Bill Kristol identifies as a Democrat

What a bore Bill Kristol has become. For years, he was the leading popular spokesman for the Leo Strauss-inspired political advocacy alliance dubbed “neoconservatives,” a bipartisan clan with dreams of reforming a corrupted constitutional republic into a paternalist intellectual’s petri dish — equal parts cherry-picked Platonic moralism, progressive-Hegelian nanny-statism, military adventurism as domestic social engineering project, and (largely feigned) American-grassroots social conservatism.

The neoconservative dream not only failed in practice, but arguably played an essential role in deforming American constitutional conservatism into the corporate tribal paranoia factory that finally produced the establishment’s ultimate weapon, the cult of useful idiots who revere Donald Trump.

Perhaps unwilling to accept the shame of such a “What have I done?” reckoning, Kristol has been on a relentless and relentlessly ineffective crusade to defeat Trump, and to distance himself from the Republican establishment that created Trumpism — the establishment which he himself fostered for years. Today, at last, he has taken his spite-and-shame-induced distancing efforts to their inevitable and natural conclusion, declaring himself to be a Democrat, at least as long as Trump remains the face of the GOP.

Why does “one” have to say this? Why is Democrat the only answer for an opponent of Trump? Why not independent? Why not just declare oneself a conscientious objector who refuses to declare support or even cast a vote in a process now thoroughly rigged for authoritarian populism and progressive authoritarianism? Why not write articles explaining, rationally and passionately, why Trump is a danger to the republic, and the death knell of the Republican Party as any sort of public voice for conservatism, free markets, moral decency, or the intellectual superiority of liberty? 

Why not any of those options, Mr. Kristol? I would guess the reasons come down to the following:

Kristol’s neoconservatism was always grounded in a certain quasi-aristocratic disdain for “the ordinary man,” which will tend to make one leery of the individual liberty and genuine self-government that represent the most obvious points of theoretical attack against Trumpism.

Kristol has always had many intellectual allies in the Democratic Party, and in fact the neoconservative movement (before it adopted that name) had its roots in that party, so this shift does not feel as radical to Kristol as it might to someone who truly saw the left-right divide as the fundamental and intractable political conflict in America.

Kristol, as a man who once had real influence in Washington, and was very much a player in the “two-party system” establishment for many years, is suffering through a “woman scorned” moment, such that rebelling against his old allies and friends in the most outrageous way possible is an act of sheer spite and indignant vindictiveness.

In short, there is no sensible reason whatsoever for anyone who regards himself as any kind of conservative, who believes socialism would be harmful to America, who prefers free markets to controlled economies, who favors individual and family-based spiritual development over paternalistic social engineering, and who abhors the partisan tribalism that has killed the independent American spirit, to advocate voting Democrat as an antidote to Trump.

There is another, more rational way — and also, I would offer, a more Straussian way — to address this problem: Resign oneself maturely to the reality that there can be no immediate practical solution for a civilizational catastrophe so long in the making and so deep in the societal marrow; recognize that this is no time for superficial grandstanding and ego-puffery; and accept that one who wishes to be in any way politically active must begin by taking the incremental, largely invisible steps necessary to build a new, stronger foundation for the future nation and populace that will eventually have to find its way out of today’s political ruins, and back onto some sort of reasonable path.

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