Accountability, For Good or Ill

Featured image is the Execution of Admiral Byng – anonymous

It is the nature of elites that they cannot be eliminated, but only replaced and contained. Elites compete with each other for power and influence in their sphere, and whomever has the most influence is the most elite. Those who opt not to struggle quickly find themselves on the outside looking in, as other hungrier competitors overtake them. Politics is the art of determining the rules that the competition will follow.

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To the left, the triumph of the common man over distant elites, to the right distant elites trampling the common man.  In the centre – everything good and right and just. h/t Paul Fairie @paulisci

This is something we mostly grasp intuitively in the world of commerce. Businesses compete amoungst themselves for profits and market share, identifying or creating needs and filling them. When the customers care mostly about price we get business elites competing to cut costs and wring out efficiencies. When customers care mostly about quality and reliability we get competitions around warranties and MTBF. When customers care about novelty or function we get competitions around product development and research. Mostly we get competitions involving trade-offs between all three and more besides. The world is full of stories of firms who let themselves get flabby and were overtaken by lower cost competitors, or became sloppy and lost business to more careful enemies, or made bad bets about what customers really wanted and found themselves cut down by more responsive firms.

When the system works well we get benefits for everyone, as some of the smartest hardest working people in the world turn all their brainpower and organisational know-how into shaving 3% off the cost of widget by reorganising the work floor, or the best algorithm builders in the world compete with each other to fine tune music recommendations for the masses. But not all the competitions are socially beneficial, and so we have developed rules which ensure that the competitions are contained within socially beneficial channels. You can’t shave costs by dumping your untreated waste into rivers or water basins, or by not paying your workers, or refusing to make reasonable changes to improve their safety.

An executive at an pipeline firm wants to be environmentally responsible and build his pipelines in a manner that keeps product from leaching into groundwater, but the cost of upgrading is higher than the cost of lost product and the resulting price increase in transport fees will drive business to his less scrupulous neighbour who runs an even leakier operation, and so the executive does nothing. His leakier neighbour also wants to run a leaner operation, but he has activist shareholders who won’t let him make such a large capital expenditure with no prospect of return. A tax on leaked petroleum or a rules about maximum leakage means that though they will still compete on price, that competition won’t be in the form of indifference to the environment, which neither of them really want to compete on anyway.

The danger is that there’s lots of things the executives don’t really want to compete on, many of which are actually socially beneficial. The market forces them to compete on cost, but they would much rather keep prices relatively high. The market forces them to compete on quality, but they would much rather force their customers to buy a replacement regularly. Absent some accountability, rules quickly come to serve the elites instead of the customers.

Now this is a very familiar story to a largely libertarian audience, but of course governance is largely the same. One function of democracy is to tie the game of power to the interests, goals and expectations of the body politic. An electorate that cares mostly about inequality, and which votes accordingly, will produce a politic class obsessed with inequality. An electorate that cares about the state of the economy, or crime, or protecting the culture against outside influence will result in a political class obsessed with being seen to do the same, or again a mix of all those and more.

Ultimately however, many of these competitions will not be socially beneficial. Two politicians, both fully aware of the costs of tariffs will none-the-less be forced to campaign for high tariffs by an electorate that falsely believes helping incumbent firms is the same as helping the economy. Despite knowing the electorate is giving in to dark impulses they would do better to avoid, they none-the-less are forced by the logic of zero sum competition to try to out do each other in denouncing an unpopular ethnic minority, or people with disfavoured religious beliefs. Perhaps fully aware that the public does not possess the expertise to assess the technical aspects of monetary policy, they are none-the-less forced to campaign for crank gold bug schemes, or below (or above) socially optimum interest rates. The solution, from the perspective of the elites, is, by norm or law to effectively prohibit certain kinds of competition that they would rather not be doing in any case.

