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Trump’s Deserved Moment of Triumph

I get this. I really do. It’s mostly how I feel, though the one consolation I take from this debacle is that genuine creativity may emerge out of Trump’s destruction of the old GOP. It’s a small bit of comfort, but I’ll take what I can. If Marco Rubio or any other of the GOP bunch were being nominated now, I would not be excited at all, or even interested. I prefer that to being freaked out by the prospect of a Trump presidency, but I would prefer to have someone to vote for, instead of against.

But then, I’ve wanted that for years.

Because I’m feeling contrarian, I want to give Donald Trump his due in this, his hour of triumph. He pulled off something that nobody imagined he would do. I remember watching him give a political speech for the first time — my first time watching him, I mean. He was addressing a big crowd in Mobile. I watched the thing nearly gape-mouthed. I could not believe the crudeness, the chaos, and the idiocy of the speech. This won’t go anywhere, I thought, but it’s going to be fun watching him implode.

I laughed a lot at Donald Trump back then. Who’s laughing now?

Here’s Tim Stanley, writing from Cleveland for The Telegraph [2]. Excerpt:

A year ago, Trump was a joke. A media circus. A novelty. We assumed – I assumed – he was in it for the giggles. I thought he’d drop out like he’d down twice before. I thought his total lack of experience, his profanity and his recklessness would count against him in a primary among conservatives. But the very nature of conservatism has changed.


It was likely the rise of Sarah Palin in 2008 that made this possible – a candidate who suggested there was a choice to be made between intellectualism and common sense, and who inspired deep devotion among those who identified with her. Folks don’t identify with Trump in the same, personal way as they did with the hockey mom from Alaska. How can they? He flies everywhere in a private jet and has a model as a wife. But his issues did strike a chord. The Wall cut through.

Trump didn’t just defy the establishment. He defied what we thought for years were the outsiders: the ideological conservatives who hitherto cast themselves as the rebels. By beating Ted Cruz, Trump actually ran an insurgency against the insurgent. He demonstrated that what people wanted wasn’t something more ideologically pure – as Cruz assumed – but something that was totally different.

That is one big positive we can take from this campaign. If Trump can win when challenging the Republican position on trade and war, maybe someone in the future can win while challenging their positions on other things.

Yes, this.

Donald Trump did, in fact, beat the hell out of the GOP Establishment. But let’s also note here that the GOP Establishment beat itself. If you haven’t yet, check out conservative writer Matthew Sheffield’s evisceration of the Republican Industrial Complex. [3] It was e-mailed to me by a Republican friend who until fairly recently was part of that world, and knows about it intimately.

This is also a good time to return to Tucker Carlson’s great Politico piece from January [4], talking about how the failure of the Republican Industrial Complex created the opening for Trump. Key excerpt:

American presidential elections usually amount to a series of overcorrections: Clinton begat Bush, who produced Obama, whose lax border policies fueled the rise of Trump. In the case of Trump, though, the GOP shares the blame, and not just because his fellow Republicans misdirected their ad buys or waited so long to criticize him. Trump is in part a reaction to the intellectual corruption of the Republican Party. That ought to be obvious to his critics, yet somehow it isn’t.

Consider the conservative nonprofit establishment, which seems to employ most right-of-center adults in Washington. Over the past 40 years, how much donated money have all those think tanks and foundations consumed? Billions, certainly. (Someone better at math and less prone to melancholy should probably figure out the precise number.) Has America become more conservative over that same period? Come on. Most of that cash went to self-perpetuation: Salaries, bonuses, retirement funds, medical, dental, lunches, car services, leases on high-end office space, retreats in Mexico, more fundraising. Unless you were the direct beneficiary of any of that, you’d have to consider it wasted.

Pretty embarrassing. And yet they’re not embarrassed. Many of those same overpaid, underperforming tax-exempt sinecure-holders are now demanding that Trump be stopped. Why? Because, as his critics have noted in a rising chorus of hysteria, Trump represents “an existential threat to conservatism.”

Let that sink in. Conservative voters are being scolded for supporting a candidate they consider conservative because it would be bad for conservatism? And by the way, the people doing the scolding? They’re the ones who’ve been advocating for open borders, and nation-building in countries whose populations hate us, and trade deals that eliminated jobs while enriching their donors, all while implicitly mocking the base for its worries about abortion and gay marriage and the pace of demographic change. Now they’re telling their voters to shut up and obey, and if they don’t, they’re liberal.

