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Aug 21

Corey Robin on Conservatism’s Success

Corey Robin - Conservatism's SuccessBut as I argued at the conclusion of The Reactionary Mind, if conservatism is an inherently reactionary movement, the greatest threat to it will be its success. Once it defeats the movements it was launched to overcome — and those movements will change across time, which is why conservatism, despite being a consistently reactionary politics, will also change across time, in response to the movements it opposes — it loses its raison d’être.

Modern American conservatism, I’ve long held, has succeeded. It essentially destroyed the labor movement, which was, in conservatism’s most recent incarnation in response to the New Deal, its original enemy. It also successfully beat back the Black Freedom movement, which was its second enemy. And it was able to defang the feminist movement, its third enemy. While all these movements are still around — the labor movement, only barely — they don’t have the same traction and forward momentum they once did…

Trump is desperately trying to fashion a new reactionary politics out of the bits and pieces that are now left to it: a white nationalism that draws its animating energies from its hostility to a black president, immigration, and Islam. But the evidence is increasingly clear that that kind of politics simply does not possess enough appeal to propel him or any other similar candidate to the White House. Not, I would argue, because Trump is such a weak candidate (though clearly he is), but because these forces can’t supply the reactionary rationale for modern conservatism the way empowered and radicalized movements of workers, African Americans, and women once did.

It’s going to take a massive victory for the left — not at the polls but in the streets, as a comprehensive social movement of emancipation — for the right to recover its energy and animating purpose. Until that happens, the right might win an election here or there, but they’re essentially going to be in a free-fall.

Trump, in other words, is the least of the GOP’s problems.

—Corey Robin
Donald Trump Is the Least of the GOP’s Problems

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