Instead of setting tariffs in congress or parliament on a country by country basis they sign treaties that bind themselves to the level they wanted anyway. Instead of seeking to crush faiths that their constituents find unsettling, they invent a right to worship, enforced by a third a party, which effectively allows them to ignore faith in practice. Instead of setting monetary policy amoung themselves they give a mandate to an independent third party, which again allows them to compete along axes they find more amenable. Once again of course, it is often the case that elites will bind themselves in ways that serve themselves and not any greater social purpose. The practical effect is that elites can launder their preferences, good and bad, through a judicial and legislative system which insulates them from accountability for the decisions made.

This is the key, to the extent possible to ensure that competition happens on issues where elites should be competing, with enough democracy (and intra-elite accountability mechanisms) to hold elites accountable for the outcomes of their decisions. The problem is that, above a low baseline, calls for more democracy almost always have the opposite effect. A politician who runs and is elected on a platform cannot be held accountable for implementing the contents of the platform, no matter how poorly thought out – it is after all the will of the voters, whether the voters voted the way they did because of or in spite of or indifference to that particular plank. Trump, being elected directly by the primary voters, cannot be held accountable by official party organs for his performance. Jeremy Corbyn, being directly elected by the party members, and so owing nothing to his caucus, cannot be held accountable by them for his failures of leadership. Rather than risk the direct fallout of a decision to leave the EU, or the continued damage of a refusal to do so, David Cameron calls a referendum so that he cannot be held directly responsible for the decision to stay or leave. It is this shirking of responsibility for the governance of the nation that leads to an elite culture devoid of consequence for failure, and complete disconnect between the governors and the governed.

Jean-Claude Juncker
I assure you the people responsible are over there, I had nothing at all to do with the disintegration of my political union
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The Ribbon of War

On Memorializing Warfare’s Fallen Warriors

Many people have died in fulfillment of the oath they took according to the Constitution of the United States, which remained unchanged from 1789 to 1950, when it underwent a slight revision, but has remained materially the same for 227 years: namely to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic and to obey the orders of the President of the United States. Thus many would rather die than swear falsely this oath.

Glancing through the history of the United States, World War II serves as the emblem of that loyalty, wherein hundreds of thousands perished defending the Constitution from what was perceived to be an existential threat on two fronts: from Asia and from Europe. I equivocate because I sit in the luxury of being removed two generations from that perceived threat; moreover, the question is before us today, given the intricacies of international relations: can there even be such an existential threat?

Well, was there ever such an existential threat to the Constitution of the United States? Let’s say yes there was, and World War II is it. I hearken to the opening dialogue of the wonderful HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, which is a dramatization of interviews conducted first by historian Stephen Ambrose, drawing from a few of his books, and supplemented by interviews conducted by the producers of the TV series.

“Get your uniforms,” someone shouts in a marketplace.

“Why?”

“America is in a war with Japan.”

And so it began. I am struck by this introduction: America’s population was largely surprised by the onset of war. Studying the decade leading up to Pearl Harbor, it seems obvious to me that the United States was basically inviting itself into a historic conflagration just by sheer policy moves made by a cynical government overseen by the architect of the New Deal and the packer of the Supreme Court, FDR, who, despite his pernicious ways, remained popular enough that he was in his third term as president, inviting, as I say, foreign attack. How could those who were living in that time be surprised?

Well, some were, and some weren’t. Roosevelt wasn’t that popular, and his critics were quick to point out, especially as the Pacific theater quickly turned hopeless, that this was Roosevelt’s War, that he needed it to hide his nefarious, anti-American, pro-Socialism, domestic policies, among which critics was ensconced the hero George S. Patton, named by Carlo d’Este as A Genius For War, to whom we will return momentarily.

In the meantime, our national identity given by WWII pours from the bloody victories earned at Iwo Jima, and, in particular, in the Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge, which was won by the Battered Bastards of Bastogne, bloodied but unbowed. In oft-depicted scenes, we find our heroes throwing back the fierce German Wehrmacht without proper food, clothes, shoes, ammunition, weapons, or even winter coats, withstanding one of the coldest Decembers on record without the luxury of a mere campfire.

