5th chapter starting in verse 43 reads; “you heard that it was said: you must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. However I say to you continue to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves sons of your father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good and makes it rain on both the righteous and unrighteous. For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? Are not the tax collectors doing the same thing? And if you greet your brother’s only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the Nations doing the same thing? You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.

    And, I’m not seeing that sort of thought process in any of these Evangelical groups. So if they don’t practice what Christ preached, then they cannot be christian! That means, they cannot be protected by claiming christianity!

    Also, when it discusses the tax collectors, the tax collectors were Jews that collected taxes for the romans. Those Jewish tax collectors often extorted much more than the amount the Roman government requested. Therefore they enriched themselves on their fellow Jew. And fellow Jews were supposed to be considered neighbors. Of course this was purposefully altered by the Pharisees and Sadducees of the Sanhedrin. Because the Mosaic law said nothing about hating your enemies. (Leviticus 19:18.) Only loving your neighbor!

  16. John,
    Thanks for reminder to extend love to all, even those we may regard as different, enemies or persecutors. It’s difficult to do sometimes.

  17. Copied and pasted from a New York Post article dated August 4, 2011, after Goldsmith was allowed to resign as Deputy Mayor of New York City under Bloomberg. Goldsmith had lied regarding his residence to retain his position which was required to be in New York City, after he was arrested at his actual home in Washington, D.C. for spousal abuse.

    “Named to replace Goldsmith was Cas Holloway, the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection and a protege of former Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler.

    “Cas is a good manager,” said another source. “Goldsmith was a thinker and not a doer.”

    Goldsmith, a former mayor of Indianapolis, was hired in April 2010.

    It’s virtually unheard of for someone at his level to leave after such a short stint.

    “From the snowstorm to Cathie Black to CityTime to now this,” said the first official. This is something every Council member has been saying for years…that this is an administration totally adrift.”

    The official said Goldsmith didn’t leave of his own volition.”

    Yes; we certainly should listen to Goldsmith’s every word to build up the Republican party; lies and abusing women are part of their party foundation. Local CBS Channel 8 news anchor Dave Barras stated at the end of his news report; “Maybe this will finally end Goldsmith’s political career.”

  18. It’s fun to break things in service of your passion, and it seems a psychonormative thing to love fun.
    I maintain that mass society will always move away from democracy, because it will always be true that the average voter won’t understand, nor desire to understand the workings of mass society, and will pass the reins to someone, competent or not, who says they do.
    It works that way for fear of death, and promises of post death paradise.
    It works that way for the need to know what’s going on, so psychological pain can be avoided by controlling the environment: fewer strangers or strange ideas SEEMS to be safer.
    We live on heuristic subconscious analysis, hunches and quick resolutions of complicated situations, but only a few are capable of “mostly right” guesses, and there’s no guarantee that those decisions are best for all.
    Sometimes the accurate guessers are P.T. Barnum, or Hitler, or Trump, or Bernie, or Putin, but we have a social structure that has abandoned science and rationality in government for clicks and votes and sales figures.
    Even the best have no path to leadership. Where’s Barbara Lee?

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