A very angry reader writes (I’ve slightly edited for clarity and civility):
I haven’t made any secret about the fact that, at times, I’ve found your rhetoric concerning the “GOP elite” a bit over the top.
But then I read this piece on NRO’s The Corner by Jim Geraghty.Heaven knows I am not a Trump supporter in any way, shape or form, but get a load of this:
Technically we’re supposed to welcome previous Trump fans-turned-foes with open arms. But barring some miraculous comeback by Ted Cruz, the Trump campaign will have cost the Republican Party the presidency after eight years of Obama, and perhaps the Senate and even the House – and Scalia’s replacement on the Court as well. Years of effort spent attempting to dispel the accusations of inherent Republican misogyny, xenophobia, hypocrisy, ignorance and blind rage have been undone by Trump’s campaign. And every Trump advocate in front of a camera had a hand in this.
We’re not just gonna hug it out.
The reader continues:
Why did I find this infuriating? Let me count the ways:
- Not a single mention of WHY people are supporting Trump, what they find attractive about his candidacy.
- Not a word about how the GOP and conservatives generally have failed to advance an agenda, as candidates or actually in Congress.
- Not a word about how maybe, just maybe, the GOP isn’t fielding very appealing candidates. I love Rubio’s story, but why did he never catch fire with folks? Because we’re all Trump-loving dotards? Wrong.
- Not a word about how political elites from both parties have frittered away the trust of people as insider deal makers interested only in themselves.
- No mention whatsoever of the very real issues that both Trump and Sanders have put forward (e.g. immigration, crony capitalism), issues that are resonating with voters, that NO establishment candidate or figure will discuss except as a talking point.
And the tone of this piece! I’ll grant Gingrich is a schmendrick, but “we’re not gonna just hug it out”? He might as well tell us troglodytes to slither back to the swamps while Those Who Matter make the decisions.
I have frankly doubted your “GOP civil war” talk, but I have to admit that you may be right. Geraghty’s words are indeed fighting words — you want a fight, buddy boy, you got it.
Did you see Ross Douthat the other day schooling the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which thinks there’s nothing wrong with the GOP that another tax cut won’t fix? Excerpt:
In other words [Douthat says, summing up the WSJ’s view]: Do nothing, change nothing, and hope Trump simply does his destructive work and passes on. And if the party is reduced to actual rubble in the process, well, the important thing is that the purity of a policy vision from thirty-five years ago has been preserved in its pristine, handed-down-from-heaven form.
The best that can be said of this “strategy” is that it aspires to follow the fourth path for G.O.P. elites that David Frum (if I may quote a splittist even more defective in his interpretation of Reaganism than the reform conservatives) laid out in his essay on the Republican Party’s rendezvous with Trumpism; it redefines “political victory” to just mean “what we have, we hold,” and treats the presidency “as one of those things that is good to have but not a must-have, especially if obtaining it requires uncomfortable change.” Better to reign in the House, in this theory, than to ever compromise your way to something more; better to hunker down and hope to live through Trumpism than to sully the purity of supply-side ideas and donor priorities with anything that might pander to all the “lucky duckies” in the government-addicted 47 percent.
Douthat goes on to say that the Journal‘s proposal is “only a good strategy if your primary obsession isn’t the actual fate of conservatism, but your own power and influence within whatever rump remains.”
Similarly, I think, with Geraghty’s remarks from deep inside the conservative tank. Trump voters may end up costing the Republican Party the presidency for the third election cycle going. Exactly the wrong thing to do is to stage a Night of the Long Knives to rid the party of its unreliable element. The thing to do is to rebuild out of the rubble, keeping front to mind why grassroots Republican voters were so alienated from the party’s leadership that they chose a demagogic clown like Trump as the GOP standard-bearer.
It is not the case that everything was going well with the Republican Party until Donald Trump came along to poop in the punch bowl. But you watch: if Trump gets the nomination and loses this fall, that’s exactly the self-serving narrative that conservative elites in the donor class and throughout the movement network will tell themselves. And they’ll keep losing until they reform.
What did Edmund Burke say? “A state without the means of some change is also without the means of its conservation.” This is also true of political parties.