Why it is under-rated
"The Republican establishment wants order at the border"
I am just going to call bullsh** on this assertion since is seems to hide the truth behind the word "order". As soon as the Democrats control Congress and the Presidency again, essentially every single illegal immigrant will be legalized and put on a fast track to citizenship- if it weren't for Joe Manchin, this would have already been done. The Democrats aren't hiding this plan at all, and the Republican establishment will do nothing to stop it, either.
I think the biggest argument against the establishment Republicans is that they were directly involved in getting us here. For a long time they have been largely on board with the left's governing principles, as Russ Roberts put it "Both parties want to take my money and give it to their friends, they just have different friends." Now, possibly there is a valuable distinction to be made among establishment R's between the "country club" R's and the regular folks, but I think that can be made for the D's as well. The problem is that the crazies on the D side have been very successful, and the country club R's haven't been sufficiently keen to push back on authoritarianism they think they can benefit from. At least so far as I can tell. There have been equal years of single party control since 2000, and while the D's have expanded government the R's have done nothing to roll it back.
The revealing part of Arnold's essay is none of the political groups and views mentioned give priority to upholding the Constitution and the rule of law. Is it a "dark view" to conclude this indicates the American Republic has ended? And what form of government do we have in its place? It is a pseudo-democratic nation with an all-powerful executive branch that claims ever increasing authority over the law and economy. This is the government Alexander Hamilton envisioned and that Jefferson feared.
Hamilton and Madison (initially) held the view that if the best people formed a government they could temper the excesses of Democracy and produce a government that could wisely serve the people. Jefferson wisely observed that any government that held excess power would turn to tyranny to preserve and expand its power.
It is fair to criticize Jefferson and point out he was too confident that any mass of people could build a functioning, healthy government. On this Hamilton was right. The majority do not know what they want. It takes a focused elite minority to make government work. But then what? What tempers the ambitions of the elite minority from becoming tyrants? Jefferson said it was rebellion, every so often. And in the 1828 that is what the Americans did and they elected Andrew Jackson. The anti Jackson movement splintered the existing politics and lead to the Whig party.
And so it was in 2016 there was another democratic rebellion. The Brits voted for Brexit and the Americans elected Trump. The global elite then proceeded to mount a war to suppress those rebellions. There is a reason the past 7 years have been so abnormal....
The American political parties have not formally splintered but in spirit they have. Most telling is we see the establishment politicians refusing to leave! Why won't the aging dinosaurs in Federal Government retire? The "conspiracy theory" is they want to stay in power in order to control information and keep hidden the extent and nature of their corruption. I have no reason to doubt this, but I don't know if it is the main reason. I think they enjoy being in power and loathe the idea of the new generation of politicians destroying the policies and frameworks they have built up.
America is not supposed to have kingdoms and principalities but that is what has been created. The improvement? If not term limits, then mandatory retirement of federal politicians should be the law.
This seems like a case where Arnold is definitely living up to his tagline of taking the most charitable view.
At this point, I think Michael Malice has the more accurate take “Conservatives are just Progressives driving the speed limit.”
"The Republican establishment wants order at the border but views legal immigration as a good thing. That makes sense to me."
There are only two ways to end illegal immigration.
1) Enforcement, harsh enforcement
2) Make it all legal (basically open borders)
The bottom line is that every single low IQ third worlder is better off in America then in their own third world countries, and so barring immigration restrictions they will flood into the country until they make up a demographic majority and we become a third world country.
Since the Democrats don't want to make an open case for unrestricted immigration (because it would be evil and unpopular) we get de facto open borders, where its not legal but we don't really enforce it. This is the only politically acceptable way they can implement "eventually get enough brown people in here that we have total power".
If I had to choose between status quo and open borders I would choose at least some formal restrictions with leaks, but my preferred solution is to just cut it all off. The third world has nothing to offer us.
Immigration is the real "existential risk". Any other policy change or cultural trend could always be reversed in the future. Germany and Japan literally got their entire societies destroyed and they bounced back. If Medicare gets bad we can just default and move on. However, genetics are forever.
Note that immigration is VERY unpopular whenever you can get past the vagaries. Eric Adams is crying uncle over migrant busses. DeSantis and Greg Abbot are popular for their anti-immigrant stances. The GOP vote share amongst Hispanics actually increases when they demonize immigration.
