Get ’em while they’re young

That old Jesuit motto, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man” is significant, although the age is arbitrarily specific. Shape them early and you can do all kinds of rotten things to the adult. Fundamentalist Christians also know this; we’ve seen the consequences here in the US, where they’ve invested a huge amount of time, money, and effort in school boards and corrupting the educational system. Creationists don’t just spontaneously appear, they are the product of years of indoctrination.

So what do we do about College Republicans? The school year has started, my university has over a hundred clubs (anyone can start one, for any cause or reason), and there are first year students signing up this week for the College Republicans, in a sincere belief in conservative values, and they’re going to stumble right into a toxic atmosphere.

Racial resentment has been a driving force behind College Republican recruitment for years, but at this point it’s really all they have left to offer. In the age of President Donald Trump, what inspires a young person not merely to be conservative or vote Republican, but to get active in organized Republican politics? Do you think it’s a fervent belief that Paul Ryan knows the optimal tax policy to spur economic growth? Or do you think it’s more likely to be something else?

Ha ha, no.

Our two-party system has us locked into this weirdly limiting binary dynamic, where power is driven entirely by the party qua party, both for the Democrats and the Republicans — we might as well rename the factions the Blues and the Greens. Unfortunately, it means party membership is driven more by gamesmanship and identity and hatred of the opposition than by policy and civil service and sensible leadership. The next generation is not looking any better, either.

Meanwhile, the only people entering the Republican Party candidate pipeline in the Trump era almost have to be allied with the alt-right, because the alt-right absolutely comprises the only effective and successful youth outreach strategy the GOP currently employs. The future leaders of the GOP aren’t the hooded Klan members or Nazi-tattooed thugs who presented the most cartoonish faces of hate in Charlottesville, but they are their clean-cut fellow marchers, and the many young right-wingers around the nation who sympathize with their cause.

Alex Pareene makes a terrifying prophecy.

This is the state of the GOP leadership pipeline. In a decade, state legislatures will start filling up with Gamergaters, MRAs, /pol/ posters, Anime Nazis, and Proud Boys. These are, as of now, the only people in their age cohort becoming more active in Republican politics in the Trump era. Everyone else is fleeing. This will be the legacy of Trumpism: It won’t be long before voters who reflexively check the box labeled “Republican” because their parents did, or because they think their property taxes are too high, or because Fox made them scared of terrorism, start electing Pepe racists to Congress.

It’s sad. There are some optimistic young people entering the university, and one of the mistakes they’ll make is to join CR and breathe the mind-rotting poison, and next thing you know, they join the staff of the Morris North Star (or its equivalent; it seems to have gone belly-up, but we’ve had a succession of right-wing rags with different names and different editors, all the same) and start writing bigoted drivel to qualify themselves for the wingnut welfare program.

And I can do nothing. The people who ought to be cracking down on this malignancy are the mythical Responsible Republicans, who believe in cautious conservative values, but who, it seems, don’t actually exist. Conservative has become a code word for racism and misogyny.


  1. rietpluim says

    who reflexively check the box labeled “Republican” because their parents did
    This is something I’ve never understood. Apparently, one can come from a Republican family like from a Catholic family. Aren’t children supposed to revolt against their parents at least at some point in their development?
    Personally, I’ve never known which party my parents voted for, and they wouldn’t tell me either.

  2. prostheticconscience says

    Unfortunately, it means party membership is driven more by gamesmanship and identity and hatred of the opposition than by policy and civil service and sensible leadership. The next generation is not looking any better, either.

    The lack of interest in policy is what drives me crazy the most. Not to endorse or disparage any candidate, but it seems like the 2016 party primaries were hugely driven by personality and by the personal relationships of community leaders who could then turn out voters, rather than by policy statements from the candidates.

    And I guess that’s just how politics work, and it’s unreasonable to expect it to work any other way in a bourgeois democracy. But I’m the kind of person who desperately wants things to be done in a way that makes sense to me, and the 2016 primaries were just painful to watch. The general election, too, but in a certain sense it was driven partly by tribal identification, and partly by necessity (lesser evils and all that), so despite the irrational result, it didn’t feel as irrational as the primaries.

  3. erichoug says

    Are you kidding? Seriously, my Family moved to Texas in 1979 and I grew up in a small town outside of Houston. The Republican party was ALWAYS the party of the white supremacists. And the vast majority of the candidates were virulently racist, anti-women, Anti-imigrant, anti LGBTQ. I remember Louie Welch saying the best way to deal with the Aids epidemic was to shoot the queers.
    I also remember people discussing political politics with my father, probably not realized that he had marched in Madison in favor of civil rights. One guy at a barbecue said to my dad: “In Houston, the only people who vote for the Democrats are the [racial slur for blacks] and the [racial slur for hispanics]” keep in mind that he said this at a table surrounded by half the neighborhood including his kids, wife and his hosts wife and children.

