The biggest problem with Elon Musk's stolen meme
The diversity training stuff is a real issue that motivates a lot of voters. It is an effort to make corporate America less hostile to us and try and protect us from discrimination. There have always been entire occupations that are essentially closed to us (college professors for instance) but in recent years all white collar occupations have become difficult to work in if you don't believe in wokeness/DEI.
The other real issue is education. CRT in schools is widespread and yes we use that term to describe a variety of bad things that may or may not be in a CRT textbook. Getting rid of advanced math classes and shutting down schools that accept the top kids based on standardized tests are two examples. The Kendi idea of teaching kids to hate each other based on race is toxic and parents don't like it. We were actually taught in school that we should have a fair color blind society and now that has been completely flipped and our kids are being taught to obsess over race and support racial discrimination and identitarianism.
There's another thread on this already, but I want to come at it from a slightly different angle:
> Were these diversity trainings an important issue? No. But they are indisputably within the purview of the executive branch of the federal government.
There's a lot to hate about DEI trainings as currently constituted, but for my money the worst part is that they institutionalize sloppy, fallacious thinking and subject adults to hours of counterproductive, emotionally inflammatory, internally contradictory nonsense like "implicit bias".
My view is that two factors explain 90% of the terrible black/white racial disparities in the US:
- The compounding negative effects of slavery and Jim Crow.
- Ongoing social segregation.
In terms of importance, diversity trainings aren't up there with medical care, homelessness or housing, but DEI is a $7.5 billion dollar industry (on pace to grow to $15.4 billion by 2026), an expensive, insulting distraction that degrades our ability to solve racial disparities in America today. If you agree with any of that, I think it qualifies as important *enough* to be worth addressing.
> wherever the hand of the state is already present — in government workforce trainings, in libraries, in K-12 schools, even in university faculties — Republicans are now looking to clamp down on progressive wrongthink.
Usually "clamp down on wrongthink" would refer to a powerful body stopping people from expressing dissident opinions. This is a grotesque inversion: undoing mandatory government-sponsored indoctrination is nearly the opposite.
The actual problem is that the left right political spectrum is useless. If we're talking about left-right in purely economic terms, both parties are way left of where they were in 08, but the meme is mostly about identitarian culture war stuff where it is largely accurate to say the Dem conventional wisdom has gone off the rails.
The reality is that the events of the post cold war era have driven us to a place where the center of gravity in politics favors totalitarian, populist grievance of all varieties over more coherent ideological concerns. We've shifted along an entirely distinct axis in ways that scramble the parties of the post new deal equilibrium.
always need to point out that colin wright made that meme initially, and i'm the guy laughing on the right! i told colin he'd be a republican some point in the fall of 2018
I doubt Romney could have won in 2012 through having a better platform. Romney really was a vulture capitalist. He fired lots of people to get richer. Even worse, he dressed and acted like the CEO who downsized your uncle. Obama was popular and won the tipping point state by almost five points.
Vote share is pretty stable and doesn’t seem
that influenced by candidates’ platforms. Democrats have gotten between 50.9% and 52.2% of the two party vote in the last three presidential elections. A uniform swing of three percent net would not have put Romney in the white house.
If Romney had run in a more moderate platform, no one would have believed him because he’s too much like a generic Republican. People in Ohio and Pennsylvania believed that Trump might be different because he smashed enough norms to look different. Matt is correct that Trump had an effective platform but that platform wouldn’t have helped Trump much without his gift for performative populism. Even so, it look 25 years of Hillary’s baggage to put Trump over the top.
"...but wherever the hand of the state is already present — in government workforce trainings, in libraries, in K-12 schools, even in university faculties — Republicans are now looking to clamp down on progressive wrongthink."
The framing here is that conservatives are on the attack, but it certainly feels like the inverse to me.
We're just trying to stop the culturally-progressive left from pushing that crap on people, and especially kids.
If we were trying to inculcate explicitly conservative values via the same means, then you may be justified in framing it that way...but by and large, we are not.
This is something I submitted for the Mailbag a couple weeks ago, but it seems relevant to this post; something that Republicans writ large are now seriously considering is almost literally decimating the federal government's policy making capability and replacing it (if at all), with political hacks.
How bad is it that the ban on Schedule F (technically, the Preventing a Patronage System Act) didn't get included in the NDAA (which is the only realistic chance to pass it)? Not just Trump, but RDS or basically any plausible Republican nominee in 2024 will absolutely use this to destroy the Civil Service to the greatest possible degree, right? And how would Democrats try to fix the results of that?
Also, for those commenters here who like to hate on public employee unions (who I concede have some valid points), are you at all concerned about decimating the policy making capabilities of the USG?
It's interesting seeing this post in hindsight because it seems to have gotten both major forward looking claims wrong:
1: Democrats were successful in holding off a major GOP midterm victory, but not by focusing on conservatives policies. Rather, they pushed in the other direction and made the election all about the Republican candidates being weirdo, out of touch, busybodies while the Democratic candidates are just ordinary civil servants who ~vaguely~ want government to work for you. Rufoism, in the end, proved to be a major own-goal for Republicans.
2: Republicans *did* capture the House and so far there is no evidence that they are returning from their "vacation from budgetary realities" (a turn of phrase I really enjoyed). Kevin McCarthy released a "Commitment To America" pocket card (https://www.republicanleader.gov/commitment/cta-pocket-card/) which includes: (1) the usual low-tax / deregulation / drill baby drill / border crime stuff; (2) the war on wokeness stuff: "only women can compete in women's sports", "confront big tech and demand fairness"; (3) and this on entitlements: "Save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare". In other words, a continuation of the MAGA + Rufo mindset.