The Republican Establishment suffers from what I'd call The Charlie Brown Problem: they've spent a long time yanking the ball away at the last second just when their voters thought they were about to get off a successful kick. George W. Bush's "Compassionate Conservatism" which amounted to bribing seniors into voting him a second term via unfunded entitlement expansion springs to mind. To put a more sophisticated spin on it, the divergence between the median voter (which is what matters to incumbents) and the median Republican primary voter I think has become too large to hold the hold the traditional Republican coalition together.
The NatCons, meanwhile, suffer from what I'd call the Denethor Problem: the sort of nihilistic hopelessness Martin Gurri observes among populist dissident movements that makes them effective at tearing down existing institutions and impotent at building anything new. "The West has failed. Go back and burn!” says Denethor in The Return of the King. Doesn't Moldbug more or less says the same thing, at much greater length and with a few obscure literary references thrown in? Or the bizarro Catholic Integralist Revival types? Retreating to pre-enlightenment ideas because you don't like where the enlightenment seems to have taken mainstream culture is about as realistic as expecting people to volunteer for a return to feudalism.
Also, as should be obvious, I prefer my literary references to be mainstream, thank you, like to Charles Schulz and JRR Tolkien characters.
I think the simplest response to this post is to note that on its own terms the Republican establisment is an abject failure. It has been a political failure and a cultural failure. And what little success the party has had in last couple decades is not attributable to the establishment such as it is.
re: Levin and “hope for the constitutional project”
Levin’s approach to constitutionalism has been occupying my thoughts a lot lately. Yesterday, for example, Roger Kimball was naively citing Madison:
“Madison lays out part of his brilliant scheme of balancing the various interests of society against one another so that no one can predominate. “This policy,” says Madison, “of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public.” He continues:
“We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other — that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the State.”
Indeed. And there are many examples one might point to close at home that dramatize what happens when those “inventions of prudence” lapse.
It would be amusing to quiz those adipose functionaries at superfluous government agencies like the Department of Education about Madison’s teaching. What steps have you taken, a patient pedagogue might ask, to assure that your department, invested with the awesome power of the state, protects and preserves the freedoms of U.S. citizens? What “auxiliary precautions” have you mobilized to assure that your bit of the government “controls itself”?”
One wonders how Kimball imagines an appeal to Madison’s mostly imaginary set of checks and balances is going to be realized? Through the courts? (I jest.) Madison sold Kimball and everyone else a bill of goods. Proof? Federalist #45:
“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”
This was more true under the Articles of Confederation, but even in 1788 it was patently risible. The say-anything huckster Madison wanted revolutionary war lenders reimbursed sooner rather than later and no amount of personal integrity or his countrymen’s autonomy and liberty was too much to sacrifice to that end.
The underlying conflict embodied in Madisonian democracy can of course be traced back to the ancients but perhaps instead of Rome we just go back to Hobbes. Hobbes described a world of existential crises where it is fear and insecurity that drives individuals in the state of nature to submit to a monarch. Hamilton, who wrote most of the Federalist Papers, argued strongly for elective monarchy at the Philadelphia convention. It is no wonder that Hamilton is the patron saint of nearly all conservatives, freedom, national, or whatever. And even among libertarians there is a natural affiliation with monarchism (https://mises.org/library/monarchy-and-war-0 ). Give Madison credit for at least paying lip service to the “consent of the governed” even if lip service is all that concept will ever get. Yet it is the limited sovereignty he was able to impose through the Philadelphia convention that underlies the current hubub. Limited sovereignty means the plebs have to be denigrated and maintenance of establishment privilege requires the populace at large to constantly be denounced as ignorant bigots, racists, haters etc. etc. The natcons take the bait every time and lash back. Rinse and repeat. Yawn.
If there is an existential crisis today, it is the looming threat of a supranationalist governance. Globalism can’t exist without lavish government subsidies and legal protections. Just as Madison acted as fear merchant to package and peddle his taxation schemes, today the cosmopolitan globalists peddle fear and hate to package and peddle supranationalist governance. Thankfully there a handful of countries around the world in which the governance systems are amenable to peace and prosperity. These should be our beacon, not hoary myths about American exceptionalism.
That said, Levin is surely right in focusing on the molding of souls. He will look to certain authorities in his project, populists will look to others to continue their never ending struggle to achieve efficacy in “the inventions of prudence.”
> But all these things can lead to a greater pie and more prosperity for everyone. And the nationalists don’t believe that
I guess I'd be lumped in with "nationalists" since I definitely have no faith in the GOP establishment, and I reject this completely. I absolutely believe free trade and economic growth CAN lead to more prosperity for everyone.
