Streetwise Professor

May 10, 2016

A Poster Child for the Devolution of American Conservatism Beats Trump With a Leftist Stick

Filed under: History,Politics — The Professor @ 6:22 pm

Trump’s triumph is sending establishment Republicans (on Capitol Hill, ex-Bushies, and writers at publications like the National Review and Weekly Standard) into paroxysms of apoplexy. A recent example is a WaPo piece by ex-Bush speechwriter (and relentless self-promoter) Michael Gerson. It makes for nauseating reading, even if you are not a Trump acolyte (and I am not).

The gravamen of Gerson’s gripe:

What common views or traits unite the most visible Trump partisans? A group including Limbaugh and Christie is not defined primarily by ideology. Rather, the Trumpians share a disdain for “country-club” Republicans (though former House speaker John Boehner apparently likes Trump because they were golfing buddies). They tend to be white and middle-aged. They are filled with resentment.

Above all, they detest weakness in themselves and others. The country, in their view, has grown soft and feeble. Their opponents are losers, lacking in energy. Rather than despising bullying — as Ryan, Romney and all the Bushes do — they elevate it. The strong must take power, defy political correctness, humiliate and defeat their opponents, and reverse the nation’s slide toward mediocrity.

The most annoying part about this is that Gerson–like other Republican Trump critics–uses a line of attack that the left has used against Republicans forever to attack Trump: “they tend to be white and middle-aged. They are filled with resentment.” Every time–every bleeping time–the Republicans have won big in an election (e.g., 1994, 2014) the left has attempted to de-legitimize the victory by claiming it is nothing but the tantrum of privileged, middle-aged whites. (Remember Peter Jennings’ verdict on the Gingrich-led Republican insurgency of 1994?)

And gee, last time I checked, George W. Bush (for whom Gerson wrote) didn’t exactly assemble a New Rainbow Coalition.

What makes things even more irritating is that after regurgitating the standard leftist/Democrat attack on Republicans, many of the anti-Trump crowd also scream “he’s not a real conservative!” No, he probably isn’t, but please tell me just how is using the leftist stick to beat Trump conservative?

Gerson has one thing sort of right: “The great Republican crackup has begun.”

There is a Republican crackup. One problem with Gerson’s sentence is the tense. The crackup began some time ago, and has been ongoing. Gerson also fails to identify who is responsible for the crackup. If he were honest, he would have to quote Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

For the rise of Trump is the direct result of the abject failure of the Republican Party generally, and the Bush Dynasty in particular. For decades they have failed to articulate a coherent, principled, intellectually compelling, or popular governing vision, or a practical program to implement it. For decades they have failed to produce any appealing leaders or candidates.

They are the ones who created the vacuum that Trump has filled with his bombast and outsized personality. And how did they respond to his insurgency? Not with a positive vision. Not with a coherent, reasoned, and appealing alternative to address the issues that Trump (perhaps opportunistically, but clearly astutely) has run on, which obviously strike a deep chord with many who voted reliably Republican in the past.

But never count on this crowd for honesty, or searching self-appraisal. Instead, they have responded with insults–all the while attacking Trump for his insult comic style. They have responded with ad hominem and invective, not with a positive program that could appeal to Trump’s supporters.

And rather than recognize that the failure of their attacks to resonate is a damning verdict on their shortcomings, they respond with attacks on the voters with whom they have failed to connect. Their reactions are all variations on “the people have spoken. The bastards.”

Paul Johnson–as solid as a conservative as there is–is much more astute about these things than Gerson, or the NRO gang, or the whiners on Capitol Hill:

For these reasons it’s good news that Donald Trump is doing so well in the American political primaries. He is vulgar, abusive, nasty, rude, boorish and outrageous. He is also saying what he thinks and, more important, teaching Americans how to think for themselves again.

. . . .

No one could be a bigger contrast to the spineless, pusillanimous and underdeserving Barack Obama, who has never done a thing for himself and is entirely the creation of reverse discrimination. The fact that he was elected President–not once, but twice–shows how deep-set the rot is and how far along the road to national impotence the country has traveled.

