After the rise of universal white male (as opposed to only land owning male) suffrage in 1828 the quality and notoriety of Presidents declined (Pop Quiz! Name one president between Andrew Jackson and Abreham Lincoln) and much of the intellectual heft of American government resided in the House of Representatives with three leaders providing the bulwark of statesmenship that, in the most altruistic telling, kept the Union whole until it was finally ripped asunder in 1860. This “Grand Triumvirate” consisted of Daniel Webster broadly representing the North, Henry Clay broadly representing “The West” (then states like Ohio and Michigan) and John C. Calhoun representing the South.
Of these three stalwarts Calhoun was dealt the worst hand. He needed to perpetuate the peculiar institution of slavery, whose existence was even in 1776 a compromise to the minority interest of politicos, even as the physical size and number of states expanded. Should the majority will hold true to those new states they would be “free”. In time, free western states and free northern states would outnumber southern slave states and slavery, as a minority regional interest, would end through the basic “majority rules” structure of the Republic even with its attendant check and balances.
Luckily for the South, Calhoun was smarter than Webster and Clay. Calhoun was a full throated booster for the “positive good” of slavery, but his arguments for maintaining slavery were not about its awesomeness; rather, he made legal argument over the need for “minority” rights, states rights, and even the idea of a “concurrent majority” of all major interests for anything that the majority does — in other words, the majorities of the rest of the United States that wanted to abolish slavery and keep new western states free, could be nullified if the majority of the Southern slave states disagreed.
Calhoun’s ideas are a ripe rabbit hole of worthy College sophomore bull session fodder to cannonball into: How are minority interests protected in a majority-rules Republic? Are Calhoun’s ideas a tyranny of the minority? These ponderances conveniently allow the self-evidently repugnant fact of slavery to become tacit background to the debate. The states rights argument was a tactic to perpetuate slavery; had the majority of the USA been pro-slavery than Calhoun would have been a genius scholar of the dictae of majority rules. The politics of antebellum America were about slavery with all of the genocide, violence, rape and subjugation that goes along with it.
“Hoonism” then, is an intellectual or symbolic rationale for ugly positions that allow both sides of the argument ground to disagree while keeping the hideousness of the subject matter at bay.
John C. Calhoun is the intellectual grandfather of reactionary conservatives, so of course the Right enjoys employing Hoonisms. Moderates dig Hoonsims too. Isn’t easier to focus Grade 6 through 12 history on yakking about “concurrent majorities” rather than how America’s founding fathers and most of its politicians rationalized the enslavement of the ancestors of several of the kids in class? A visceral examination of the sickening practice of slavery indicts everyone in an uncomfortable way.
Those that are that are surprised by the rise of Mr. T despite his Real Conservative apostatecy , then, have grown numb to the fact that the GOP has become the party of “Hoonism” ever since it employed the “Southern Strategy” in 1968.
Take abortion. The pro-life “Hoonism” is that people with deep religious convictions hold all embryonic life sacred. There are many, well-organized people for whom this is true. The pro-choice narrative is more informative: women should have control over the bodies. Ay, there’s the rub. The Pill and progress towards gender equality overall allows more women to choose their family and career options, thereby limiting some of the power once held by men. Some men find this untenable, but that’s kinda’ nasty so they are supposedly very religious in their pro-lifeness. Enter Mr. T who is all over the map on abortion, but is a barking misogynist that will put the Megan Kellys of the world in their place. He wins because for most of the Right “pro-life” is a Hoonism for misogyny.
And on the Hooisms slide:
“Welfare Queens” = Lazy black people stealing white people’s money. (Irregardless of the fact that most welfare is distributed to whites)
“Strong Military,” at a time when America has the most powerful conventional army in world history = Still Butthurt over Losing Vietnam.
“Against Big Government” = Schools should still be segregated and I resent federal power being used to enforce constitutional equality for everyone.
“New York Liberal” Slander = I don’t particularly care for the Jews, or the blacks or the queers or all the other “others”.
“Show Me Your Birth Certificate” = Any black person is illegitimate to be president.
And so on.
Mr. T’s skill has been in ripping off the Hoonism hood and racing the car with its untethered racist engine. One of the reason that he has been so difficult to contend with is the GOP Establishment is too inbred to realize that its Hoonism is a faceade, but even The Smarts like Nate Silver have been flummoxed. The reason for this, I suspect, is that being forced to acknowledge that Mr. T’s support is greatly predicated on a White Power (with all the ugliness that phrase implies) reaction to white disempowerment, forces one to look up from their equations on measuring the standard deviation “resentment” and acknowledge that a great many Americans do not like black people, latinos, Muslims, Jews, homosexuals, and so on. This hatred has been the organizing factor in right-wing politics since 1968. Acknowledging this forces people of good conscience to speak out against it. And that’s uncomfortable.
Baring some sort of deux ex machina the leadership of the free world will come down to a contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I cannot believe I just wrote that sentence. If the Left and the Middle wants to win this fight, it must acknowledge what the right has become, and has been since 1968 without the Hoonism woodwork to obscure it.