    Literally the ONLY thing that has changed is that these asshats now feel like they don’t have to hide it any more. That’s it, that’s all Donald Trump did. The easiest way to understand Republican politics over the last 50 years is to start by assuming that everything they do has some sort of bigoted motive to it. If you’re finally noticing that, welcome to the fight.

  4. Artor says

    “In a decade, state legislatures will start filling up with Gamergaters, MRAs, /pol/ posters, Anime Nazis, and Proud Boys.”
    How can anyone tell the difference between them and the Teabaggers running the party now? And Siobhan, I must disagree. There are indeed moderate Republicans today. They’re called Democrats.

  5. Greta Samsa says

    erichoug, #4, and Siobhan, #5
    My response was the same: hasn’t it been the party of hate since the Southern Travesty? With Trump “elected” “President”, will anyone really join a Republican group without knowing what they’re in for? I suspect that most of them are /pol/ regulars already.

  6. whywhywhy says

    How does this effect the Democrats? How do they respond?

    options: 1. move towards social justice just as hard as the Republicans are moving towards bigotry OR 2. move to the right in order to absorb the folks fleeing the Republican party. 3. stay the same (but nothing stays the same)

    As anyone who watched the last election knows, the Democrats appear to be choosing #2 more often and it is one of the reasons they lost the last election. (The primary one being that the US is more of a cesspit of racism and sexism than I had realized or hoped). By choosing #2 they feel they will get disaffected Republicans to vote for them and that anyone more progressive or liberal has no choice but to fall in line or else we get our current President.

  7. raven says

    A few years ago, there was a lot said about a civil war between the moderate Republicans and the Tea Party.

    You don’t hear that any more.
    The moderate Republicans lost big time and all but don’t exist any more.

  8. raven says

    The two main drivers for the GOP now are.
    1. The impending nonwhite majority, which will happen in 2034.
    This is inevitable inasmuch as the average public school kid is nonwhite.
    2. The growing economic inequality.
    The fact that the GOP is supporting this has so far not registered with the people who vote for them to fix this.

    Neither of these trends is favorable to the GOP in the long run.
    OTOH, the long run can be a lot longer than anyone can imagine right now.
    The USA may stay crazy longer than I as a Boomer can stay alive.

  9. davem says

    From this side of the pond, looking at the US political scene just results in sad head shaking. You have a right wing party, the like of which exist in various European countries. Our Conservative party in the UK is probably to the left of them. These are the Democrats.

    Then there is another party whose very existence seems totally pointless, the Republicans. It merely serves to improve the financial well-being of millionaires. Somehow they convince people whose interests are sharply opposed to theirs to vote for them.

    (Scratches head). Nope, I don’t get it..

  10. unclefrogy says

    never underestimate the power of resentment to short circuit reason and manipulate people. the right has been using it for years and years.
    uncle frogy

  11. springa73 says

    Yeah, for every white person who would openly support a white supremacist rally, there are hundreds who have a gut feeling that every little advance of non-whites is a defeat for them. They look at a Confederate statue being taken down, and see that as a sign that they will soon be a despised underclass. Lots of people have a very zero-sum way of looking at race relations.

  12. vucodlak says

    It’s not so much that the Republicans are becoming the party of hate as it is what they’re building up to. Namely, another nightmare like Nazi Germany, in the 1930’s and -40’s.

    I thought we were there already with the march of the Nazis and the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, but it seems there’s still a chance to beat them back. The pushback was heartening, but the war is far from over. Unless major changes are made to the political landscape in the U.S., the Nazis will rise again. They’ll call themselves something else, I’m sure, but the results will be the same. Likely worse, considering our military strength and nuclear arsenal.

    I received a rather frightening robo-call last night from something calling itself the “I Love America PAC.” They briefly condemned the neo-Nazis, then went on to spend even more time condemning the “far-left anti-capitalist mobs and their enablers in the far-left media,” and urged me to sign a petition demanding that they all be thrown in jail. In the name of a “law and order,” naturally.

    This is what the new Nazis sound like in 2017. That’s how they’ll rise to power, on a wave of both-siderism and drummed-up fears of Jews and commies BLM and Antifa taking over. In other words, it’ll be exactly the same as last time. Only the names are different.

  13. emergence says

    I’ve been thinking this myself. The current Republican Party mainstream of religious fundamentalism and ultra-capitalism doesn’t appeal to younger people, but 8chan Nazi troll culture appeals to at least some of them. The alt-right dumbasses are going to inherit the Republican Party eventually.

    I’m hoping that means the Republican Party will shrink further into irrelevancy as it alienates almost all voters that don’t fall into one narrow category. I’m hoping it means that the Republican Party will slowly become something you can’t show support for in polite conversation. I’m really hoping that the alt-right jackasses don’t have anywhere near enough pull to draw young people into their party.