After a series of attacks on protesters at Trump rallies — cheered on and encouraged by Trump himself — protesters at a scheduled Trump rally in Chicago decided they weren’t having it, and showed up rowdy and in force. Perhaps sensing this squad wouldn’t be so easily beaten down as previous offenders, Trump canceled the event, lying that the cops had told him to.
This provided a great opportunity for anti-Trump conservatives to morph into “I’m not for Trump but” conservatives — a necessary stage in their inevitable transition, if Trump gets the GOP nomination, to Trump conservatives.
As we’ve seen, most elite conservatives have fervently declared themselves against Trump. Some claim it’s because they consider Trump a liberal — albeit a liberal who favors tax breaks for the rich, war with Iran, and a ban on Muslims; maybe they’re confusing him with Joe Lieberman. (I suspect they’re really opposed because Trump owes them nothing and, if elected, can’t be counted on to provide the sinecures they have come to expect.)
But as the Trump juggernaut advances, some of these guys have made a point of showing that their options are, shall we say, not entirely closed. Hugh Hewitt, for example, a longtime right-wing operative most recently seen lobbing softballs at the GOP Presidential debates, told readers “I’m not endorsing Trump, and I’m not endorsing any of his rivals” in an article called “Six Reasons Trump Is Still Better Than Clinton.”
One of Hewitt’s reasons: “Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will at least think twice before crossing him.” The Trump tough-guy act features prominently in many rightbloggers’ Trump encomiums. Veteran Washington Times columnist Wesley Pruden, for example, attacked liberals such as “David Remnick, the editor of the precious and erudite New Yorker magazine,” whom Pruden, probably dancing around flapping his wrists and going “oooOOoo,” claimed had “mostly taken to fainting couches in recovery rooms” because of Trump’s bold political incorrectness. “The lions of the legacy media have never understood the barely controlled rage of the Bible-believing unwashed at being scorned, disdained, and despised,” Pruden continued, “and along comes a man with a club and an eye for someone to hit with it.” Rawrr! Feel the butchness of Pruden’s prose!
At the breitbart.com site, which recently made news when one of its reporters got manhandled by a Trump goon and the Breitbart bosses were slow to defend her, you’ll regularly see ledes like this one: “Because the DC Media isn’t already seen as an elitist, incestuous club for bubbled Leftists, the Washington Post thought it would be a good idea to have one of its reporters interview one of its own reporters about how mean Donald Trump’s supporters are to them…the Washington Post’s precious little snowflakes are now interviewing their fellow precious little snowflakes,” etc.
Such crypto-Trumpers love Il Douche stomping the sissies, and for weeks Trump’s way of dealing with protesters at his rallies — shouting encouragement as they’re dragged out and suggesting his supporters beat them up (which sometimes happens, at which point Trump offers to pay the assailant’s legal fees) — bolstered his tough-guy image.
But when Trump supporters got some of it back in Chicago Friday night, suddenly it was time for cops in other cities to start “proactively” pepper-spraying innocent bystanders — and for Trump’s pals to turn snowflake themselves.
Some of the more committed anti-Trumpers went for an old-fashioned, both-your-houses approach. “It is ludicrous to argue that, because the hard left is primarily responsible for the outbreak of chaos and violence that caused Donald Trump’s Chicago rally to be canceled last night, it is wrong to condemn the thuggery Trump often encourages at his appearances,” adjudicated National Review torture enthusiast Andrew C. McCarthy.
But other rightbloggers didn’t see why Trump should have any of the blame. Sure, protesters get beat up at Trump rallies, but these liberal guys ripped up some signs — they’re clearly “thugs” and you know how that’s spelled.
“HOLLYWOOD LIBERALS BLAME TRUMP FOR VIOLENT LEFTWING PROTESTERS SHUTTING DOWN FREE SPEECH,” cried Breitbart. (John Legend called Trump a racist! So uncivil!) “Remember, Chicago is one of the places where they tried to ban Chick-fil-A because it allegedly spread hate,” said William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection, referring to one of conservatism’s last big anti-gay ghost dances.