What Musk's meme misses is that his own head gets exponentially larger on each successive line.
The linked video where Paul Ryan discusses his views is centered around Matthew Continetti’s book “The Right: The Hundred-Year War for American Conservativism.” That author and book topic sounded familiar and I found the May 2022 Ezra Klein Show interview with Continetti, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/06/podcasts/transcript-ezra-klein-interviews-matt-continetti.html
I recall this being an insightful discussion of the evolution of the Republican party, particularly the contradictions and conflicts between the elite Reagan-era consensus and the populist Buchanan/Trump wing. From the NYT description
> Continetti was straddling two conservative tendencies that were about to rip apart, the establishment conservatism of George W. Bush and Bill Kristol, and the populist conservatism of Spiro Agnew, and soon, Donald Trump. And rip apart they did. Today, the right that Continetti joined, it barely exists. “The Weekly Standard” is gone. Kristol became a leading Never Trumper. Trump took over the Republican Party in part by weaponizing anger and disappointment at its establishment, and particularly at the Bush family. The policy ideas so dutifully churned out by the American Enterprise Institute for so many years have little purchase on the rising generation of populist right leaders. In many cases, they’re running against those ideas. Continetti writes that — quote — “to define oneself as a conservative in the 2020s was to reject the ideas and practices of the establishment that 1150 17th Street had come to represent. I’ve spent the last decade thinking about this change.”
> The product of Continetti’s decade of thinking and research isn’t a manifesto or an essay. It’s a history book, “In the Right: The 100 Year War for American Conservatism.” Continetti does something valuable. He takes seriously the populist history of conservatism, running from Joseph McCarthy to William F. Buckley Jr., to the John Birch Society, to Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, to the Tea Party, and Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump, and beyond. He doesn’t treat the forces that produced Trumpism as somehow alien to the Republican Party. What’s aberrational is not a populist right, but the belief, so widespread before Donald Trump, that conservatism was what Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and “The Weekly Standard” and the American Enterprise Institute wanted it to be, that that is where the energy and the values of the people who put Republicans in power really sat.
Personally, I just don't understand how Elon "A rational man of science" Musk can't look at a simplified spectrum of possibilities, and not consider that maybe there's a false dichotomy, or that maybe the data has been framed, or just maybe the abstractions of the model might yield inaccuracies that need be hiding finer granularity.
Honestly, as far as Elon Musk is concerned, he's probably just in it for the low taxes. He's done a cost benefit analysis, and then looked at the outcomes on a risk adjusted basis, and (as he once said about Apple) decided going to culture war is more important than paying a 30% tax.
I think a better meme picture would depict how we went from a left/center/right line to a four-square with one axis being cultural (conservative/liberal) and the other being world view (globalist/nationalist). “Center” doesn’t really exist anymore because of cable news and social media. Trump just took Republican Party over to the conservative/nationalist square. Clinton took the Democrats over to the liberal/globalist square, abandoning the white working class who were conservative but supported the Democrats because of ties to organized labor. Those left in the other two squares have been marginalized and forced to pick sides they don’t fully support each election. Their candidates can’t make it through primaries. I think eventually we will end up back on a line, but it will be nationalist/center/globalist, once we sort out the culture issues. That will take a while. In the meantime, we are in this four-square mess with a two-party system.
I’ll say I think you’re “yada yada yada”ing over GWB initiative to privatize social security. It’s literally the first thing he tried to do after re-election. My point is, destroying social security, Medicare and Medicaid has actually been a more consistent through line in GOP thought than is laid out in this post.
McCain and Trump are exceptions that prove the rule. McCain because he was a “Maverick”. And given what we saw with the Tories in U.K. post 2009, it seems really likely if McCain had won in 2008, there would have been enormous pressure to persue an “expansionary austerity” agenda. And in Trump’s case, he was a former Democrat who was free wheeling in his speeches and rallies (to say the least) and through out lines about protecting Medicare and health care as some half remembered amalgamation of what he saw on Fox and what he used to believe. And what happened? GOP came within one vote of overturning ACA.
My point on all this is I think we really underestimate the possibility that RDS has as a major part of his platform massive entitlement cuts. Seems very likely there will be some sort of recession in 2023. And as you’ve pointed, borrowing to cover tax revenue shortfalls is going to be a lot less feasible. There is going to be a ton of rhetoric on the right about “if Americans are tightening belts, then big government should do so as well”. If RDS is going to distinguish himself vis a vis Trump, besides covid vaccines, this seems to be prime territory.
This is a musguided take that entirely misses the radicalization of the Republican Party.
Positions taken by presidential candidates are only one part of a party’s positions on issues. Zooming out, as external realities and short term political calculations have shifted, so have the mainstream views of both parties on taxes, spending, and foreign policy, and even climate change, in ways that often defy a left-right dichotomy.
But the Republican Party has hurtled to the right — far beyond the chart you’ve reproduced — on racial justice and cultural matters: immigration, CRT, voting rights, and more, even — arguably — guns. On this broad set of issues, todays Republican candidates and office holders aren’t even remotely recognizable from those of the last 1/2 century. They seem willing to abandon the rule of law and democracy itself to reclaim past glory, real or imagined.
Both the right and the left are not only on an extended vacation, but a permanent leave of absence from budget realities. Conservatives won't touch Pentagon waste because military spending is a jobs program for conservative constituencies. Meanwhile, progressives won't admit that funding a European style welfare state requires European style high middle class taxes.
Happy new year. I'd like to read or reread the column you wrote on how the left/democrats have changed. I went to the website and, scrolling for something that I don't know the name of seems like a poor approach. Could you given name/date of that article? Thank you.