It’s Time For An Anti-Trump Manhattan Project – Charles C.W. Cooke, National Review, 2/23/2016
A Rubio-Cruz Ticket Might Be The Only Way To Stop Trump – Jonah Goldberg, National Review, 2/23/2016
It’s the time to make the case against Trump, and to urge the other candidates to do a better job of making their own case… – William Kristol, The Weekly Standard, 2/23/2016
Nearly all reasons given for supporting Trump are underpants gnome arguments. – Mark Hemingway, Senior Writer for The Weekly Standard on Twitter, 2/23/2016
Last week I wrote about the Trump Derangement Syndrome that has infected the conservative elite faster than the virus that spread the zombie apocalypse on The Walking Dead. And it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. I’m not talking about your run of the mill political opposition – it’s primary season and there are still 4 other candidates running for the Republican nomination. Conservatives and Republicans – not always the same thing – have a right and a duty to take the process seriously and to support the candidate they believe will make the best President. No, I’m talking about the elites making open war on the base.
Elites Turn On The Base
The quotes above are just a sample of what was published on a single day. But it’s representative of the rhetoric employed against Trump and his supporters everyday. It was just a few weeks ago that National Review published a special “Against Trump” issue. Erik Erickson, who wrote in the “Against Trump” issue, writing in that Trump is “just another fascist with an enemies list.” He went on to smear Trump supporters after the Houston debate saying, “The white supremacists who back Trump had to be crying a bit into their swastikas tonight. Trump said nice things about Israel.” Sure he added a half-hearted caveat that not all Trump supporters are white supremacists, but – *wink wink* – you get the point.
If you read the anti-Trump pieces – don’t bother I did it so you don’t have to – they are increasingly breathless ad hominen attacks and desperate pleas for someone, somewhere to do something before the Visigoths sack Rome. In their view, Trump and his supporters, like the Visigoths, signal a new Dark Age.
Glenn Beck, who also wrote a piece for the National Review “Against Trump” issue called Trump supporters, “Brown Shirts” referring to Hitler’s thugs who beat and murdered his political opponents. The Brown Shirts were responsible for Kristallnacht in November, 1938. Kristallnacht was an anti-Jewish pogrom that saw hundreds of German Jews murdered, thousands arrested, and Jewish businesses, homes, and synagogues attacked. And this is how certain conservative leaders see the 35%-40% of the Party that currently supports Trump.
Where Were The Purity Tests For Romney & McCain?
It’s been more than 30 years since conservatives got the candidate they wanted. The Bushes were always a compromise for conservatives. So was Bob Dole. And Romney. And McCain…well, conservatives’ relationship with McCain is, um, complicated. Which is to say he doesn’t like us and we don’t like him. Sarah Palin was his choice for VP to prevent a full-scale revolt. But there were no purity tests for any of those candidates. Conservatives were told to get in line, listen to the folks who know better, and vote for the guy with the “R” next to his name. But as it turned out, the guys who were supposed to know better, didn’t.
The year John McCain ran for President (2008) the American Conservative Union gave him a rating of 63%. Pretty dismal. And it was Mitt Romney who gave birth to the individual mandate with Romneycare in Massachussetts. It became the prototype for Obamacare and Romney never repudiated it during the 2012 campaign. What is more, Romney was pro-choice until he decided to run for President at which point he had a sudden conversion. In 2012 it was considered beyond the pale to question his abortion bona fides despite the fact that his timing seemed opportunistic. Nevermind that campaign surrogates were telling donors that a Romney Supreme Court would never overturn Roe v Wade. And both Romney and McCain supported – and continue to support – amnesty. But, conservatives were told, these men are really conservatives: Trust us. They’re the best we can get. They’re electable. They’re better than Obama. And above all, no litmus tests! Boy have times changed.
On the issues, Trump is held to a much higher standard of conservative purity than any candidate ever before. His signature issue is immigration on which he is an unrepentant hawk – but it’s an issue that divides elites from the base and is certainly a wedge between Trump and party bosses. In combatting political correctness Trump is, if anything, more strident – to the apparent horror of many on the Right. On abortion, he says he is now pro-life. His America First foreign policy hearkens back to a different era, before neoconservatives had controlled the debate for a generation. He doesn’t see a nation-building, democracy-exporting America, but an America that uses its power to further its own interests. And after more than a decade of war in Iraq and 8 years of Obama undermining American interests abroad to many people that sounds pretty good.
