Thursday, July 21, 2016

Trump happened because conservatism failed


Tyler Cowen (now a Bloomberg View colleague of mine) took a crack at this question back in February, and I've been thinking about it ever since. Here's my unified theory of why a guy like Trump managed to take over the Republican party this year, when nothing similar had ever happened before in living memory.

First of all, a note about causality. Most events are the result of a chain of causes - if one link in the chain falls apart, the event doesn't happen. This is not the way human intuition naturally thinks about causality - we instinctively imagine each event as the sum of causal factors, and attribute some percent of responsibility to each factor. But with a causal chain, each link is responsible for 100% of the causality. Just like the marginal value of a right shoe and the marginal value of a left shoe are both equal to 100% of the total value of a pair of shoes.

So I think that Trump is a special human being. He's a reality star, a possibly-faux-billionaire celebrity who's really good at overselling himself, and has essentially no scruples. There aren't many of those in the United States who want the job of president. In fact, there is probably only one. If Trump had been killed in a car accident in 2014, we might be looking at a much more typical Republican candidate, with the Republican establishment retaining a shaky but intact grasp on the party.

But that's just one link in the chain - one precondition for the Trump Takeover. I think there are two other main links here: 1. The dramatic weakness of the Republican establishment, and 2. The existence of a Trump-friendly voter bloc in the first place.

In the past, the Republican presidential candidate was usually a gray, bland figure, a stalwart conservative but not a fire-breathing one, a man who had worked his way up the ranks. Romney, McCain, Bush II, Dole, and Bush I all fit this description - Reagan was the only possible exception within my lifetime, and even he didn't deviate too far from this model. As a conservative, the Republican nominee would support tax cuts, a business-friendly attitude, a tough-guy attitude toward America's enemies and rivals, and traditional family values based on Christianity. That's what conservatism was.

But in the past fifteen years, the three pillars of conservatism - economic, foreign-policy, and social conservatism - have all had huge, dramatic failures.

Economic conservatism had two big failures. The first failure was when the Bush tax cuts failed to reverse income stagnation:


The second failure was when a lax regulatory climate appeared to give rise to a financial crisis that devastated the job market. That second shock was so huge that it has all kinds of people questioning neoliberalism itself - big, comprehensive alternative policy paradigms like protectionism, socialism, and industrialism are now being openly considered. Those alternatives may or may not gain traction. But certainly, the formula of "cut taxes and let businesses do as they see fit" is now pretty discredited. Some older intellectuals continue to fight doggedly for this economic program, but nowadays they are rightfully ignored.

Simple truth: Economic conservatism failed in the 2000s and 2010s.

Next, foreign policy conservatism. This failed during the George W. Bush administration, when Bush turned bellicose rhetoric into bellicose reality with the disastrous Iraq War. The Iraq War was a disaster because despite winning the war pretty handily and taking low casualties, we received no gains. We spent massive amounts of money and thousands of lives, and temporarily wrecked our international prestige, only to turn Iraq from an unthreatening petty dictatorship into a failed state and a breeding ground for ISIS. It was a failure of the modern conservative approach to war itself.

A more minor failure was the seeming emptiness of Bush's bellicose rhetoric when it came to actual threats. Under Bush's watch, Putin's power grew inexorably, and North Korea got nukes, while Bush barked impotently. This wasn't nearly the kind of disaster that Iraq was, but it probably unsettled some Americans, and it certainly unsettled the foreign-policy establishment.

So foreign-policy conservatism failed in the 2000s.

Finally, social conservatism. This was the biggest failure of all. Social conservatism promised to restore family values by promoting Christianity and resisting things like gay marriage. But as Charles Murray and many others have documented, working-class white America professes more traditional values, but doesn't practice them. On the whole, working-class whites are no longer going to church, are no longer getting married (or staying married), and are having kids out of wedlock - in other words, traditional family values are dying among the very people who were most receptive to social conservatives' message. Here's a graph from the Washington Post:


Social conservatism also failed to make its case to young Americans. Secularism is rising rapidly. Gay marriage enjoys wide support, especially among the young. Americans have resoundingly rejected the values pushed on them by Christian conservatives in the 80s, 90s, and 00s. Here's a graph from Pew:


So social conservatism also failed in the 2000s and 2010s.