It turns out the GOP wasn’t simply out of touch with its voters; the party had no idea who its voters were or what they believed. For decades, party leaders and intellectuals imagined that most Republicans were broadly libertarian on economics and basically neoconservative on foreign policy. That may sound absurd now, after Trump has attacked nearly the entire Republican catechism (he savaged the Iraq War and hedge fund managers in the same debate) and been greatly rewarded for it, but that was the assumption the GOP brain trust operated under. They had no way of knowing otherwise. The only Republicans they talked to read the Wall Street Journal too.

On immigration policy, party elders were caught completely by surprise. Even canny operators like Ted Cruz didn’t appreciate the depth of voter anger on the subject. And why would they? If you live in an affluent ZIP code, it’s hard to see a downside to mass low-wage immigration. Your kids don’t go to public school. You don’t take the bus or use the emergency room for health care. No immigrant is competing for your job. (The day Hondurans start getting hired as green energy lobbyists is the day my neighbors become nativists.) Plus, you get cheap servants, and get to feel welcoming and virtuous while paying them less per hour than your kids make at a summer job on Nantucket. It’s all good.

Apart from his line about Mexican rapists early in the campaign, Trump hasn’t said anything especially shocking about immigration. Control the border, deport lawbreakers, try not to admit violent criminals — these are the ravings of a Nazi? This is the “ghost of George Wallace” that a Politico piece described last August? A lot of Republican leaders think so. No wonder their voters are rebelling.

Read the whole thing. [5] Let it sink in that Carlson wrote this before a single vote had been cast in the GOP primaries.

This year, and this week, in Republican Party politics and in American conservatism has been about nothing but moral, intellectual, and institutional decadence. It did not happen because of Donald Trump. Donald Trump emerged because the institutions were rotten. It is an almost Shakespearean twist that Roger Ailes is being defenestrated from atop the Fox News empire even as Trump receives his crown in Cleveland.

Trump didn’t steal the Republican Party. It was his for the taking, because the people who run it and the institutions surrounding it failed.

When Trump loses in November, maybe, just maybe, some new blood and new ideas will rebuild the party.

And if he wins? We will have far bigger things to worry about than the fate of the Republican Party. We will be forced to contemplate the fate of the Republic itself.

66 Comments (Open | Close)

66 Comments To "Trump’s Deserved Moment of Triumph"

#1 Comment By Jennifer On July 20, 2016 @ 4:57 pm

David J White: “Also — and admittedly this is subjective — I think Hillary has a much larger mean streak in her that Bill ever did. I think Bill is, to some extent, still the fat kid who wants to be liked. I think Hillary knows that, regardless of her own accomplishments, to many people she’s still, at bottom, just another political wife who rode her husband’s coattails to success, and she just hates being perceived that way. Like a member of minority group who, despite his accomplishments, can never convince some people that he got there on his merits and wasn’t just an affirmative action hire. It’s a recipe for making someone mean and vindictive if given the opportunity.”

When HRC was in the Senate, she was known for working well the Senators on the other side of the aisle despite their differences. So, no, you haven’t given us any reason to think that she’d be worse than her husband was.

#2 Comment By Jennifer On July 20, 2016 @ 5:11 pm

RR: “It is also worth pointing out that Hillary isn’t nearly as skilled politically as was Bill in the 1990s. It’s hard to see her cutting the type of deals with Congressional Republicans as Bill did, nor given how unpopular Hillary has been for years (and her polls are currently descending into Donald Trump levels of low) is she likely to receive the public support that Bill Clinton did in the 1990s.”

I agree that HRC isn’t the politician her husband was.

But the rest of your comment ignores the fact that it’s pretty easy to cut deals with Republicans when doing things they want done, like ending welfare as we knew it, signing free trade deals, and deregulating the financial industry.

#3 Comment By William Dalton On July 20, 2016 @ 5:11 pm

“dissolution” should, of course, be “disillusion”.

#4 Comment By Calvin On July 20, 2016 @ 5:49 pm

Just popping in to say that I reserve the right to post a big fat “I told you so” to all the Trump fans predicting his inevitable victory. Some of you guys have convinced yourselves that Hillary is the devil, literally, and you’ll be rather surprised I think to find that not everyone agrees with you.

Inchoate rage is a poor tool for winning a general election, and pissing off 70-80% of all minorities is a crappy outreach plan. See you all on Nov 3.

