Nothing about the decline of conservatism is quite as shocking as its crass stupidity. Every week brings a new low. Last year GOP Congressman Mo Brooks claimed that sea level rise was caused by rocks falling in the ocean. That seemed bad, but then this year he read a passage from Mein Kampf on the House floor while referring to the “Mewler” Investigation. Former Congressman Michele Bachmann described Trump as the most Biblical President in our history. Nice, polite, “sane” Republican Ben Sasse, promoted a Senate Bill to ban a mythical medical procedure, along the way threatening to undermine the health care of real women in the real world. While the rest of the country pores over the shocking revelations in the Mueller Report, Fox News is somehow still talking about Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Its bigotry, callousness and greed were all evident at the margins even when the conservative movement was at its zenith. Now, in its ugly, violent death-throes what emerges is the brain-dead cultishness of zombies, debasing themselves before a low-rent charlatan, selling off the last fading chunks of their souls to hold off the reckoning for one more month, one more week, one more hour. So far, they are winning.
Their apparent stupidity is a product of desperation. Ideas at the heart of conservatism in the US and Europe are in comprehensive, systemic failure. Nationalism, laissez faire economics, and systems of monolithic cultural supremacy have ceased to deliver success. Money and power now accompany pluralism, cognitive diversity, science, globalism and trade. There is only one hope for those who can’t live in a world without white supremacy and a white Christian religious order – extract their country from the global order by any means necessary.
Republicans have embraced the enforced stupidity of the cult as a defense against a rising new world. Only with their eyes closed and their ears plugged can they continue to live in the only environment that makes sense to them. Adaptation is painful and challenging, and these are very lazy people, grown soft and weak in a world quietly groomed to favor them.
From Brexit to Trump and beyond, the right’s embrace of cult logic is an important signal. They are telling us that they’re not invested in a political order aimed at achieving common goals. Conservatives across the globe have embraced the logic of the suicide bomber. They will destroy a nascent new order even if they must burn down their own home, and yours.
A healthy democracy is built on consensus. No consensus is possible with people who have rejected the evidence of empirical reality. You can’t build the future in cooperation with those convinced that their gut feel carries as much weight as forty years of climate science. Without an agreed basis in measurable facts, there is no foundation on which to build coalitions.
Republicans aren’t stupid. They’ve merely ranked their priorities in a manner that places your future in jeopardy. Their preference for an antiquated order favoring their interests over all others requires them to disregard the evidence of science and the senses, systematically blocking others from discovering that evidence. That’s not stupidity, it’s cult discipline.
By doing so, Republicans have ‘left the building,’ no longer engaged in the shared work of building our common future. They are committed to their own, very narrow interests at the expense of all others. Our efforts to reason with them will result in nothing but losses.
It would be wise to abandon hope of returning to an older political order and embrace the disruption that looms ahead. A political purge is coming. The only uncertainty is who will lead it. Republicans are determined and willing, but relatively weak. Democrats still hold almost all of the real power, but they keep giving ground by sheer reluctance to face unwelcome realities.
If we want to see this transformation accomplished through mostly peaceful, electoral processes, we have to be willing abandon the pursuit of bi-partisanship. We are in a winner-take-all battle, whether we want it or not. Win elections, then use that power to force changes without concern for the opposition. Remove the judges appointed by a illegitimate President. Abandon the filibuster rule in the Senate. Recognize that change achieved through forceful legislative action is our only alternative to change achieved through far more forceful methods. Break the rules of the old order to build a new one.
Fail, and Republicans will finish building the Kleptocratic post-democracy they’ve half-constructed. The camps that today house little migrant children guilty of the crime of seeking asylum will be repurposed. When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time. Your enemies on the right aren’t dumb, they just aren’t willing to be bound by our rules, and measurable facts. They’ll build their own future for all of us if we let them.