Add all this up, and what do you get? A massive, total failure of all three pillars of modern conservatism within a 15-year period. It's little wonder, therefore, that Trump voters were unwilling to vote for Republicans who offered them only more of the same - the same economic policies that seemed to cost them their jobs and businesses and wages, the same foreign policies that embarrassed their country, the same social policies that had done nothing to save their families. Even when the conservative ideology was offered with maximum fire and vitriol, in the person of Ted Cruz, they weren't willing to bite. So they looked around for something else, and Trump was there.

So that leaves us with the final link in the chain: the question of why Trumpism filled the void that conservatism created with its rapid collapse. Why are Trumpians Trumpians in the first place? That's a question I don't think I know how to answer. It's probably something having to do with race, religion, tribalism, xenophobia, etc. It very well might have something to do with globalization and import competition from China. Or it might just be a faction that was there all along, and supported conservatism for a while out of convenience. Or all three. Or something else. I don't know.

But whatever the reason for Trump's support, a necessary piece of the Trump takeover equation was the collapse of the conservative ideology. That epochal event should be a lesson to us all - it's what inevitably happens to an ideology when it succumbs to overreach, dogmatism, and an echo chamber.

I hope I don't ever have to watch the same thing happen to the American left.

80 comments:

  1. How about it was always pure bullshit and Trump does bullshit better than all of them

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  2. A bigger failure to me would seem to be American's new (or perhaps not so new) Savior Complex. That only a single person could fix our country rather than a system of well meaning intelligent people. Perhaps its the much simplified view of government that's so attractive, but also aids the rise of politicians that rely on a cult of personality.

    In any case, president nominees always have to project more power than they will ever have. No one gets the job saying "while I support that opinion its really congress' job", even though that would be the honest answer.

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    1. That seems backwards to me, as someone whose country was adversely affected by the US doing just that.

      Trump is winning because he's running on being the guy to STOP that process that hasn't stopped churning since the Clintons-backed Serbian "intervention" by NATO. (or, for solely American interests, Iraq II) He is saying without the threats of the cold war, it's alright to stop playing Mighty Whitey and running all over the world playing policeman in rough neighborhoods that are used to always taking care of themselves. The only thing US intervention ever causes is fighting forces to unite...Against Americans.

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    2. The smart people have been buying government.

      And that is the problem. Too much government and ALL of it is for sale.

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  3. Anonymous5:26 PM

    1. R Party absorbed the Dixiexrats and incorporated their Lost Cause victim hood and applied to variety of issues.

    2. R Party intentionally gave leadership and messaging over to talk radio & Fox News after death of Fairness Doctrine. Then, the media worm turned and R Party members had to kow tow to media's agenda & ideology or be attacked or spurned (see Leveson Inquiry to see this is typical Murdoch way to control politicians)

    3. R Party lost, willingly threw away, identity as Republican Party/Party of Lincoln in favor of identifying as 'conservatives' with a pathologically rigid 'conservative'(/neo-Confederate states rights) ideology rather than governing party pragmatism.

    4. R Party is terrified of Trump because he is a product of the Murdoch media machine and they are afraid it will be turned against them.
    (Now, with Ailes gone, they might be able to break free but so many of their politicians have gone over to the dark side.)

    So much more from living in a long Red Southern state, but that's a start.

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    1. All the Parties have gone States Rights when it comes to cannabis. Hillary says it. Trump says it. Johnson says it.

      The message? The Federal Government is defective.

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  4. Anonymous5:31 PM

    From what I can gather. The reason for Trump's rise is that he makes both Dem's and Rep's squirm. He could have run for either side, and would have gotten the nomination. His actual policy statements don't matter to the people that are voting for him. What matters is his unspoken policy, which is the dismantling the existing political order. Both parties are so intertwined, that if one falls, the other will to.

    Anyone who argues against him, is simply arguing to keep the status quo. Anyone who argues for him, is simply arguing for a vast change to existing politics. He isn't even going to fix anything and everyone knows it. But he will disrupt and that is what the trumpsters want. PERIOD.

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    1. Arson as a force for urban renewal...

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    2. Anon,

      I think you have it mostly right. Maybe though you lack the same link in the chain that Noah does. The Dems have been increasingly successful over decades at dividing off their constituency according to race, ethnicity, and etc. And so, Trump, instead of pandering to the Hispanic vote as other Repubs have, he ignored the conventional wisdom and simply aimed his efforts at the group that sees both parties for the disingenuous scoundrels that they are. Naturally, though, Trump is a better scoundrel than most of them are, but mostly just because he was able to recognize how many potential voters are feed up with the standard lies.

