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Tuckahoe Joe’s Not a Blog of the Week: The Politics of Ethnonationalism Cannot be Reasoned with. It Can Only be Defeated.

December 3, 2018



Recently, I came Across the twitter account of a person who describes himself as; Professor, author on Russia, war, nukes, and “The Death of Expertise.” Noted curmudgeon. Anti-populist. Ex-GOP. Cat guy. Views solely my own. His name is Tom Nichols and his account is  @RadioFreeTom. 

Now, I normally do not recommend conservative commentator as sources of wisdom or interest but like many ideologists of the right, he has found He Who is Not Our President’s ethnonationalism irrational and flat out wrong. He, in a series of tweets, lays into the orange baboon with all the ideological righteousness of the confirmed conservative. What is surprising about his rant is his take on the catastrophe Trumpism has brought upon his white working-class base.

He ends with a statement that liberals need to take to heart: That kind of political agenda (ethnonationalism) can’t be reasoned with. It can only be defeated.

Counter-intuitive though it may seem, Trump winning was a political disaster for the white working class, especially older whites. They were once pandered to in elections; now it’s no longer possible to indulge the pretense that their concerns are economic – or fixable.

That’s because there’s no ground for a policy fix or a compromise with people whose basic position is that they want America to be white, sorta Christian, and frozen in 1963 – except with 2018’s drugs, sexual liberty, govt transfer payments, ESPN channels, and internet porn.

That’s why I’m tired of people declaring conservatives (like me, Boot, Rubin, Wilson and others) who still believe in limited government, fiscal responsibility, a superpower foreign policy, and individual freedom to be “not conservatives” because we won’t pander to populists.

Who’s more liberal? Us, or the working class Trump voters who are always looking to Daddy to excuse them for out-of-wedlock births, their embrace of a defeatist foreign policy, rampant drug abuse, chronic underemployment, and endless demands for government solutions?

This “it’s not your fault, the system has it in for you” bullshit pioneered by Bannon and weaponized by Trump is something conservatives castigated liberals for saying to minorities years ago. And rightly so: it deprives people of agency and responsibility.

If sucking up to small-town populism – the worst melding of ignorance and self-pitying, insecure nationalism – is now “conservative,” then the word has no meaning. Conservatives were once prudent, incremental, patriotic, and stoic. (Like, say, the President who just passed.)

Yes, we were also hidebound, resistant to needed change, overly cautious, too wrapped up in our sense of tradition, and often indifferent to the struggles of others. (We were also the counterpart to progressives who needed the sensible ballast of prudence and judgment.)

Conservatives and liberals need each other to make progress. What we’re seeing with Trumpism, especially two years in, is neither conservative nor liberal. It is a stubborn demand that the world treat white working class adults like children. To coddle them with soothing lies.

So enough with the woes of the Iowa farmers who fear black and female presidents, or New Hampshire townies who fear immigrants without ever seeing one anywhere near them. That’s not “conservative” any more than Occupy Wall St guys taking dumps on police cars are “liberal.”

I don’t know what it’s going to take for Generation Fox to figure it out. I now seriously doubt they will come to their senses, if they ever had any. (This is why I have very little hope that anything Mueller or anyone else says is going to move that 30-40%.)

That intransigence is the disaster for the white working class: because it shows there’s no point in trying to compromise with what were once legitimate concerns about taxes, foreign affairs, education, etc. They’ve traded that agenda for mindless Trumpian ethno-nationalism.

That kind of political agenda can’t be reasoned with. It can only be defeated. And realizing that this is no longer a rational political debate is not good for America (or Europe, or anywhere else), but that’s how it has to be.

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