When we celebrate these heroes, for surely they were, we see them fighting against all hope, victorious by sheer American grit and fortitude, as Ambrose puts it, pitting the ideals of American freedom against the tyranny of fascism, and we won.

But why were our heroes essentially naked? Couldn’t we have won more easily with our vast resources producing fully, protected by two gigantic oceans? Why did they have to suffer, and why for so long?

Let me introduce to you one Major General John C. H. Lee, the commander of the supply army for the European Theater, disdainfully called “Jesus Christ Himself,” a man notorious for seeking the pleasures of conquest and aggrandizing all things earthly unto himself. In September of 1944, when he should have been supplying the combat armies with winter materiel, he was instead shipping tons of prefabricated housing for his officers and men, whose job it was to acquire for themselves, kicking up a share through the officers to their commander.

In other words, there was an entire army of thieves, scoundrels, and crooks given solely to creating a black market, siphoning off anything of value for their own enrichment, and at the expense of 1) the American laborer and 2) their comrades-at-arms holding the line. I repeat: an entire army of American soldiers were happy denizens of a rear-echelon empire of thievery.

Why were the 101st and the 82nd divisions rushed to Bastogne in the first place? Another army of American soldiers was in panicked retreat, wild-eyed with fear, throwing down their arms and ammunition in a bid to escape the horrors of warfare as quickly as possible. I repeat: an entire army of American soldiers was in retreat.

Patton’s rescue of the Battered Bastards of Bastogne (which has never been acknowledged as necessary by those battered bastards) is another tale of heroism. The genius for war saw that his superiors were far too complacent with the progress of war, and that their bungling of the battlefield, for political reasons, was percolating toward a sudden reversal of fortune; indeed, fortune had allowed the Allies to progress in spite of many terrible decisions, not the least of which was removing Patton from command.

The German Army never believed for one second that Eisenhower had removed Patton, the greatest general of the entire war, for the misdemeanor of slapping a soldier, considering the entire media storm to have been manufactured as a deceptive ploy. In fact, the political sensitivities of the Allies had prevailed against Patton, and the Allied advance stalled, festered, and nearly broke under the German counteroffensive.

Nevertheless, Patton, singular among the entire European command, had foreseen the counteroffensive, almost to the day and place; not only that, but he had prepared his army for it, from the top brass all the way to the common foot soldier. This “pivot,” as it is called, disengaging from the enemy on one front, marching without ceasing for forty-eight hours, and re-engaging the enemy on another front, is a marvel of warfare.

It was a few men, then, under the duress of a fanatical enemy and also in defiance of their own bureaucracy, who won the war. I’m sure there are many veterans of that war, and many fallen comrades, who fought ably and heroically, sandwiched between General J. C. H. Lee and the Battered Bastards of Bastogne who welcomed George S. Patton’s 3rd Army to the party, but without the few, the many would have foundered and failed.


Let’s say we are surprised by the perception of an existential threat in the near future. Looking around at our culture, which seems dangerously preoccupied with its genitalia and the free stuff from the government to stimulate the same, it might be difficult to believe that we would even stop gazing at our crotches long enough to raise an army for the battle. Ah, it is not the many who prevail, but the few, who carry the many, and the many thank them for preserving them in spite of thievery and onanism and cowardice.

You’ve met my friend Rafe in previous posts. He’s a real person, and he really is my friend, whom I consider to be a thoughtful eccentric, of no particular philosophy or commonly held worldview. He’s the youngest of four brothers, and he’s my age, so he won’t be one of the few of those thoughtful warriors, but a decade or two ago he would have been. He has three sons of his own, chips off the old block (with normal names), but with the same ideals, and, I think, a willingness to spearhead an assault to preserve the ideals of freedom for us who might not be so willing, and, if willing, less able.