      So I suppose that makes him a master opportunist. But the opportunity wasn't that difficult to recognize. A vast number of Americans, and especially those of us living near the border with Mexico, know full well that the damage being done by illegal immigrants is far more extensive than what nearly all politicians were willing to admit. And especially at times when there are too few jobs for citizens. Then too, everyone gets the laws of supply and demand, and... that simply enforcing the laws 'against' employing illegal workers would cause a voluntary exodus. So when the overly repeated claim that 11 million illegals can't be deported is made, along with other such asinine claims, those who live in real world start looking for solutions, and Trump was the only choice thereto.

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  5. I would describe Trump's appeal as "revenge porn". The appeal of Trump is that he makes the people that Trumpians are unhappy with uncomfortable. He makes them squirm, he makes them angry.

    The appeal of Trump is the appeal of symbolic violence against the people they think have abandoned and/or hurt them. Sometimes, it's not so violent.

    I have frequently heard, "He pisses the right people off" said about Trump.

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    1. Anonymous1:16 PM

      Living in Europe, I agree with this. So many of our annoying (and dangerous) PC people hate Trump - thus I like him. He's also part of the great populist wave (mostly right-wing populist, left-wing in Spain, Italy and Greece) which is sweeping over the West. Mostly as a reaction to the botched handling of the down-sides of globalization. Things like unwanted third-world immigration, failed financial regulation, atrocious macroeconomic policies (like austerity and the euro), and PC speech codes. All perpetrated by disconnected "Davos People" elites who've profited very well from all this. Or heck, even by upper middle class elites.

      We're mad and we want change. And if we cannot have it right away, at least we can see our own elites squirm at Trump, and be like Cartman when he licks the sweet tears of Scott Tenorman.

      The only big downside of Trump from a European perspective is that he's ambigous on Article 5 of the NATO treaty. Europe is not spending enough on defence and is thus reliant on the USA. We should spend more - Trump is right about that - but endangering the safety of Europe until that happens makes me feel rather worried. Also, without a credible nuclear guarantee, we might well see half a dozen EU states acquiring nuclear weapons of their own (Poland, Germany, Hungary, Czechia etc), which would be a decidedly bad thing.

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  6. My only hope is that after Trump gets crushed in the election, the Republicans don't view the loss as a reason to get back to a Conservative dominated GOP, but rather see it as an opportunity to start again with a more Libertarian centered GOP. The only issues the former GOP will have to admit defeat on in order to embrace a more Libertarian platform are issues they have already long been defeated on.

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    1. And what happens after he wins easily?

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    2. Hah! I guess that possibility hasn't crossed my mind.

      My hope then would be that all the fear-mongering rhetoric would go the way of the dodo, as campaign promises often do, and Trump will actually be able to bring the sides together to make some changes that will do some actual good, like major tax reform, term limits, etc.

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    3. Libertarian centered GOP? After what happenend in the primaries? That's just delusional.

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  7. What's funny is that economic and foreign policy conservatism failed only after having essentially completely won politically.

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    1. I understand what you're saying here but I'm going to have to disagree. I don't think what Noah is calling economic policy failure is accurate at all. I'm fairly confident the masses weren't measuring the success of the tax cuts based on their ability to reverse income stagnation and nothing the democrats have done has reversed it either. I'm fairly sure that reversing of income stagnation wasn't even a primary goal of Conservatives to begin with so I'm not sure how failing to do something that no one expected them to do, and that they never even tried to do, can be construed as failure.

      As for foreign policy failures...those were all in fact total political failures.

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    2. Well, as a stimulus to the economy the Bush tax cuts in total were an abject failure. The Bush tax cuts occurred in 2001 and 2003 and since that time you have a downward spiral in household income (largely due to the financial crisis) until they were partially repealed in 2012. For the average household, the Bush tax cuts did nothing.

      There may be an argument that the Bush tax cuts helped pull us out of the 2001 slowdown (I haven't honestly looked into this much, but I've heard it from conservative friends), but other than that the data shows absolutely no economic stimulus and definitely did not jumpstart long term growth.

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    3. First, you are equating stimulus to the economy to household income, when they are not at all the same thing. Two, household income was decreasing rapidly after the tech bubble bust and then actually began to rise, along with economic growth, again until the housing bust. What data exactly are you referring to?

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    4. Short short answer to that? Same reason monopolies 'technically' fail. Lack of competition. Being able to pass anything you want makes you less focused on what's stuffed in those bills themselves. Essentially the Bush era (especially the latter half) made neocons and paleocons put down their sticks and celebrate drunkenly, ignoring the damage their policies were doing because it all went mostly unopposed at home.

