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Conservative Political Parties Embody The Politics Of Nihilism



On Wednesday evening, the Wall Street Journal issued a statement about the disaster that there Republican Party has morphed into. Looking at the speaker election circus, they noted that Paul Ryan retired from Congress in 2018 “rather than have to deal with the growing Crank Caucus… The rebels without a plausible alternative candidate first nominated Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, who had received only 31 votes in November in the contest with McCarthy to become GOP leader… At this point all of this isn’t so much about McCarthy as about whether he or anyone else could lead a coherent majority for the next two years. McCarthy has already conceded that a mere five Members will be able to move to vacate the Chair and put his Speakership in jeopardy. Any small faction could hold him hostage at any time."


If McCarthy bows out, there are other Republicans who might be able to get 218 votes for Speaker, but why would they want the job? Does Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, want to spend two years listening to ultimatums from Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert?
The problem any GOP leader faces today is that too many Republicans don’t really want to hold and keep political power. They’re much more comfortable in opposition in the minority, which is easier because no hard decisions or compromises are necessary. You can rage against “the swamp” without having to do anything to change it. This is the fundamental and sorry truth behind the Speaker spectacle and the performative GOP politics of recent years.

On Thursday morning, Jon Ward warned that “The U.S. government will begin defaulting on its debt payments by this summer if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, a failure that would risk sending the economy into a tailspin. Analysts warn that a weak Republican speaker makes that outcome more likely, as whoever is chosen will not have the influence necessary to force the fractious GOP caucus into a necessary compromise with Democrats… The House GOP’s current troubles stem from years of discord within its ranks. For over a decade, the GOP has been hobbled by a faction that sees getting nothing as better than something, if it cannot get everything it wants. Sometimes this faction has actually wanted nothing. While uniquely embarrassing, the stalemate over the speakership is just the latest in a series of moments of gridlock caused by the party’s right wing… [T]he party remains on the same fractious trajectory it has been on for the past decade or more. Its robust antigovernment wing, having learned the politics of social media celebrity and TV fame from former President Donald Trump, is if anything more intransigent than ever before, and at times unable to even articulate its demands… [T]he GOP has been antigovernment so long that it is now a thoroughly anti-system party. And it is very hard to lead an anti-system party when leadership means being part of the system.”


Yesterday public intellectual Umair Haque took a stab at explaining why democracy is broken in the U.S. and Britain to the point where both countries appear ungovernable. He began by asking why the Tories and the GOP are so incredibly incompetent that their nations are falling apart. And his answer goes back to the old truism about conservatives not believing in public goods. “If you don’t believe in public goods,” he wrote, “you are basically saying that the there is no job of governance to be done. Because there’s nothing to administer, oversee, nurture, invest in, shepherd, keep ship-shape for the next generation.”


Now the crux of his argument: “Neither the GOP nor the Tories believe in public goods. Not believing in public goods, they can’t do the job of governance. Because of course, to them, the task they’ve set out to accomplish isn’t governance at all. It’s the destruction of public goods. But that’s not governance, especially not in a modern democracy. What is it? Well, it’s a lot of things: ignorance, folly, hate, bigotry, rage, stupidity, and self-destruction, to name just a few… [After being ravaging in two World Wars] Europe’s living standards rose to the highest levels in human history because Europeans enjoyed the greatest public goods in history: from public health, to education, to transport, and so forth. There is absolutely no debate on this score… This is the great lesson of the 20th century, one of the most crucial in history, and now I can restate it in a simpler, more powerful form. We know the key to human prosperity. It’s called investment in public goods. They a) lift living standards while b) keeping societies equal and c) sharing wealth broadly, thus d) creating a relatively stable middle class that e) is the key for democracy to endure… [America and Britain] have been overrun by parties which genuinely don’t believe public goods should exist.”



Hence, America and Britain are in ultra-severe crisis. In them, living standards are plummeting, not rising. Everything from life expectancy to real income just goes on falling, and trust in institutions and systems goes with it— and as that goes, so average people begin to turn to parties who don’t believe in public goods to express their bitterness and rage. A vicious circle thus kicks in. That is how the GOP took the house and the Tories have managed to stay in power for twelve years.
… “The politics of nihilism is what not “believing in” public goods really is. Public goods aren’t like, say, God. There’s no evidence that God exists, but you can believe in him anyways, and I don’t say that unkindly, I mean it expansively. But “not believing” in public goods isn’t like that: it’s like denying climate change, or saying the earth is flat, because, like I said, the great lesson of the 20th century is that public goods are the key. To what? To everything. From prosperity, to the democracy it hold together, to having a middle class, to people trusting systems and institutions enough to believe in a thing called civilization. All of it hinges on public goods. You can “not believe in them,” therefore, but that’s just another way of revealing your mind-shattering ignorance.
Which is where the GOP and Tories are. What they embody and enact before us every single day.
Let me sum all that up now. If you don’t believe in public goods, well… what is there to govern? Hence, parties like the GOP and the Tories are incapable of governance. And I really mean completely, totally incapable, from not being able to choose leaders, whether it’s Kevin McCarthy multiple tries, or Britain’s revolving door for Prime Ministers— and even when they can, well, nothing gets done, because, to this bizarre, delusional, ignorance masquerading as political philosophy, there’s nothing to be done.
…We could put it another way. Cooperation. There are levels of public goods— public health, justice, education, and so forth, are the basics. The modern ones are things like energy and transport and research. But the Big One, underlying them all? Is governance itself. The idea that we can govern ourselves, for the common good.
These parties also have distinctly authoritarian bents because they don’t believe in this primary public good at all. They don’t think of governance as a public good, ie, something “we” do, for the common good. They think of that form of governance as something to be destroyed— usually to enact the hierarchies and class distinctions of a distant past. You’re the peasant, I’m the lord, you’re the nobody, I’m the “real” citizen, you’re the underman, I’m the uberman. See the link here?
When you don’t believe in governance, what is there to govern? When you don’t believe in governance as a public good— something we do, together, through collective action, to nurture the common wealth— then why bother approaching it that way at all? Put both of those beliefs together, and you get the modern day GOP and the Tories: parties who don’t believe in modern social contracts, are completely incompetent at the very jobs they put themselves forward to do, running modern societies, because modern societies are about administering public goods, the foremost one of those being democracy itself, and then come things like healthcare, education, transport, and so on.
These parties— and the figures in them— don’t care about any of that. That stuff is just an impediment. To what? To supremacist fantasies of nostalgic, delusional utopias that never existed, basically. The GOP is only interested in what it can take away from Americans— books, words, rights, contraceptives. The Tories built their magical fantasyland— it was called Brexit, and the only problem was that it shattered the country, decimated the economy, caused a tsunami of human and financial capital flight, and destroyed Britain’s future. But they don’t care, because, hey, at least it purified the nation, and those dirty foreigners are gone. But then what? Then we have a bonfire.
…This is what modern conservatism has devolved to. It’s nihilism— moral, ontological, economic, social. It’s in proud, violent denial of the most crucial lessons of history, because saying “I don’t believe in public goods” is, LOL, the 21st century socioeconomic equivalent of wagging a finger and shouting “the earth is flat!”
…America and Britain will be grappling with this problem— a political of nihilism that wants to burn it all down, which also means that it can’t, by definition, govern anything, especially not a functioning modern society, because it’s too busy trying to get the rest of us to believe the Big Lie that public goods are the Devil, and only an exorcism by way of the ritual purification of hate and ignorance is what can cure us.


6 Comments


Terrifyingly, this can't work as an analysis without a missing part; the 'left' should be able to jump in to offer an alternative, and simply annihilate the right.


After 2009, a Republican or a Tory, should not have been able to win a race for dog-catcher. Instead, 8 years later, they controlled every branch, and were within 3 state houses of being able to write constitutional amendments at will. The Dems barely seemed discomfited.


That's because the "opposition" was making sure not to offer an alternative, actively purging anyone in either Labour or the Dems who looked to try. A project that is on-going.


No, unfortunately, with apologies to Mann and Ornstein, it is absolutely not only the Republicans who…


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dcrapguy
dcrapguy
Jan 06, 2023
Replying to

fuckin' A, bubbah.

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Nice to see the WSJ finally recognize the Frankenstein monster that they helped create. The current political equivalent of monkeys hurling their own feces didn't happen overnight--it dates back to the days of Gingrich, if not earlier. and the WSJ encouraged GOP lunacy for decades.


I already posted about the Dems and their futile search for "bipartisanship." Diogenes had a better shot at finding an honest man that the donkey has of finding bipartisanship with today's GOP. When Mitch McConnell is your idea of an honest broker on the other side, you've already lost.


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dcrapguy
dcrapguy
Jan 06, 2023
Replying to

nor do the democraps, as proved by their refusal to structurally address the cyclical debt ceiling kerfluff since... 2000? 1992?

the nazis like having the opportunity to shut it all down every year or so...

the democraps like having the opportunity to run against the nazis wanting to shut it all down every year of so...


NOBODY (neither party nor their 'respective' voters) cares about fixing... anything. props to eli for also noticing.

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