Over the past few decades there have been various efforts to replace the Reagan Paradigm: the national-greatness conservatism of John McCain; the compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush; the Reformicon conservatism of the D.C. think tanks in the 21st century. But the Trumpian onslaught succeeded where these movements have so far fizzled because Trump understood better than they did the coalescence of the new American cultural/corporate elite and the potency of populist anger against it. Thus the display of Ivy League populism I witnessed in Orlando might well represent the alarming future of the American right: the fusing of the culture war and the class war into one epic Marxist Götterdämmerung.
Brooks senses something dark about the NatCon movement, and he may be on to something. I know that many on the right consider Brooks and Paul Ryan to be has-beens. To me, Brooks seems to have lost his bearings in recent years, but the Atlantic piece that I cited above shows that he still is a keen observer and fun writer.
I also recommend this podcast with Brent Orrell and Paul Ryan. Especially the last few minutes, when Ryan complains about politicians who obtain personal success by being entertaining without being effective. Earlier in the podcast, Ryan attributes some of the “bowling alone” phenomenon to the increased use of social media. Think of us connecting over long distance to people who share niche interests instead of getting involved in community activities with people of diverse interests.
I see Ryan as having kept his bearings, while the political ground has shifted. Rather than join the anti-Ryan chorus, I curse the ground for shifting.
I know that Democrats have branded Ryan as “Mr. Austerity,” the guy who wants to cut Social Security and Medicare. Even worse, he is seen by Republicans such as Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley as being out of touch with the working-class voters that they claim to better represent.
But I’ll take the cerebral, “normie” (dare I say neoliberal?) Paul Ryan over the NatCons and the “Ivy League populists” (a perfect phrase from Mr. Brooks). If you think that standing for fiscal responsibility makes Paul Ryan old-fashioned and out of touch, I’ve got some inflation numbers to show you.
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