As a former registered Republican and conservative, I wanted to say a few things about “conservative.” These are just random notes.

The conservative rightly looks at differences in results (so education, wealth) as part of the variability that is inevitable and exists in all nations. Same with the differences in occupations choses by women compared to men. (And I have read Thomas Sowell on this)

Still he should also reckon on the barriers that we once strongly enforced that kept African Americans and women out of various careers and even college majors.

What should the conservative position be now?

If the time for affirmative action is over now - was it never useful? As someone in college from 1969-73, African Americans were only slowly let into the first rank of colleges. Something surely needed to be done.

Or how about the vexing issue of sexual behavior. As someone who lived through the 1960s and the sexual revolution, is it really conservative to imagine that we can suppress gays? So take back their marriage rights? And how about contraception. Married for 46 years, I suggest that now contraception should be a conservative practice. That is, sex is good for marriage and contraception takes out the concern that every act is rolling the dice re pregnancy. My assumption is that most of my catholic friends have used birth control. And as for protestants and the rest - the same.

Gay marriage is just one more recognition that we all form bonds of affiliation with others. And gays are certainly a large enough minority that most of us should know at least several gays couples. They seem to love each other. Isn’t that great?

I cringe at the social justice catechism that has been thrust upon the media and the rest of us. So no, I won’t tell you my pronoun, and I will never write cis-gender except in this context. And pregnant people - makes me scream.

But if conservatives represent not reasonable people of good will, but shills and liars then the conservative voice will never have a place with reasonable people.

And no, Ted Cruz is not a conservative, he is a demagogue. So it MTG.

The conservative conferences that focus on guns and Christianity would have appalled John Adams (or Abe Lincoln).

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"I would Love if the new me could expostulate with the old me. But perhaps neither ever really existed in reality".

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I think that post-liberalism, at least in the form of nationalism, has been coming for a while, back to Pat Buchanan in 1992. It had its constituency but also a hard ceiling. I think some of that shifted in the mid-2000s with a hostility to immigration, for which nationalist ideology friendlier than classical liberalism.

I think Trump brings a few new things to the table. Most important on this point is that if government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed, they won't consent to the legitimacy of the government unless they get their way all of the time. That's the difference between Trump and all who preceded him.

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Most of TFG's supporters think they are supporting democracy, although most of them don't really understand what that means and we can't really know individually how they do or would define it. As the polls showed, the number of Rs-TFG supporters who are worried about democracy in America is substantially higher than Dems. But there are "elites" who tell them what they're doing is right and validate the delusion. The elites who consciously understand they're moving the country toward authoritarianism has reached a critical mass and their project is succeeding. They're the real threat. The ones who write hagiographies of the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal, like here: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/waiting-for-our-salazar/. Tucker Carlson clearly belongs in that club given his entirely optional touting of Orban and Putin despite no one really clamoring for it, for reasons that are not totally clear to me, although I suspect strongly he plans to run for office someday and sees himself as the future tyrant, or at least a major player in such a regime, and perhaps wants help from abroad. Charlie Sykes has asked why Tucker is doing what he's doing, and that's my answer. Brooks doesn't use the word, but the one he should have used in his write-up of the National Conservativism conference is totalitarianism, which is what it is to capture the state and then use state power to reshape and enforce culture and society. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/11/scary-future-american-right-national-conservatism-conference/620746/. Reshaping the culture from the top down, don't think it worked too well generally so maybe they should re-read their history. Then again, it's actually not about the culture. As Orwell wrote, the justifications change, the underlying motivation, power for power's sake, never changes. So whenever anyone talks about how their ideas are hypocritical, or impractical, or illogical, it's really missing the point. Here's a quote from the head of the Claremont Institute: “The ideal endgame would be to effect a realignment of our politics and take control of all three branches of government for a generation or two." Hmm, interesting, I feel like there might be a name for that, 30-40 years of unbroken single party rule.

So, in their own words, they acknowledge the goal is dictatorship and totalitarianism. I call it elite failure because there is now a substantial element of political, media, economic, and intellectual elite in this country that wants a dictatorship. They see themselves as our masters and us as their slaves. Why that happened, I don't know. The failure of the other elites on the right was not to stop them, but rather help and try to profit off their growing strength. The failure of other elites was not to stop them, not to blacklist them, not to refuse to do business with them or give them airtime.

