Programming note: This evening (Air Canada permitting, which is looking a bit dicey at the moment), I'll be back with Tucker Carlson, live coast to coast at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific - with a rerun for West Coasters at 9pm Pacific. If you're in the presence of the receiving apparatus, I hope you'll dial us up.
~For three years the question absorbing Swamp-dwellers has been: How did Trump get elected? According to Adam Schiff, the answer is the Russians. According to Hillary, the answer is sexism and/or Macedonian content farmers. According to the media, Trump "tapped into" a large segment of the American electorate's ingrained sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and other assorted bigotries. If these fine fellows were genuinely interested to know how Trump got elected, the quickest way to the answer would be for them to look in the mirror: Trump is the consequence of you. No Russians or Macedonians are required: it's because of you - the permanent governing class. If the only alternative to Hillary is Jeb, it's hardly a surprise that there's a stampede to the "Neither of the Above" box. And, if the only fellow waiting over there is Donald J Trump, so be it: that's on you.
That's true for establishment Republicans, too. Don Surber has a fine column reminding us that it was at this precise point in the electoral cycle four years ago that National Review published their "Against Trump" issue. Why they did this, heaven knows. By contrast, a fortnight before NR's Never Trump extravaganza, yours truly wrote this. That's to say, by January 2016 it was clear to me (as it had been since I predicted his victory on Alan Colmes' radio show the previous September) not only that Trump was going to be the nominee but that he had the least worst chance of prevailing in the general - and that the base's repudiation of Jeb et al was entirely understandable and deserved.
Why couldn't National Review see that? Ten years ago, during a previous base uprising, I wrote:
The Tea Party and other members of America's beleaguered productive class decided that this time round it suited them to work within the diseased husk of the GOP. This is really the last chance for the unloved Republicans.
And they blew it. So by the summer of 2015 Lindsay Graham demanding boots on the ground in this week's Hoogivsastan and Jeb talking up the superiority of illegal immigrants' boots on the ground all over the US was nowhere the base wanted to be. Like The Weekly Standard, National Review had heard none of the disillusion and despair of Republican voters over the previous decade. Aside from anything else, GOP electors wanted someone serious about winning - as opposed to Dole, McCain, Romney or whoever was the next designated Giver of the Decent Dignified Universally Admired Concession Speech. In its very tone deafness, the "Against Trump" issue was itself Exhibit A as to why the base was For Trump.
Here's some of what I had to say about it at the time:
National Review's initial reaction to Donald Trump's entry into the presidential race appeared a few hours after he launched his campaign under the headline 'Witless Ape Rides Escalator'. Their condescension has got a little subtler since then, and it's now gone long-form with an entire issue dedicated to the singular proposition: 'Against Trump'.
Or, as I called it, "Witless Ape: The Director's Cut".
As I explained yesterday, I don't think Trump supporters care that he's not a fully paid-up member in good standing of 'the conservative movement' - in part because, as they see it, the conservative movement barely moves anything. If you want the gist of NR's argument, here it is:
'I think we can say that this is a Republican campaign that would have appalled Buckley, Goldwater, and Reagan...'
'A real conservative walks with us. Ronald Reagan read National Review and Human Events for intellectual sustenance...'
'My old boss, Ronald Reagan, once said...'
'Ronald Reagan was famous for...'
'When Reagan first ran for governor of California...'
'Reagan showed respect for...'
'Reagan kept the Eleventh Commandment...'
'Far cry from Ronald Reagan's "I am paying for this microphone" line...'
As I summarized the above:
Trump is Dan Quayle, and everyone and his auntie are Lloyd Bentsen: 'I knew Ronald Reagan, I worked for Ronald Reagan, I filled in Ronald Reagan's subscription-renewal form for National Review. And you, sir, are no Ronald Reagan.'
You have to be over fifty to have voted for Reagan, and a supposed 'movement' can't dine out on one guy forever, can it? What else you got?
