The moment of truth has arrived for conservatives around this nation. Barring any absurd shenanigans at the convention, Donald Trump will be the GOP nominee for President of the United States of America. Let that sink in for a moment. The party of small government, fiscal conservatism, and evangelical Christianity has overwhelmingly chosen a man who has used and supported big government, is an aggressive abuser of immigrant labor and unfair free trade, and displays no knowledge– through word or deed– of the words of Jesus Christ.
What in the hell are you people doing?
Many on the right are going full on apocalyptic. Some are calling it the end of the republic (it is not). Others are still in shock that the people chose a clearly non-conservative candidate over Mr. Ideological Purity, Ted Cruz. The Trumpkins are out in full force to combat them, gloating with all the class one would expect from a pack of unrepentant bigots. Ben Shapiro and Erick Erickson have been going at it with the racist trash of the alt-right, providing some of the most entertaining back-and-forth on the web tonight. This tweet from Erickson is the best:
Many are claiming they will stick to their guns and oppose Trump. I sincerely hope they do.
Among my close friends on the right, the specter of a Trump nomination has gone from laughable to frightening to an outright nightmare. It wasn’t so much that they underestimated Trump, as the media is fond of saying the establishment did. No, my friends simply didn’t believe that a large group of racist, misogynist, populists who eschew coherent or logical thought really existed within their coalition. Several friends have said some variation of “I thought you were making them up all these years.”
I wish I had been.
But exist they do. And in large numbers.
Let’s not let the GOP establishment or mainstream off the hook here. They have catered to these imbeciles my entire lifetime– hell, for my parents’ entire lifetimes. And it has only gotten worse in recent years. As I have written before, the GOP establishment and Tea Party insurgents made this monster possible. They enabled Trump, gave him a platform, and encouraged his insane behavior (the birther movement being exhibit A). They snickered gleefully as he attacked President Obama with no regard to the truth or common decency. They never imagined he would turn on them. And they never really understood that the power in GOP had shifted from the party elites and intellectual leaders to the brash voices of talk radio.
Conor Friedersdorf over at The Atlantic put out a good list of these “Trump-makers”: Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Breitbart.com, The Drudge Report, The New York Post, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Jeff Sessions, Rick Scott, Jan Brewer, and Joe Arpaio. These loudmouths, who my most respectable friends on the right long argued were legitimate voices for conservative principles and values, have always been exactly what I thought they were: craven opportunists.
Friedersdorf doesn’t just rest on these fools support for Trump, he outlines the pieces of the worldview that they have pushed for the last 20 years that explicitly make a candidate like Trump possible:
- Career politicians cannot be trusted. This widespread conceit in “the party” has effectively made it impossible for candidates with governing records and public sector experience to be accepted by large swaths of GOP primary voters.
- When the base doesn’t get what it wants, it is because of betrayal by party elites, never because a majority of Americans disagree with what the base wants.
- Rhetorical stridency is a better heuristic for loyalty than core principles or governing record—and there is nothing disqualifying about extreme incivility (hence, for example, a buttoned up think tank giving a statesmanship award to Rush Limbaugh, a gleeful purveyor of bombastic insults).
- Complaints about racism and sexism are always cynical fabrications,intended to be used as cudgels against conservatives.
- Political correctness in governance is one of the biggest problems facing America.
- Illegal immigration poses an existential threat to America.
- President Obama has deliberately made bad deals with foreign countries to weaken America.
The days where free markets, the right to life, or protecting individual freedoms dominated the Republican party intellectual commitments or platform have long since passed (if they were ever really committed to them at all). The issues outlined above are the core principles of the current GOP electorate. And who plays to them better than Donald Trump?
Friedersdorf closes by calling on those who oppose Trump to stand up and denounce the things Rush and Friends have been telling them for years:
Now, as delegates across the nation scrutinize convention rules and their own consciences, “the party” may yet thwart Trump’s push for the nomination. But whether he falls barely short, or becomes the GOP nominee, as is more likely, every last Republican should understand how the wrongheaded signals that their party sent about other candidates and American politics generally are substantially responsible for his rise; because whatever comes of Trump, the parts of “the party” most opposed to his rise will keep losing ground to demagogic populists aplenty until they persuasively critique people and ideas that they once abided.
It isn’t enough to say #NeverTrump without renouncing the signals and cues that gave rise to him.
He is right, of course. Educated conservatives with even a shred of intellectual integrity must look at the Trump mess and understand how they helped create it. Simply denouncing Donald Trump is not enough. You must denounce everything that he stands on.
Conservatives have been telling themselves for eight years that when the people finally have the chance to repudiate Obama and the left they will flock to conservative candidates. It turns out that their own electorate didn’t even want the solutions they were offering. As Ben Shapiro points out, 2016 was supposed to be their time to reap the harvest of years of grassroots conservative activism. Instead, Trump and his supporters (the majority of the GOP electorate) have “burned down the field.” Shapiro is right– those committed to conservatism as a coherent political philosophy must reject the arsonist and begin the process of clearing the land and planting anew.
But before they can return to the fields conservative voters have a sacred duty to fulfill. They must vote. And if they truly are #NeverTrump this means casting a vote for someone else…
As Ben Howe of RedState put it: