Glenn Altschuler has been teaching at Cornell for 4 decades. His work on popular culture as "contested terrain" between ideologies (the culture wars) has made him famous. Hi essay, Real conservatives must make a choice, for The Hill this morning gives conservatives and conservatism the benefit of the doubt. In polite society, conservatives are normal good faith players, rather than political vampires. Presumably, he thinks the French and Russian revolutions erred in murdering their murdeous aristocracies. When I opened Twitter the morning, the first tweet I noticed came from Long Island conservative shitbag Lee Zeldin: "Americans don’t want our nation radically transformed... We are ALL IN to save our country!" Zeldin, a Trumpist lame duck congressman from Suffolk County, is running for the GOP nomination for governor of New York.
Not wanting transformative change-- something espoused by conservatives from both parties (including, famously, Biden during his campaign)-- is contested by champions of those on the bottom, whether Bernie or the 6 members of Congress-- AOC, Ilhan, Rashida, Jamaal, Cori, Ayanna-- who voted against the phony-baloney, conservative-only infrastructure bill Friday night.
This morning Altschuler, in insisting that conservism be normalized, wrote that "For decades, conservatives who favored small government, stability, order, the rule of law, and respect for established institutions found a congenial home in the Republican Party." I'm not so sure I recall that kind of conservatism. For me, conservatism outside of the laboratory could always be reliably conflated with greed and selfishness on the one hand and racism and bigotry on the other. "These days," continued Altschuler, "the GOP is more like a wholly-owned Trump subsidiary, which pledges allegiance to conspiracy theories, white supremacy, and voter suppression, rather than a political party with a coherent conservative philosophy and policy agenda. (He forgot the aggressive greed and selfishness.)
“We’ve learned the wrong lesson as a party,” Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) has declared. Gonzalez voted to impeach Trump and recently announced he will not run for re-election. “In this day, to prevail or survive, you must belong to a tribe,” claims Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a veteran, and another conservative member of Congress in Trump’s crosshairs who has decided to retire. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the uber-conservative who was deposed as the third-ranking Republican leader in the House after she blasted Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, insists that the former president should not “play a role in the future of the party or country.” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), who was censured by his state’s Republican committee for voting to remove Trump from office, believes “most Nebraskans don’t think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude.”
Gonzalez, it’s worth noting, voted in line with Trump’s policy positions 85.7 percent of the time; Sasse 84.8 percent; Kinzinger 90.2 percent, Cheney 92.9 percent.
More than 50 years ago, in a book that has become a classic, social scientist Albert Hirschman explained that individuals who conclude that the quality, direction, or effectiveness of their organization has declined have two choices: voice (complain and propose changes) or exit.
Loyalty to the organization plays a pivotal role in the decision.
Most important-- and counterintuitively-- Hirschman demonstrated that exit can be a successful strategy for gaining greater political voice.
Friday we saw many otherwise solid progressives err grievously in tossing away the hopes of tens of millions of Americans who were counting on them-- to use their preferred phrase-- to hold the line. Only the 6 seemed ready to, in Hirschman's dichotomy, "exit." Most of the Blue America-endorsed candidates who expressed an opinion, agreed with the 6.
It seems clear that disaffected Republican officeholders have not brought the GOP back to its core principles. After all, 67 percent of Republicans now want Trump to retain a major role in their party, a ten-point increase from January 2021. Trump loyalists, moreover, are intent on purging “apostates” from the party.
And so, exit is almost certainly the best option for GOP officeholders and activists who share Adam Kinzinger’s “huge” disappointment in “leaders who don’t lead” and warnings that the fate of our democracy hangs in the balance. Or at the very least, they should do everything in their power to defeat GOP candidates who do not publicly repudiate lies about the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Same goes for the Democrats, where a corporate party is inherently incapable of delivering on the party's core values-- at least on its theoretical core values, rather than on the ego-centric careerism of the party's politicians, which is little different from the ego-centric careerism of Republican politicians. Neither party is fit for a two-party system, an anachronism whose time and past. It's time for both to break up-- an old fashioned, business wing for each and a right-populist ring for the Republicans and a left-populist wing for the Democrats. The brand new thermometer below, "Hold The Line," will make it easy to contribute to the 6 progressives who did hold the line when push came to shove.
We're going to have to start looking, very seriously, for courageousness in the politicians asking for our votes. It's a trait not usually in the fore of DC politics. I want to point back to a few paragraphs from an essay written for DWT a couple of years ago by then-Senate candidate and former Columbus, Georgia mayor Teresa Tomlinosn-- Crippling Political Fear. "It’s fear that cripples the Democratic Party," she wrote. "Fear of our policies, fear of who we are, and fear of the Republicans. Yes, fear is what has politically cost us in the last many election cycles. One cannot lead if one is afraid. The thing about leadership is that people want their leaders to be brave. They care less about what you think on the issues than whether you have the moxie to fight for them and the strength of conviction to tell them what you really think."
Tell people who you are and what you believe. They may not agree with you, but they will respect your courage, and that will inoculate you against the single most effective propaganda that Republicans have against Democrats-- that we are cowards.
That’s what the Right can’t stand about The Squad. Those women are fearless about their beliefs. They refuse to be bullied, and that is dangerous to the Republican playbook of shaming scared Democrats into milk toast, mealy-mouthed, baby-splitting positions that are equivocal and stand for nothing. American voters revile those who won’t tell the people what they think. Even if you don’t support the policies-- or certainly some of the statements-- of The Squad, you can’t deny that you appreciate that they unabashedly tell the world what they think.
...The nation has had its share of politically lukewarm Democratic candidates-- structured by the national party for perceived winnability not leadership. Even if they had a tagline of-- “Fighting for you”-- no one believed it. How could they if they didn’t fight for the ACA or weren’t willing to admit America has a gun violence problem?
Today, in a letter to his supporters, Bernie wrote that "Over the past 40 years in this country, there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class and working families to the very wealthiest people in America. As a result, half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck, 500,000 of the very poorest among us are homeless, and far too many families from coast to coast are worried about how they are going to feed their kids. And, most obscenely, low-income Americans now have a life expectancy about 15 years lower than the wealthy.
While working families struggle, the people on top have never had it so good. The top 1% now owns more than the bottom 90%. And while millions of Americans lost their jobs and income during the pandemic, more than 600 billionaires saw their wealth increase by more than $1 trillion. And it is no coincidence that the decline of the American middle class virtually mirrors the rapid decline of unions in this country. As workers lose their seats at the negotiating table the share of national income going to the very wealthy has gone up, while the percentage of workers' income has gone down."
This is why AOC, Rashida, Ilhan, Ayanna, Cori and Jamaal voted no-- and why I'm asking you to visit the new Hold The Line ActBlue page today.