Reactionary Conservatism, the Last Turtle and the End of American Democracy
American democracy in the early 20’s is in a precarious state. Without Herculean vigilance, acuity, intrepidness and activism by a majoritarian movement and party, democracy will not persevere. Not even wearily. That is because one of our two viable political parties is not simply hidebound, but is atavistic, illiberal, reactionary, and in many cases shamelessly abuses political power, i.e., it is antidemocratic. Worse, they are doing so, with increasing frequency, in both authoritarian and totalitarian fashion. Sometimes even demonstrating a fascistic approach to establishing domestic hegemony. Of course that can only be the Republican party, which has been this way for decades, though this century has plumbed new depths of depravity to calcify its own power, where possible. Republican’s antidemocratic tendencies have left the American democratic experiment as susceptible to falsification and as precarious as any period in our nation’s 240 year history.
This continues to be true even after we escaped the moral, political and existential hazard of Donald Trump’s presidency. In one sense Trump was merely the inevitable epitome of a trend engendered and propagated by elite wealthy conservatives. His roguish political behavior was made possible by a political-historical cycle which spans some sixty years. That cycle is not complete. The GOP is seeking to continue an antidemocratic trend conservatives initiated in the 1970s.
Though Trump may have been an inevitable outcome, we must not forget that he nearly subverted democracy in service of autocracy. He failed to subvert democracy largely because self-serving showmanship and mendacity can conceal only so much incompetence and callousness, and his capacity for the latter two exceeded his capacity for the former pair.
Further, Trump’s race-based demagoguing was more overt than any conservative presidential candidate since at least the 1980s. That inspired members of the American electorate who are often aloof or apathetic to vote against him in 2020, sealing off his access to institutional power before he could consolidate that power and physically coerce those who would dissent. Nonetheless, since the viability of Trump’s candidacy, as well as his victory, were seeded by decades of antidemocratic…