As I said earlier, I’m hearing more and more from conservative friends that the whole damn system is rotten and needs to be blown up. A reader e-mails this morning:
I was struck when reading the comments section on [the] Intemperate Minds [post] of the difference George R. R. Martin pointed out between Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings. His argument was that Tolkien doesn’t wrestle with the ugliness of ruling. It’s all fantasy. When one of your correspondents wrote “you can’t control a revolution” I thought of this. The “blow the system up” response is real and authentic and I think you’ve identified a lot of the reasons it exists (whether the system is the GOP of the media). I find that view appealing and sympathetic.
But the idea that once you blow the place up it’s going to operate successfully and smoothly (which is Trump’s promise) is where I find a leap too big to make. That’s the governing part that Martin is talking about. Trump in that environment, with his instincts, has shown nothing this campaign that shows he can handle the governing part. To simply grant him power to control the revolution is (as you point out in your piece) a gigantic leap. I think that’s objectively true. He is a disrupter it’s true, but disruption has costs and those who pay the cost aren’t only the ones who created the system that called out for Trump’s disruption. I think.
This is true, and a profoundly conservative insight. It made me think of something Sen. John McCain said the other day in a radio interview in Pennsylvania, where GOP Sen. Pat Toomey is running for re-election:
“I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” McCain said. “I promise you. This is where we need the majority and Pat Toomey is probably as articulate and effective on the floor of the Senate as anyone I have encountered.”
“This is the strongest argument I can make to return Pat Toomey, so we can make sure there are not three places on the United States Supreme Court that will change this country for decades,” McCain said.
Now, for a religious and social conservative like me, there is a strong temptation to take this position. The thing I fear the most about Hillary Clinton’s presidency is what it would mean for the Supreme Court. But what McCain said is both wrong and destabilizing. You cannot have a stable and just system whose rules will only be observed if the outcome is guaranteed in one side’s favor, and defied if not. The system in that case becomes about nothing more than gaining and exercising power. There is no transcendent moral vision sustaining it. What McCain said here was extraordinarily reckless, and, if attempted by Senate Republicans, would surely provoke a constitutional crisis.
If Republicans were actually conservative, they would be instinctively wary of putting our constitutional system to the test like this. We don’t know what’s on the other side of that revolution.