Max Planck wrote – science advances one funeral at a time. The same concept features heavily in the work of Thomas Kuhn. The basic idea is that in science there’s a major flaw in terms of progress. The problem is that entrenched stakeholders of the current paradigm stop caring about advancement and – as they age – they become so religiously attached to their legacy and theory they resist change towards a new paradigm.
As a European (three words I have uttered hundreds of times in the last few weeks) I am aghast at what is happening in the US and I have long been deeply shocked what has been happening for over a decade in US politics. The conservative right, represented by the Republican party, has played an active role in obstructionist politics and even shirked the most straightforward and minimal responsibilities of responsible governance. We can all speculate at length why the republicans have been doing this but I find that most of these speculations immediately veer in to unverifiable conspiracy thinking.
Let me therefor come to the simple conclusion that the current Republican party is dead – in its current form. Of course there are still hundred million plus people out there that for ideological reasons, family reasons, investment reasons, reasons of habit will still vote for the Republican party. Also a large number of people in the US can not seem to wrap their heads around the idea that a state can provide actually desirable services for the tax dollars it consumes. As a European (..) I can make absolutely no sense of the pervasive recalcitrance of a large number of americans to accept even the most fundamental aspects of the state, and I say that as someone with very distinctive Libertarian sympathies.
The Republican party is nominally conservative, but that hasn’t always been the case. In decades or even centuries past Republicans were progressive in nature. They favored advancement and protection of minorities, and republicans were the ones opposing slavery at one time. Yet due to the grotesque nature of the US electoral system there simply is no space whatsoever for even the most modest third party or outsider input. That’s why the US two-party stranglehold is so vulnerable to hostile take-over.
And yes, we are seeing that in Trump. The current GOP is largely a decade long exhortation of Reaganite values (mixed in with the Ayn Rand me-catechism). Reagan’s most visible legacy is the idea that economic progress allows society to improvement itself – a rising tide lifts all boats. That idea may have held some merit in the middle of the 20th century, but it was never a particularly safe paradigm to bet on – under changing conditions these ephemeral ideas don’t last and that is precisely what we are witnessing this very moment. Trump arrives on the scene just when the US is being torn apart by money in politics, quickly advancing technological unemployment, the failure of globalism, corporatization (some might say oligarchization), massive income and wealth disparity and significant societal and demographic shifts. A major affliction of the new age is that wealth increasingly falls in the hands of the very few. This is in terms of societal acceptance a deal breaker. Democratic society will generate resistance against any disequilibrium and voters are very hot on demanding immediate improvement. THat’s where Sanders and Trump come in – they both tap in to a considerable groundswell of anger. That also explains why varnished candidates such as Clinton, or that clown car circus of tea-party/dominist/brazenly oligarchist candidates so miserably failed.
Paradigm shifts really hurt. You get a crisis and then suddenly everyone throws their hands in the air having absolutely no clue what to do next. Politicians can no longer run on trickle-down, and precisely the trickledown ideology is where the sponsor money comes from. You can no longer run on a militaristic neoconservative ticket, because people in the US are clearly hostile to further empire building abroad.
Rove derided those who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
Problem is, Trump offers no solutions or ideological framework. In that regard Trump is little more than a modernday King Alaric – who sacked Rome and heralded the end of the Roman era. Trump is not interested in offering solutions – all his ideas and belies are closely tied in with demonstrable personal insecurity, narcissism, and demonstrable disfigurements in his manual department. And plausible, other problems.
That is why Trump appeals – his electorate have the same massive insecurities and sense of betrayal, and arguably the same rampant racism. Trump voters are very angry, but they seem ideologically incapable of affirming the state as any sort of solution, otherwise they’d be voting for Sanders.
As I just said, Trump is a paradigm shift a la Kuhn, and with that he hurts. The world is looking with slackjawed disgust at the very idea that a major part of the US electorate can even consider voting for this horrible man – but many people don’t listen. Trump does have ideas, and the singlemost compelling argument he makes (aside from his racist sales pitch) is how big a catastrophe globalism has proven to be for ordinary white, aging, conservative voters. These voters flock to anyone who isn’t selling them more globalism, more disenfranchisement, more donors and more imperial wars.
We now embark upon the era where the Republican party dies and must be reborn. It will be reborn, without a shadow of a doubt, but right now it is still a spin on the roulette wheel what the new Republican party will become. Arguably it won’t become Evangelical (dominionist) since there is a growing backlash against that sort of thinking. Republicanism must reinvent itself along conservative lines, favoring systemic improvement of a kind that will favor (or at the very least apeakl to) the majority of the US electorate.
There is such an ideology, and it is potentially a remarkably transhumanist one. Now mind you, no republican will call himself a transhumanist, or at least not for the next few decades. Nevertheless the pro business attitude of many transhumanists, the pro-technology and pro-science ideology, the pro-small state tendency, the optimist and proactive attitude towards the future – all these things are highly compatible with the historical message of Republicans.
Right now the leadership and stakeholders of the Republican community are at a loss what to do next. Trump signifies their worst possible dream made manifest in (leathery, orange) flesh. You can bet how terrified these people are, ideologically and financially. Republican party ideology has always been one of money, and conceivably hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested in the brand name. These stakeholders will fight tooth and name to paint over the current vessel of conservative politics and rebrand as a new and better alternative. Kinda like renaming the Exxon Valdez.
Competition plays a large part of that appeal, and in terms of competitiveness there is little more than a full embrace of radical (exponential) change of technology.
Right now the Republican leadership is very malleable and vulnerable. They will be open to any idea that comes along that
offers a clear way out of their desperation and depression. Everyone knows Trump won’t last. Even if he makes it as president, even if he evades being assassinated, even if the US military doesn’t rise up and do a coup against the national government if Trump is elected president (etc.), he won’t last beyond a few years. Essentially the narrative of Trump is the epitome of the failed old narrative – racism, trickledown, dominionism, war and less government. As Trump does his unsavory cantaloupe-coloured Hindenburg impersonation, his values will become symbolic of all Republicans want to avoid (much like everyone right now is frantic about avoiding the legacy of Bush jr.).
The Republican party will enter – or has already entered – a phase shift towards a new Kuhnian paradigm. It is now conceivable transhumanist (TechnoProgressive, Extropian, take your pick) values can play a role in the formation of that paradigm
We’ll soon see a purge of the old, approximation a ritual exorcism. Old ideas and frameworks will be eradicated and there will be a public shaming of the old GOP party mandarins – you’ll know all their faces. Then the GOP will look around for new ideas, paying very close attention to the needs, values and wants of Millenials, minorities, the tech industries, less globalism, less unilateralism and significantly more redistribution.
American culture has been quite sick for quite some time and we are now seeing a large abscess pop open, again – Trump is a symptom of the disease and not the actual disease. This is a moment for more compassionate politics, one that runs counter to Trumps lack of compassion. Trump doesn’t do compassion or community – he’s a symbol for an utterly soulless type of competition, one rich in Zero Sum thinking.
I don’t like calling myself a “Liberal”. I interacted with the Washington DC “liberal” crowd when I lived in the US and I find myself not liking these people. I expect very little change from the “left” as we can see just how offensive and disingenuous Hillary’s campaign is. Sanders is set to lose, sadly. The opportunities on the right are open for the taking.
Vaguely related updates
* Revenge of the Reality-Based Community
* Neoconservativism in a Nutshell
* Robert Reich sees the future: America’s two-party system is finished
* America to Establishment: Who the hell are you people?