Romney’s tergiversations on abortion were taken at face value but Trump is automatically considered a fraud. Do the high priests of Republican politics think that no one remembers that both Romney and McCain were given a pass? Why, voters ask themselves, is Trump treated differently. Is it because he’s an outsider – not part of the Republican club?
One would think that people rushing to defend conservative purity would flock to Cruz. He is certainly the most pure conservative in the race. And it is true that a sizable portion of voters do support Cruz, but Republican elites hate him and some conservatives are scared of him. So much for purity. Trump is not a movement conservative in the way that Cruz is. Pure American Conservatism flows in Ted Cruz’s veins and many of the faithful support him, but most the elites do not. Trump, on the other hand, is a generally moderate Republican who is hawkish on immigration and on advancing America’s economic and foreign policy interests as he sees them. He’s not a “movement conservative” and doesn’t claim to be. In fact on a number of issues he lines up with prior Republican nominees yet insiders still loathe him.
What Do Republican Elites Know Anyway?
Donald Trump was a summer fling they told us. They told us – and themselves – all sorts of things that turned out to be wrong: People will abandon him after the first debate…after Labor Day…by Halloween…definitely by Christmas. No one has voted yet, we heard. Trump supporters (Neanderthals, rubes, mouth-breathers, etc.) won’t actually show up to vote. He’ll implode after he says something outrageous…after Iowa…ok, maybe after New Hampshire. Then we were told Evangelicals won’t vote for him so he’s toast after South Carolina. He has a hard ceiling of support in the high teens…no, 20%. He’ll never go above 25%. No, wait, 30%…that’s it. There’s just a small, rancorous group of uncivilized know-nothings that say they support Trump. Ok, so maybe he can get 40%, but definitely not a majority. Once the other candidates start dropping out support will coalesce around Jeb. He has lots of money and gravitas. Now Jeb’s gone so right-thinking people will rally to Rubio. All the models we ran after Romney lost said Rubio is what voters want. Our consultants wrote a report! We can’t lose!
But a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation. Jeb! was low-energy despite the exclamation point. And it turns out that Rubio is very well coached but voters don’t seem to care. In fact, some seem to think that he sounds like a guy who is…wait for it…well coached. And this comes at a time when voters want something more authentic. Jeb! and Marco seem like candidates from another era. And for that matter, so does Hilary. Bernie is nuts, but no one doubts that he actually believes the socialist fantasies that he spins.
These same conservatives – many of whom I greatly respect and with whom I would join in common cause on most issues – say that because Trump is no conservative he will destroy the Republican Party. But here they are conflating conservatives with Republicans. There’s lots of overlap between the 2 groups, but they’re not the same thing. Conservatives should be a bit more circumspect in their loyalty to an organization that has no loyalty to them. Because once again, it’s the conservatives out there with the pitchforks doing the Republican Establishment’s dirty work. Much of this is predicated on Republican fantasies about Rubio, a quite young, one-term Senator with no particular accomplishments other than getting elected.
Voters Are People Not Statistics
Elites look at Rubio and he ticks a lot of boxes that they’re analysts tell them are important to “the future of the Party.” He’s a Cuban-American. Check. He’s the son of immigrants. Check. He speaks Spanish. Check. He’s a Gen-Xer. Check. He listens to hip-hop and EDM. Check. (The kids love that stuff, right?) He’s well spoken. Check. He’s good looking. Check, check, and triple-check. He won’t scare moderates. Check. And the not-so-subtle subtext is that not only can he win he’ll expand the party. If only it were true.
