“I look inside myself
And see my heart is black
I see my red door
I must have it painted black.” — Mick Jagger
The dictionary defines nihilism as “the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless.” Obviously, political nihilism is particularly political in that bent. So, we could adapt that definition to meet our particular ends. So, instead we abandon political principles or the principles of ideology.
One of my favorite books and movies is Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. Even though I work primarily as an English teacher I hesitate to make definitive statements about an author’s intent. I know in numerous interviews he has denied being a nihilist. However, one cannot ignore that there is at least a current of that floating through that story.
Like in the book, destroying decadent and bloated existing structures can be appealing at first. After all, where do we think the appeal of “drain the swamp” comes from? We attack that which has no real meaning. We tear away the façade to see what is left inside. The trouble is that there is nothing inside and nihilists aren’t eager to put anything inside. So all that is left is an empty hole.
Donald Trump was famously a Democrat up until 2000. He flirted with an independent run for the presidency then and has donated to the Clintons and other prominent Democrats. I’m not sure he was ever really a Democrat in ideology. He doesn’t really have any ideology. He used whatever empty vessel he could to get what he wanted.
There are some conspiracy theorists that believe he has always been a Democrat and used a run as a Republican to destroy their party from the inside. Conspiracy theories are lazy and usually stupid. One would have to assume he were a lot smarter than he is to play a con for that long. Besides, for an entire party to fall prey to that level of con just proves how rotted to the core they are.
Like Tyler Durden, the problem with nihilists is that they destroy good and worthwhile things while they destroy the bad. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. If Trump’s goal really was to destroy the Republican party then he also may have taken democracy down with him. I guess that’s a small price to pay.
Whatever his motives (I’m assuming destroying the party on purpose is not it) the outcome cannot be any clearer. He likely will not run in 2024. Sure, he will keep the grift alive because that’s what it all is at the end of the day. Yet, look at the hopefuls that could end up throwing their hat into the ring. Take a look at how they are positioning themselves to appeal to a willing Republican base. Compare that with the Republican primary just six years ago.
The 2016 field was a veritable who’s who of senators and governors. Sure, you had a few personalities in addition to Trump, but there was some serious meat on that bone. Now, you have some senators and governors but they aren’t casting themselves as serious people. Serious people don’t spend their time on wedge issues that don’t matter in the end. Rumor has it that Greg Abbott is thinking of running. In times gone by he would have hid his head in shame instead. He has only bungled the response to the virus and stood over the worst energy crisis in half a century. You’d halfway expect him to be slobbering drunk at his introductory press conference.
Bobby Jindal (former governor of Louisiana) famously said that the Republican party can’t afford to become the stupid party. Well, a scant few years later and they’ve not only become that party, but they are openly bragging about it. It has become a badge of honor.
I’ve talked about the destruction of the party before. It is happening at horrifying speed. I can only compare it to the destruction of a star. Nothing ever happens in a vacuum. The last time we lost a major party a civil war broke out. I don’t think the destruction of the Whigs was responsible, but it was sure a side effect. It is impossible to know whether one had a causal impact on the other.
The nihilists want the Republican party to go down. At least they want what was once the power structure in the party to go down. Remember, life is meaningless after all. So, they don’t particularly care what institutions and traditions go with it. They didn’t have any meaning anyway. The rest of us will be left to pick up the pieces.