A point I’ve made before myself, although I call the sentiment “anti-left” instead of “anti-Democrat.” In practice it’s the same thing: If your core political concern is repelling liberal cultural advances, odds are you won’t vote even for centrist Democrats. You’ll oppose their entire project on the theory that a vote for Jon Ossoff or even Tim Ryan is, in the end, a vote to empower Nancy Pelosi. Rush draws the correct lesson from that too. The party is now, essentially, post-policy. It doesn’t much matter if the GOP repeals ObamaCare or finishes up tax reform so long as Trump and Republicans are making liberals cry in other ways. If they pass nothing but spend the next 15 months effectively bashing CNN, that might be enough to pick up a few Senate seats next fall. Note, for instance. how the most famous young “conservative” in America describes her specialty on Fox News:
SPECIALTY: "Melting Snowflakes" pic.twitter.com/ZkrVmT90XG
— Max Tani (@maxwelltani) July 19, 2017
That’s all you need to succeed.
In a weird way, this is the most overtly pro-conservative Rush has sounded in a long time. I say “weird” because even he’s not perpetuating the illusion that the right cares about conservatism; at best he seems to think it’s a jump ball for ideological dominance right now between conservatism and populist-nationalism, with Rush making the case that the supposed victory of the latter over the former is greatly exaggerated. I suppose that’s true — right-wingers still say they prefer smaller government when they’re polled, whether they really do or not — but I’m not sure offhand if I can name a policy division on the right in which the conservative view is favored over the nationalist one. On immigration, the two ideologies are pretty well in sync. On trade, the nationalists hold the advantage. Taxing the rich? Nationalists. Big-government health care? Nationalists. The conservative/interventionist preference probably still enjoys more support than nationalist isolationism on foreign policy, but that’s tricky. Nationalists don’t oppose smashing ISIS, for instance. They oppose open-ended nation-building projects for cultures that don’t have the liberal institutions needed to sustain them.
I’m sure it’s true that most Trump supporters don’t identify as “populist” or “nationalist” but that’s probably only because those labels are obscure relative to the “conservative” label after 30 years of the GOP extolling Reagan. Even Trump doesn’t describe himself as populist or nationalist, right? But the base’s policy preferences are clear enough:
Republicans have grown increasingly dependent on blue-collar, older, and non-urban white voters who do not always agree that “government is the problem,” as Reagan declared. While these voters, many of them economically strained, remain deeply skeptical of programs like food stamps that shift resources to those they consider undeserving, they have shown much more tolerance for federal spending that financially supports people like them.
The failure to understand that distinction crippled the repeal effort. From every angle, the GOP bills imposed heavy costs on their own voters. The Urban Institute found that among those who would lose coverage under the Senate bill, 80 percent lacked a college degree, about 70 percent were in a household where someone worked full-time, and nearly 60 percent were white. Older working adults confronted enormous premium increases. Rural areas faced disproportionate risk from the Medicaid cuts because employer-provided insurance is less common there. Counties on the front line of the opioid crisis warned the Medicaid cuts would devastate their response.
They’ll take a conservative Trump or a populist-nationalist Trump so long as they have an anti-left, anti-“politically correct” Trump, but if you press them on policy I don’t think it’s a mystery which flavor of right-wing politics they prefer. Deep-thought exit question: Is it because there’s a mismatch between the conservatism of the GOP leadership and the populist-nationalism of the base that the right writ large has devolved into mere anti-leftism? When you can’t reconcile your differences on big-picture questions like the size of government and the future of entitlements, screeching “CNN sucks” may be the only way to keep everyone on the same side.