Wednesday, September 7, 2016

On the death of Phyllis Schlafly: Confusion among conservatives over Trump

Phyllis Schlafly died the other day.  You may not have heard of her, but she mattered a lot.  In 1964, she wrote a book called, A Choice, Not an Echo.  The gist was this:  Republicans win elections when they nominate hardcore conservatives rather than centrist squishes.  In 1964, they nominated a hardcore conservative-- Barry Goldwater-- and lost.  But, Schlafly and her way of thinking led to the rise of Ronald Reagan, the Tea Party, the sacking of John Boehner, etc.  I've even got a paper floating around about how Schlafly and her conceptual model help explain asymmetric polarization.  Someday I'll do something with it.

And yet, Schlafly was a vociferous supporter of Donald Trump, not icon of conservative purity, Ted Cruz.  Schlafly was a true believer in tax cuts, tearing down the welfare state, opposition to abortion, etc.  Donald Trump believes in none of these things.  He switched his positions to match these in order to run for president as a Republican.  Some grad school colleagues, Dave Hopkins and Matt Grossman, have a model asserting that Republicans have become more ideologically extreme than Democrats because of a desire for purity among their base.  While the primaries were still going, I noted that Trump's rise was pretty hard to reconcile with that model in the "Trump to Political Science: Drop Dead" series.  Schlafly herself, then, shows the crack-up of the conservative movement.

One could easily put together a compilation of statements from Donald Trump on abortion, taxes, welfare, etc. that put him at or near the position of Bernie Sanders, and his supposed conversions could only be taken as sincere by the kind of person who might enroll in Trump University.  Apparently, though, that included Phyllis Schlafly.


  1. Hans said something way back in November (or so) that actually made a lot more sense.
    He said something like: being a conservative might be ideological for some, but it might be identity for others.

    Schlafly, like most conservatives, was an IDENTITY conservative.
    She didn't have an intellectual reason for her shit. She just hated brown people, feminists, women (yep), and a "good conservative" should.

    Tribalism, not intellectualism.

    1. When you say tribalism, you mean racism. If it were true tribalism, Ted Cruz is part of the tribe. Trump is so clearly a charlatan and a pretender that true tribalists would have seen through him and ejected him. Tribalists would have seen Ted Cruz as "one of us," and voted for him. You are just saying that it is all racism, misogyny, etc. That's not quite the same thing as saying conservatism is an identity.

    2. No, tribalism isn't just racism.

      Sure, brown people aren't in the tribe.

      But neither are you.

      And, despite my pedigree, I'm not in the tribe (all that hippy-dippy liberalism, plus being a professor).

      It's about identity.

      I'd offer the analogy of sports team fandom, but that would be lost on you.

    3. But you are asserting racism, nothing more. Don't hide behind "tribalism" if all you really mean is racism. My point is that Trump is no more part of the tribe than you or I.