Though we’ve never actually met, I consider Michael Brendan Dougherty a friend and fellow traveler. I think he has written a very important column about the Trump phenomenon, one that’s especially so because he’s a paleocon who doesn’t have much use for the Republican Party. Excerpt:
The conservative movement’s resistance to Donald Trump has been almost completely ineffectual. And at times, they let Trump’s incoherence become the basis for making their own criticisms of him incoherent. Consider how normal people might react to hearing Trump accused of being at once a liberal Democrat like Obama and a European fascist. But in the last few days, perhaps too late, that movement and their champion, Marco Rubio, have finally hit upon the truth about Trump: He’s a fraud.
That line of attack has the virtue of truth, and people tempted to throw in with Trump should consider it. Many people in or around the conservative movement — people I know — are so disgusted with the political and intellectual atrophy of the Republican Party and the conservative movement that they are anxious to blow the whole thing up via Donald Trump’s candidacy. They believe Trump’s verbal crudity is a small price to pay to break up the civilized crudities that pass as normal conservative politics, like the desire to launch more wars of choice in the Middle East, or the American economic and immigration policies that enrich elite clients and leave the average Trump supporter worse off. I wouldn’t begin trying to argue that such people should support Marco Rubio or Hillary Clinton. Just don’t actually support Donald Trump; he will make a fool of you.
At this point, I think we have to presume that Trump will get the GOP nomination. How in the hell are the Republicans going to have a convention when the entire party’s institutional apparatus hates his guts?
If he is the nominee, I am by no means confident that Hillary Clinton will beat him. What happens if Trump becomes president, and can’t fulfill his far-reaching promises? What do those who voted for him do? What happens to our politics? It will be fascinating, and more than a little unnerving, to observe how a President Trump, feared and loathed by so many, including in his own party, would govern.
It is impossible to escape the conclusion that we are headed into a period of great instability in American politics, no matter how this primary season and the fall election turn out. If Hillary beats Trump this fall, the mood in the country will be so foul that she will have trouble governing too, I think. And what kind of opposition will the Congressional Republicans, shell-shocked by such a resounding repudiation by a majority of their own voters, be able to muster?
Strange days indeed. Also, please read Andrew Bacevich’s take on Trumpism, published on TAC today. TAC readers will know that Bacevich is no GOP shill, and has been a principled critic of US war policy from a realist point of view. Excerpt:
If Trump secures the Republican nomination, now an increasingly imaginable prospect, the party is likely to implode. Whatever rump organization survives will have forfeited any remaining claim to represent principled conservatism.
None of this will matter to Trump, however. He is no conservative and Trumpism requires no party. Even if some new institutional alternative to conventional liberalism eventually emerges, the two-party system that has long defined the landscape of American politics will be gone for good.
Should Trump or a Trump mini-me ultimately succeed in capturing the presidency, a possibility that can no longer be dismissed out of hand, the effects will be even more profound. In all but name, the United States will cease to be a constitutional republic. Once President Trump inevitably declares that he alone expresses the popular will, Americans will find that they have traded the rule of law for a version of caudillismo. Trump’s Washington could come to resemble Buenos Aires in the days of Juan Perón, with Melania a suitably glamorous stand-in for Evita, and plebiscites suitably glamorous stand-ins for elections.
That a considerable number of Americans appear to welcome this prospect may seem inexplicable. Yet reason enough exists for their disenchantment. American democracy has been decaying for decades. The people know that they are no longer truly sovereign. They know that the apparatus of power, both public and private, does not promote the common good, itself a concept that has become obsolete. They have had their fill of irresponsibility, lack of accountability, incompetence, and the bad times that increasingly seem to go with them.
Trump is Nemesis to the Establishment’s hubris. Democrats who chortle at the (deserved) misfortune of the Republican Party are whistling past the graveyard.