At the New York Post, Michael Goodwin was aghast at the post-Chicago “Hitler and Mussolini comparisons from both left and right media because of things [Trump says] and the passion of his working-class supporters.” (See, such comparisons are a violation of Godwin’s Law — except, oops, looks like Godwin himself approves.)
Conservative opposition seemed to especially bother Goodwin. Bernie Sanders’s popularity, he explained, meant that Democrats “want ever more redistribution and entitlements and Republicans must win the White House to stop them.” While Goodwin admitted that Trump “clearly is out of his depth on many issues” — no Trumper he (yet)! — he suggested that instead of denouncing Trump, “conservative thinkers could be rushing to help him better understand policy complexities and influence his decisions.” Imagine Trump sitting in a classroom led by William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer! How long before he started doodling great big walls in his notebook?
“I’m no Trumpkin,” tweeted Jay Nordlinger of National Review. “But if protesters shut down his rallies, I’ll become one out of defiance and spite.” So there.
Rod Dreher, advocate of a “Benedict Option” for Christians (basically millenarianism, but with Wi-Fi and European vacations), had already written several “I’m not for Trump but” columns for The American Conservative — e.g., “Let me say it again: I think Trump is…a demagogue who would be a terrible president, possibly even a tyrant. But I get why people less secure economically than I am don’t care.…” But he was less coy after the Chicago rally, tweeting, “Disgusting spectacle in Chicago, St. Louis, shows why @realDonaldTrump has to keep going: to fight the p.c. mob.…” In his column, Dreher said yes Trump’s bad blah blah but Chicago “gives me a strongly pro-Trump feeling…you come to a Trump rally and you start flipping people off? You should not be surprised if you get a sock in the face.… This political correctness needs to be opposed, and it needs to be opposed with force.” Now there’s a come-to-Trump moment!
To the truly committed, this all seemed like a plot against Trump. Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle painted a heroic, Horst Wessel–y portrait of Trump as God’s lonely man: “The entire world elite is coming after billionaire businessman and 2016 GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump with everything they have got,” blubbered Boyle, “but Trump remains in command in the home stretch heading into perhaps the most important next three days of the entire GOP presidential primary.”
Boyle then parroted Trump’s bullshit about a Dayton anti-Trump protester being in ISIS (which other reliable rightwing bullshit-peddlers also circulated, though it has been debunked), and revealed “a secret meeting of the world elite aimed at stopping Trump’s ascension to the presidency,” which was so secret he read about it at the Huffington Post.
This secret event was labeled “THE ‘KILL DONALD TRUMP’ CONCLAVE” by FITSNEWS, which promised that “killing Trump (literally or figuratively) will do nothing to stop the movement that has fueled his rise.” I dreamed I saw Don Trump last night/Alive and looking absolutely terrific!
In the chaos, some anti-Trumps have tried turning the macho approach to the advantage of their own candidates. At TownHall, Arthur Schaper denounced “cowardly lawmakers more concerned about the donor class than the voting masses,” and put forward his alternative to “Democrat-lite”: the widely-despised Ted Cruz. “Cruz has already forced the Establishment into a tough decision: bow down, or bow out,” growled Schaper. “Whether they like it or not, the strongest — and best — alternative to Donald Trump is US Senator Ted Cruz.” Who’s the tough guy now! Rowrrr!
All for naught, I fear: If anyone’s going to shovel-pass the nomination to Cruz, it’ll be that hated establishment; the mob jonesing for a crack at a Black Lives Matter protester is already getting what it wants from Trump — who, by the way, claimed Bernie Sanders was responsible for his protesters and suggested that he’d be sending some of his own boys around to Sanders’s rallies, hint hint. That’s how non-“thugs” do it, folks.