Taking Nihilism Seriously as Republican Politics

Nihilism easily defined is that death to all is preferable to any opponents’ continuity. To wit, the nihilist doesn’t want to die but has every arsonist’s instinct and especially the desire to burn his opponent’s house down with them in it. If possible, such death must include cruelty to confer pleasure because the true nihilist might wear the facade of calm but is, in fact, pathological. Nihilists are bullies, cowards, creeps, so they want to get rich and bluster and will use any excuse not to put themselves in any danger.

I think it’s important to take nihilism seriously these days. When Trump talks about not conceding defeat, carrying on past eight years, or McConnell calls himself with rye disdain the Grim Reaper we are looking at nothing less. When William Barr, mistaken for a patriot and institutionalist, along with Rob Rosenstein, becomes the toady of an authoritarian, we are looking at nihilism. When Robert Mueller can’t see that _his_ team doesn’t have any rules but winning, he is a naive and complicit nihilist. When Jerome Powell takes the job at the Fed, he’s not looking for more money (he’s rich, of course), he likes the power and prestige even if it means working for the nihilists—and so concedes any decency we might otherwise suspect. Nihilism needs allies. It has plenty in grifting Wall Street, religious hypocrites, racists, misogynists, there’s no lack of quislings and players.
Let us review the possibilities: I think in her last several appearances that Senator Warren knows that the Republicans are nihilists: that they will burn down the republic simply to thwart Democrats having any power whatsoever. She knows that they are evil because, well, they are. She can’t quite go so far as to say it that way, because that would be impolitic. The problem with even good politicians is that to remain viable they must not be impolitic, that is, they must lie self-consciously so as not to tip the boat. But we know she knows. She knows that she would face nothing, _NOTHING_ but gridlock, brazen contempt, and intractable insolence to every proposal.

When Biden makes this pitch about breaking the fever, working with Republicans, we can’t help but feel he is sincere and also dead wrong, embarrassingly so. Americans’ instinct for the irenic is not misplaced entirely. You see, realizing that you have to live with your opponents because you can’t actually eliminate them is part of understanding nihilism and why you don’t want to be that. Everyone burns but burning it down is never really a good idea. Civil wars are like revolutions: too many people die and they should be avoided, somehow, until the very very very last. So, I’m more disappointed and embarrassed by Biden’s views than I am appalled.

If Trump wins again, this American experiment is entirely over. It would sure be nice that we actually do something about Republican nihilism rather than just have more Obama-gridlock-obstructionism that merely slows it down. We need some even longer history to consider further how nihilism has become the official Republican philosophy.

Mahabharata gnomes—I count myself among them—know that goodness can never quite carry the day to the satisfaction of those who love goodness and wish it would. The most devoted and diligent will be disappointed because Their Idealism is like the Absolute or Certainty, or Anything Else With A Capital Letter—it doesn’t really exist because the other side cannot be eliminated. To vanquish one’s opponents is never to eradicate or erase since that would not only reduce the winner to same villainy, it is impossible. Resist finally, particular those that propose solutions.

Now just because you can’t _really_ win the way you might want to win (until you really think about it…), doesn’t mean that the other side will ever relent or engage in any meaningful compromise. Just because the villains are on their heels doesn’t mean they will suddenly become reasonable. In fact, even if they are largely defeated and represent extreme, outlier views that the majority wholly rejects means nothing to them. They will use whatever power they have to thwart, impede, deny, reject, dodge, duck, outwit, and otherwise ruin their opponents—at any cost. Any.

It is a feature of the true nihilist that he (nearly always a “he” though we might make exception for, say, the likes of SHS or Marsha Blackburn, et.al.) has no scruples, no difficulty or hesitancy in carrying forward his agenda. That agenda is: my way or death to all. That ruin means to leave him alive and in power because he is at heart a coward but it must ruin his opponent for good, with cruelty a feature not a mere dividend.

It is this determination of the nihilist philosophy that links the likes of McConnell (and I submit any of the others) to Trump. They share nihilism’s most prurient aspirations. And to make good on that adjective (<—prurient), I submit it was deliberate: they wanna fuck you, no matter what. Not in a good way, ever. Forgive my own unchaste language but I have no reason to not be impolitic—I’m never running for anything. I do think we need to be running towards the facts.

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