I said I don't know why we developed a substantial bastion of elite support for dictatorship, but there are theories. I'm not the first to point out the parallels with the American South in the run up to the Civil War, but the parallels are striking and worth repeating. In both cases we had demographic shifts that certain elites in parts of the country (the South then/conservatives now) interpreted (wrongly, I'd argue) as meaning the perpetual decline of their political influence and permanent powerlessness, leading to economic ruin (losing their slaves then/higher taxes today). In both cases, elites told their followers (and mostly convinced themselves as well) via their media ecosystem (Southern/conservative) that they faced total cultural, economic, and even physical destruction at the hands of their enemies (Northerners/abolitionists/blacks then, liberal, atheistic "Communists" today) if they lost their political power. Given those stakes, secession, civil war, or dictatorship are preferable to most people rather then being murdered or enslaved by their enemies. Unfortunately for us, whereas the South was geographically concentrated enough to make secession appealing, the geographical lines aren't so clear cut today, so the only solution is to seize the whole country.

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Jul 24, 2022Liked by Jonathan V. Last

Here's my issue: If one man (in this case, DJT) can wreck so many American institutions in just four years, how solid were those institutions to begin with? Perhaps we need to replace our bouncy house republic with one made of steel, or at least oak and maple. One nightmare president should not have destroyed this much of the place we live ... and yet he did.

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Jul 24, 2022Liked by Jonathan V. Last

One of the interesting things is that research actually indicates that ~30-40% of the population of any given democracy has authoritarian leanings but since the are equally split between left and right these people are usually unactivated.

Countries get in trouble when a reordering event happens that concentrates the authoritarian leaners into one concentrated political party that can suddenly win elections. (And explains historically how you get authoritarians both on the far right/ far left end of the spectrum.)

And again, it still requires a leader to activate these authoritarian leaners by actually publicly committing authoritarian acts. ( In recent history this has been helped by a cut of personality if the leader.)

1).So, reordering event concentrates authorization leaners enough to win political power.

2). Leader takes authoritarian actions while in office

3). The political party/Leader is electorally rewarded. The leader often interpretes their success as a validation of their authoritarian actions.

4). With every successive political victory actions are taken to dismantle organized resistance to their power which then allows them to take more authoritarian actions.

So 1 & 2 happened in the US. 3 was prevented from happening at least from now but if Stop the Steal officials are elected into positions that allow them to overwrite future elections or a president with authoritarian instincts is elected in 2024 then it will continue further down the slope.

So what do we thing the reordering event was in the US?

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Let me get this straight. 'No television' = you are no longer visible, and 'no social media' means you are no longer visible. And yet, you persist.

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"Blow the whole thing up" and "Burn the place to the ground" were common refrains among rank-and-file Trumpites in 2015-16. They might say they meant "the old GOP." They might say "Trump is a builder!" But by lionizing someone who "isn't afraid to challenge traditional norms," they chose first of all a destroyer who would "break what needs to be broken," as one Trump intellectual said.

The more respectable line is that it's about trimming back the "administrative state" that removes decisions from democratic accountability -- which is fine as far is it goes. The idea is that the permanent bureaucracy warps the constitutional order. The promoters of Schedule F will say it's about letting a "duly elected president" enact his own agenda as the Constitution allows.

But when Donald Trump is the hero of that project -- and when Trump loyalists applaud playing hardball to prevent a Democratic president from enacting his agenda -- one has to suspect that something other than democratic accountability is at its heart. It looks more like: "A president who will do what I want should not be limited in any way -- or held accountable for illegal acts."

Trump himself clearly has an expansive view of presidential powers & immunities. His elite defenders aren't bothered by it. Instead, they attack those who insist that the president is not supposed to be a monarch.

Among hard-core Trumpites are people who suggest that democracy itself is problematic in that it allows the wrong kinds of people to gain power. And unlike much of America, they don't identify Trump as the wrong kind of person. Also in MAGA-land one can find a belief that the Constitution is defective insofar as it's informed by Enlightenment liberalism and doesn't give religion a dominant place in public life, and it allows cultural changes they dislike.

So if you delve into the world of those saying “We must restore and defend the American constitutional order," you may come upon a fantasy of repealing essential features of the Constitution and putting in place a different kind of governance.