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  8. Trump has clearly given voice to people who want to say and believe intolerant things about fellow citizens. And. who are looking for a savior because self governing is so boring and troublesome. Its somewhat nihilistic. People who take the country's progress for granted indulge in such behavior. I believe this population is limited to ~40% or so.

    The Democrats have clearly become the moderate party. More importantly, they've become the "nicer" party. Look at how the DEM primaries were conducted versus the GOP one. The DEMs are centrist on fiscal and monetary matters, and socially progressive. About where the country is. See Obama's 2 terms, practically like Ike's.

    Hillary will win, I hope comfortably in Nov. She'll likely get the senate for 2 years, wherein all the progress will be made. The chances of the DEMs living in an echo chamber is low; possible but not probable. People of color will save us as Samantha Bee explained because more white people will vote for Trump than Hillary. Kind of like what happened in LA when David Duke ran for Gov.

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    1. She has no chance. Honduras will kill her. And if not the campaign, Honduras WILL kill her. The largest group of protesters at DNC weren't BLM, but South American. And they were armed. Whatever happened to "Don't shit where you eat?" Or near it, at least. Imagine if some policy of Trump's got Pope Francis killed and he still ran in the next election. That's South America's reaction to Berta Carceres.

      Serbia also, has beef on that level with her, but at least there's a really large continent and even larger ocean in the way, for now. There are too many cultures singling her out for revenge, it's going to be a very nasty presidency either way.

      Hope at least her cheating scoundrel ways kicks the green party up to approved funding levels for the next shot. (If there is one. If she wins, I'm betting against it and using the winnings to hit the Seychelles)

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    2. Anonymous3:28 PM

      Point is, Clinton's foreigno policy has been announced to be disasterous by herself, in her intention to sanction and undermine Russia and have Ucraine in Europe (after a very democratic nazi coup d'etat against a democratically elected presindent - old story waging them), then insist on messing against Assad. If she stays true to her very proposal she's threatening another geopolitical chaos, after Isis, which came from the fall of Qaddafi in Libia, can somebody stop her, please?

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    3. SqueakyRat3:38 PM

      Johnny Ridden . . . you're kidding, right? No one in the United States gives a damn about Honduras or about Serbia: first principle of American politics.

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    4. There has been nothing more intolerant than cannabis Prohibition. And no party in power Federally has done anything about it.

      The rabid anti-Prohibitionists have noted this failure and about 1/2 of them (5% of the population) are very proTrump. The thinking - punish those who could have done something. And. He couldn't be any worse.

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  9. Excellent article. While the failures you described were true, I do have to wonder how much we can blame conservative policy failures for the appearance of the average Trump voter. What I've seen and heard discussing with and listening to Trump voters rarely shows anywhere near the amount of vitriol towards conservative failures that they have for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. At risk of overgeneralizing, I'd say there's a lot more ignorance than repentance.

    But hey, I could be thinking on the wrong path - as you mentioned the chain of causality, it just might be that the failures piling up by the end of the Bush II administration caused much of the Obama loathing we see today.

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  10. Anonymous9:26 PM

    American conservatism is really just a branch of liberalism. Free markets are not conservative. A Chinaman can take MY job because of free trade? That's not conservative. That's principled liberalism. Buyers should buy from whomever they believe offers them the most utility.

    European conservatism is more tribal. Which means it's actually conservative. We should do whatever benefits MY people. Who cares about abstract principles? What matters is that MY tribe wins.

    We are seeing a potential transformation of American conservatism into European conservatism.

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    1. Good answer, like that one, yeah hadn't thought of it.

      It's probably one reason the EU floundered so badly is it tried to stitch everyone together the same way, and stubbornly continued pushing forwards rather than release all power and just be a trade regulation board.

      It was meant to fix the League of Nations, not become it!

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    2. Anonymous3:36 PM

      I partially agree, but it has been both progs and cons, in Europe, pushing for globalization almost in a script like fashion.
      Plus free market is distorted, in the case of china, by value change, intertwined with less labour rights, aka, not "playing" with the same rules.
      That it means lowered princes, along with tax lowering, it's mostly a travesty, a comedy, if it's made on low labour wages, not only it's bad per sè, but in the long term it means less job and jobs elsewhere, lowered taxes, if not progressive means maybe a bit lower prices, but there is little incentive to big enterpreuner to spread well being and occupation, in globalized economy, there's little incentive in that direction compared to how much it used to.

