Tuesday, May 24, 2016

An Awakening?

RedState writer Brandon Morse has left the Republican party:
But the truth is that once I walked away from the Republican party I didn’t feel the need to look back. I didn’t feel sad that it died, and I sure didn’t wish to fix it. In fact, I felt something akin to relief.
I didn’t want to feel like I need to defend people like Mike Huckabee, or Sarah Palin anymore. I hate that I was with a party that sometimes outright refused to embrace the culture. It annoyed me that this party only wanted to get involved with certain communities when it was time to vote. It was a party that was just as guilty of tribalism as the left, while it maintained that it was a party that respected individualism.
I was sick of its morphing definition of freedom depending on what policy it was passing. It was a party that continuously snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and thought that if it was sure it couldn’t win a fight, it just wouldn’t fight.
I was sick of being in a party that was stuck in the 1980’s.
Meanwhile Glenn Beck, returning from the Facebook conservative conclave, articulates a similar set of concerns:
I sat there looking around and heard things like:
1) Facebook has a very liberal workforce. Has Facebook considered diversity in their hiring practice? The country is 2% Mormon. Maybe Facebook’s company should better reflect that reality.
2) Maybe Facebook should consider a six-month training program to help their biased and liberal workforce understand and respect conservative opinions and values.
3) We need to see strong and specific steps to right this wrong.
It was like affirmative action for conservatives. When did conservatives start demanding quotas AND diversity training AND less people from Ivy League Colleges.
I sat there, looking around the room at ‘our side’ wondering, ‘Who are we?’ Who am I? . . .
What happened to us? When did we become them?

Conservative Republicans vs. Conspiracy Republicans 

The various charges that Paul Ryan is some sort of secret agent of “The Establishment” echo craziness from the days of None Dare Call it Treason (1964) and A Choice Not an Echo (1964) with their conspiracy theories about Communists and New York Bankers.
Unlike in the 1850s there is no second dimension of Congressional voting. Almost all issues — including lifestyle and affective — have been drawn into the first dimension. The split in the Republican Party will occur on this strange dimension that mixes economic and the classic “social” issues. Below is a figure we used in an earlier post showing a smoothed histogram of the 114th House:
Suppose the split occurs somewhere to the right of Gowdy. Not everyone to the right of Gowdy listens to “talk radio from Area 51”. So some sorting out will occur between the two factions — traditional Republican Conservatives vs. “Conspiracy Republicans”.

What People Think Is Happening?

 This is the conventional understanding of what is going on:

The iconic Pogo cartoon panel indicates the realization that we, in fact, are either our own worst enemy or that our actual enemies share so much with us that they practically are us. Beck goes straight to this. For Morse, if he was having trouble defending Huckabee and Palin, which he bloody well should have been (moreso Palin than Huckabee who was, at least, a reasonable state governor), then one wonders which "era of the GOP" he felt was legit.

It also indicates that he knew Palin's detractors ("the left") were right about her--but couldn't admit that because: Partisanship.

What Is Really Happening

The Omnivore suspects that what's really happening isn't a stark realization that Trump is the Right's Obama--or any nonsense like that--that's the lie people are telling themselves to justify having been part of a movement that nominated Trump in the first place ("We used to be pure--but years of being beat-up by Obama turned our weaker members evil!").

No, what's happening is this: The unusual nature of this election has resulted in a case where partisan efforts to win have counter-intuitively juxtaposed with a perceived loss. The GOP's intellectual wing is convinced that Trump is likely to lose. Oh, sure, he's polling pretty well right now. Yes: no one thought he could get this far. Definitely Hillary is a candidate with a lot of damage. Of course: both candidates have huge negatives.

Historically? It's "time for a change." Whatever--here's some real talk:

  1. Most political observers are horrified by the potential downside of Trump (yes: it might not happen--but the smart money is that he collapses in the general).
  2. Most GOP political operatives would rather face Sanders than Clinton (yes, yes, The Omnivore knows all about the head-to-head polling).
Both of the above statements are true, whether you like them or not. Part of the conventional wisdom that Trump could never win was predicated on the assumption that the GOP just could not be that stupid--and that the "strong bench" of successful GOP governors would, you know, actually be strong.