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Ever vigilant, Rafe calls them in. #turkeyhunting

I mentioned to Adam Gurri recently that Rafe has no air-conditioning in his home, and he heats his home with a wood-burning stove. And look: while Western New York might seem rural to many of you, it’s not rural. His house is situated in the country between Rochester and Buffalo, and he has five neighbors within a literal stone’s throw of his front door. Every year he has an argument with his one neighbor about whether he can track a wounded deer onto his fields, which his neighbor refuses to grant, illegally harvesting, then, the deer which Rafe shot. I digress. But it’s so un-neighborly…And in God’s America!

Anyway, I mentioned to Adam Gurri that Rafe has no AC and heats his home with a wood-burning stove, and we both thought it was hilarious that anyone would want to live like that, what with affordable thermostat-controlled environments and all.

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Rafe heats his home with a wood-burning stove because he likes it, not because he’s some backwater oaf. The house, nevertheless, is unevenly heated, but such actuality creates a pattern of living in which his family thrives. And he’s not entirely brutish: he recently bought an air-conditioner, one of those interior wall-mounted doohickeys, under which we sat all day this past Sunday while Western New York roasted in temperatures rising to almost 90° (the agony!). Later on, we went outside and did some firearm target practice.

We will look to such people, in the case of a surprise existential crisis, people who are intelligent, well-read, thoughtful, morally stable, and violent. People like Rafe are like me in that they are both pessimistic about the ability of society to preserve itself and aware of the caprice of the ribbon of war. They are more than me in that they will prefer to die in spite of its caprice, hoping.

Plus ça Change

It surprises me the extent to which people recoil at the idea of a President Donald Trump.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Donald Trump would be a terrible president. But to hear the way some people talk about it (and I don’t just mean David or Adam), he’s an entirely new level of monster. He’s something we’ve never before encountered in American politics, at least not recently. One Sweet Talker even suggested to me that those who vote for Donald Trump are more morally culpable than those who don’t.

And it’s not just us. Everywhere you go in the media, there’s some dumb article about which public figure recently vowed to move to Canada (or wherever) if Donald Trump wins the election. Many of my personal friends – especially the Muslims among them – think that The Donald’s rhetoric toward practitioners of Islam is many orders of magnitude over and above what we’ve seen in politics up to now.

Forgive me, I just don’t see it. But let’s be clear: I’m not saying Donald Trump isn’t terrible, I’m saying all those other politicians that nobody ever worried about have been exactly as terrible as Donald Trump all this time, and nobody really batted an eye at that. And they’re still not batting any eyes.

We don’t disagree about Trump. We disagree about everyone else. While everyone seems shocked and scandalized by Donald Trump’s ideas, I’m not seeing anything new or alarming that I haven’t been witnessing for the past twenty years. (Incidentally, I see that David R. Henderson has scooped me on this by a few hours.) So, I must ask: What makes Donald Trump uniquely morally reprehensible here?

Consider the proposed wall. We’re supposed to believe that building a wall along the US-Mexico border is a “Donald Trump thing.” If so, how would we explain the fact that recent interest in such a wall seems to have peaked almost ten years ago?

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Source: Google Trends, search term “immigration wall”

Doubtless Trump has been a large part of recent interest in the topic, but this is not a new idea. Arizona lawmakers were tackling this issue two years ago. Mike Huckabee was calling for such a wall as early as 2007, for example. Arnold Schwartzenegger was criticizing border wall proposals from the U.S. House of Representatives a year earlier. I could go on, but I won’t. Donald Trump doesn’t own the border wall issue, and any recent indignation thrown at Trump for his taking a stance no different than Mike Huckabee’s or the 2006 U.S. House of Representatives is silly. Trump’s bad, but this issue has always been bad. Trump isn’t adding anything new here.