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  11. "Most events are the result of a chain of causes - if one link in the chain falls apart, the event doesn't happen."

    It's not that the event doesn't happen, it's that it doesn't happen in quite the same way. As in, if one road is out, the traffic goes around, but most people still get to their destination. One can see this with the Republican field in 16 - pretty much all the contenders were loopy in one way or another. So if it were not Trump, we'd be talking about how strange it is that Cruz or Carson or Walker is the nominee. The larger causes to identify are pushing on a significant group of US voters, and they will find their way to la-la land one way or another. Only the hair will change.

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  12. Nice choice of pic - I believe that's right after Luke's torpedoes enter the exhaust port - and right before the big kaboom...

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  13. Well, it was always there - check out The Paranoid Style in American politics.

    It just wasn't so vulgar. I can see, in the near future, a dude jumping a Harley through a flaming circle over white tigers at the next RNC. And it will go from "lock her up!" to "burn the witch!"

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  14. To say that Bush's economic policy is conservative and then equate that with more liberal economic policy with lower regulation and lower taxes is disingenuous. Bush was more of a "corporatist" regime - lower taxes and regulation for various entrenched interest groups. I agree that policy failed, but I don't think that should be used as evidence that we should have a high tax/heavily regulated set of policies.

    Also, the comment at the end about watching this happen to the American left is... ironic (and I'm hoping intentionally so). Have you met a Bernie Sanders supporter? The echo chambers on both sides of American politics are well entrenched.

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    1. I believe you mean "Hillary Clinton soulless drone"

      Berners are at least willing to consider a candidate that won't send the country into another in a string of endless wars. Just check out some of Justin Raimondo and William Blum's writings on the subject.

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  15. You can't leave out the importance of the right-wing media echo chamber in creating Trumpians. They are receiving all of their information about how politics and the world works from media figures who have absolutely no shame. This is why Trump supporters can come right out and call for Hillary's execution for treason, for example. They are ripe for a candidate as brazen as a Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, or Coulter, and Trump fits the bill.

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  16. Anonymous12:05 PM

    Overall, an excellent analysis, but one thing puzzles me. Conservative economics didn't fail in the 2000's. It was a failure from the beginning, i.e. with Reagan. The modern conservative movement's most fundamental pillar was the cargo cult of supply-side economics - the dogma that cutting taxes on the rich is not only free it results in more money for everyone. How nice! Too bad it isn't true.

    And we knew that right away with Reaganomics. The failure was documented in detail in real time by, among others, economists John Palmer and Elizabeth Sawhill in their 1982 The Reagan Experiment and the 1984 follow up The Reagan Record and was continued in the 90's by Paul Krugman.

    Conservative economics is not really an ideology -- that's far too respectful a term. It's really a con job. But how long can you continue the con? Pretty long it turns out, but not forever.

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    1. Yup. But the con was its own con as well. Don't forget Bush I's promises to reverse course. If Obama never appeared you would have likely seen a revolving door where the Republican nominee wins or brings it to contest by simply "promising to unfuck what my predecessors fucked up"

      In 92, the spoiler was Perot, and had he not run you would probably have seen Junior with a higher approval rating just for berating his father on bad fiscal policies....Before recruiting the same "financial gurus" for his cabinet.

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  17. While there's a lot of truth to what you say - especially relative to stimulus by Bush (and carried over to early part of Obama admin) - I think you downplay the role of bad leadership of GOP. None of their candidates have been worth much. Bush got in (barely) because of Gore's weakness. And Bush more than anything else helped destroy the GOP as a serious party. It never really recovered from him. Throw in bad conservative media and bad leadership (Presidential nominees, House and Senate leadership) and that explains a lot.

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  18. Tracy Lightcap12:45 PM

    I've been writing this post a lot recently.

    If those interested in Trump and his followers want to read an excellent, empirically supported piece of research that pretty much nails the entire phenomena, see:

    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

    This is Bob Altemeyer’s The Authoritarians. Altemeyer has been studying authoritarian personality traits for decades (the amount of research cited in the book is staggering) and wrote this book when John Dean (yes, that John Dean) asked him to. Reading chapter 3 on authoritarian followers and chapter 5 on authoritarian leaders will clear up a lot concerning both Trump himself (he’s a classic “social dominator”) and his supporters. I find this a much more convincing framework for thinking about Trump then the whole “narcissistic personality” business. I don’t think Trump would fit any psychiatric disorder profile very well; his personality and the way it works in our politics is much, much more common then we would like to think. This doesn’t mean he isn’t dangerous, mind; he sees the rest of us as marks who can help him attain power, nothing else. It's authoritarianism that's at the bottom of the whole business.