The governors, they were not strong.

The Omnivore's metric for knowing when the game is lost is this: "When the finger-pointing starts." 

The fingers, they have been pointed.

Now: don't misunderstand--we haven't even gotten to the general election. Trump has pulled one rabbit out of a hat and he's still got the hat. Is there another rabbit? Time will tell.

The issue is not that Trump can't win.

The issue is that a lot of people on the GOP side have the perception that Trump either cannot or almost certainly will not win the general election. That position gives the non-Trumpers (of which #NeverTrump is a faction--but includes people who don't like him--but might vote for him) some unusual latitude in their ability to evaluate their party. This is the converse of the TruCons who were convinced that Romney and McCain could not win (this, however, was never based on actual fact--both were the "most electable" choices offered). Still, the choice of a loser gave them the space to declare their party dead.

Freed from the lust for victory, this time with the intellectual class, they can take a long-hard-look at their history and go "You know, I always kinda knew that Palin wasn't a legitimate VP choice . . ."

Make no mistake: if Trump seemed like more of a winner we'd be seeing the same kind of "The Confederate flag is just a symbol of their proud-Southern-heritage which, in no way, was related to slavery!" type intellectual knots. All this stuff was there before. Why didn't Glenn Beck see it then?

Over To The Left

Lest you think that the Democrats are immune from this sort of thing, think again. Sanders is, very much, the same kind of caricature of the Left that Trump is of the Right. He is also the choice of a losing generation. 

  • Hillary is not perceived as the same kind of loser Trump is (check the betting sites) --and--
  • Sanders is not going to win the nomination
In this case the events are far more conventional: rather than the party elite believing they have (or are about to) nominate a losing candidate, instead it's the upstart insurgents who have to swallow the defeat. This, predictably, creates Conspiracy Democrats. These are the Sanders supporters who see any loss of a state or a delegate as part of an orchestrated conspiracy by the power-elite. We also see the same kind of Us and Them casting that has usually dominated inter-party thinking:
It's really not that hard to understand. The rank-and-file Clinton supporters are mostly Blue Team partisans who take their cue from the party hierarchy. And the party hierarchy would much rather lose with Clinton than win with Sanders, because if Trump wins they will still get to feed at the public trough, whereas if Sanders wins the whole parasitic, pay to play, succor the rich and screw the middle class system that has rewarded them so handsomely could conceivably come crashing down. Protecting their own privileges and prerogatives comes before anything else.

I'm not sure if [ Clinton Supporters ] truly don't understand [ about Climate Change ] that we're already literally on the brink of existence or they just don't give a fuck. I know Hill only cares about her Saudi Friends.
And so on. Conspiracy factions are what you get when you can't win and can't face the reality that your loss means you / your movement was found wanting on the merits. It's a psychological defense mechanism that you employ against yourself to not have to take responsibility for having unpopular ideas or dead-ender strategies.

To be fair, for a dead-ender candidate, Sanders has done well--better than Santorum (another dead-ender candidate) did vs. Romney. He is not super-unpopular--but he is also not effectively convincing Democrats that he can either get his policies enacted or that, if he did, they would be preferable to Hillary's anyway.


The human condition is to be blinded to our own hypocrisy as much as conditions will allow. Partisan ties are strong, our information filters are, most likely, an almost necessary protection in an age of overabundant information. The conditions of the 2016 race are exposing these because of the unusual divorce of candidate-strength and likely-winners.


  1. So on the opening night of the GOP convention, Trump comes out to grand music, applause, and confetti streaming down. Then he says - you want to know who your next Vice President is going to be? After much build up, the curtain behind him opens up to reveal...Bernie Sanders! Stunned silence. But wow - this kind of move could win him the whole thing (if the youth who support Sanders actually vote).

    1. I think Scooby and the gang pull the mask off Trump's face and it turns out to Old Man Sanders. And he would have gotten away with it, if not for those meddling kids!