The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has been an interesting microcosm of the American political identity crisis. The vote on him has been delayed after Christine Blasey Ford came forward with allegations he attempted to sexually assault her at a party back in high school, with medical documentation from therapists going back to 2012 as evidence. Before that, though, there was the scandal of Republican legal operative Zina Bash, who sat behind Kavanaugh during his testimony, and how she might have flashed a white power sign.
The latter bears examining. Immediately afterward there were a million think pieces on whether or not she was actually saluting the concept of white supremacy. The version of the OK sign originated as a 4chan prank specifically as a coded signal meant to trap liberals and social justice warriors into THINKING it meant white power. People scrambled to assert Bash’s meaning, something that was sort of rendered moot when she did it again shortly afterward plainly to stir things up.
Bash, 4chan, and a lot of the right side of the spectrum are still laboring under the illusion that “ironic” Nazis exist. They don’t. Designed as a troll or not, the sign has already graduated into sincere white power circles. It’s stopped being a joke the way a prank does when it costs someone an eye.
The problem is that conservatives largely don’t care. They have abandoned nearly every principle that used to dominate the Republican Party. Owning the libs has become their only true calling.
I’ve talked with younger conservatives and the conversations are like something out of the Mad Hatter’s tea party. They tell me they support LGBT people, women’s rights to choose, increased family leave… all sorts of things that the GOP absolutely does not do when they are writing laws. What makes them conservative by any definition?
Really, it’s owning the libs. It’s this mindless, reactionary pushback from what is perceived to be an enormous, oppressive agenda that gets someone like Donald Trump elected. I joke that his ascendancy can be summed up by 62,979,879 Americans having a problem with their mothers, but there is definitely an immature rebel without a clue aspect to it.
Even the author of the anonymous White House op-ed stated that what little they have been able to accomplish that sounds like traditional Republican stuff, like a tax break that helps virtually no one but the uber rich, happened in spite of Trump instead of because of him. Policy is the sideshow, so what’s in the center ring?
A lot of MAGA, hat waving, accusations of snowflakes, cutting the Nike swoosh off of socks, breaking Keurigs, pretending black people aren’t being killed by police, and on and on. These things dominate the headlines and the talking points, but they don’t actually do anything to make supporters’ lives better.
I understand why oil tycoons want to loosen environmental regulations. Greed isn’t good, but it at least comes with tangible benefit. What does anyone get out of rolling coal, or showing up to the scene of a mass shooting with an assault rifle or wasting hundreds of dollars on seats for Frozen just to wave a Trump banner?
These things exist because conservatives have abandoned any true ideology. It’s been that way since at least 2010 when the Tea Party became a driving force and its sole mission was simply to keep Barack Obama from doing anything no matter what it was. Elected officials on the right side of the aisle literally forgot how to govern. About a third of the substantive laws they’ve bothered to pass are just rolling back things Obama did, not actually creating anything of their own. With years to come up with an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, they simply didn’t. They would actually hold meaningless repeal votes just so new members could get to do it like a one of those weird Skull and Bones initiation rituals.
This is exactly where reactionary politics gets you. When Bash sat behind Kavanaugh flashing her maybe-sort of white supremacy sign, the priority was to anger liberals. Whether Kavanaugh ever actually gets seated as a real judge who makes real important laws apparently wasn’t important enough so long as liberals were angry. The grown-up aspects of governance were on the high side of the scale, and pissed off Twitter was on the low side.
I saw someone on a friend’s Facebook page say something like, “whoever Trump nominates will cause hysteria and I love that!” Dear god, WHY? In what world are the important constitutional questions of the next couple of decades worth less than a Nelson Muntz laugh? Bereft of any plan to better the lot of our country, conservatives have degenerated into adolescent annoyance as a dogma. Even gun rights, the last true populist conservative policy survivor, has way more to do with frightening people than upholding a freedom.
I honestly don’t know what conservatives stand for any more. Nothing they seem to do makes even their own lives better. Owning the libs has become so important that it’s a part of a Supreme Court nomination and a presidency. That’s not an ideology. That’s the political equivalent of hurting yourself to manipulate another person into loving you.