    This doesn't mean that there aren't true economic grievances too; Noah has named many of them. But such matters concern voters across the spectrum and only the Republicans (or a large sunset of them) have responded to the kinds of appeals Trump has made about them. Altemeyer tells us why that is the case.

    Go and take a look (this means you too, Noah) and judge for yourselves. Then remember that Altemeyer thinks that about 20-25% of the population in the US (and a lot of other countries) are authoritarian followers. All Trump did was get rid of the dog whistles used in the past to activate them.

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    1. This answer combines well with a few others: American conservatism has flipped over into a European model (with a very bad track record) that didn't tend to win here. And the Republican Party since the Southern Strategy has concentrated authoritarian followers in their party (and thus in their primary), and prepped them that politics is full of conspiracies and people that hate America, and failed to act in their interests after getting their votes. Unfortunately these patterns, plus the availability of echo-chamber news, are going to continue until the Republican Party transforms -- Trump might be unique, but the opportunity for social dominators to rally concentrated, aggrieved authoritarian followers to win the Republican primary is likely to continue.

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  19. Conservatism has failed so horrifically that conservatives control both houses of congress and the large majority of state legislatures and governorships. So I don't see how you can say it's lost its political appeal.

    Trump is the Republican nominee because he was willing to articulate the racism that motivates Republican voters more explicitly than his opponents. That's all.

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    1. So sick of this BS line. Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II were all racists right?

      Trump won because Republicans are sick and tired of the usual politics. That's it. They are sick of the status quo.

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    2. "They are sick of the status quo."

      Ok - then they could go out, quit their jobs and burn down their own houses - that would change their status quo.

      Nihilism is always "easy" and appeals to unimaginative stupid people.

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    3. What a thoroughly senseless comment! Nobody but you said anything about nihilism. As for your "unimaginative stupid people" comment, it seems to me it would take an imaginative stupid person to not understand that the status quo I was referring to was the political status quo.

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    4. Think you ran headfirst into an actual libewall there, Donk, not merely a 'democrat'

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  20. Anonymous2:20 PM

    I think this is a good piece, Noah. I would have over-emphasized the Iraq war, which destroyed the GOP's foreign policy bona fides. Also, on the domestic side, Medicare Part D, warrantless wiretapping, the TSA, NSA surveillance, etc. made these "limited government" Republicans look hypocritical.

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    1. All of the above; none of the "economic failures" Noah claims.

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  21. Hillary for Prison!
    It's not clear if you really want to understand Trump & Trump supporters, or if you'd rather echo chamber congratulate each other for moral & intellectual superiority.

    Noah, since I really do like so much of your Model work, I'll try to do a little contrary / alternative notes on your points. Hmm, it's way too long.

    Angry Americans who support Trump feel betrayed. Replace "failure" with "betrayal" and look for reasons somebody who feels betrayed would feel that way, and I'm sure you'd be closer to understanding Trump supporters.

    Economic bailouts for rich Big Banks, but not the little guys. Betrayal, not failure.

    Successful Bush war & surge, then Dems running away, losing the peace. Betrayal of allies, of finishing the job.

    Kids being raised by married parents is clearly the optimal way to organize child-rearing. Elites betray this truth. The purpose of Gay marriage is to allow Dems to put Christians in jail for not supporting gay marriage. Dem persecution of Christians is increasing, a betrayal of the idea of tolerance.

    Dem support for essentially unlimited illegal immigration -- betrayal of rule of law, betrayal of "American culture".

    Crooked Clinton being supported by elites who say they're against lots of bad things -- things Clinton or her supporters have done but not been condemned for. Hypocrisy, yet elites claim some moral superiority.
    Ha!
    (This was the very short version)

    Hillary for Prison -- better get used to it. Much more true than "Bush Hitler" (remember that??)
    Partisans who support Crooked Clinton have no real morality, just the will to power.

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    1. "Kids being raised by married parents is clearly the optimal way to organize child-rearing. Elites betray this truth. The purpose of Gay marriage is to allow Dems to put Christians in jail for not supporting gay marriage. Dem persecution of Christians is increasing, a betrayal of the idea of tolerance."

