With last week’s Sarah Palin squeal of approval and a big lead in the Iowa polls, Donald Trump is close to convincing a consensus of Very Serious People that he’s the GOP Presidential nominee presumptive and they better get used to it.
This state of affairs provoked National Review, the conservative flagship and leading voice of the anti-Trump Right, to dedicate an entire issue to denouncing him. This laid bare something like a schism, since until recently it looked as if rightbloggers were following NR’s flag. But Trumpism now appears to be peeling off a certain portion of the brethren, at least until the next wind shift.
There have been hints of late that “establishment” Republicans — heretofore assumed to support Marco Rubio if they were serious about winning and Ted Cruz if they were serious about destroying the country — have been jumping to Trump.
At New York magazine, Jonathan Chait noticed “The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which once savaged [Trump] mercilessly as a mobbed-up, un-conservative demagogue, has changed its tune.” And according to The Hill, “Jittery Republican senators think Donald Trump would actually give them a better chance of keeping their Senate majority if he were the party’s presidential nominee instead of Sen. Ted Cruz.”
National Review, accustomed to establishment status itself, had to strike back, and editor Rich Lowry commissioned the anti-Trump issue. “We started around the holidays, which turned out to be a bad idea,” Lowry told the Washington Post.
The issue featured 22 short essays written by a stable of contributors straight out of the Rightbloggers Hall of Fame. There was National Affairs editor Yuval Levin, who said Trump’s solution for everything “pretty much amounts to: ‘great management,’” ill-befitting the party of George W. Bush. There was Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Thomas Sowell, who compared Trump’s populism with “Juan Perón in Argentina, Obama in America, or Hitler in Germany.” There was superannuated columnist Cal Thomas, mouthing Bizarro-world crowd-pleasers like “If I developed a brain tumor, I would want Ben Carson to operate on me, but do I want Donald Trump ‘operating’ on America?”
There was Commentary editor John Podhoretz, who called Trump the “apotheosis of a tendency that began to manifest itself in American culture in the 1980s, most notably in the persons of the comic Andrew Dice Clay and the shock jock Howard Stern” and said his election would be “the worst thing to happen to the American common culture in my lifetime.”
There was Glenn Beck, who, well, Glenn Beck‘d his way through his essay just as you’d expect, writing, “While conservatives fought against the bank bailouts, Donald Trump called them ‘something that has to get done’” — without bothering to check whether evidence of National Review authors’ support of TARP was still available to curious readers.
The issue also offered standalone entries slagging The Donald. “Is Trump the American Sadr?” asked Michael Rubin. “That is not to suggest that Trump is the moral equivalent of [Muqtada al-]Sadr; he is no murderer or terrorist,” Rubin graciously conceded, but, he continued, there were similarities: Both were rich, had big egos, and led a cult of personality, unlike any other politician you could name.
National Review was far from the only conservative outlet to be banging the anti-Trump drum this week. At the American Spectator, Larry Thornberry said the Republican National Committee, which withdrew NR‘s GOP debate sponsorship over the issue, “have thrown National Review and principled conservatives under the bus.” Emily Zanotti nearly wept over Palin’s full-throated endorsement of Trump, arguing that the former Alaska governor, “has done a complete 180 from her down-home conservative roots.” Meanwhile, Weekly Standard front-loaded their site with items like “Neither Trump Nor Hillary,” “Nine Tales of Trump at His Trumpiest” (Trump’s a “longtime liberal” and “an opposition researcher’s dream,” Marco Rubio is “an instinctive, visceral conservative who doesn’t need a focus group”).
But some high-minded types nervously played both ends against the middle. Fred Siegel of City Journal, for example, judged Trump “both a reaction to and expression of liberal delusions,” but understood why people would go for him, given all the political correctness and scary black people who “exemplify the perversions of Obama’s America.” Rod Dreher of The American Conservative asked readers to understand that Trump-friendly people like his late father opposed Obamacare but endorsed Medicare, not because he they were hypocrites, but because “their mode of experiencing life is not nearly as abstract as ours.” He added: “I think NR is mostly right about Trump, but I question the prudence of its frontal attack.”
And who among rightbloggers are really committed to Trump? Generally speaking, less-credentialed types with no hope of getting sinecures in the Rubio Administration.
First among bottom-feeders is Breitbart.com, the rump empire of the late firebrand Andrew Breitbart, which feasted on stories like “SELECTIVE OUTRAGE: NATIONAL REVIEW TRASHES TRUMP, RALLIES BEHIND RYAN” and “DONALD TRUMP: ‘I AM PRO-LIFE’ AS AMERICA SLIDES TOWARD ‘CULTURE OF DEATH.’”
After NR’s attack, lead Breitbart writer John Nolte declared the magazine’s authors were denizens of “K STREET” in the “VICTORIAN ERA” who consider their copy “as sacred as the Magna Carta… how is that effective in a year where being an outsider is sexier than Sophia Loren in a lace teddy?”
At PJ Media, Roger L. Simon picked out an NR line about Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ “funky outer-borough accents” and decreed it “a dog whistle to the cognoscenti. The real problem with Donald is that he grew up in Queens, not Manhattan or Greenwich… He’s vulgar. He’s not one of us.” Simon declared the NR writers “men and women of theory” impotently striking “against a man of action,” and told his readers that if Trump won “yes, America would be great again.”
Then there was Vox Day, who, in a piece called “National Review against America,” Photoshopped NR’s “Against Trump” cover to read “We Are Cucks” — referring to the “cuckservative” shtick endorsed by that species of rightist who think modern conservatism is mongrelized and Trump will return it to purity. (This Google image search tells you all you really need to know about them).
Meanwhile, over at The Daily Stormer, it’s an all-out war against those a-holes at National Review: “RNC Drops National Review for Formulating Conspiracy Against Trump,” one headline blared. Wait, you might be asking, isn’t The Daily Stormer a neo-Nazi publication? Oh boy is it ever; in fact it’s not even so neo (“The cuckservatives and kikeservatives of the National Review are taking beating after beating,” their story begins). But we have to take them seriously. All of them, actually. If the Breitbarters, the anti-Semites, the anti-cuckservatives and guys like Roger L. Simon have nothing else in common, they do share one important characteristic: when putsch comes to shove, they have no establishment cred to lose. American politics is about coalition-building, and if the traditional Republican amalgam of fundamentalists, libertarians, and Chamber of Commerce types can’t get it together, then vacuum-abhorring nature will find some folks who will.