By Butch Porter
It is important that words have actual, commonly accepted meaning, or communication regarding their application and function hits a dead end really quickly.
For instance, “establishment” when used in politics, has usually referred to certain party apparatchiks, movers and shakers in the halls of power in DC, Richmond—and, I suppose, 1 Harrison St. and Town Hall.
However, with no notice, no memo, no email or postcard, somehow, yours truly has become a part of the “establishment.” Since a certain candidate for the Republican nomination has become the front runner, those who should know better feel obliged to simply paint his critics with their broadest brush. Anyone who doesn’t sign up for the boorish, petulant, protectionist, nativist, war-mongering, proto-fascist, son of a successful business man, blowhard, TV personality with a spray tan and obnoxious hairdo—but I’m not naming any names—is simply too “establishment.” That apparently includes me.
It’s unclear how this happened. One morning people started speaking to me as if I was some power broker with cigar stains on my teeth, who stood as a vanguard, protecting the fat cats and moneyed, elitist, donor class from honest patriots. Of course, anyone familiar with my political inclinations over the years knows that I’ve been anything but a player. I’ve fought tooth and nail against party hacks, wannabes, and ring kissers. I’ve protested, rebelled, refused to join, and refused to compromise. Not sure how that qualifies me as part of the establishment, but sure, why not?
Here’s another term which is just thrown around: “right wing.” This is a case where my honest understanding of the term has evolved. I’ve historically come from the school of thought that fascism and communism (to use the pejoratives which are really not pejoratives, except with those who don’t appreciate the meanings of words) are simply too sides of the same coin, and to call one right-wing and one left-wing is just dodging the obvious totalitarian reality of both. The problem is, here in these United States, “right wing” is very often conflated with “conservative” which was always a problem, because it is inaccurate. The real “right wing” though, in most of the world, including the U.S., is very protectionist, populist, often isolationist, very nativist, and occasionally, as a matter of course, a little racist.
“Conservative,” however, is actually a word that is the victim of a lot of abuse from the political world. It has meant many things all over the world, for centuries, though its meaning, in the modern American context can be clearly delineated. This is because conservatism in its purest form, is not an ideology at all, but instead simply a way of thinking about things, including policy. In the U.S. since the mid 20th century, it has meant advocacy for limited government, property rights, free markets (and free trade), traditional values, and rule of law.
“Socialist” now seems to mean anything that the user of the word wants it to—well, anything except having the government (“public”) control the means of production, which is the actual meaning of the term. But hey, when a current candidate for the Democratic nomination says socialist, he doesn’t mean socialist like those countries that actually are socialist, like Venezuela or Vietnam. He means socialist like those constitutional monarchies with a national church, who aren’t socialist at all, like Norway or Sweden. Obviously.
Putting this all together, we could conclude that there is nothing right wing about conservatism in the modern United States, and nothing conservative about being right wing here either. The aforementioned blowhard with the hairdo is pitching his tent in the “right winger” camp—notwithstanding his penchant for socialist healthcare policy—but most clearly not in the American conservative camp. The “establishment” however is not an ideology any more than conservatism is. Its only concern is power—gaining it, keeping it, protecting it. So it can be conservative, populist, socialist, right wing or left wing, depending on how the wind blows—that’s why it’s the establishment.
Modern American conservatism—where my tent has been pitched for most of my adult life—although it apparently holds only precarious sway with the GOP, will continue to be the proper home for the true “moderates,” the real “progressives,” and classical “liberals,” no matter what buffoon happens to have an “R” by their name on the national stage.
But since I’m establishment now, we should fully expect that the RNC, the RPV, the NRCC, the ACU, and whoever else is funneling money for the “Republican establishment” class, will be writing YUUGE checks to whatever campaign I embrace. Just make the checks out to: “Friends of Butch Porter for U.N. Secretary General.”
Butch Porter is a Leesburg business owner and local commentator.