Well, there are two references to Bush, both of them following the words 'Reagan and'. But no mention of Dole, one psephological citation of Romney, and one passing sneer at McCain as a 'cynical charlatan' - and that's it for the last three decades of presidential candidates approved by National Review, at least to the extent that they never ran entire issues trashing them.
What's the difference between the fetishists salivating over "Reagan's Eleventh Commandment" and those poor rubes for whom it's no longer January 1981?
The movement conservatives at National Review make a pretty nice living out of 'ideas, ideology, philosophy, policy, and so forth'. The voters can't afford that luxury: They live in a world where, in large part due to the incompetence of the national Republican Party post-Reagan, Democrat ideas are in the ascendant. And they feel that this is maybe the last chance to change that.
Go back to that line 'When Reagan first ran for governor of California...' Gosh, those were the days, weren't they? But Reagan couldn't get elected Governor of California now, could he? Because the Golden State has been demographically transformed...
The past is another country, and the Chamber of Commerce Republicans gave it away. Reagan's California no longer exists. And, if America as a whole takes on the demographics of California, then 'the conservative movement' will no longer exist. That's why, for many voters, re-asserting America's borders is the first, necessary condition for anything else - and it took Trump to put that on the table.
As I put it just shy of two decades ago:
If the political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising certain topics, then the electorate will turn to unrespectable politicians.
And, when they do, it's a conscious choice: they know what they're doing. So, when the respectable class whines that "a real conservative walks with us" and therefore Trump can't be a conservative because he doesn't, they fail to grasp that that's all the more reason to back him.
I understand that National Review has suffered somewhat since its "Against Trump" issue. That's because, to reprise another old line of mine from four years ago, it's always easier for the base to get itself a new elite than for the elite to get itself a new base. Given that the horrors they predicted failed to come to pass, and that the crisis of the republic these last three years has been the refusal of the permanent state to accept the result of the election, you might think, having hoist themselves on their own petard, National Review might wish to de-hoist and admit they were wrong. But, apparently, changing your mind is the ultimate no-no. Don Furber reminds us of the magazine's main editorial:
Trump's political opinions have wobbled all over the lot. The real-estate mogul and reality-TV star has supported abortion, gun control, single-payer health care à la Canada, and punitive taxes on the wealthy. (He and Bernie Sanders have shared more than funky outer-borough accents.)
En passant, is "funky" really the correct adjective for "outer-borough accents"? Or does exquisite condescension require a little more precision?
Be that as it may, we get the gist: Real conservatives don't let their political opinions "wobble".
Okay, so what about the very first contributor to the "Against Trump" issue - Blaze TV host Glenn Beck? In 2016, Beck was briefly suspended for entertaining the suggestion that, in order to save the republic, it might be necessary for a "patriot" to "assassinate" Trump.
Three years later, a reformed Beck was declaring that, if Trump doesn't win in 2020, "we are officially at the end of the country".
Got it. So in 2016 the survival of the republic depends on stopping Trump; in 2020 the survival of the republic depends on not stopping Trump.
And National Review calls Trump "wobbly"?
From that first headline "Witless Ape Rides Escalator", much of the conservative establishment revealed its fundamental unseriousness. Most dismal of all, they failed to realize that it was they who were on the downward escalator - and still are.
~We had a busy weekend at SteynOnline, including what seems likely to become a daily feature: Impeachment Non-Watch. Kathy Shaidle's Saturday movie date pondered whether Hitchcock gave himself enough Rope to hang himself, and for Australia Day I saluted Dame Olivia Newton-John with her biggest Aussie hit. Our marquee presentation was our latest Tale for Our Time: Jack London's classic The White Silence, introduced by yours truly before an audience of Mark Steyn Cruisers from four continents. You can hear (and see) Part One here, and you can listen to Part Two here. If you were too busy tossing shrimp on the barbie all weekend long, I hope you'll want to check out one or three of the foregoing as a new week commences.
Tales for Our Time is made with the support of members of The Mark Steyn Club, for which we are very grateful. See you tonight on the telly with Tucker.
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