The elites have shown time and again that they have little or no idea what actual voters really want. They’ve pretty much perfected the formula for giving voters the bare minimum they will accept and getting away with it. But they have fooled themselves into thinking that this means they have their fingers on the pulse of the electorate. As a result they look at Rubio through rose-colored glasses because they think they’re smarter than voters: give them a good looking, well-spoken, Spanish-speaking, son of immigrants and we can’t lose. But this is too clever by half and the polls and the elections held so far prove it. Even worse, it demonstrates that conservatives have succumbed to the balkanized, interest-group politics of the Left. And in looking at Republican voters as 2-dimensional cutouts that can be appeased by the politics of hyphenation rather than as regular Americans with families and lives and interests beyond politics they do the country a disservice.
Do Conservatives Prefer Losing?
William F. Buckley, Jr. famously launched National Review in 1955 with a letter from the Editor in which he said that his magazine, “stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” It’s a beautiful turn of a phrase – the drama, tone, and tenor of which delights the scribbling classes. But it’s been an unfortunate motto for American conservatism. Not only does it leave one with the distinct impression that conservatives are a bunch of pearl-clutching scolds, it gives conservatives the self-satisfied idea that everyone else is doing it wrong and it’s their (our) job to stop them. What’s worse, it grants the Left’s Marxist view of history as a river moving inexorably in their direction. And as such the romantics standing athwart the river yelling stop must be antiquarians, curmudgeons, or fools. But such righteous indignation is addictive – look at the Left. It’s also debilitating.
Conservatives, not so much Republicans, have fought the good fight these past 60 years. We’ve won a few and lost a bunch. The Federal government is bigger than ever before and expanding at an unsustainable rate. The national debt is so large it threatens to engulf the economy and yet the 2 parties conspire every year to grow it even larger. Moral and cultural issues like abortion and gay marriage have not so much been lost as they have been placed beyond the reach of electoral politics by an out of control judiciary unconstrained by the Constitution.
And yet elites reserve their most apocalyptic language for Donald Trump – as though they have everything under control and he threatens the very fabric of civilization. The over-the-top rhetoric is unseemly, unserious, and suggests an underlying failure to understand our Constitutional system. Many have said or suggested that they will not support Trump on principle. But since when have these principled standards risen so high? And just what principle are they defending? They’re inviolable right to run the Republican Party, voters be damned?
Elite petulance is to be expected. Trump is not part of the club and he threatens the established system of cronyism and sinecures. But it is these self-same elites, the ones who would presume to lecture everyone else about American exceptionalism, that don’t seem to have much faith in our system. The genius of the Founders is that they designed a system that could defend the liberty of the people against the depredations over an over-powerful state, despite mankind’s well-known shortcomings. So why predict the end of liberty because of Trump? There is no realistic scenario in which Trump would or could overcome the institutional limitations on his office without the support and complicity of a Republican Congress. Do elected Republicans not trust their own self-restraint were they to face temptation?
Constitution – 1 Elites – 0
We have 3 separate and co-equal branches of government. States have their own governments and constitutionally protected prerogatives. Only 1/3 of the Senate is elected during any 1 election cycle. Congressional districts have been drawn such that precious few are actually competitive. Yet the anti-Trumps would have us believe that the nomination – not even the election – of Donald Trump would bring about the fall of the Republic. Instead, I put forward a different thesis.
If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination he is likely to win the Presidency. And if that happens not much at all will change. He is likely to follow through with a tough immigration plan – that must pass Congress. He is just as likely to continue to confound and exasperate his challengers and opponents. But the Constitution remains the same. Spending bills still start in the House. The Senate still must confirm Presidential appointments. And the Courts will still rule – for good or ill – on the laws of the land. So if Trump wins – a big if at this point – conservatives and Republicans should take their role more seriously than they have during the Obama Administration. They should restore Congressional authority to the limits described in the Constitution. They should do this regardless of who is President – but under Obama have effectively yielded much of Congress’ power to the Executive Branch. And if a Republican President Trump should overstep his authority they should not hesitate to check him. This is the system the Founders created. It is a system that works.
It is amazing that a brash New York real estate developer and not 8 years of Obama’s lawlessness has Republican elites breathlessly predicting the end of liberty in America. The good news is that we inherited a Constitutional system that is durable and that we have a Republican electorate that is more sober-minded than its leaders. It is a good example of why Constitutional government, with power in the hands of the people rather than a group of insulated elites better serves the needs and protects the liberties of those people.