I got an email from a conservative Hill staffer who is generally supportive of Trump yesterday in response to the Monday edition of the RedState Morning Briefing. The email said, verbatim, “Do you guys write anything but anti-Trump articles anymore?” I want to try to answer what I think this question was asking as honestly and without rancor as I can, and explain why I, in particular, keep coming back to the subject of Trump and the danger he poses.
First, I think it is facially obvious just by clicking on the RedState front page that we write about a whole lot that has absolutely nothing to do with Donald Trump. Over the weekend, Trump went on a much-covered media blitz during which he did and said several newsworthy (not in a positive way) things. So we were not alone in spending significant time covering Trump’s remarks about Carson, Hillary, Ford Motor Company, and the rest of the GOP field in fairly great detail over the weekend. Even so, we had numerous posts over the weekend about Hillary, the VA Scandal, Seattle’s minimum wage hike, College Football, Ben Carson, and even St. Crispin’s Day.
That having been said, the person who asked this question was really asking why we have had so many negative articles about Trump recently, and that’s a fair question, even granted the outsized portion of media attention that Trump commands. Here I will speak only for myself: I write about Trump so much because I consider him to be an existential threat to the conservative movement – a greater existential threat than any candidate currently running for President, including Hillary. Let me explain.
Let me first of all establish some bona fides, so people know where I am coming from here. I am not one of those people who says they are conservative yet always ends up supporting the establishment candidate when the chips are down. I’ve been writing at RedState here for over 10 years now and all of what I’m about to say is a matter of public record even if some of it is in archives that I’m no longer able to search effectively. In literally every contest that’s occurred since 2008 I’ve stood publicly against liberal establishment candidates in primaries whenever there was an even marginally more conservative option available. Going back in history:
- I supported Chris McDaniel against [mc_name name=’Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C000567′ ] in Mississippi.
- I supported Matt Bevin against [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ] in Kentucky.
- I supported Milton Wolf over [mc_name name=’Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000307′ ] in Kansas.
- I supported [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] over Dewhurst and have repeatedly supported every one of [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]’s crusades against [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ] in the Senate.
- I supported Richard Mourdock over Dick Lugar in Indiana.
- I supported Rubio over Crist in Florida.
- I supported Toomey over Specter and called Newt Gingrich an establishment sellout for siding with Specter.
I could go on, but I don’t want to belabor the point – the point being, I am not one of the people who has looked down their noses at tea party members or conservatives who have become fed up with the status quo in Washington and who have mounted campaigns in support of “extremist” conservative challengers. Rather, I have long been one of those people who has had the Establishment looking down their nose at me. Look at that list again – that’s a public record of supporting the more conservative challenger pretty much every time I had the opportunity – including some challengers who suffered some embarrassingly huge losses in both the primary and the general.
Look, the people who look at the fact that I oppose Trump and therefore automatically assume that I’m a RINO or establishment hack are so embarrassingly far off the mark that it’s hard to know where to begin responding. I don’t oppose Trump because I’m opposed to insurgent conservative candidates; I oppose Trump because I support insurgent conservative candidates.
I have made a public career of supporting conservative challengers to liberal Republicans. Donald Trump is not one of these. Not only is he not one of these, but he is a freeloading cancer on the movement as a whole. He has misappropriated the credit for the accomplishments of others, he has pretended to be the standard bearer for a movement he does not even belong to, and if he wins the nomination, the evidence suggests that he will suddenly lose his fighting spirit when confronted with his good friend Hillary as opposed to actual conservative Republicans.
The reason we spent so much digital ink on Trump this weekend is this: while you might not have been watching, Donald Trump concluded that he’s already won the Republican nomination, and is letting his general election flag fly. And that flag has a giant donkey on it, as Noah Rothman at Commentary correctly notes:
As Trump has encountered a potent rival in the form of Dr. Ben Carson, he has taken to differentiating himself from the candidate by, among other things like attacking his “energy” level and questioning his faith, contending that Carson would reform entitlements. “Ben Carson wants to abolish Medicare – I want to save it and Social Security,” Trump wrote on his Twitter account on Sunday evening. This was a flip-flop in record time. Not hours ago, Trump appeared on ABC News where he was asked if he would support health savings accounts in order to render Medicare unnecessary. “Well, it’s possible,” he told host George Stephanopoulos. “I think it’s a very good idea, and it’s an idea whose probably time has come.” Apparently that time came and went in the interim between breakfast and dinner on Sunday.
A creature of the media, it is rarely wise to underestimate Trump’s willingness to parrot the dominant narrative in the press. The latest and least well-founded contention among media professionals is that the Benghazi select committee’s questioning of Hillary Clinton was a total bust for Republicans. Given the gravity of the revelations about Clinton’s conduct and the administration’s knowledge of the nature of the attacks while they were ongoing, much of which was revealed at that marathon hearing, this claim is nothing short of a rearguard action to shield Clinton from criticism. Leave it to the Republican Party’s presidential frontrunner to legitimize this media narrative. “It was very partisan, and it looked quite partisan,” Trump averred on CNN on Sunday amid his endless whirlwind media tour. Maybe, but it was also quite productive. Moreover, most Republicans on the panel (and Democrat [mc_name name=’Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’D000622′ ], to her credit) behaved in a dispassionate and prosecutorial manner. To give succor to the liberal narrative that this was a partisan exercise lends validity to the Democratic contention that Hillary Clinton emerged a “winner” out of a process that should be immune to such parochial characterizations.
