Update: Neil Munro explores Speaker Paul Ryan’s bizarre Republican trinity.
I had the pleasure of attending an informal discussion held by writer/political pundit Fred Barnes recently, where the topics ranged from his biography of Jack Kemp-co-written with McLaughlin Group colleague Morton Kondracke-to his thoughts on the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. Taking place prior to the New York primary, and subsequent devastating losses by Ted Cruz to the now presumptive Republican nominee, it served as a fascinating overview of the internal divisions within the conservative establishment, which are even more pronounced now that the worst nightmare of many has come to fruition.
Even as Fred Barnes-like a handful of other Republican Party stalwarts-has maintained an anybody but Clinton posture-while delineating his many disagreements with Trump both tactically and strategically-the vast majority of thought leaders among formerly influential conservative think tanks, periodicals-as well as statesmen-seem to have taken the opposite tack. Some even going so far as to wholeheartedly embrace a woman who until relatively recently was seen as the bete noire of the establishment right. This is a process which seems to be accelerating with each day that elapses.
A Trump critic in the audience-who nonetheless came to the conclusion that he was infinitely preferable, given the options, to Hillary Clinton-asked a compelling question. Namely, from where does this deep-seated animus-and unrelenting energy to thwart Donald Trump’s election, to limited effect thus far-stem? Granted, he breaks from Republican orthodoxy on a number of issues, but if that’s the crux of the problem, then why were there no comparable anti-Romney or anti-McCain movements by the conservative intelligentsia?
If it’s simply a matter of the support Trump has drawn from loathsome figures, then why was there no corresponding outrage when John McCain aligned himself with virulent Mexican chauvinist Juan Hernandez? I’ve never subscribed to the association fallacy, but it’s worth noting that Donald Trump has never enlisted the help of The Daily Stormer in order to cultivate his popularity among white ethnics. Is the galvanizing issue for the anti-Trump movement his use of vulgarity? As absurd as that seems, the chief complaint voiced by the Stop Trump Pac appears to be Donald Trump’s penchant for uttering naughty words.
In reality, I think their objection-and the animating reason for the existence of the Dump Trump movement-is a deeply rooted fear of their own increasing irrelevance. The idea that the bond between conservative intellectuals and successful Republican campaigns is largely illusory is something that those in the anti-Trump faction simply can’t countenance. Especially the ones who manage magazines which have exiled the few writers on their staffs with a modicum of talent and intellectual integrity from their pages.
The Stop Trump crusade-if that word isn’t too offensive-is something to occupy the energies of writers and editors at The Federalist, Red State, National Review, The Weekly Standard, and virtually every other conservative publication of any consequence, through the remainder of this election cycle. It’s a raison d’être for those who would otherwise be preoccupied telling poor white people they need to die and explaining why you’re not a Christian because you happen to support a candidate they dislike, although I’m almost certain we’ll see similar broadsides in the months ahead from those who believe you’re an idiot is a persuasive riposte.
For the record, none of the aforesaid criticism means that Donald Trump is an ideal candidate, or that I believe sincere Trump critics are grievously mistaken for opposing his candidacy. The truth is that there are many objectionable aspects of Trump as a potential POTUS. Although I have several disagreements with him, I think his shockingly ignorant remarks about the attempted massacre of courageous American patriots-including my dear friend Pamela Geller-in Garland, Texas-which, to the best of my knowledge, he’s never retracted-raise the most important questions about his fitness for office.
However, it strains credibility to use this valid concern as an excuse for endorsing a woman who-lest we forget-fought to have a critic of Islam thrown into a dungeon after her own catastrophically bad foreign policy decisions led to the deaths of a United States ambassador, foreign service officer, and 2 CIA contractors.
The decision to enlist in Hillary Clinton’s unceasing quest to sink her talons into the White House is only explicable as a psychological exercise. Namely, as a means of salving the guilty consciences of those who had no meaningful impact in the fight against Obamacare, the successful grassroots campaign to derail legislative amnesty, or any of the myriad cultural wars which have embroiled our nation over the past 2 decades. It’s a way of ignoring the fact that the premiere conservative conference is a venue for selling snake oil rather than exploring the ideas which actual conservatives care about.
And the more true conservatives maintain that the primary concern of millions Americans is immaterial to true conservatism, the more irrelevant these high priests of conservative dogma will become. Just as real alpha females don’t need an inane listicle explaining how to be an alpha female, real conservatives don’t need a hackneyed blogger at Red State or contemptuous John Malkovich lookalike at National Review to explain to them why the unmaking of their country is less important than thwarting the political aspirations of the first Republican presidential candidate to intently listen to their plight and express their reservations about the direction in which this country is headed.
As a political and ideological ethos, Dump Trump is an empty vessel. However, as a case of deflection, it explains a hell of a lot.