“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
-- Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises.
The moral and ideological bankruptcy of the Right came to a head in 2016 with the nomination and election of Donald Trump, but the symptoms of the rot, depravity and coming collapse had been there for all to see, growing exponentially worse, for decades.
The problem, of course, was that the Brain Caste of the GOP and our elite pundit class chose not to see what was happening right in front of them. Chose to ignore the increasingly alarming warnings, or when the madness to to loud and public to ignore, to deflect and diffuse the ominous noises coming from the party's base and rising powers with a steady barrage of Both Siderisms and Whataboutisms.
So what if the base was stupid and racist enough to swallow a lie as ludicrous Barack Obama was a communist from Kenya or get spun up over tan suits and fancy mustard? If that helped kneecap Democrats who cares! It works!
And so what if the base was debased enough to believe that the Kenyan commie wanted to murder their sainted white grannies with Death Panels hidden deep inside the 100,000,000 pages of the Affordable Care Act? If the base was brain-dead enough to strap electoral suicide-vests on and take to the streets to destroy legislation designed to save them money and save their lives, well, wasn't that a good thing?
It never occurred to the Brain Caste of the GOP or our elite pundit class that a mob of snarling Republican bigots and morons that was grudgingly content to be led a yard at a time into a genteel authoritarianism by Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan might be absolutely fucking thrilled to be led at ramming speed into outright fascism by someone like Donald Trump. Someone who proudly shouted all the sick, cruel lunacy they all believed but had been scolded 1,000 times to keep on the downlow. Someone who would march them swaggering to the brink of the open, wild, nihilistic madness that they had dreamed of for decades, but been only been tantalizingly drip-fed to them by the GOP and Conservative Hate Media decade after decade.
They were hungry -- junkie hungry -- and where the Brain Caste of the GOP held out only more rice cakes and tap water, Trump promised a banquet where they would dine in luxury while the snooty GOP Brain Caste waited on them hand and foot, the Fake News would grovel, and the bitter Libtard tears would flow freely and taste sweeter than wine.
And Donald Trump actually kept these three, most sacred promises to his mob. Virtually the entire party and virtually all of Conserative media did fall obediently into line. The Beltway crowd did dispatched wave after wave of reporters to Ohio diners and Michigan bars, suddenly eager to find out what the fascist mob was was saying an doing in their own element. And we Liberals did weep. Copiously.
For those us who had been paying attention to the sweep of modern political events and sounding the alarm, the collapse was the inevitable avalanche that was, sooner or later, always going to be the price the GOP would pay for the accumulated thousands of offenses committed against reality by the Right over the course of decades. For us, it was always a matter of "when" the end would come, not "if".
But for the Brain Caste of the GOP the collapse was sudden, inexplicable and, since aggressively denying that anything was fundamentally wrong with the Right had been their brand right up until it all fell apart, deeply traumatizing. After all, they were the smart ones. The savvy ones. The ones with deep, insider knowledge of the machinery that kept the GOP and Conservatism, Inc. running. They were paid a lot of money for their political wisdom. They ran media companies. Gave TED talks and conducted Aspen seminars. Had regular columns in respected national publications. They had the private phone numbers of presidents and captains of industry. They were sought after lecturers and commencement speakers at elite universities.
The the incentive structure of elite American political and media culture told them every day in every way that they were the acme of sagacity and sophisticated insight, so how the fuck had they not seen any of this coming?!?! How the fuck did they find themselves, overnight, run out of institutions they spent their lives building brick by brick?
Well, the short and true answer is the one they absolutely will not accept, no!no!no!, never, never not ever. That the Left -- the hated, crackpot, alarmist Left -- really had been right about the Right all along. That when those Conservative institutions tossed them to the curb, they were functioning exactly as designed. That what they had actually spent their lives building was a Republican Doomsday Machine with no "off" switch, and once they crossed that machine in any way, the machine automatically tagged them as dangerous SquishTraitorRINO outsiders and the machine's ideological antibodies went to work doing what they had been doing all along --
-- which had never bothered the now-outcast Brain Caste remnants before because it was always Dirty Commie Libtards -- Liberty's Greatest Enemies! -- who were getting stomped.
So, cast out from their homeland, they grabbed what they could carry, found some empty offices somewhere and established their very own Museum of Conservative Civilization. And since it was their museum, the history it would tell of was not the inconveniently incriminating past-as-it-happened but instead told the story of the past-as-they-wished-it-had-happened. The past they fervently want future generations to believe happened.
Because, as Voltaire once said, "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible."
As a result, as museums go, it's incredibly spartan.
A third of it is just statues depicting the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascent to Republican Heaven of St. Ronald Reagan. This is called The Hall of Our Glorious Past. There is an alcove depicting Republican Civil Rights Heroes Through The Ages which abruptly dead-ends after 1964.
Another third of the museum -- The Hall of Our Glorious Future -- consisting of The Bulwark staff photos flanking mural-sized pictures of Liz Cheney smiling icily, with the "Welcome to Gitmo" sign behind her tastefully blurred out.
The more daring visitors can take a short, scary ride through Cave of Lazy Welfare Queens and Dirty Hippies, and climb a scale model Laffer Curve.
Off in one darkened corner there is a small bust of Dubya Bush, "narrated" by Nicolle Wallace repeating "My former boss, whatever you thought of him, sure loves to paint!" over and over again.
The rest of the space is taken up by a gallery of self-congratulatory audio-animatronic Tom Nichols', Charlie Sykes' and Michael Steele's boasting that they and they alone had been bold and insightful enough to see the crisis coming (they hadn't) and by various dioramas devoted to their ongoing, seething contempt for people like you and me. How we may well somehow be just as responsible for the Rise of Trump as the Crazy Right, and how we're dooming American democracy by trying to govern as Democrats. In fact, just this morning I noticed they were adding a brand-new "Joe Biden Must Immediately Punch More Hippies!!" display:
Joe Biden Needs Four Sister Souljah Moments
by Charlie Sykes
That's about it.
So what was missing from the Museum of Conservative Civilization?
Any hint of humility.
Any sense or proportion or remorse or repentance. .
And about 97% of modern Conserative political history.
Burn The Lifeboats