Never-Trumpers Keep Insisting that Reaganism Was Not Demagoguery--It WasRoundup
tags: neoconservatives, constitutional crisis, Coup, January 6
Claire Potter is Co-Executive Editor of Public Seminar and Professor of History at The New School.
The conservative flavor of the week for liberals is Robert Kagan’s Washington Post opinion piece from October 23, 2021. It recounts, in apocalyptic terms, what everyone who cares about democracy in both parties worries about: that J6 was just the beginning; that the continuing lies and chaos that Trump and his minions are spreading are not about a Trump restoration now, but challenging a potential Republican/Trump defeat in 2024; and that political violence will escalate over the next three years.
In other words, Kagan argues that without some serious intervention, the United States will face an actual stolen election—this time at the point of millions of guns held by MAGA insurrectionists and public officials elected with the express purpose of overturning the 2024 results.
If you are on Gab or follow conservative media, the evidence is there for this scenario. Research also suggests that a truly rigged election backed by armed militias is at least plausible: Today, most of the GOP believe that Trump won the election. Around two million of them are heavily armed.
Here is how Kagan believes this coup could play out:
First, Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for president in 2024. The hope and expectation that he would fade in visibility and influence have been delusional. He enjoys mammoth leads in the polls; he is building a massive campaign war chest; and at this moment the Democratic ticket looks vulnerable. Barring health problems, he is running.
I usually don’t bother with extended quotes. Still, we live in an age where even the most responsible readers do not navigate to the original story, so I want to make sure you understand, in his own words, what the guy is saying. Kagan, a Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush-era foreign policy professional, argues that the narrowly failed right-wing coup of December 2020 and January 2021 proved our democracy weak, not strong. Furthermore, another coup, backed by armed militias, is likely because, in Kagan’s view, Trump supporters believe that he is an “infallible” answer to their woes.
Yet weirdly, Kagan portrays himself and other neoconservatives as bystanders to Trumpism when the truth is that they created the party that nurtured it. They built a new conservative movement based on white grievance, American exceptionalism, and lies. They promoted wars that energized a conservative and armed populist resistance among the poor and rural people who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. They believed that running Jeb! would be successful, despite the apparent hatred of the Bush family by a populist element in their party that had been metastisizing since 2008.
As importantly, how does Kagan, a lifetime fanboy for American exceptionalism, understand the gross failure of our Constitutional safeguards to cope with a fascist challenge?
His answer seems to be: how could the Founders have known that such a thing was possible? (This is, by the way, analogous to the “How could educated eighteenth-century politicians have known that slavery wasn’t compatible with liberty?” argument.)
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