And what of the fevered passions with which Trump-backing conservatives decry the apparition of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, the specter of which haunts their imaginations and crowds out virtually any objective or rational thought. In an interview with Larry King, Trump was asked if his unfeasibly aggressive deportation proposals have any redeeming character in the form of compassion for those families he proposes to break up. “We will do something that will be done with heart,” Trump vowed. He added, however, that he would not be more specific. “I don’t want to comment on that one right now, Larry, because that’s the sort of a question where I just don’t want to answer it right now,” Trump said. He has already claimed that he would reintroduce the “good” illegal residents he deports in some expedited fashion. Perhaps this is the start of Trump’s embrace of a pathway to grant amnesty to this population that avoids the cost and redundancy of his imagined re-importation process.
Trump’s retreat on immigration should not surprise anyone who is acquainted with Donald Trump’s liberal predispositions. Trump has in the not-too-distant past called Jeb Bush a “bright, tough and principled” Republican, scolded Mitt Romney for the callousness of his contention that illegal immigrants should face conditions in America that compel them to “self-deport,” and told a group of DREAMERs (the non-citizen children of illegal immigrants) that they had “convinced” him to support their pursuit of full, unqualified citizenship.
All the reasons conservatives purport to oppose Hillary can also be said of Trump. Every liberal position she holds, Trump likewise holds or has held within the last ten years. Now that the mask is slipping on Trump, there’s no indication that he would govern as anything other than an exceptionally liberal Republican. Such a man is not worth detonating the entire coalition over, or burning at the stake every other actually conservative Republican, as Trump has done.
And while Trump has acted as a one man wrecking ball within the coalition, setting us all against each other with his petulant, insulting style, observe how the Democrats are behaving: with the exception of some college students who will inevitably fall in line, they are circling the wagons around their inevitable nominee in spite of serious questions about her ideological commitment to their cause, as well as her fundamental honesty and trustworthiness. That is no reason for us to do the same for a candidate on our side, but it is a good reason to wonder whether the Democrats, in our position, would accept as a standard-bearer whether they’d just let some guy walk in off the street to claim their nomination who had no background in their movement and no apparent understanding of, or interest in, their principles, and who frequently parroted our narratives instead of their own. There’s no set of circumstances under which the Democrats would let Arnold Schwarzenegger walk into their party tomorrow and become their Presidential front runner.
Here is the truth as I see it with respect to the upcoming election: I suspect (although I would happily hope to be proven wrong) that if [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] is chosen by the voters as the Republican nominee for President, that he will lose in the general election in grand fashion. And you know what? I’m completely okay with that result, if it comes to that – because in the process, [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] will go down fighting for the conservative values that we as a movement have stood for all these years.
He will go down (if it comes to that) carrying the banner of small government and speaking prophetically about the dangers of our current path. And though he might not win, we can at least hope that, as with Goldwater in 1964, his campaign will sow the intellectual seeds of an electoral movement that can change the future path of America.
Trump, on the other hand, has already cast aside any conservative principle of note (or, worse, shows no ability to even understand conservative principles). His nomination will result only in embarrassment for not just the party, but the movement that will be seen to have bolstered him. His inevitable, embarrassing flameout will discredit for generations the tea party and conservative movement as a whole. The best final result of a Trump general election candidacy will be the banishment (possibly self imposed) of conservatives from the bargaining table, with some not inconsiderable portion of them forming a transient and impotent third party that serves to grease the skids for the permanent advancement of European socialism into America as Democrats quickly reassert wholesale control over every level of government.
If Hillary wins, it will be bad, and it will have long lasting consequences, but we will (maybe) be able to recover as a movement and a cohesive political force and undo some of the damage that has been done. If Trump is nominated – or worse, wins – the consequences will be more permanent because the conservative movement will be forever hitched to his dumpster fire campaign.
And yes, Trump will likewise permanently discredit the anti-amnesty movement as a political force in America, if he is nominated. It is politically possible to be opposed to amnesty in such a way that you do not alienate the growing Hispanic voting bloc in America; however, Trump has already demonstrated that he utterly lacks the finesse to pull such a maneuver off. Trump’s bluster to the contrary, Trump is absolutely hated by Hispanic voters, worse than virtually any politician of either party in the country. Even in the unlikely event that he survives a general election, he will be unable to accomplish anything he proposes, either due to lack of political will (he cannot unilaterally build the wall he so lavishly promises) or because of, you know, math. Even if he wins, he will exit office having failed to produce on his promises but having nonetheless poisoned the ever-expanding well of Hispanic voters against the GOP anyway.
Savvy people who truly believe that illegal immigration is the number one threat facing America ought to be running away from Trump as though he were physically on fire; however, like the folks who believe that sending a message to Washington is the number one goal of the upcoming election, they are unable to see how Trump is such a fatally flawed vessel for their aspirations that the higher he rises in their ranks, the lower their entire movement becomes in the public eyes.
There’s a certain visceral joy Trump supporters take at being the only ones who “get” the phenomenon of their candidate. They love the fact that the folks they deride as the so-called #GOPSmartSet are so infuriated by Trump’s persistence atop the polls, and I suspect that this, as much as anything, is what’s keeping him there. And I definitely get so mad at McConnell, et al sometimes that I understand the temptation to cut off my nose and everyone else’s just to spite our collective faces.
But at the end of the day this impulse, if left unchecked, will destroy the last functional opposition to socialism in this country, and that’s why it must be stopped. And that’s why, as long as Trump remains a threat to win the nomination, he will be a threat to this country, and I will continue to oppose him as loudly and strenuously as I can.
I expected, coming into this primary season, to spend months on a strenuous fight to reject the establishment’s attempt to force the milquetoast and uninspiring Jeb Bush candidacy down our collective throats. I’m as unhappy as anyone that instead I get to spend my time fighting a threat to conservatism that is a thousand times worse. But because I actually believe in the principles the Trump supporters claim to be fighting for, I can’t stop fighting against him.