Or, consider the question of banning Muslim immigration to America. To articulate such a thing is to make most Americans’ skin crawl, but one has to wonder about the intellectual honesty of many of those whose skin is crawling. Before my wife got a new passport and started using my last name, she was subject to more “random” airport security checks than I’ve ever seen. Her father, a well-traveled man, an expert in his field, and a Fulbright Scholar, was placed on the “no-fly list” for sharing the name of a suspected terrorist; but if you know anything about Muslim names, you know that virtually every Muslim shares the name of a “suspected terrorist,” because there are over two billion Muslims worldwide and only several thousand Muslim names. Do the math. Anyone comfortable with the state of Muslim profiling in America, but uncomfortable with Trump’s immigration ban, isn’t thinking straight.

But let’s set aside my personal experience any appeals to logic and look at the facts. Three years ago, The Atlantic reported:

The Associated Press brought the NYPD’s clandestine spying on Muslims to the public’s attention in a series of vital stories. Starting shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, officers infiltrated Muslim communities and spied on hundreds or perhaps thousands of totally innocent Americans at mosques, colleges, and elsewhere. These officers “put American citizens under surveillance and scrutinized where they ate, prayed and worked, not because of charges of wrongdoing but because of their ethnicity,” the news agency reported, citing NYPD documents. Informants were paid to bait Muslims into making inflammatory statements. The NYPD even conducted surveillance on Muslim Americans outside its jurisdiction, drawing a rebuke from an FBI field office, where a top official charged that “the department’s surveillance of Muslims in the state has hindered investigations and created ‘additional risks’ in counterterrorism.”

The author of that piece ends his article with a good question:

What does it say about American liberalism today that two of the most significant municipal programs abrogating the civil liberties of racial and ethnic minorities thrive in a deep blue city that also happens to be the media capitol of the country … and the guy presiding over it remains popular?

He’s talking about Bloomberg, and let’s make this as clear as possible: Bloomberg isn’t popular among alt-right racists; he’s popular among the urban elite who see themselves as tolerant, diverse, and enlightened. The very people who react with indignation at hearing Donald Trump’s proposed ban have virtually no problem at all with local law enforcement enacting a ubiquitous surveillance apparatus to ensure that innocent American citizens who happen to be Muslims aren’t actually up to something. And that’s not even considering the profiling that has been done to blacks and Latinos for decades. Trump is beyond the pale?  Not hardly.

We could take a long look at the semblance of economic policy Donald Trump seems to espouse and poke all kinds of holes in it. But: trade restrictions, investments in domestic  manufacturing, lukewarm support of minimum wage increases, and so on… Would it really be shocking to discover that this set of policies is common to a fairly large swath of both Democrat and Republican politicians?

Wrack your brain, pore over the platforms, the advertisements, the interviews, the media articles, and the research. Once you set aside Trump’s rather abrasive personality – an abrasive personality that is not only no secret to anyone (nor has it been at any time over the past 40 years of Trump’s fame), but that has succeeded in creating a rather successful brand of business for him – the actual policies we’re left with really aren’t that different from what we’re getting from any other politician in the landscape.

So what is everyone complaining about?

Nota bene, my point here is not to suggest that there aren’t people out there who have disagreed with these policies all along. Of course there are. But the visceral reaction against Donald Trump is many orders of magnitude above and beyond our reaction to politicians who support Trump’s policies (or worse) in deed, even if they fall short of doing so in words.

Regular readers will understand why I choose to focus on this: It’s because, in my opinion, results matter much more than words. That politicians lie is nothing new, and the results of our politics are there for all to see. Why, then, all the indignation over a politician whose rhetoric is, for once, consistent with the results?

What do we make of a society that reacts angrily to being told the truth? Is the problem that it prevents them from being able to lie to themselves about what’s going on out there? This isn’t a politics problem; it’s an ego problem. The solution here is not to lambaste Trump, but to lambaste ourselves and our own failure to recognize any of these horrors when they come out of the mouths of pretty much anyone else. If it takes someone like Donald Trump for you to recognize how abominable these policies are, then perhaps a re-calibration of your abomination-detection-device is in order.