Under Obama the U.S.–by far the richest and most productive nation on earth–has been outsmarted, outmaneuvered and made to appear a second-class power by Vladimir Putin’s Russia. America has presented itself as a victim of political and economic Alzheimer’s disease, a case of national debility and geopolitical collapse.

I’m not saying Trump is the cure. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’s not. But I am sure that the #neverTrump crowd is a major part of the disease. The unprincipled and whiney way they have responded to his trouncing them is proof of that.

If Trump could actually send this lot into oblivion, he will have performed a valuable service. Perhaps then something better could take its place. I fear, however, that the establishment Republicans will survive a Trump defeat like cockroaches surviving a nuclear holocaust. Indeed, they are likely to mutate, and come back even more malign, saying “I told you so” over and over again, and seeing vindication in what in reality is a damning condemnation: Trump’s defeat would not be a victory for conservatism, or classical liberalism, but for the governing class and the dead hand of the state. I predict the establishment Republicans who survive in the dark, damp recesses of DC will be the New Bourbons, learning nothing, and forgetting nothing.

Because  if it happens, Trump’s defeat would not clear the way for a viable alternative to the perverse political correctness that Johnson attacks, or the prevalent liberalism that dominates current American politics. It would just represent a continuation of the American political devolution–especially on the right–of the last 30-odd years.  A devolution of which people like Michael Gerson are the poster children.

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  1. I find it interesting that the professional political class and those with vested interests in maintaining the “Republican” status quo believe they can simply refuse to allow the 10 million individuals who voted for Trump in the primary to be given any consideration.

    The professional politicians believe it is their birthright, or the right due them for having played the game by the rules, that it is their time to wield control and their time to make decisions. No outsiders have “earned” the status as part of the ruling establishment, therefore they are not qualified to participate in the decisions regarding the Republican party.

    The Republican party as we know it is dead. Mitt Romney, John McCain, the Bush establishment and the rest of the entrenched interests who have failed the former Republican rank and file don’t speak to or represent the interests of those who have other than “progressive” or socialist views. They have no vision for the future, other than to maintain their own grip on control and preserve the portion of the federal kleptocracy their cronies put them in place to protect.

    Donald Trump certainly doesn’t represent the best and brightest hope for the future of America. But he does represent the best and brightest hope to ending the Republican party as we know it and ushering in change. This is the closest I have seen to a legitimate “throw the bums out” moment in my life and I heartily approve.

    Comment by Charles — May 11, 2016 @ 10:39 am

  2. It gets even worse.

    Now they are coming out with lines like: “we had to hold our nose for George Herbert Walker Bush”

    Kind of funny how Trump is portrayed, in view of the behavior of Biden, Schumer and Wiener, and the rest of the Democrats who have liberally dropped “f” bombs and other or similar bombs all over the place.

    Peggy Noonan thinks that Repubs ought to wake up and examine what it is that has brought many new people into the Trump/Republican tent (oh, I know, I’ve heard all the stuff about Trump not being Republican).

    Romney should have beat Obummer handily.

    Instead, it’s lead to a commie and a crook vying for the Dem presidential nomination, with the crook trying hard to catch up with the commie in freebies.

    And millions of people wondering why the Hildebeast has not been indicted already.

    Comment by elmer — May 11, 2016 @ 1:53 pm

  3. A view from Australia – Whatever the pros and cons of the Donald he is certainly stirring the establishment. That needs to be encouraged.

    Our establishment down under certainly needs some judicious stirring as well.We have a federal election in July for the House and the full Senate. We can only hope that there will be more independent stirrers elected to the Senate because the House poll will be just the usual rearranging of the deck chairs between the Tory Party and the Tory Lite Party.

