Timothy Shenk asks this question in a review of Matthew Continetti’s book The Right: The Hundred Year War for American Conservativism.
Here is a taste of the review at The New Republic:
Of course, January 6 was only the beginning. Republicans have turned against democracy, and peddlers of the Big Lie are laying the groundwork for the next coup. Experts tell us that a civil war might be around the corner, or that one is already here. After losing the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections, the GOP is using every tool at its disposal to impose minority rule: gerrymandering, voter suppression, a hammerlock on the judiciary, a Senate tilted toward small states, and an Electoral College biased in favor of rural America. If Democrats somehow manage to eke out a victory at the polls, state boards of elections honeycombed with Trumpists will simply throw out the votes. A second Jim Crow will arrive in full force, strangling the country’s dawning multiracial majority. It will be a tragic end for American democracy, but a fitting conclusion for a conservative movement born out of racist backlash and overseen by a reactionary elite that never reconciled itself to popular self-government in the first place.
At least, that’s the nightmare scenario keeping Democrats doom-scrolling late into the night and pushing liberal donors to open their wallets. But conservatives have their own story to tell. Yes, Republicans have struggled to win votes for the presidency, but the party has consistently pieced together national majorities in House elections, and it appears likely to do so again in the midterms this year. With centrist pundits fretting over the ascent of right-wing populism, a growing number of conservatives have cast themselves as tribunes of the people taking on the real ruling class—a Blue oligarchy wielding financial and cultural capital to stamp out the last flickers of resistance to its unholy union of woke capital, the deep state, and the mainstream media. If Republicans win a free and fair election, then liberals will write it off as proof that the voters just don’t understand democracy—and as another victory for the ghosts of Jefferson Davis and George Wallace in the battle for the soul of America.
It’s a game of “Choose Your Own Adventure,” except there are only two options, and they both end with democracy in ruins. Each vision of the future is shaped by a story about the past. Liberal dread of a gathering authoritarian revolt is the logical extension of a vision of American politics that centers on a clash between white supremacy and multiracial democracy reaching back centuries. Conservatives, meanwhile, depict today’s Blue oligarchy as the latest chapter in a history filled with liberals using lofty rhetoric—social justice, technocratic efficiency, “the science”—to slash American freedoms.
There is, however, one place where the stories converge. Left and Right both agree that what comes next depends on decisions made by the Republican Party—which is to say, by the conservative movement. Democrats warn that American democracy cannot survive another GOP victory. Conservatives, sensing Democratic weakness, are starting to catch glimpses of a reemerging Republican majority. Each has designed a strategy based on its story of how we got here. Which means that the future of American democracy could turn on which side better understands the history of the Right.
Read the rest here.
I read this and I read the interview elsewhere… I get the history and understanding it, but I also want someone to tell us, especially in the middle, what to do… reading this stuff sometimes feels like fiddling while the city is burned down, by the GOP… How, how how! are we supposed to keep them from getting their one-party, rule with impunity, that they all seem hell bent on… and do without stooping to their level and their lying cheating stealing ways?
John Fea says
Fair question. I think we must all do our part according to our gifts. For us here at CURRENT, it is trying to change minds by providing a space to promote an alternative vision. Political activists, churchgoers, citizens, etc. will find other avenues to promote change.