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The revealed priorities of “post-liberal” reactionaries


As Paul noted yesterday, Patrick Deneen is making the rounds with a new book, leading to claims that the new band of reactionaries are actually more egalitarian than elite left-liberals:

But Deneen’s political vision doesn’t end with minor tweaks to the Republican Party’s agenda. As Deneen explained to his audience at Catholic, the major fault line in American politics is no longer the one between the progressive left and the conservative right. Instead, the country is split into two warring camps: “the Party of Progress” — a group of liberal and conservative elites who advocate for social and economic “progress” — and the “Party of Order,” a coalition of non-elites who support a populist agenda that combines support for unions and robust checks on corporate power with extensive limits on abortion, a prominent role for religion in the public sphere and far-reaching efforts to eradicate “wokeness.” In his new book Regime Change, out this month, Deneen calls on anti-liberal elites to join forces with the Party of Order to wrest control of political and cultural institutions from the Party of Progress, ushering in a new, non-liberal regime that Deneen and his allies on the right call “the postliberal order.”

The rain in South Bend, of course, is that the Biden administration is enacting exactly the kind of pro-labor, pro-domestic manufacturing, pro-environmental industrial policy Deneen claims to want:

So who are Deneen’s actual current friend and allies?

In Washington, Deneen’s thesis has found an eager audience among populist-minded conservatives like Vance, Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio who saw Trump’s election in 2016 as an opportunity to rebuild the Republican party around a working-class base, a combative approach to the culture war and an economic program that rejects free-market libertarian dogma.

I suppose it’s too much to ask a reporter to notice that Vance, Hawley, and Rubio all supported Trump’s upper-class tac cuts and his attacks on the welfare state, including the Medicaid expansion that is so critical to rural populations. (The criticisms that snooty elitist liberals have of the ACA is that didn’t go far enough, Vance’s position is that it did far too much and the uninsured can eat shit.)

But this is what “post-liberal” reactionary authoritarianism means: brutally enforced hierarchies based on race, gender, and sexuality, married to standard-issue Reaganomics with some vacuous anti-corporate rhetoric added on as window dressing. The gestures to “populist” economics are just the bait before the switch of applying the unattractive prejudices of elite conservatives to an unwilling population. It’s the same scam as “after Dobbs, the anti-abortion movement will pivot to healthcare!” One tell is that Deneen’s new book is apparently preoccupied with the same anecdotes about CANCEL CULTURE on elite campuses you’ve already heard a million times. It’s the culture war these guys care about, and they’re happy to remain married to the interests of the plutocracy to fight it.

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