I have argued somewhat controversially this weekend that as bad as Donald Trump may be, establishment conservatism not only created him but is actually more morally objectionable. This is because while Trump’s base is motivated by ugly and ignorant prejudices of all kinds, establishment conservatism is motivated by a far more morally objectionable ideology of economic royalism and callous indifference to the lives and aspirations of anyone but the richest and most comfortable. Between the two, Trump’s followers are far less terrifying than those of Ayn Rand, and not even Donald Trump’s rabid following cheers at the notion that the uninsured should die in the streets if they cannot pay for healthcare.
The establishment Republican ideology prioritizes capital above all else. For them, the market does not exist to serve people: people exist to serve the market. Unregulated capitalism can never fail; it can only be failed by those too lazy, useless and unproductive to serve and profit by it. It is a totalizing ideology as impractical as state communism but lacking the silver lining of its species-being idealism; as impervious to reason as any cult religion, but lacking the promise of community, salvation or utopia; as brutal as any dictatorship, but without the advantage of order and security. Worst of all, it blames its victims for its failure to provide solutions to their needs.
When those victims were mostly the underclasses and communities of color, establishment Republicans had no difficulty tapping into racist prejudices to excuse the failure of the unregulated market to adequately serve the needs of the whole population. But now that large numbers of previously comfortably employed white communities have been abandoned to the ravages of deindustrialization, automation and globalization, racism and prejudice alone no longer suffice. The communities left behind have found a new savior in a man who promises to give them all their jobs back and make America great again. The establishment has been left flat-footed in response, unable to win an all-out multi-front war against a reality-show buffoon.
That’s because the only ideologically consistent answer from the followers of Ayn Rand and Rand Paul is to declare those white communities also unfit to live in the new order. But that would be too politically damaging and grotesque to consider.
Except, that is, for the writers of the National Review and one Kevin Williamson in particular, who is happy to literally condemn his former constituency to death and squalor as undeserving of the middle class lifestyle to which they were previously accustomed:
“It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces,” the NR roving correspondent writes. “[N]obody did this to them. They failed themselves.”
“If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy—which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog—you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that,”
“The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible,” the conservative writer says. “The white American under-class is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul. If you want to live, get out of Garbutt [a blue-collar town in New York].”
Williamson doesn’t want to offer these communities any hope of relief at all if it interferes with his market deity. As with the sick uninsured, he would prefer that they simply die–as individuals, as lifestyles and as entire communities.
Say what you will about Donald Trump, nothing he has ever said is vicious and morally twisted as these words from Kevin Williamson. Between the two, Williamson and the National Review are far more worthy of condemnation.