Until we realize that, it’s plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Trump is My Doing

We all knew that the fix was in for Hillary, over on that side (poor Bernie!): she’s been siphoning money from corporate America and the world’s glitterati to bribe as many of her party’s potentates so that she could finally make a legitimate run for the top administrative post in the land, without any upstart usurpers from Illinois, the most corrupt state in the Union.

But what to do about the other side? The early 2010s showed a disturbing tendency towards earnest patriotism over there: Tea Party, Libertarians, and outright Conservatives. Dear God!

I fixed it in my heart, and it has been the soul of my mind ever since, that the Millennials would not inherit anything in the way of a functioning government or society, not if I had anything to say about it.

Now, I know that there are rational theories and punditry theories, even wonderful conspiracy theories to explain Trump’s provenance, my favorite being that every time a Clinton makes a play for the presidency, a kooky billionaire shows up to run interference against the GOP and split the populist vote from the conservative vote. Nice try, conspiracy theorists.

No, it’s much easier than that: I produced Trump. It wasn’t that hard to do, really, and any megalomaniac would have done. The real genius was in picking Trump, having him tell absolute whoppers that not even children would believe, lies of a disturbing pathology, and having him demonstrate reasoning of the most tortuous depravity, but also having him who was born of USA’s toilet, Manhattan, pass himself off as Middle America.

I drank a lot of scotch Tuesday night, celebrating what I had done.

If Generation X is going to be the perpetual Middle Child of America, the Meh Generation pinned between the Me Generation and the Millennials, then it is obvious that we’re going to be passed over for our turn at leadership, with the inevitable doom of becoming the Fredo of America, the World’s Cosa Nostra. Why not do what we can to sabotage little brother, whose mind is bent toward pulling the strings with so many time-series graphs? Why leave them with a trajectory leftward or rightward when we can leave them with higgledy-piggledy?

So, yes, Millennials, Trump is a gift from me, personally, to you, to bring you the rot of the greediest, most immoral, undisciplined, perpetually adolescent generation in the history of mankind–to bring that filth, which we grew up in, right into your nice, clean policy advocacy, designed especially by your sterile, unemotional robots, controlled by nearly perfect, lightning-fast algorithms. You think you’re so smart: fix this, why don’t you?

Heh.

Heh heh.

Heh heh heh heh heh..

The Arc of Cataclysm

Adam brushes off the present breaking of one of the Great Seals of the Apocalypse, writing, in effect, “Meh, we might be doomed, but we’re not that doomed, and we have no idea of knowing how or when our doom will befall us.” After presenting a couple of helpful and comforting metaphors, he likens our present condition, under the avenging thumb of Obama and faced with the choice of leadership between the Power Monger and the Buffoon, to that of Rome, which was always breaking apart, but did not ever do so, not until she finally fell.

If we actually fall, he intimates, it will be a historical anomaly: see how Rome swayed and cracked before she capitulated! See how she prospered and grew nevertheless!

When I recently plied the same tired saw as many have before me, namely that Gibbon, Jr. will also liken the impending doom of America to that of Rome, hoots and catcalls were tweeted my way to the same effect as Adam here comforts; more than that: look at the enduring influence of Rome even to this very day! Sarcasm wafted into my nostrils like so much sophomoric filth: what a horrible fate, to dominate the world for two thousand years!

Here I must hold up my hand in protest: shall we make distinctions? It is not likely that, while Alaric was laying siege to and finally sacking the city of Rome, the denizens therein comforted each other with the knowledge that they were only part of a process, the decay half of inevitable renewal. No, indeed, the three sieges of the Visigoths, the toppling of the Eternal City and many of its institutions, the ten-year brutality of their bloodthirsty presence, and the World War II body count brought the chaos to Europe which a single generation later yielded to Attila the Hun’s invasion.

