I have been thinking about the decline of the alt-right, why it failed, and why right-wing political movements fail in general. In summary, grifters and hacks destroyed the dissident/alt-right. Conservatives/republicans destroy everything they touch…the tea party, the alt-right, gamergate, etc. Every single genuine grassroots movement has been destroyed by these people as soon as a certain threshold of popularity is reached. The Tea Party in 2009 was initially focused on the national debt and overreach of government, but was soon subsumed by the GOP and became the ‘Tea Party wing of the GOP’ instead of just the Tea Party. It’s like the grey goo that turns everything it touches into goo. The alt-right in 2015-2016 may have played a not insignificant role in getting Trump elected. And by late 2018 was all but dissolved.
Conservatives have no originality. They have been self-owning the liberals since Regan. And eventually people realize that conservatism is a grift in which failure is a feature, and after becoming disillusioned enough times, quit. So this means to stay relevant and find new converts in order to own the libs, they need to keep rebranding by glomming on to successful grassroots movements, and repackaging stale talking points under new banners and organizations such as ‘turning point USA’, and once such movements have been thoroughly infiltrated, consume it from the inside out.
The only ‘movement’ that has not been totally subverted/destroyed is neoreaction and mgtow, probably because there isn’t much money or audience in those things. 3,000-word blogposts about political philosophy does not translate well to video format, I suppose: the intellectual barriers are too high, as they should be. Verbosity and jargon are surprisingly effective at inoculating a movement from subversion.
Ross Douthat, a Catholic, is an inveterate never-Tumper. From day one he never liked the guy. But I can still respect him as an intellectual because he comes from a good place: a consummate idealist, he knows America can and should do better; he knows that ‘our’ leadership is failing ‘us,’ and holds his leaders to a higher standard.
I read blogs and the comments, and one thing that stands out, regardless of politics, is that no one– on either side of the aisle–is happy with the way things are going. Conservatives and liberals alike believe society is broken, and have a low opinion of politicians in general. Nothing about the current state of leadership, from AOC, Pelosi, and Gavin Newson, on one extreme, to Ted Cruz on the other, inspires confidence or greatness. Conservatives don’t like Biden…guess what, many liberals are not that enthused about him either.
Covid relief was just a giant cash grab for the rich and multinationals, as small and medium-sized businesses were forced to close. Both sides can agree the withdrawal from Afghanistan was botched, and that Americans should have been evacuated ahead of time. The CDC, WHO, and other ‘experts’ cannot keep their story strait. What happened to the original narrative of “95% vaccine effectiveness,” “stay inside to flatten the curve” or “no possibility of a lab leak”? Italy, which had among the strictest lockdowns in early 2020 saw cases surge by November 2020. Daily cases in the US, due to Delta, are approaching new highs despite mass vaccination and the assurance by the media of unfailing vaccine efficacy. Australia is on the verge of what seems to be an all-out civil war or political collapse. Everyone thought 2016 was momentous due to Brexit, Trump, and the rise of Isis, but 2021 is shaping up to be much worse. Political leadership is finally running into the limits imposed by its incompetency and callous indifference.
To quote Eric Weinstein in a recent tweet, “People constitutionally unfit to lead can’t be magically made into needed leadership towards the end of their eighth decade on earth while suffering cognitive decline. Remove the bewildered and get us wartime political leaders to replace our peacetime careerist kleptocrats.”
Leadership has become detached from that which it is trying to lead. This is the inherent problem with representative government. You are not voting for someone to solve a problem, but rather someone who represents, in theory, a middleman between the problem and the solution, but such problem solving instead gets outsourced or delegated to consultants, lawyers, etc., in which case nothing happens. Within days of being elected, consultants, NGOs, and hacks took over the Trump presidency, assuming was not subverted from the start.
The problem is also in part that the best and the brightest are not drawn to politics but either go into academia or the private sector. And who can blame them: politics is an area in which mediocrity is expected. Tenure or grad school, especially for top institutions and in the sciences, is as competitive as ever. Google only hires .2% of applicants. Yet out of 200 million adult Americans there are 535 congressmen, and one cannot help but to ask “is this sorry lot the best we can get?”
Activists, politicians are part of the problem by pushing ineffective political solutions, giving false hope, and intentionally steering people who seek change into dead-ends, whether intentional or profit-motivated. Politics may have been at the root of this problem, it won’t get us out of it. I cannot say I know what the answer is, but knowing what does not work is a good start.