After this weekend’s primaries and caucuses, my prediction that the Republicans will eventually stymie the Trump menace is looking better than ever. Which gives us a window (however brief) through which we may glimpse Trump in a fresh light — not as a potential president, but as a Rorschach of rightbloggers who obsess on him.
On March 1, “Super Tuesday,” Trump came up big, winning five states and driving anti-Trump rightbloggers to the edge. “The only hope is for Rubio and Cruz to continue to hammer Trump,” moaned National Review’s David French. “If a unity ticket isn’t imminent, then perhaps a nonaggression pact…”
Ted Cruz responded by opening ten field offices in Rubio’s home state of Florida.
Still, Trump had a couple of This Time He’s Gone Too Far! moments. At Thursday’s debate, he riffed on a Marco Rubio schoolyard joke about his “small hands” by assuring America there was “no problem” with the size of his peen. (“Rubio Suggests Policy Debate, Trump Responds by Bragging About His Penis,” huffed RedState.)
Trump also insisted that as President he’d order the U.S. military to kill terrorists’ families. (He later reversed himself, which probably did him more harm than the original offense.) His call to war crime enraged anti-Trump rightbloggers — including those who had previously endorsed torture, such as National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy, who portrayed his Bush-era pro-waterboarding stance as something that “anguished” and “burdened” him, which apparently he considers some sort of moral advantage.
(Speaking of unique ethical yardsticks, McCarthy’s colleague Jim Geraghty argued that terrorist-family-killing is “not what Americans do” based on an old episode of 24 he saw once. Makes sense — when we kill someone’s family, the poor guy’s often not a terrorist.)
If voters wouldn’t listen to Jack Bauer, horrified Republican insiders hoped they’d listen to Mitt Romney, whom they hauled out to denounce Trump, who responded by saying that back in 2012, when Romney wanted his endorsement, “he would have dropped to his knees” if he’d told him to. “Do [Florida voters] want someone who gets up there and says that a former presidential candidate for their party got down on his knees and offered to blow him?” gasped right-wing radio host Andrew McKay.
Amid the chaos, some of the brethren took time to tell us what Trumpism really is.
At Commentary, Noah Rothman blamed Trump’s “refusal to clearly and unequivocally decline the support of the KKK, David Duke, and other white nationalist organizations” on the liberal media and its tendency to “dub any and all opposition to Obama racist,” an absurdity the Kenyan Pretender himself sought to exploit against “honorable and decent men like Senator John McCain and Governor Mitt Romney.”
If, said Rothman, it is “unlikely that core Trump backers will be moved to rethink their support for the candidate merely because he has been dubbed, at the very least, accommodating toward white supremacists,” then that was the fault of “the left, which has abused and diluted the meaning of the word ‘racism,'” and made it impossible for Republicans’ Southern Strategy racial outreach to succeed.
The New York Post invited Trumpist rightblogger John C. Kluge to explain why the Republican Party was no longer conservative enough for him. Actually, conservatism was no longer conservative enough for Kluge, either; for instance, he opposed trying to “bring our form of democratic republicanism to [foreign countries] by force,” as in Iraq, but at the same time did not “believe in ‘blow back’ or any of the other nonsense that says the world will leave us alone if only we will do that same.”
While for years Kluge said he held his nose and supported GOP pinkos like Bob Dole (“who gave us the Americans with Disabilities Act”), George W. Bush (“who decided it was America’s duty to bring democracy to the Middle East”) and “Massachusetts liberal” Mitt Romney, the weak-kneed moderation of Ted Cruz was where he drew the line. Also: “Trump may not have been right to say that we need to stop letting more Muslims into the country or, at least, examine the issue,” reasoned Kluge, “but he wasn’t crazy to suggest it either.” There’s an argument you can take back to your friends and neighbors.
Another important contribution to this genre was Tom Nichols’s “How the P.C. Police Propelled Donald Trump” at the Daily Beast. Did you know that Trump voters are not as concerned with the economy, the possibility of war in the Middle East, or the price of gas as they are with Melissa Click and gender-neutral pronouns? “Political correctness…more than anything, is how the left created Trump,” explained Nichols, and Trump’s supporters “are now more afraid of leftists controlling the Justice Department than they are of Putin or ISIS,” which is why they all fled to his Safe Space.
Nichols further explained that liberals were sore winners about gay marriage and said mean things about Clarence Thomas. Plus, an anti-gay millionaire CEO got fired by his own board of directors two years ago. “These brutish leftist tactics,” claimed Nichols, “radicalized otherwise more centrist people toward Trump…they’re terrified that they’re losing the basic right to express themselves.” One wonders why a million-man march for Paula Deen hasn’t been called.
So, from this, what can we say Trump is? I think we can safely say that Trump is someone else’s fault.
Anyway, there were more primaries and caucuses on Saturday and Ted Cruz actually won a few, restoring rightbloggers to a little of that old Iowa Caucuses feeling — even better, since the fading Rubio was always their idea of a compromise, and Cruz the real deal. Even Lindsey Graham, who’d earlier joked that any senator who murdered Cruz would never be convicted by a jury of his peers, said he could support Cruz. While “it’d be [a] mistake to make too much of tonight,” said a relieved Rich Lowry, “…it’s possible that Trump’s momentum has been checked, at least for the time being.”
Even some of the Trump-friendlier brethren went along. Before the debate, John Nolte at breitbart.com wrote, in response to the Romney hit, “Why We Lose: Where Was Dirty Trickster Mitt Romney When America Needed Him in 2012?” and snarled at “the smugs at National Review” for fighting Trump. But later he admitted Trump’s debate dickbrag “hands much-desired ammunition to his political and media enemies,” and when Saturday’s votes came in Nolte tweeted that “Cruz kept his dignity and prosecuted his case brilliantly,” and “No, I’m not ANTI-Trump. He just disappointed this week, to say the least. I’m about beating Hillary, & Cruz has SHOWN THE STUFF.”
Roger L. Simon, who had earlier written that the “#NeverTrump Crowd” ought to “Get a Life,” and praised Trump for “answering questions in a measured and crisp manner and with far more forthrightness than we have been used to with Obama” — a comparison I urge you to pause and consider, to take in all its breathtaking implications — tweeted after the vote, “SNATCHING DEFEAT FROM JAWS OF VICTORY> If @tedcruz becomes the nominee, @realDonaldTrump will only have himself to blame. #impulsecontrol.” There, who said party loyalty is dead?
So it looks like the flavor of the month — well, week — well, 48-hour news cycle is Ted Cruz, a man whose noxious personal qualities and insane political beliefs combine to make him even less likely to prevail in November than Trump. But I expect by the next column there’ll be yet another rightblogger mood swing to report.