So, yes, the ruins of the Roman Empire still smolder to our benefit.

It is an article of faith, because America has already been so tested, and the institutions of the West are laid on such massive foundations, that no violence of such magnitude will come to bring us to a similar state of renewal.

 

Minding the Overton Door

It’s often said that public advocacy of radical reform, such as that of ‘open borders’, is good because it can create space for public advocacy of less radical reform. In smartypants terms, the advocate for radical reform is thought to serve the purpose of opening wider the “Overton window,” which contains the range of policy ideas deemed currently reasonable or acceptable.

I’m not aware, though, that any hip jargon exists for conveying the following possible downside of advocating radical reform: When one steps out to advocate a very radical reform, any ensuing public debate will necessarily pit many supporters of incremental reform against the advocates of radical reform. And it seems very plausible that such a debate, in which the radical reform is soundly rejected, might displace a debate over an incremental reform. And what if the would-have-been debate over incremental reform could have been won by the pro-reform side? The initial advocacy of radical reform might then be interpreted as a counterproductive distraction.

Certainly, whatever it is that is displaced by radical advocacy in a given situation might not be a healthy and winnable debate over incremental reform. The point here is not to dispute that radical advocacy can sometimes valuably open a window, but to say it ideally would be wielded carefully enough so that shifting air pressure ‘in the room’ does not cause a good door to shut.

DoorsClosing

The Appeal of Fascism

Or: It’s Going To Be All Right

When we call Trump a fascist, we mean something bad, but we don’t mean fascism. If you look at it the right way, the numbers are kind of comforting: About 30% of Republican primary voters, in some states, are all in on Trumpscism, or whatever you want to call the Trump brand of fascism. Populascism? I don’t know. It’s such a fun thing to watch, regardless.

The numbers, not too long ago, were much more disturbing, back when everyone went in for fascism, properly speaking; the entire Western world went all-in for fascism, right before all the homosexuals, blacks, Jews, and other undesirables were cleared off the streets and disappeared. The difficult truth about disappearing the undesirables made fascism itself undesirable, so it fell out of favor as a term with the university class. Now fascism is a moniker for something else, a name for the perversion of conservative political doctrine.

We ought to be careful about calling Trump a fascist and a racist, despite the elements of fascism and racism attached to his message and persona, and despite the fact that he’s running in the GOP, which is also the home of conservatives, mainly because that’s an awfully broad brush which covers people who aren’t fascists, while it leaves unpainted actual fascists, who probably don’t have any party affiliation.

When you offer a general population the following planks in a campaign platform: strong national identity, strong central government, (un)willing participation of corporate entities, high taxes paying for universal services, while also demonizing opposition (and even sabotaging the opposition’s efforts), well, you’re going to get some votes. Wiser politicians than Trump have long known how to offer fascism without the nasty side-effect of attracting an openly racist voter bloc, that which is the final plank in the platform known as fascism. Without racism, it’s an appealing political doctrine today, and it held the world in sway, once upon a time, when history was still in black and white.

The conservative argument against the appeal of fascism, whatever its actual name today, is that it can’t really be done without a great deal of disruption. The characteristics necessary to create a leader who will implement that platform is unlikely to produce a leader who will observe the pleasanter traditions of constitutional democracy. Liberal and Leftist pundits will be wise to note that the conservative movement in the United States has vociferously rejected Trump (see National Review), especially where his doctrine (such as it is) overlaps with a properly defined fascism. Those conservative voices in popular media who actually have endorsed Trump are hardly making a conservative case for him–because it’s impossible.

Now, as for the name fascism, and its application to perversions of conservative doctrines: well, it’s a tough cruel world, and conservatives are going to just have to get over it, continuing to argue for free markets, smaller federal governments, the Western canon, inter alia, acknowledging weakness and pointing out strength.

No worries.