William F. Buckley, jr described the conservative movement as “stand(ing) athwart history, yelling Stop”. The conservative movement refuses to cede more power to the progressive movement.
Reactionaries are a subset of conservatives. Reactionaries are not content with merely stopping progressivism, they want to undo progress and return to an earlier time.
Reactionary governors in Kansas and Illinois have tried to ‘turn back the clock’ in their states.
When Sam Brownback was governor of Kansas, he implemented his “red-state experiment” which included massive tax cuts. Brownback believed that the tax cuts would lead to economic growth.
Instead, the tax cuts caused Kansas revenues to fall by hundreds of millions of dollars and created huge budget shortfalls.
Brownback further refused a $31.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services intended to set up a public health insurance exchange.
Brownback signed a school funding overhaul bill in March. His new school funding plan replaced the formula for determining state aid with block grants, giving districts fixed amounts of money
He also eliminated the mandatory due process hearings, required before firing experienced teachers. Brownback further made it possible for school districts to use unlicensed teachers for science and math classes.
Governor Brownback left Kansas in ruins.
Governor Bruce Rauner of Illinois issued an executive order eliminating “fair share” union fees. Fair share fees are charged to bargaining unit members who do not want to participate in their union’s political activities but enjoy the benefits of working under a collective bargaining agreement.
Rauner proposed $4.1 billion in budget cuts for higher education, Medicaid, state employee pensions, public transportation, and local government.
Rauner vetoed the Illinois state budget. Having no state budget, Illinois public service agencies cut services, state universities laid off staff, and Child Care Assistance eligibility was reduced by 90%.
Like Brownback in Kansas, Governor Rauner’s ‘turn back the clock’ reactionary approach left his state in ruins.
At the national level, President Trump does not merely want to ‘turn the clock back’ to a pre-Obama time; he wants to ‘ burn down the house’.
Author Corey Robin suggests that Trump’s older, white male reactionaries see life as a ‘zero sum game’. That is, they consider the empowerment of marginal or powerless people as coming at the expense of older, white males.
So Trump lashes out in all directions.
During the 2016 primaries, Trump’s populist rhetoric was contemptuous not only of Democrats, but also of Republican Party elites.
His federal judiciary nominees could destroy policies regarding health care, reproductive rights, and regulation for years.
Trump provoked the longest government shutdown in American history.
Trump’s disdain for his own intelligence community hurts at a time when we need to know what is going on in less than transparent countries.
To undo Obama’s diplomatic iniatives, Trump has insulted allies and sidled up to adversaries.
Like Brownback and Rauner, Trump’s reactionary philosophy is a destructive force.
But even worse than the damage done by those governors, Trump’s reactionary approach leaves government unfit to meet the challenges of a crisis in an organized and proactive manner.
Trump’s dismantling of the CDC and pandemic response team cost the nation precious time in the COVID-19 outbreak.
Trump’s disdain for both political parties make it unlikely that he could build a governing crisis coalition, even if he wanted to do so.
Trump’s political philosophy makes him unable to lead; he is a reactionary wrecking ball.
(Thanks and a tip of the hat to DonkeyHotey for the image. See more of DonkeyHotey’s art at https://www.flickr.com/people/47422005@N04 and https://donkeyhotey.com/.)