The problem with living in a bubble…
One benefits of a truly mass media is that it exposes its audience to the larger popular culture. Today, it’s easy to occupy an information bubble occupied by people who share your particular beliefs.
A few days ago, I shared some of the positions of the New Right’s “intellectuals.” Those positions weren’t just extreme; as a recent essay from The New Republic characterized them, they were also weird. The essay argued that when these people run for office, they tend to be too weird to win elections. (Herschel Walker was a different kind of weird, but the observation still holds.)
The right is getting weirder. That might begin to cost Republicans elections in years to come and undermine their own appeals to American patriotism in a way policy extremism alone could not. American voters see the political parties as equally extreme in policy, ignoring evidence that Republicans have moved right much faster than Democrats have moved left. However, a party fixated on genital sunning, seed oils, Catholic integralism, European aristocracy, and occultism can alienate voters not because of its positions but because of how it presents them—and itself. Among the right’s intellectual avant garde and media elites, there is a growing adoption of habits, aesthetics, and views that are not only out of step with America’s but are deliberately cultivated in opposition to a national majority that the new right holds in contempt.
This is a different—though parallel—phenomenon from the often raucous, conspiratorial personality cult that surrounds Donald Trump and his devoted base. This new turn has predominantly manifested among the upper-class and college-educated right wing. Indeed, as Democratic strategist David Shor noted, as those with college degrees become more left leaning, the remaining conservatives have gotten “really very weird.” In this well-off cohort, there exists a mirror of the excesses often attributed to the college-educated left, fairly or unfairly: an aversion to mainstream values and an extreme militancy.
This segment of the Right has evidently abandoned American exceptionalism, along with the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Their “disgust with equitable citizenship, personal liberty, and democratic self-governance” are common threads running through their pronouncements.
These New Right thinkers consider America’s philosophical foundations not just mistaken, but immoral; they express “a new fascination with medieval Catholicism and imported European extremisms.” According to the essay, this faction of the Right
has shed its American and conservative roots and seeks a radical shift—a national “refounding.” Indeed, leading right-wing intellectuals like John Daniel Davidson have said that “the conservative project has failed” and that people like them constitute the educated vanguard of a “revolutionary moment.”
Whatever else one might say about this rejection of Americana–whatever other danger these people may pose to civic peace– this is not a politically salable approach. Research confirms that nine out of 10 Americans believe being “truly American” involves respecting “American political institutions and laws.”
Americans consistently affirm that liberty, equality, and progress—the core values of republicanism and the Enlightenment—are ones they try to live by. While the content and meaning of those values have always been contested terrain, opposing them is a nonstarter.
In the midterms, candidates embracing these positions did not do well, even in states where an R next to one’s name virtually guarantees a win.
John Gibbs, a Republican nominee for a Michigan swing seat, founded a think tank that argued for overturning the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The country, he said, had “suffered” from women’s suffrage. He narrowly lost his bid. Blake Masters and J.D. Vance—two Republican candidates for Senate funded in part by tech billionaire and new-right linchpin Peter Thiel—have embraced new-right ideas and actively courted the “weird right.” Vance has questioned whether women should leave violent marriages; Masters has praised domestic terrorist Theodore Kaczynski’s infamous manifesto, argued against legal access to contraception, and openly said that democracy is a smokescreen for the masses “stealing certain kinds of goods and redistributing them as they see fit.” (Americans on balance like democracy; legal contraception is almost universally popular; and Kaczynski’s unpopularity is so widely assumed that pollsters rarely ask about him.) Masters, perhaps unsurprisingly, lost his bid to unseat Mark Kelly, and Vance badly underperformed in his blood-red home state.
The claims that characterize this slice of the body politic are increasingly bizarre: the essay points to assertions that meat substitutes will turn men into women. (One Texas Representative has declared that a man who eats cultured meat, “will turn into a SOCIALIST DEMOCRAT.”)
At the base of all this is misogyny. (Perhaps these guys all have small winkies…)The New Right wants American women to be subservient to men and dependent upon male breadwinners.
Sorry, weirdos, but that horse has left the barn…