How We Got To This Point

I can explain this. I can. I can explain how we got to this point. I can explain Donald Trump and Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee and all the rest. No one can explain Carly Fiorina, of course, so I won’t even try there, but if you are willing to bear with me, here is how it all went down. It’s a good story. It’s not a funny story, actually, but if you really want to know how things got to this point and why it is so important to understand that, bear with me here.

When the stock market crashed in 1929, Herbert Hoover (R) was president. He believed that it was not the federal government’s job to try to fix the economy and that this was “a passing incident in our national lives.” [1] By 1933 when Franklin Roosevelt took office, the country was in serious trouble. Banks had failed; unemployment was over 25%; soup kitchens fed the hungry. Roosevelt instituted a number of programs and reforms that came to be known as the New Deal.

He created and saw passage of the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, and the National Industrial Recovery Act. He ended Prohibition. Roosevelt also won passage of 12 other major laws, including the Glass-Steagall Banking Bill and the Home Owners’ Loan Act, in his first 100 days in office.

It wasn’t enough. By 1935 he started the Second New Deal. He created the WPA. He signed the Social Security Act of 1935, which guaranteed pensions to millions of Americans, set up a system of unemployment insurance and stipulated that the federal government would help care for dependent children and the disabled. The Wagner Act created the National Labor Relations Board “to supervise union elections and prevent businesses from treating their workers unfairly.” [2]

The “Captains of Industry” were very unhappy. By 1937 some 8 million workers had joined unions and were loudly demanding their rights. [3]

The corporate interests may have been unhappy, but there was very little they could do about it. They screamed “Communists!” and stamped their feet, but the New Deal was popular with voters. The country slowly recovered.

And then WWII happened and America had other things to worry about.

After the war the word conservative was associated with three types of people: libertarians, anti-communists, and traditionalists. The “traditionalist movement” was begun by college professors and writers like Richard Weaver and Peter Viereck, not by politicians. Their first works appeared in 1948 and 1949. The “movement” questioned the progressive worldview of the New Deal, supported a growing military-industrial complex, and encouraged consumerism. [4]

Opposition to the New Deal grew among this loose federation of “conservatives” and the corporate interests comprising the “military-industrial complex,” but could make little headway against the popularity of these programs.

In 1951 William F. Buckley wrote God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of Academic Freedom. Buckley was 26 years old. Buckley argued that making rational arguments against the New Deal mentality was useless. When voters knew the facts, he argued, they would choose government regulation. Voters needed to be diverted from the facts. In God and Man at Yale he put forward the idea of “individualism” and claimed that it should be sacrosanct for any conservative. [5] “Individualism” was Buckley’s way of defining a hands-off version of economics where government influence (let alone regulation) was not to be tolerated. That was contrasted to “collectivism” which was associated with totalitarian governments. He was strongly anti-communist as well. Buckley, a Catholic, further put forth that in addition to “individualism,” Christianity was also to be untouchable.

In the preface to God and Man at Yale Buckley wrote, “I myself believe, that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level.” [6]

Movement Conservatism begins here and has grown in very calculated ways ever since.  It brought together the ideas of libertarianism (Buckley often referred to himself as a Libertarian), traditionalism, and anti-communism and then added Christianity.

Buckley founded the National Review magazine in 1955 which was the voice of the conservative movement for decades and is credited with laying the groundwork for conservative presidential candidates like Goldwater and Reagan.

In the same year that Buckley wrote God and Man at Yale, Eric Hoffer wrote a book called The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. Hoffer, sometimes referred to as the Longshoreman Philosopher, was a self-taught, straight-talking sort. His book, The True Believer, was a favorite of President Dwight Eisenhower. Ike was concerned about the New Conservatives and the rise of the military-industrial complex and suggested that everyone should read it. [7] In it Hoffer observed that movements were originated by what he called “men of words,” they were developed by fanatics, and, finally, they were consolidated by men of action.

Looking at Movement Conservatism through the lens of Hoffer’s analysis lends credence to his philosophy. Movement Conservatism arose in the minds of scholars and writers, “men of words with a grievance,” as Hoffer called them.

