The Joke’s On Us

Today, with Mitt Romney “refudiating” Donald Trump’s candidacy for the GOP after having actively sought Trump’s endorsement in his own 2012 bid, a number of commentators on Twitter are mocking the establishment GOP’s obvious mendacity and chicanery. The holier-than-thou conservatism that Romney is defending is a sham, it is said;  Trump is rejected now not because he represents new lows of divisive demagoguery or dime-store con artistry, but because he threatens Republican elites’ own immediate electoral prospects and long-term Party control.

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There is some truth to this. The GOP has become an increasingly depraved carnival, in which hucksters looking to score their next talkshow appearance or promote their next gobbledygook-infused book have often ascended the highest spires of polling averages,even if (until Trump) none of them could ultimately seize enough delegates to threaten the nomination.

“Where oh where were your much vaunted principles, oh ‘sensible conservatives,’ when Trump was batting about that Obama was born in Kenya, when you nominated Sarah Palin as vice president, when death panels were all the rage?”

So asks the media, with a smirk.

But of course, this is how the left-of-center media, and liberals generally, want it. The weakest and most obviously false conservative arguments are promulgated and shared and repeated because the strongest conservative arguments- that human differences, biological and cultural, are largely impossible to assuage deliberately through programs or policies, and that innovations and transformations in social arrangements carry large and lasting costs – are systematically shunned in polite society and acceptable speech. The arguments between cosmopolitan optimism on immigration and pessimistic nationalism, over the probable side-effects of more humane criminal justice policy or more generous welfare programs, over the rapid collapse of married child-bearing, familial stability, and civic trust– are sidelined or obfuscated or shouted into silence in polite and elite circles, until they reemerge in raucous, and perhaps more dangerous forms.

You are more likely to hear discussion of such topics, for example, among Donald Trump’s supporters, many of whom use them as justification for an open belief in white supremacy and racial violence (among a small but larger-than-normal-for-presidential-contests fraction) and disbelief in the possibility of civic comity in a multiracial society (in a much larger segment.) We seem to be a society where one major party’s candidate is hardly reluctant to accept the endorsement of the KKK, and the other party thinks that differences in racial outcomes are due to #OscarsSoWhite.

Which is a joke, but not a very funny one.

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