Immigration and economic growth CAN promote general prosperity but it's also possible they DO NOT. They are necessary but not sufficient requirements, and our incompetent and malfeasant political system has failed us. The best case for the GOPe is that they've been incompetent, but frequently they seem willing collaborators with those determined to break down the legal and cultural structures required to have a growing free market society.
The nationalist position IS the moderate position on immigration. Allow legal immigration, do not tolerate illegal immigration. That's not a fringe position, that's what even most democrats would support. Because most people can see the obvious problems that arise from the current system.
Are the moderates really being moderate and compromising here? Of course not. The GOP is not offering anything that would appeal to the vast majority of Americans. Anyone who wants restrictions is demonized as being "anti-immigration" and ignorant of economic growth.
As with balancing the budget and reducing economic concentration, wokeness, and the like, the role of the GOPe seems to be to act as a spoiler for the forces of illiberalism. Claim to be against illiberal forces, but only in the mildest, most ineffectual ways, and attack hard anyone who proposes effective, forthright attempts to oppose illiberal policies.
"There have been many moments in our history when it would have been far more reasonable to give up all hope for the constitutional project than it is today" Have there? Really?
I am not a Nat Con; not part of any New Right tribe; not even an American actually.
But it seems to me that, if you are ANY kind of conservative, then there is an elephant in electoral pluralism's room.
Does ANY right-of-centre administration really get its way anymore, given that everyone, when pressed, acknowledges that, Yes, there HAS indeed been a 'long march' of the Left through civil administration, each and every public institution; and (the feeder to all of these) academia?
Maybe in America it can happen (unlike my own country) - because there is still a large anti-establishment voting public (witness 2020). But whether it's establishment Republican, New Right or whatever, if the elephant is not brought into full view (and kept there) " all hope for the constitutional project" is a chimera. https://grahamcunningham.substack.com/
Disagree that the GOP establishment even objects to wide open borders. They just don't talk about it. Their constituencies (business, agriculture) like it, for economic reasons. Democrat constituencies like massive undocumented immigration for economic reasons (government employees) and ideological reasons (legacy American whites are incorrigibly conservative and need to be swamped by other kinds of people, who will all be granted citizenship). Trumpian populists are the ones who want order on the border. Once it is secure, and only then, we can have an intelligent conversation about who should be permitted to immigrate to the USA. My preference would be to have minimal levels of English competency and professional or technical competency as minimal requirements, then have an annual auction for each permitted place. We should import wealthy and educated people, and let them and their families pay to come here. It would be revenue positive, and the competitive pressure would be on people who are already successful and most able to bear it. We should end so called birthright citizenship, which creates perverse incentives. We already have plenty of our own poor people. If American taxpayers are going to take care of poor people, which we should, we should take care of our own fellow citizens. Without regard to my preferences, what we have now at our border is a disaster that needs to stop.
On the voting side what goes unspoken, but I think is the real crux, is the GOP since at least the New Deal, is simply the "opposition party". Your choice is the DNC or DNC in all but name. I genuinely believe most Dem voters are voting for the DNC and it's policies whereas most GOP voters are simply voting anti-DNC.
It's why the GOP policy positions are generally meaningless and in practice, go nowhere.
The growing parts of the country are in the Sunbelt. DeSantis runs one of our fastest growing states. Trump country is in many ways doing just fine.
To me the above sums up the economy. Suburbs in the Sun Belt are king. Suburbs in the Sun Belt don't want what the left is pushing. Economically, culturally, etc. If the Ron DeSantis's of the world weren't what these people wanted, they wouldn't be voting for him in overwhelming numbers.
As far as entitlement reform goes it's a dead end. If the GOPe couldn't get it across the line before the boomers retired, they aren't going to get it across the line after. It's just a bottomless pit of political capital that gives your enemies more power to spend what money is left on themselves.
My concern about the R establishment when it comes to deficit and debt issues is that any gains on this front from spending cuts would be essentially erased by equally large tax cuts. That's what would have happened under any of the proposed Paul Ryan budgets from back in the day.
Your description of Republican establishment ideas have a much better chance of being listened to and influencing policy in the Democratic party. They are closer to Biden than they are to Trump.
The elephant in the room is Trump. Many, if not all, "Natcons" are really just Trumpists. But Trump is sui generis. There is, and never will be, another politician like him. I know more than one person who was ready to give up on Trump after the midterms, but following the indictments (and just as I predicted) every single one is now a diehard Trumpist again. Maybe they are "Natcons," but I don't think so. They just agree with whatever Trump says about anything. So they are virtually impossible to pin down on actual policy positions.