Taking the Left Seriously--Is Corey Robin Right?
May 28, 2018, 10:14 PM
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cover (1)Marxian graphomaniac Corey Robin [Emai him] is a lot of things, but dumb is not one of them. His recent piece for NBC News is a reminder of this. Titled “The future of the GOP currently is a long, painful decline. Paul Ryan saw the writing on the wall — who's next?”, the piece is not so different from James Kirkpatrick’s Ryanism Is Dead, But Has It Killed Trumpism?

Robin noticed that:

Instead of the major assault on entitlements and welfare that Ryan had promised, he and his fellow Republicans have pushed through “a domestic budget to make Barack Obama proud,” as Russell Berman wrote in the Atlantic.

The GOP’s $1.3 trillion budget increases funding for Pell Grants, Head Start, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of Education, Health and Human Services and renewable energies. It includes no cuts to the EPA, Planned Parenthood, or sanctuary cities.

Whereas Kirkpatrick put it like this:

Even by his own wonkish standard of limiting government spending and preventing the fiscal crisis of soaring entitlement costs, Paul Ryan is a failure. [Paul Ryan’s Missed Opportunities on Spending, by Dan McLaughlin, National Review, April 11, 2018] Indeed, Ryan somehow managed the impressive task of funding the Left’s priorities while not funding those of his president in the latest Omnibus spending bill.

Robin observes:

Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were reelected in landslide popular victories. George W. Bush and Donald Trump crept into power with the help of the Supreme Court and the Electoral College, counter-majoritarian institutions designed by the Framers to frustrate the popular will.

While Kirkpatrick framed the issue back in 2014 like this:

… the brutal reality that [the] GOP’s electoral strike [the 2014 midterms] against Obama’s Minority Occupation Government was driven by a huge reliance on the white vote and enforcing laws against voter fraud, a reliance that will only increase in the elections to come. American elections are increasingly resembling a racial headcount.

But as Robin’s essay continues, his correctness wanes. Here’s him being half-right:

Meanwhile, the alt-right was supposed to supply Trump with the kind of shock troops conservatives once got from the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority. Instead, it has fallen victim to massive infighting, lawsuits, defections and opposition in the streets.

He is right to note that the alt-right has not provided the shock troops it initially seemed guaranteed to send. But Robin misses a key reason for why this happened, which Kirkpatrick identifies in full:

Even though many Republicans, including Paul Ryan, did their best to throw the 2016 contest, President Trump reacted not with vengeance but with mercy. Indeed, in what Steve Bannon called the “original sin” of the administration, the president turned to old GOP hands to fill his staff and push standard GOP policies such as tax cuts, deregulation, and a repeal of Obamacare.

Had the President instead focused on deporting illegals en masse, staying out of Syria, and, well, really just those two things would have been enough, the Right-wing forces outside the mainstream would still be supporting Trump both online and in the streets. In many ways, it is Trump who cornered himself into the awkward position he now finds himself in—and it could have been different.

Robin then concludes apocalyptically that:

A cataclysmic social defeat — not a onetime rout at the polls but a massive act of material dispossession, like the New Deal or abolition — is the only thing that will force the leaders and intellectuals of the right back to the drawing board, to ask first and fundamental questions, as the most powerful innovators of the right have always done.

From the days of Edmund Burke, dispossession has been the mustard seed of the right, the sand in the oyster that makes the conservative pearl. Until that dispossession occurs, we’ll be waiting for the Republican Party to figure out what Paul Ryan already knows.

This close is interesting because we do not yet know how right it is. I would posit, however, that those of us who think it possibly correct are outside the mainstream, and those who think it impossible are in the mainstream. Mainstreamers are in many ways defined by believing that the stakes are low, that sooner or later the “adults” will inevitably restore order—with the children suddenly consenting. The rest of us are more aware of, and take seriously the threat of, what Robin alternatively dubs “cataclysmic social defeat” or “a massive act of material dispossession.” These things are not unheard of in history, after all: Rome fell to internal decadence and external barbarians, the American South was pillaged and then occupied, Argentina committed demographic suicide by way of mass immigration

Paul Ryan, and his ilk, don’t think about these things. As such, their priorities become those of crass materialism; tax cuts and such—at best. They should take Robin seriously though, as Kirkpatrick and I do. Because if Robin is right about a “cataclysmic social defeat,” something he clearly pines for, it may well be too late to salvage much of anything once it has come to be. That is, after all, what happens in Camp of the Saints, the novel that predicted the current “migrant crisis” facing the entire West.

Rapid and profound demographic change, the kind that “the World’s Most Important Graph” portends, is indelibly linked to “massive” “material dispossession.” Billions of Third Worlders pouring into the West will leave little to no room for lebensraum, homesteading, or suburbia. On top of that, this new voting block will surely institute the kind of racial socialism that President Obama gave us a minute preview of, and that expands every day in South Africa. These unwashed hordes are both a “cataclysmic social defeat” and a “massive act of material dispossession” rolled into one.

Robin implies that maybe Ryan may be getting wise to all of this. If so, he should speak up. The bell is tolling and it tolls for him too, as “every man is a piece of the continent.”