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Answered Prayers & the GOP Meltdown

Hello from Indiana! I was at the Front Porch Republic event at Notre Dame today, but it sounds like the real action was further north, in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. McKay Coppins reports like a boss:

In a jarring illustration of the chaos now engulfing the Republican Party, supporters of Donald Trump clashed bitterly with GOP leaders at a rally here Saturday — booing elected officials, heckling Paul Ryan, and angrily demanding greater establishment support for their beleaguered presidential nominee.

Hey, what was that like? This:

Other elected officials became more combative with the audience. When Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner talked about how voters had been coming to the Fall Fest for years to support Ryan and other local Republicans, hecklers shouted, “Not anymore!” and, “I’m for Donald Trump!”

“Why don’t you listen to what I have to say instead of interrupting me?” Sensenbrenner snapped. Soon, the 73-year-old congressman was in a shouting match with the Trump supporters in the crowd. “Listen to me, please,” he kept repeating, before ordering the audience to “clean up your act.”

By the time it was Ryan’s turn to speak, the mood had grown indisputably hostile. He took the stage to scattered boos, and shouts of, “What about Donald Trump?” and, “Shame on you!”

“Look, let me just start out by saying: There’s a bit of an elephant in the room,” Ryan told the crowd. “And it’s a troubling situation … but that is not what we are here to talk about today. You know what we do here at Fall Fest? We talk about our ideas, we talk about our solutions, we talk about our conservative principles.”

Trump supporters greeted the message with a chorus of boos and abuse.

“Trump for president!”

“Mention Trump!”

“You turned your back on him!”

Coppins tweeted from the scene:

Y’know, time was I would have been unambiguously pleased as a conservative to watch the GOP establishment melt down, so we could open the door for new ideas. Never in a million years would I have expected Donald Freakin’ Trump to be the white-hot Jina Syndrome core. One thinks of the quote attributed to St. Teresa of Avila: “More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.”

I never would have imagined the day when I could not allow my children to watch an American presidential debate because I was worried about what lewd and lascivious things the Republican nominee would say on live television. But here we are in October 2016, and this is a thing.

I commend to you this editorial from the Deseret News. To their great credit, Mormons have been right about Trump since the beginning. Excerpt:

In democratic elections, ideas have consequences, leadership matters and character counts.

The idea that women secretly welcome the unbridled and aggressive sexual advances of powerful men has led to the mistreatment, sorrow and subjugation of countless women for far too much of human history.

The notion that strength emanates from harsh, divisive and unbending rhetorical flourish mistakenly equates leadership with craven intimidation.

The belief that the party and the platform matter more than the character of the candidate ignores the wisdom of the ages that, “when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” (Proverbs 29:2)

We understand that politicians and presidential candidates are human and that everyone makes mistakes. We do not believe that what is expressed in an unguarded moment of conversation should be the full measure of an individual. And we unquestionably support the principle that people deserve forgiveness, compassion and a second chance.

But history affirms that leaders’ examples either elevate or demean the lives of those being led. When choosing the ostensible leader of the free world, the American electorate requires the clear assurance that their chosen candidate will consistently put the well-being of others ahead of his or her own personal gratification. The most recent revelations of Trump’s lewdness disturb us not only because of his vulgar objectification of women, but also because they poignantly confirm Trump’s inability to self-govern.

What oozes from this audio is evil.

Well, it is. (Read Alan Jacobs’s comments on it).

The shame of it all is that many of the things Trump stands for, or pretended to stand for, were important and necessary. David Frum has been anti-Trump for a long time, but he gives Trump his due in this excellent essay, “How To Rebuild The Republican Party”. Excerpt:

But for all Trump’s many faults and flaws, he saw things that were true and important—and that few other leaders in his party have acknowledged in the past two decades.

Trump saw that Republican voters are much less religious in behavior than they profess to pollsters. He saw that the social-insurance state has arrived to stay. He saw that Americans regard healthcare as a right, not a privilege. He saw that Republican voters had lost their optimism about their personal futures—and the future of their country. He saw that millions of ordinary people who do not deserve to be dismissed as bigots were sick of the happy talk and reality-denial that goes by the too generous label of “political correctness.” He saw that the immigration polices that might have worked for the mass-production economy of the 1910s don’t make sense in the 2010s. He saw that rank-and-file Republicans had become nearly as disgusted with the power of money in politics as rank-and-file Democrats long have been. He saw that Republican presidents are elected, when they are elected, by employees as well as entrepreneurs. He saw these things, and he was right to see them.

The wiser response to the impending Republican electoral defeat is to learn from Trump’s insights—separate them from Trump’s volatile personality and noxious attitudes—and use them to develop better, more workable, and more broadly acceptable policies for a 21st-century center-right.

It is worth considering this weekend, as it all goes to hell for the GOP, why it was that a figure as ridiculous as Donald J. Trump managed to defeat what was widely thought of as the strongest GOP presidential field in years. For me, I think about that moment in the South Carolina debate back in February, when Trump said flat-out that the Iraq War was a mistake.  Jeb Bush got hot about it, and many in the Republican audience took Jeb’s side. But you know what? Trump was right. Jeb Bush was unquestionably the better man. But Trump was right. 

David Frum doesn’t mention this, but the Iraq War moment can stand for other things that Trump was (is) right about. If you think about it, it’s actually crazy that it took 13 years after the launch of the Iraq War, and the shambles it made of the Middle East, for a Republican presidential candidate, or any kind of senior Republican, to as much as say: “We screwed that up.”

Seriously, contemplate what that means. They could not even talk about it openly. And if they couldn’t talk about Iraq openly, and diverge from the True Conservative™ script, how many more things could they not talk about, for fear of violating True Conservative™ taboos?

It should not have taken a Donald Trump to come along and challenge these Republican shibboleths. The fact that nobody did this until Donald Trump did — Donald Trump, an arrogant, ignorant, shameless fool — is the most damning thing about the Republican Party in the post-Bush era. He is nemesis for this quote from an unnamed George W. Bush aide, printed in an October 2004 story in The New York Times Magazine:


Those were the days.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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