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‘RESOVLVED’: The Zoom Kool-Aid Convention

“I mean say what you want about the tenets of national socialism dude, at least it's an ethos.” - Walter Sobchak 
August 24, 2020
‘RESOVLVED’: The Zoom Kool-Aid Convention

The Republican Party is a cult in service of Donald Trump’s whims and its only stated principle is that the media is mean to them and whatever the Democrats are for is bad. May it be Resovlved.

This simple summation of the state of the GOP is pretty obvious to those of us who are on the outs with the Trumpian establishment. But it is rather jarring to see the national committee itself just..tweet it out..and make it the new official platform of the party.

Generally, when one’s organization is bereft of ideas or values or solutions, they call in the PR pros to paper it over with some high-falutin rhetoric or newfangled buzzwords to at least present the illusion that there is something more behind the curtain.

But not Ronna “Please Nobody Mention My Maiden Name” McDaniel.

Like much of the Trump era, Ronna and the Republicans have taken what would have once been liberal Hollywood’s parodic depiction of the party and made it real.

The RNC has taken what the party’s worst critics have to say about them and decided to wear it as a badge of pride. It’s the “Orange Man Bad” of political platforms:

We are Trumpists. No more. No less. 

We believe in nothing

Love it or Leave It.

2. Meltdown

Hilariously, Tim Alberta had a gazillion word POLITICO Magazine piece on this very subject in the can! I don’t know if Tim had some advanced warning that the RNC was going to enshrine its utter vacuum of ideas and values into the party bylaws or if the deadline gods just shined on him. Here is the gist of the piece, but honestly just print out the whole thing for some bathroom reading.

Earlier this month, while speaking via Zoom to a promising group of politically inclined high school students, I was met with an abrupt line of inquiry. “I’m sorry, but I still don’t understand,” said one young man, his pitch a blend of curiosity and exasperation. “What do Republicans believe? What does it mean to be a Republican?”…Despite spending more than a decade studying the Republican Party, embedding myself both with its generals and its foot soldiers, reporting on the right as closely as anyone, I did not have a good answer to the student’s question. I decided to call Frank Luntz. If anyone had an answer, it would be Luntz. “You know I don’t have a history of dodging questions. But I don’t know how to answer that. There is no consistent philosophy,” Luntz responded…Luntz thought for a moment. “I think it’s about promoting—” he stopped suddenly. “But I can’t, I don’t—” he took a pause. “That’s the best I can do.”

The funniest part about this is that in another universe you could imagine the defenders of the GOP’s honor taking to Twitter dot com to lash out at Fake News Alberta who has lost touch with his National Review roots and gone native with the libs. But they can’t because the RNC literally confirmed this damning thesis in writing with a bunch of Whereases to make the whole deal as official as possible.

Brendan Buck, who used to be comms director for Paul Ryan and stayed to try to make the best of things after the 2016 election, offered the most succinct summation of the state of affairs: “Owning the libs and pissing off the media… That’s what we believe in now. There’s really not much more to it.”

The contrary view was presented in the Wall Street Journal op-ed page this week by Brad Todd…errr Bobby Jindal..who wrote about the GOP “After Trump.” (Just as a side note: it is rather odd and shows how weak Trump’s standing is that even his supporters are writing pre-mortems. I don’t recall the Tim Kaine’s of the world writing “After Obama” hot takes in Summer 2012).

Jindal’s definition of the Trumpy post-Trump GOP is anti-trade, anti-immigrant, anti-big corporation, anti-China, anti-globalism, and anti-entitlement cuts. That’s as good of a guess for what the policy agenda might look like as anything.  It channels the anti-elite, negative partisanship of the party. I also don’t know how much most of Trump’s voters actually care about those things except the anti-immigration plank. If they did, where was the outrage when Trump enshrined NAFTA 2.0 into law?

I think more likely the nihilism on display the past four years shows that the party will be defined not by what populist D.C. consultants want, or by what reformicons and AEI panels dictate, but instead by being oppositional to whatever it is that Joe Biden and Black Lives Matter and the elite consensus wants.

It’s just likely to have a new figurehead who is a little better at pretending there is more there there and cares a little bit less about what “Psycho Joe” Scarborough thinks of him.

3. It Gets Worse

Not dark enough yet?

Well, there is one oppositional force to Trumpian nihilism out there in the conservosphere that does have a well defined agenda for taking the party forward. No, not the Never Trumpers. The monarchist integralists!

Here is their chief thought leader, Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule tweeting over the weekend that democracy should be overthrown in favor of loyalty to “living rulers who embody the polity in a concrete way.” According to Vermeule, loyalty to democracy is too “weak and pallid” a claim that echoed his comrade Sohrab Ahmari view that liberal democracy is “thin civilizational gruel, indeed.”

In a different time or place I would think this is niche, reactionary, contrarianism that should be dismissed with prejudice and ignored. But at a time when the incumbent party has decided that their only guiding principle is supporting the whims of their child king, and when said child-king has appointed this anti-democratic Pétainist to lead a review of the “efficiency, adequacy, and fairness of the procedures by which federal agencies conduct regulatory programs”, it is reasonable to be concerned about what is filling the vacuum.

4. Bonus

The thruline of my guest newsletters have been death and music, so I would be remiss if today’s edition didn’t recognize Justin Townes Earle, who died yesterday at age 38. Justin was the eldest son of country-folk legend Steve Earle who named him after the brilliant country-wester song-writer Townes Van Zandt. Justin carried the soul of Steve and Townes with him and performed as if a man from another time and place.

Here he is playing his original song Harlem River Blues (and yes that’s a younger, chubbier Jason Isbell on guitar). And here he is covering Rex’s Blues, by his namesake.

Rest easy, Justin.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.