#5 Comment By Mike W On July 20, 2016 @ 6:12 pm

Trump certainly fits Nassem Talib’s definition of “anti-fragile,” and has gained strength from disorder. I wouldn’t bet against him and the idea that Mrs. Clinton is less impulsive and reckless than Trump based on her actions in public life and as SecState is just wishful thinking.

#6 Comment By Todd K. On July 20, 2016 @ 6:23 pm

However this ends up, we will be contemplating the end of the Republic. God help us…

#7 Comment By Scot On July 20, 2016 @ 8:23 pm

From the RNC:

“Hillary should be shot.”

“Hillary should be hung by the neck.”

“Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!”

There’s a call and repeat service going on in Cleveland where Republican pastors, governors, senators and party elders are calling for the prosecution and/or execution of Hillary Clinton. The Republican candidate watches it all with a satisfied grin on his face as exuberant delegates holler back.

Can you imagine Barack Obama tolerating that? Hillary Clinton? George Bush? John McCain? Mit Romney?

You squander your moral authority if you don’t call out Trump for encouraging this behavior. Where’s your concern that someone might try to put a bullet in the Democratic presidential candidate because Trump’s mob is calling for it? Imagine the aftermath.

People often criticize rank-and-file Muslims for their failure to suppress the extremists in their midst. How is it different if you do not speak out?

I’m an atheist, but I keep coming back here because I respect your integrity despite our differences. Time to earn it.

[NFR: I don’t have TV, so I’ve not been watching the convention, only reading about it. What you describe is sickening. But the best way to get me not to write about something is to demand me to prove my integrity by writing about something you want me to write about. — RD]

#8 Comment By Harris On July 20, 2016 @ 9:52 pm

Regarding Scot’s post: it is indeed all sickening. I so want to hear a voice from the conservative side pick this up; I long for reason over hysteria, a recognition that competence is a necessity of governing.

#9 Comment By Richard Parker On July 20, 2016 @ 10:54 pm

Cruz refuses to endorse Trump. I thought he signed the agreement that everyone in the debates did to support the eventual nominee.

The Republican Party is melting down into a Radioactive Pool.

Into the Dustbin of History four years early.

#10 Comment By John Wilson On July 20, 2016 @ 11:19 pm

I see no one positing the question as to what happens to the country if Trump wins and we are better off in four years. I find this a much more interesting question. What would this course of events say about us and the country?

#11 Comment By city eyes On July 22, 2016 @ 4:35 pm

The Trump may stop the San Franciscoization of the US (without the views). Ed Lee – send me your undocumented folks and I will give them housing, food, and other free transit. Poor vets and other US legal types may sleep on the streets….

#12 Comment By Jim Houghton On July 23, 2016 @ 11:44 am

When I saw the headline, I started to reach for gmail to let TAC know I was cancelling my subscription and stopping my monthly pittance to the Institute. Luckily, I read on, first.

However, I certainly do not appreciate quotes from Tucker Carlson that include such nonsense as “…Obama, whose lax border policies…” being treated with respect. Obama has deported more illegals than any president. No, he hasn’t built a Wall, nor has he empowered border guards to shoot crossers on sight. But he’s been very tough. Credit where it’s due.

#13 Comment By Fabian On July 23, 2016 @ 2:41 pm

You should not worry about the end of this republic. It doesn’t work anymore unless you’re obsessed by the proper use of a public restroom.

#14 Comment By Jose R. Pardinas On July 23, 2016 @ 4:29 pm

The very nature of what the USA has become would be at stake under a Trump presidency.

He might put an end to the massive deployment of American troops all over the planet. He might refuse to initiate endless trillion-dollar boondoggles in hopeless hellholes like Afghanistan. He may normalize relations with Russia, thereby defusing a dangerous NATO-driven confrontation in Europe while simultaneously accelerating the demise of ISIS. He might terminate military-driven nation-building abroad. He might refuse to plunge whole countries and regions into chaos (e.g. Syria, Libya, Ukraine) for putative geopolitical gain. He would sign no ruinous trade deals.

Of course, all the above will continue, and more than likely intensify, under Hillary.

The choice is starkly clear.

#15 Comment By Mary Myers On July 23, 2016 @ 4:35 pm

I prefer Pat Buchanan’s take on Trump and this election @www.buchanan.org.

#16 Comment By Russell On July 23, 2016 @ 5:58 pm

Buck up, Rod- [6]