Right at the moment, I’m reading Michael Tomasky’s “The Worst Of The Worst” in the New York Review of Books. In it, he quite skillfully reviews David Frum’s Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic and Michael Wolf’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. (By the way, we’ll be doing a review of Fire and Fury as well. But there is a bit of delay for the very good reason that the reviewer in questions says she finds the behavior inside the Trump Administration so revolting that she can only take the book in limited doses.)
As I say, Tomasky is a skilled essayist, and his take on the two books is well worth reading. You can see it, in fact, at the NYRB’s website.
But what I’m actually interested in today comes near the middle of his review, which sort of functions as a connector between his work on Frum and his work on Wolf.
In that section, I stumbled across his analysis of the neo-conservatives who have become Trump’s worst enemies in the last year. He mentions Frum (who was a leading Neocon not that long ago), Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, essayist and writer Max Boot, and Jennifer Rubin, now a regular columnist at the Washington Post. (Our own William B. Turner has some harsh words for Rubin, even in her anti-Trump role.)
I must confess, I really wasn’t aware of most of these people. I’d heard of Bill Kristol, and I must have run across the writings of the others, but, frankly, until the debacle of the 2016 election, I really didn’t pay much attention to the Con/Neoconservatives. I found the Paleoconservatives (like Samuel T. Francis, for example) much more interesting. I knew that as a group they tended to be racist and reactionary, but they had a lovely patina of madness.
But, now, I am trying to figure out the Neoconservatives. I’m trying to learn who may be their writers, journalists, and politicians. I am trying to learn who they are because they have turned against Trump, which I think speaks well of them. And even if it didn’t, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Besides, as we’ve often said here, LR Net is open to anyone…liberals, radicals, socialists, libertarians, conservatives, and, yes, Neoconservatives…so long as they oppose Trump and the government of kleptocrats he’s established. And so, if any Neoconservative ever wanted a home for their writings, they could always come here…so long as they see the Orange One as the enemy.
There is something that bothers me about all this openness. In my lost youth, I watched the Neocons come into being. They were well organized, had ideas, and received some very serious backing from the wealthy and powerful. Then, over the course of the next few decades, I watched while they established the intellectual foundation for the dismantling of the regulatory state and the safety nets of the New Deal.
Or, to put it another way, it was their thought that provided the manifestos and motivations of the Right. It was they who gave Republicans from Reagan through George W. their outlines for governing.
Frankly, it was they who set the stage for Trump. No, they do not now support him. They never wanted anything like him (with his vulgarity, his corruption, and his anti-globalism).
But, by helping to so thoroughly delegitimize the Left, and by demonizing the regulatory agencies and policies of the liberal state, they made Trump possible.
Now, they are anti-Trump. Now, they struggle to bring him down. They even, or so Tomasky notes, toy with the idea of defecting to the Left. “[W]ondering who among them will do a complete ideological volte-face,” he writes, “…has become a parlor game in Washington…” Already, Max Boot has begun to write serious reflections about white privilege and racism.
Which is good, and honorable, and brave.
But, I worry…
We, here on the Left, have been given an historic opportunity. Out of the wreckage of the Democratic Party, which was so corporatized and colonized by Wall Street, we may yet construct the first, great Social Democratic Party in American history.
Can these people…the Neoconservatives…enter that effort?
Or will they find it, and us, as detestable as they found the New Deal and 1960s liberalism?
Which is to say, will they be our genuine friends?