    Comment by Podargus — May 11, 2016 @ 2:53 pm

  4. I’m sorry, but this analysis is overly fixated on the Republican establishment, which is by no means the whole of the party or the movement. Trump was the least-favorite candidate of the majority of those who voted in the process so far, received immeasurable help from the media establishment in promoting himself, and if elected would likely demolish any hope for the sort of politics and policy the SWP favors. That’s in addition to his manifest flaws as an executive and leader. His leading opponent was Ted Cruz, hardly a darling of the party bigwigs. Now Paul Ryan appears to be trying to get Trump to at least pretend to agree with basic Republican (espoused) principles before endorsing him. The NRO crowd is right on the beam. Better to lose and preserve some platform for resistance than to mirror-image the identity politics of the Democrats and the stagnationist right-wing parties of Europe.

    Comment by srp — May 11, 2016 @ 4:15 pm

  5. @srp:

    1. I am not “fixated” on the Republican establishment. Their hysterical response to Trump is intended to, and has the effect of, attracting attention to themselves. I am just holding up a mirror, and saying they need to be more self-reflective and to accept their very great responsibility for the calamity that has befallen them. I also find it disgusting that they are now routinely siding with leftists, and using leftist criticisms that have been directed against conservatives for years. Validating the criticisms of one’s enemies for temporary political advantage is both appalling and self-destructive.

    2. The NRO crowd is prominent for its failure to make a positive case. They are throwing a Trumper tantrum, rather than offering something constructive. They have been the most prominent among the “the people have spoken: the bastards” set: Kevin Williamson is the most disgusting example of this, but he’s hardly alone. This is a testament to their failure, and their unwillingness to acknowledge it.

    3. As if the Republican Party of the last 30 years has advanced “the sort of politics and policy” that I favor. They talk the small government game, but never deliver. Never. One look at the Bush II administration proves that. Bush was in some respects the worst of both worlds. He didn’t advance the small government/free market cause (to the contrary), but because he used that rhetoric he allowed the left to blame the financial crisis and myriad other economic ills on “neoliberalism”/conservatism. The fact that Trump doesn’t pretend to be a small government/free market guy has its appeal. I doubt the policies will be all that different, but he won’t sully classical liberalism through a cynical use of its rhetoric to cover a predictively statist agenda.

    This lot has been rejected, and for good reason. But instead of reflecting on that and learning from it, they attack those who reject them. They should be donning sackcloth and squatting on ashes instead.

    Trump is their Nemesis, and is exacting revenge for their hubris. The sooner they figure that out, the sooner they’ll be able to start on the path to redemption.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — May 11, 2016 @ 6:40 pm

  6. SWP et al:

    Killary w/ be elected, is corrupt enough to pardon herself, & then go on to appoint 3-5 SCOTUS justices. You think Sotomayor & Kagan are jokes? Just WAIT until she nominates her brand.

    That will be the end of the Republic.

    You seem to be rooting for the Keynesian brick though the window idea of political change, as opposed to economic ‘stimulation.’ True, the rascals will be thrown out. But just like in Animal Farm, when the pigs (Trumpkins as head of the ‘new’ GOP) dress up in human clothes, it w/b hard to distinguish them from their predecessors.

    Enough metaphors for one night.

    Vlad is tired.

    VP VVP

    Comment by Vlad — May 11, 2016 @ 9:19 pm

  7. 1. You are indeed fixated. You are going on and on about the poor form of the Republican establishment hacks in criticizing Trump. (The use of leftist memes by some critics is indeed bad, but then again you later say that free-market memes were damaged by their insincere use, so why not these as well, according to your logic)?

    2. Kevin Williamson is right–the Trump vote is itself a temper tantrum from a minority slice of the electorate. When you are trying to stop stupid policy and/or a dangerous leader and/or the metastatic growth of damaging memes (e.g. evil foreigners explain what the electorate doesn’t like about the economy, there is no entitlement spending problem), then the “positive” case is don’t do bad things and say damagingly false things. Trump is spreading leftist crap about the economy every day–it’s at the core of his campaign–but you don’t even object to that.

