In my additional notes about “Young Alinskys,” I wrote:
“Though I have not been a big fan of the “But he FIGHTS!” mentality, the extended version of ‘Young Alinskys’ works a little harder at trying to understand the #WAR perspective as more than the ends justifying the means, and perhaps even challenge my priors in the process. Just as Monday’s post was the foundation of this Federalist version, the new conclusion may serve as the springboard for my further thoughts here.”
In response, I have received feedback — indeed, some pushback — on the notion that more traditional conservatarians can learn anything from Trumpian tactics or the Breitbartian #WAR mentality. In particular, I have more than once had people respond that to adopt Trumpian tactics is to become Trumpian in general, sooner or later.
I am not sure I entirely buy this anymore, though I did until quite recently. In one of my first postings here, I wrote about Trump’s politics exhibiting a postmodernism more common on the Left. I noted the difference, however, between pure postmodernism and its insertion into politics:
“[P]olitical postmodernism isn’t really nihilistic. Rather, it hypocritically pretends that truth and morality are relative, while seeking to impose a particular set of values by increasingly fanatical methods.”
I cannot imagine ever being for fanatical political methods, such as are being increasingly practiced by the New New Left and increasingly tolerated (or not denounced) by the Left in general. But to the extent that Trumpian tactics stop short of fanatacism, the case that they should not be immediately dismissed by conservatarians might be found in the thinking of Newt Gingrich.
In the mid-Nineties, when Gingrich was ascendant, one of his many, many theories about political activities (or human activities generally; Newt’s thinking was never not grandiose) was to conceptualize them in terms of a vision, strategies, projects and tactics:
“The top of it was vision, and after you understood your vision of what you’re doing you designed strategies, and once you have your vision and strategies clear you designed projects which were the building blocks of your strategies, and inside the context of those projects you delegated dramatically an entrepreneurial model in which a project was a definable, delegatable achievement. … At the bottom of the model is tactics, what you do every day.”
This model is, as Gingrich noted, derived from military planning models. When Gingrich succeeded — ascending in party leadership, attacking Democratic leadership, building a farm team of GOP candidates, creating and executing on the Contract with America — it was largely through the application of this model. When he failed, it was usually at the level of projects or tactics (though such can be large failures) or due to his own failures of character.
We need not be as rigidly theoretical here. But insofar as Trump skeptics and outright anti-Trumpers on the Right are concerned with Pres. Trump’s character flaws, the fact that this planning model was embraced and applied by the flawed Gingrich merely reinforces the point that the model exists apart from the character of those who employ it.
Moreover, the model reminds us that one of the other primary problems Trump skeptics and outright anti-Trump conservatives have is that Trump is not particularly conservative. He is not seen as sharing our vision, except in a purely transactional sense.
Trump is seen by many as having little vision outside himself, though his national security team may be developing a foreign policy vision for him. People like Stephen Bannon or the writers at American Affairs are trying to build an ideological infrastructure around a man who sees no need for one.
What the model therefore suggests is that the problem with Trumpian tactics is that they are in service of a politician, not a vision.
Indeed, I can argue that Speaker Paul Ryan operates from a broadly conservative vision and that the initial failure of the healthcare bill was: (1) one of tactics in trying to railroad AHCA through the house in a matter of weeks; (2) AHCA was a failed project in the sense that it had little in the way of a constituency; or (3) AHCA as a project did not adequately serve Ryan’s larger strategy.
Would skeptics and anti-Trumpers necessarily have objections to more aggressive or flamboyant tactics if Trumpers were not in the dominant position of the GOP at the moment? Would they object to such tactics in service of the correct vision, strategies, and projects?
[BTW, that’s not just a dig at people who turned out to have less control over the GOP than they thought. It’s pretty easy to look at the public opinion data and conclude that Trump himself is still not a very popular face of the party.]
FWIW, I tend to think that some conservatives would still object. And that’s alright. A political party or a movement broad enough to maintain sustained political power will necessarily be diverse and disagree over things below the vision level from time to time.
Yet that disagreement does not mean that there should be no place for happy #warriors in on the Right. Rather, it means that tactics should be evaluated or debated in terms of whether they serve projects and strategies consistently in the service of the right vision. It means that the sub-group that is a fan of #WAR should be willing to accept the discipline of a military planning model for their activism.
I’ll try to flesh out the general parameters for evaluating these tactics, based on what I think the source of the remaining objections are, in the near future — perhaps tomorrow. Ooh, cliffhanger.
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