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I generally agree with JVL’s analysis with this caveat. I don’t think most people (whether they are followers or leaders) think about how their actions impact or don’t impact the system. When I say the system, I mean the Constitution and our system of political governance. Some are - some want to burn everything down - but many are just oblivious to consequences.

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I listened to the secret podcast and I can't escape JVLs ultimate point that no matter all Sarah's sunshine unt rainbows, Hawley and Cruz are senators for life and for all the people in her focus groups who don't want trump to run, I'll bet a Yankees baseball cap that Every Single One Of Them will still vote for him.

And as our host always says, I don't know how we fix that.

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“Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks—no form of government can render us secure.”

James Madison June 20, 1788

Virtue is what makes the constitutional bouncy house work correctly. What Trump did was to show his followers what was possible when they turned their virtue into vice.

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First, thank you for sharing the Tom Nichols article and for your comments. I appreciate the insight into conservatism vs trumpism but I think you give the radical GOP leaders and their base too much credit. I believe the leadership is in varying degrees power hungry and/or enamored with the sound of their own voice. As for the base my small observation is that they were given permission to be openly crazy. Giving them credit for any level of understanding of conservatism is a bridge too far. Second, having left either political party and identifying as “independent” was reactionary for many of us. We rejected the directions the parties were talking and voiced our concerns by leaving. So what now! Perhaps now is a great time to step back and examine all of the policy options not just how can we restore order, either as conservative or liberal but what makes the most sense for the future of liberal democracy in the USA.

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Tom Nichol’s ‘bits and pieces’ via Twitter are necessarily reductive and loaded, being a product of Twitter as so ably sized up in the second newsletter. He defines conservatism by contemptibly counter-defining liberalism. (Intellectually,that’s not the best of the conservative tradition, so I look forward to the book.)

For the liberals I know and admire, liberty is inseparably tied to responsibility, sin is a state of human nature, virtue is hard won, virtue ethics reign, and, importantly, the past informs and enables a private person, citizen and our precious state to move forward with clarity.

Ti be clear, authoritarianism is a state actor, simply one wholly unbounded a Constitutional tradition like ours, one knitted together oarh-taking-and keeping state institutions and state representatives, each deeply committed to upholding their sacred pledges to the rest of us.

Ours is not a ‘bouncy house ‘ but it clearly is a magnificent product of human imagination of a more perfect union.

That said, I am extremely grateful for young conservative minds attuned to what matters. Let us all call out Trumpism. It is anathema to conservation of our beloved Constitution and our shared prospects of a more perfect union (one with the potential to learn and self correct in an ever-contingent world), one that will hold only if our institutions, representatives, citizens, journalists and historians fully and adroitly exercise all of the virtues that enable the good, including justice and temperance.

Thanks also for Bulwark.

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I think in some ways we have stopped looking for the ways we are the same and are only noticing the differences. Not only that but we seem to believe that only our group has basic human values. I have seen it in rural areas and urban groups, in college liberals and holy rollers.

I have had the fortune of growing up in a conservative rural area, and then lived the last 30 years in a diverse immigrant working class neighborhood. How diverse? At one of our neighborhood street parties we had people born in 7 different countries on 5 different continents. That, skin color and language was the only real differences. They all had the same basic moral outlook, work ethic, plans for their children's future. Sure not everybody opens the door the same way and do little things that set them apart. You know the kind of ignorance that you see from tourist. But where it counts we all a much the same.

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Thanks, JVL: being able to read Tom Nichols finally pushed me over the edge that I've been getting closer to for a long time to subscribe to the Atlantic. That piece is just as good as you said, and as he often does, Tom speaks for me, too.

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Jul 23, 2022·edited Jul 24, 2022

The thing that somewhat surprises me is the idea that people are somehow *surprised* that there were people chafing at the restraints of the "Bouncy House" or that the Bouncy House "Deflating" so to say was either unforeseeable or inconceivable.

America isn't even 300 years old, there have been many "Bouncy Houses" before it where the "Shared Delusion" had one or more parties stop playing along to disastrous results. Rome is perhaps the most famous, recognized and *should be the most easy to identify* and use as a measuring stick.

We're not quite at the Brothers Gracchi but perhaps we don't need *actual* mobs of armed citizens killing a tribune/senator, however an entire party of them signing off on the death of bipartisan proceedings held in an attempt to hold gross misconduct responsible might do.

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