      I hope you don't seriously believe that, but unfortunately that's probably too much to hope for.
      So if married parents are the optimal way to raise children, why is the far-right so opposed to giving gay people the right to marry?
      Homosexuality is natural and observed in 1500 species as of 2006. Hell, something like 40% of giraffes are gay. It's something that results from genetics and hormones during pregnancy, and for neocons to say that it's just because they hate Jesus and his twelve homeboys is blatant denial of scientific fact.

      Now that we've got that out of the way...

      "Dem support for essentially unlimited illegal immigration -- betrayal of rule of law, betrayal of "American culture"."

      Americans were pretty in favor of unlimited immigration a few hundred years ago.
      I don't know what your idea of "American culture" is, but pretty much the big thing that made America exciting and successful in the first place was that anyone could come here regardless of reason.
      Perhaps this led to the unfortunate side effect of Americans being in general a very fearful people. It's certainly fear that's leading people to vote for Trump. Listen to his speeches. Nothing but fear of "Crooked" Hillary, fear of "Lyin' Ted", fear of terrorists, fear of big government, fear of crime, fear of taxes, fear of immigrants and pretty much anyone from another country or speaking another language. It's a shame to see that it's selling so well.

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    2. He's oblivious. Look at the last line. Which is a shame because it's sooooo bloody close. Self-awareness is pure zilch.

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    3. Anonymous5:54 PM

      Mr Grey, nobody wants to read your partisan hyperbole. Present some facts.

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  22. The Republican party is the old Confederacy party, the party that eventually led the secession in the 1860s. If you look at the rhetoric and actions of the old south before the Civil War, you see the modern Republican party. There's the racial hatred and xenophobia. There's the desire to free the wealthy from any obligations save to themselves. There's the anti-progress and anti-growth bias that slowed western expansion, industrialization in the south and such infrastructure as the railroad and telegraph. There's also the lazy bellicosity, all about appearing tough rather than being tough when it counts. We are basically locked in the 1830s and 1840s again.

    This party gets discredited now and then. It seems to disappear from sight, but the attitudes and grievances are out there. It gets stronger when the nation is challenged, and it appeals to the worst of us. A good solid core of the Republican party is still as ugly as ever, but they've learned to try and hide it. Some things just aren't considered polite, at least not out in the open. Trump doesn't try and hide it. No wonder they love him.

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    1. I'm not sure how this post could possibly be more wrong.

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  23. "I think that Trump is a special human being."

    I've called Donald Trump the GOP's equivalent of Hari Seldon's Mule. A unique individual who is so far from the population norms that he causes a break in the causality chain of social evolution.

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  24. "Simple truth: Economic conservatism failed in the 2000s and 2010s."

    I would have bought that a while back but it seems that economic conservatism has performed better than anything else.
    Also 2007/2008 looks more and more like a failure of the federal reserve which is a government agency and so generally not considered a part of economic conservatism.
    Calling an economic conservatism failure is simple loss aversion. The USA does better than any other country with over 20 million citizens.

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    1. Excellent point. If economic conservatism has failed, what has economic liberalism done in the rest of the world?

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    2. Not so fast, the US has been more economically liberal (by engaging in larger monetary and fiscal stimulus) than the rest of the world since the 2007/2008 Recession.

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    3. I'm not sure the US has engaged in larger stimulus than the rest of the world since the recession, but that is beside the points that Noah raised in his post. He said economic conservatism failed BEFORE the crisis via a failure of tax cuts to reverse income inequality and a lax regulatory environment allowing for the blow-up.

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  25. On foreign policy ironically HRC looks like a Neocon. I know one Trump supporter well enough to have talked to him enough to know what he thinks. He says Trump is bad on most issues but Hillary is a Neocan and thus partly responsible for much death and destruction in the Middle east and he expects her to continue interventions.

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    1. Hardly ironic at all if you pay attention to who stuffs her coffers. It looks way more like Bush II's donation trail.

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  26. As a conservative I'd agree with your points, which is why your failure to understand Trump's appeal is confusing. He has addressed all these issues with the promise of HAVING A SECRET plan that he can only reveal later.

    All the supporters I know hold a glimmer of hope that he does. Even if he has the secret to one issue it would be better than being lost on them all.

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    1. You just wait to see what I'm gonna do. I can promise you this....it's gonna be YUUUGE!

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  27. You haven't addressed yourself to one thing that Trump has said.

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  28. I don't think the average person shifts their views of how the world works as much as this post claims. People don't become disenchanted with their favorite political movements because they feel that establishment's ideology is flawed; they become disenchanted because they feel the establishment isn't competent at carrying out that ideology, usually in the form of being defeated by the other side of the political spectrum. And THAT is why so many people find Trump to be appealing. He's not coming up with a new policy prescription that appeals to conservative America; he's pounding the table harder and yelling louder (in the form of politically incorrect sound bites) that he will finally be the one who can accomplish the conservative agenda.