Hoffer went on to say that mass movements work by infecting people with a malady and then offering the movement as a cure. The malady need not be real. He said that mass movements needed a disaffected population. They needed people who were both economically and socially dispossessed. The easiest way to unify followers, he pointed out, was with hate.

In the years since it was conceived Movement Conservatism has been adopted more and more by the corporate interests that formed the traditionalist basis for its formation. They set up think tanks and non-profit foundations in the 60s and 70s to promote its interests and further its causes. These organizations focused on anti-communist and anti-union activities at first, but quickly moved into working against segregation and black voting rights. They have worked against immigration reform, climate change, and gun control as well.

After the fall of the Soviet Union there was a vacuum in the anti-communist push that is currently being replaced by the anti-Islam campaigns funded through the same conservative organizations in this country.

The conservative movement expanded to embrace the neo-conservatives in the 1970s and at about the same time it allowed the evangelical right into its folds. Money quickly poured in from corporate interests to create more “foundations” to espouse these aspects of the cause.

The Reagan administration saw the first large-scale rejection of New Deal politics in favor of the Movement Conservative ideals.   The Reagan tax cuts and the concept of “trickle down” economics was the foundation for the next large economic disaster.

By this point Movement Conservatism was well into Hoffer’s second phase – development by fanatics – and has remained there until the present moment.

By the George W Bush Administration the Movement Conservatives were in complete control of the Republican Party.  Neoconservatives were fully in evidence by this point.

Movement Conservatism is now a four-headed hydra. Each head – libertarianism, neoconservatism, traditionalism, and the religious right – has its own special area of interest, but as a coalition, they usually wag the tail in unison.

Hoffer points out that at some point in a mass movement, after followers have become used to more and more outrageous claims, they become immune to facts and logic altogether. After that point logic and facts only serve to further entrench the movement ideas. Once the country fell for the idea that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, conservatives felt safe telling any lie that advanced the cause.

“It is the true believer’s ability to ‘shut his eyes and stop his ears’ to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by danger nor disheartened by obstacle nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence.” – The True Believer

It should be noted that Eric Hoffer came to his conclusions about how mass movements work by studying the rise of people like Hitler, Stalin, and Lenin.

Movement Conservatism is a mass movement searching for a leader. Leaders don’t create movements, according to Hoffer. Movements are created by men of words. Movements are materialized by fanatics. Fanatics fan the flames, plant the lies, and create the hatred. They divide the people. They demonize the weak and criminalize the victims. They create a need for a savior, for someone to lead the people out of slavery, for someone to make America great again.

Once the fanatics have done their work, a real leader can arise, a man of action, not words; a man who knows how to use fanaticism without being enslaved by it himself.

But there are no leaders for this movement – as yet.

Ben Carson is just another fanatic. Carley Fiorina is just an opportunist. Donald Trump is a false idol. He is the closest thing to a leader the movement has seen, but he isn’t a part of it. He’ll use parts of it when he can and it suits him, but he doesn’t believe. And the movement knows he’s not one of them.

The rest of the GOP field has been diminished as leaders by the fact these three have spent so much time at the top of the list. Huckabee, Graham, Jindal and the rest have conservative credentials, but they are fanatics, not leaders. All of the Republican candidates have been tainted by the religious right fanaticism that now pervades the movement and by the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiments that have made it so divisive currently. Those who have the most experience as leaders seem somewhat less fanatical and therefore less desirable to the movement. The movement apparently isn’t quite ready for a leader. It is still looking for the best fanatic.

The fact that the GOP cannot replace its own House Speaker is the best example so far of how little leadership material there is among them.

This should be cold comfort for the left at this point.

If a leader appears who can take the reins of the Movement Conservative movement, such a person would have enormous power. Such a leader would have almost unlimited financial backing, a fanatical base willing to believe whatever they are told, an armed militia of Americans taught to hate blacks, Muslims, immigrants, Jews, teachers, and especially, libtards.

That leader hasn’t appeared so far, but if the Movement Conservatives survive the 2016 election cycle with any power at all in American politics, the day will come.

Your Humble Servant,
Roger A. Shipley, The Willowbrook Curmudgeon

3 thoughts on “How We Got To This Point

  1. Pingback: How We Got To This Point | oldgymrat71

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