    3. If the Republican party hasn’t walked the talk enough, abandoning the talk is not helping. It just delegitimizes classical-liberal talk completely when both parties go for a parental state (Mommy vs. Daddy) and various forms of essentialist identity politics. Trump makes all the things you complain about 10X worse. It’s one thing to clean house with a jerk who mostly agrees with you. It’s another to clean house with somebody who thinks clean = dirty. I’m reminded of the people who thought things were so messed up in Venezuela that Chavez would be a salutary kick in the pants (and no, I don’t put more than a small probability on Trump having the intention and capability to pull a Chavex or Erdogan, although it is a measurable risk).

    Comment by srp — May 12, 2016 @ 1:45 pm

  8. I lost some respect for SWP’s political principles after this post. I thought I had understood (at least some of) them, now I am confused and it seems even the center of SWP cannot hold.

    Comment by job — May 12, 2016 @ 3:10 pm

  9. I have to agree more with srp. I don’t think NRO has been a temper tantrum. They have simply come out and said no to Mr. Trump. I agree pretty much with most of what has been written over at NRO. Same for here. However, i would disagree with the professor on this issue. That is not to say that i have any disregard to those that support Mr. Trump. They have every right to their beliefs, same here. In many ways i agree with the professor, its just that I guess i see Mr. Trump as someone who will expand government, who will fund every dream program of the left. Someone who will not think twice before saying yes to single payor healthcare or an expansion of Kelo. Someone who doesn’t bother with learning what actually the US Nuclear Triad entails and expects generals under him if elected to carry out orders expressly forbidden by law.

    On another board someone stated in a post that nothing could be worse than a hillary win. I replied back, what happens if electing Mr. trump turns out worse?

    Right now, my plan is not to vote this November. I simply cannot vote for Mr. Trump. I could never vote for Hillary.

    Comment by JeffreyL — May 12, 2016 @ 3:23 pm

  10. Sorry, Professor, but it’s just too easy to blame the GOP and Bush for Trump’s ascension. It’s more complex than that. The moron has had a free ride of lavish MSM attention to the exclusion of others during the primaries with basically a firewall constructed around him. It’s shades of Obama. The reality is that we don’t have an electorate that is very informed anymore. I will never vote for Trump or Hillary. We can withstand her for 4 years, but, not as conservatives the ownership of Trump. He will destroy the conservative cause for decades. He’s an idiot. Today’s Trump revelation truly makes me convinced he is mentally ill:

    Not a word of this WaPo bombshell appears on Drudge, Fox and far too many once reasonable conservative blog sites, all of whom are in the bag for him, not that it would matter to his cult followers.


    Comment by penny — May 13, 2016 @ 5:14 pm

  11. @Penny

    I don’t really want to get into the weeds, but Fox’s Megyn Kelly, as one example, did cover that particular story, including having the reporter who was on the phone call years ago on Megyn’s show. The reporter claimed that her copy of the tape was lost years ago – so they puzzled over how the tape got out.

    Comment by elmer — May 15, 2016 @ 9:57 am

  12. What a rotten election. It’s like a war where you hope that both sides lose. I despise both Trump and Hillary. Never in my long in the tooth life have I ever experienced an epic US election disaster like this. The Clintons are grifters/criminals and Trumps is clinically unhinged says this old psych nurse. God bless all of us.

    And, elmer, I’ve read that Trump released that tape. Possible? Crazy? What can I say? (Always loved your wit and input.)

    Comment by penny — May 17, 2016 @ 3:06 pm

  13. No, I’m not voting for Trump, via any reasoning – especially as a means to mock Republican establishment.
    On the risk of falling under Godwin Law:
    millions honest burgers voted for Adolph in Germany to counterbalance commies (as they thought); voting for Trump will encourage development of a domestic equivalent.

    Yes, I know it’s a two-party system, but voting for Gary Johnson might change that. It’s about time.

    Comment by ETat — May 28, 2016 @ 7:32 am

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