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The conventional party platforms no longer address or even comprehend the most pressing challenges facing American institutions. Economic mobility is down and inequality is up, while growth, productivity, and wages are nearly stagnant. Trust in government is at historic lows. Crime and drug abuse are increasing, while families and communities are disintegrating. Social discord, frequently inflamed by proliferating versions of identity politics, is becoming more prevalent. The foreign policies of the last two decades have resulted, too often, in failure and strategic incoherence.
Yet many of our so-called elites ignore these problems. Instead, they bemoan the rise of a populism—from both the Right and the Left—that is said to endanger the very foundations of our political system, of our national mores, and even of democracy itself. This conventional narrative is as false as it is self-serving, revealing only the insularity of our politicians and the status anxieties of our intellectuals.
On the contrary, what if public discontent is a reasonable response to a misguided and complacent elite consensus? What if the people are not too populist, but rather our elite is not truly elite? What if “the real problem with our republic,” as Walter Russell Mead put it, “is that what should be our leadership elite is soul-sick: vain, restless, easily miffed, intellectually confused, jealous”?
This intellectual confusion is most apparent in our reliance on decades-old ideological categories. The leadership of both political parties has tried and failed to fit burgeoning popular discontent into the old definitions of conservatism and progressivism. Far from clarifying the most critical issues, however, these categories only obscure them.
The distance between constituency and ideology has grown on both sides, feeding an ideological polarization out of step with the interests of voters. American political theatre stages ever shriller battles over increasingly trivial matters. Yet the circus atmosphere only distracts attention from the paucity of substantive debate on essential questions. Beneath Washington’s hollow sloganeering, both parties have subscribed to the same woefully inadequate policy consensus on major issues of foreign and domestic policy.
At home, we have heard endless calls for new New Deals and another Reagan Revolution. Yet, today, Americans spend more on education, and our students perform worse. We spend more on health care and receive less. We spend more per unit of infrastructure and build less. We spend more on defense and get the F-35 debacle. We have lower taxes but slower economic growth. We have more finance but less investment.
Concerning foreign affairs, speeches about our obligations to “promote democracy” and our “responsibility to protect” trade places with predictable regularity. Yet what have we accomplished except the promotion of chaos and the irresponsible squandering of hard-won strategic advantages?
Among the commentators tasked with appraising our situation, it has become fashionable to criticize the “nostalgia” of voters seeking better government and better livelihoods. These desires, we are told, are nothing but impossible and counterproductive illusions. Like all clichés, this one contains some truth. But our intellectuals as well as our politicians are subservient to an even more debilitating nostalgia, which views the ideologies of the last few decades as the only alternatives and their policies as the only solutions. They are nostalgic for a present they think they inhabit, but which has already slipped away.
These ossified intellectual orthodoxies have rewarded partisan loyalty over genuine insight. The resulting political culture has promoted a peculiar hybrid of extremism and careerism at the expense of good governance.
American Affairs rejects this degradation of our political discourse. We seek to provide a forum for the discussion of new policies that are outside of the conventional dogmas, and a platform for new voices distinguished by originality, experience, and achievement rather than the compromised credentials of careerist institutions. We believe that recognizing failures and encouraging new ideas are not betrayals of American “optimism” but are instead healthier expressions of it.
What if “the real problem with our republic,” as Walter Russell Mead put it, “is that what should be our leadership elite is soul-sick: vain, restless, easily miffed, intellectually confused, jealous”?
originally posted by: damwel
Pro-Trump and intellectual are mutually exclusive
Beginning with the Reagan presidency, a new conservative intellectual and political apparatus began to trade upon the GOP’s finally successful postwar reorganization. The New Majority was receptive to conservative ideas, and conservative institutions began to propagate them widely. In addition, conservative think tanks were no longer mere participants in the marketplace of ideas but had become a new site of power themselves. Yet, at the same time, the debates internal to conservatism effectively stalled out. The fusion of the Republican business class with its reliable new Southern base had succeeded, and its success meant that the old intraconservative debates were politically neutralized, with the upper hand going to the think tanks and journals that had signed on to the fusionism then ascendant. With the Heritage Foundation at their head, the think tanks of the American Right rolled out fusionism not only as a component of understanding the (temporary) New Majority, but as the essence of conservatism itself—something few if any conservative thinkers had ever really held. More than anything else, fusionism became the term of art applied to the disparate postwar conservative intellectual movement.
originally posted by: watchitburn
The two posts above are exactly what is wrong with the current political climate.
No contribution to the discussion, no insight or original ideas just immediate partisan sniping. Which seems to be precisely what the group in the OP is attempting to remedy.
I think it's a tall task when it appears that even a civil discussion unachievable.