Must-Read: Noah Smith: Trump Happened Because Conservatism Failed: "The Republican presidential candidate was usually a gray, bland figure, a stalwart conservative but not a fire-breathing one...

...who had worked his way up the ranks. Romney, McCain, Bush II, Dole, and Bush I all fit this description[, and even] Reagan... did not deviate too far from this model. As a conservative, the Republican nominee would support tax cuts, a business-friendly attitude, a tough-guy attitude toward America's enemies and rivals, and traditional family values based on Christianity. That's what conservatism was.

But in the past fifteen years, the three pillars of conservatism--economic, foreign-policy, and social conservatism--have all had huge, dramatic failures.... The Bush tax cuts failed to reverse [middle-class] income stagnation... [and] a lax regulatory climate appeared to give rise to a financial crisis that devastated the job market.... The formula of 'cut taxes[, deregulate,] and let businesses do as they see fit' is now pretty discredited.... Older intellectuals [who] continue to fight doggedly for this economic program... are rightfully ignored....

Foreign policy conservatism... failed... when Bush turned bellicose rhetoric into bellicose reality with the disastrous Iraq War.... A more minor failure was the seeming emptiness of Bush's bellicose rhetoric when it came to actual threats. Under Bush's watch, Putin's power grew inexorably, and North Korea got nukes, while Bush barked impotently.... Finally, social conservatism... [which] promised to restore family values by promoting Christianity and resisting things like gay marriage. But... Americans have resoundingly rejected the values pushed on them by Christian conservatives in the 80s, 90s, and 00s.... Add all this up, and what do you get? A massive, total failure of all three pillars of modern conservatism within a 15-year period....

That leaves us with the... the question of why Trumpism filled the void that conservatism created with its rapid collapse.... That's a question I don't think I know how to answer... race, religion, tribalism, xenophobia, etc... globalization and import competition from China... a faction that was there all along.... Or all three. Or something else. I don't know. But... a necessary piece of the Trump takeover equation was the collapse of the conservative ideology... [which] is what inevitably happens to an ideology when it succumbs to overreach, dogmatism, and an echo chamber. I hope I don't ever have to watch the same thing happen to the American left.

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