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  29. Anonymous11:29 AM

    Nice post Noah

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  30. I am not a Trump fan or a Republican, and I agree with several points in the article, such as foreign affairs.

    However, it is laughably untrue to state that the financial crisis occurred in an inadequately regulated environment. Anyone even remotely familiar with the financial industry and its thousands of pages of regulation, its armies of regulators, its panoply of regulatory agencies and its requirements that people with bad credit get inadequately secured loans which are then passed on to another party which is insured by the US government is aware that "letting businesses do as they see fit" was not the root cause of the issue. If the argument is that the financial industry was massively yet POORLY regulated, then that is another matter. But it certainly doesn't argue that the issue was LAX regulation. The difference is important and not that hard to grasp with a little thought.

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  31. I think Trump supporters view him as a 200 proof conservative, the real deal. Trump's lack of ideological rigor is of no concern, if they are even aware of it. It's a concern to egghead conservatives, but Trump conservatives aren't eggheads.

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    1. I didn't even know there were "Trump Conservatives." I don't know anyone that regards him as Conservative, let alone "200 proof conservative." The Conservatives voting for Trump that I know of, will be doing so based on Trump being the better of two horrible choices.

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    2. Then I guess you don't know anyone who voted for Trump in the primaries.

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    3. I know plenty of people that voted for Trump in the primaries. Don't equate the GOP with the term Conservative; they are clearly not one in the same. Secondly, A LOT of people, including me, vote in the primaries well after the nomination decision is essentially already over.

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    4. Yeah, all the disgusting GOP refuse has been trashed so the hobos in the DNC can pick it up. Let's hope Koch, PNAC, and Bill Kristol never darkens its doorstep again. There's a chance, however minute, it may once again become a sane party.

      One of the stranger things in modern post-nixon politics is that, rather than cease doing things because of a scandal, they add those pages into their playbook along with a sticky note reminding them how the previous person got caught. In other words, "we know we can cheat even better than those other guys!"

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  32. Trump happened because the white working class has nobody to represent them. Conservatives do not care, neither do democrats.

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    1. This is what I was referring to earlier with the status quo. When discussing domestic politics, Conservative politicians spend their time talking about taxes and regulations on businesses, neither of which resonates with the working class white guy. And Democrats talk about taxing the rich/Wall Street, global warming, immigration, gays/transgendered, and gun control; none of which resonates with the working class white guy.

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    2. It's worse than that. Democrats want to unite the rainbow coalition to overcome the oppressor: white working class. They traffic in identity politics and now are surprised that some political entrepreneur will offer the same prescription to the white working class.

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  33. An Occam's razor take: Trump's rise is similar to the reason why upper-class people always get an easy ride and can rise to the top of British politics despite lack of talent or ability (Cameron, Osborne, Johnson); as a culture we tend to treat such people as being more than mere mortals.

    Likewise in America, where the culture is geared towards treating celebrities and businessmen as Greek gods; Trump is the predictable result of a businessman having a crack at it (see also Ronald Reagan.)

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    1. If that were true on its own, then Romney should have beaten Obama. Granted, maybe it's his choice of corporation to raid that killed him. No one likes a grinch.

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  35. Excellent article, one of your best. "Trumps" are ever present opportunists, they only get backing from the "ordinary people" when the "rational politicians" have demonstrably failed. Usually this is because the "rational politicians" themselves cannot distinguish between their "theories" and current reality. The trouble is "Trumps" are an unmitigated disaster when in power. Their only positive role is to get rid of the existing ruling "elite". That usually occurs via a war, economic collapse or worse.

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  36. Lots of truth in this post... However, the graph also shows the crushing failure (worse than Bush) of Obama.

    "But whatever the reason for Trump's support, a necessary piece of the Trump takeover equation was the collapse of the conservative ideology. That epochal event should be a lesson to us all - it's what inevitably happens to an ideology when it succumbs to overreach, dogmatism, and an echo chamber."

    True.

    "I hope I don't ever have to watch the same thing happen to the American left."

    It already has. Hillary is just Bush wrapped in racial, sexual, and ethnic identity politics. Her policies won't work any better than Bush. Why? Because they are the same as Bush (with more racism and sexism).

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  37. Re-reading this post-11/9, and it holds-up well. Thank you.

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