Thinking out loud about Trump and the state of conservativism in America

Donald TrumpI’m still trying to wrap my mind around the whole idea of Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican candidate for president in the 2016 election. In analyzing his (to me) unexpected victory, it’s easy enough to point fingers at the media, which gave him unlimited air time; at Fox, which turned into his personal campaign channel (and lost its rating status to CNN as a result); and at those cross-over Democrats in open primaries who, out of principled conviction or pure mischief, gave him the delegates he needed.

Nevertheless, Thomas Lifson, one of the smartest men I know, is on to something more profound when he says that Trump represents a sledgehammer that voters have taken to an irredeemably corrupt political system:

Let’s face it: America has been locked into a downward spiral under the permanent grip that a corrupt system has had on power. Politicians bent on reform, representing voters demanding it, arrive in Washington, DC only to discover the impossibility of breaking the hold on the levers of governance of lobbyists, bureaucrats, and politicians in their pockets. Washington, DC thrives, becoming the richest city in the country, as most of the rest of the nation stagnates and declines. Businesses discover that it is far more important to cultivate government support than to innovate. Rent seeking becomes the path to riches.

Ted Cruz, who deserves enormous credit for suspending his campaign last night, swallowing his anger over Trump’s escalating personal attacks on him and his family, has demonstrated the futility of reforming the federal government from the inside. A man of fierce intelligence and determination, he ran into a buzz saw in the Senate, and became the most hated man there in decades. He stood up for principle, but was unable to move Congress in his (and conservatives’) direction.

A strong majority of Americans across the ideological spectrum understand how broken the system is. Something like two-thirds of the electorate realize that the federal government is working to protect those who grease its wheels and feather its nest. Nobody exemplifies this corrupt system better than Hillary Clinton, now the Democrats’ presumptive nominee (again, barring black swan events).

Separate from Trump’s politics, which are an ever-evolving swirl of conservative and Progressive ideas, Trump didn’t just criticize the existing system, he alternatively savaged and exulted in it. He rode roughshod over political correctness, but he also boasted that as an active participant in America’s political corruption from the other side (the business, not the political side) he knew how to deal with it. He simultaneously represented himself as both player and destroyer.

Looking at Trump’s political views. . . .  Let me begin again, given that Trump’s political views change with the polls and the interviewer’s questions.  He also lies about them, as he’s done regarding illegal immigration. He railed against it, but he’s always been an amnesty kind of guy.  Still, given what seem to be his sort of fixed political views for the time being, here are what I see as the most optimistic scenario of a Trump presidency:

1. He will support the Second Amendment, without which there is no First Amendment (nor much of anything else).

2. His views on abortion are probably aligned with the majority of Americans, which is that, unlike the Planned Parenthood crowd that includes Hillary and Bernie, they get increasingly squeamish about abortion as the fetus develops and reaches a point where it can survive outside the mother.  He’s not a true pro-Lifer, but he’s not a Democrat pro-deather.

3. He supports Israel in principle.  Moreover, many hope that his daughter’s conversion to Judaism upon her marriage is a sign that he will support Israel in fact. That has to be balanced against the obvious reality that Trump is yet another ego-driven narcissist who believes that he can create peace in the Middle East through the power of his personality. Reality check:  There can be no peace until the Palestinians are committed to it. In other words, the peace process does not begin with negotiations; it begins with a 20- or 30-year long project to oust UNRWA from the Palestinian communities and to educate a new generation away from the genocidal beliefs that now predominate, especially in schools.  Only then can there be peace.

4. He recognizes that the US has a non-existent screening system for rooting out murderous Muslim radicals and believes we should stop importing them until we can protect ourselves. Obama, meanwhile, is bringing them in as fast as possible, while leaving Christians to die at Muslim hands in the Middle East.

5. He has no filter, which can be amusing, and which may give others the freedom finally to cut through the political correctness that stifles our words and rots our brains. (Speaking of brain rotting, here is an amazingly wonderful article about the toxic cult of “feelings” that destroys rational thought and legitimate debate — and it’s published in the New York Times, of all places.)

6. He claims to want to put conservatives on the Supreme Court, although he also thinks his sister, a hard Leftist, would be perfect for the job.

7.  He doesn’t seem to have patience with the Black Lives Matter movement and, with his utter disdain for political correctness, may help drive American discourse away from the obsessive racist focus it has now (precisely the same racist focus it’s always had under Democrat administrations, from the start of the Democrat party in the 19th century through to today).

8. He’s a disrupter, and that fact, standing alone, may be the only thing that can destroy the manifestly corrupt, stultified, calcified, expensive, backward political system in Washington. Of course, along the way, he will probably disrupt the Constitution too, possibly into permanent oblivion.

As one of my friends said, conservatives should support him when he’s conservative, ream him when he’s Progressive, and impeach him when he’s corrupt.

My many Democrat friends on Facebook are in a gloating mood today. They’re certain that Hillary or Bernie has a lock on the White House, not just because of what Trump has said and done to date, but because of what the media will bring to the fore about all the horrible, hateful, stupid things he’s said and done in the past.

I’m not so certain the Democrats are right. As Victor Davis Hanson noted the other day, Trump’s growing list of supporters happily accept everything about him, including the things they’re supposed to hate:

Tomorrow Trump could declare there to be 57 states, or address vets as Corpse-men or tell his legions to bring a gun to a knife fight — and none of his supporters would find him clueless, half-educated, or incendiary. If Trump brought one of his wheeler-dealer Manhattan real-estate cronies to a rally and the man’s court-ordered ankle bracelet went off, no one would bat an eye.

In other words, Trump is a postmodern creation, for whom traditional and time-tested rules do not apply. He is neither brilliant nor unhinged, neither ecumenical nor just a polarizer, not a wrecker and not a savior of the Republican party, but something else altogether. He does not defy conventional wisdom. There simply is no convention and no wisdom applicable to Donald J. Trump. For years postmodernists have lectured us that there is no truth, no absolutes, no timeless protocols worthy of reverence; Trump is their Nemesis, who reifies their theories that truth is simply a narrative whose veracity is established by the degree of power and persuasion behind it.

A reality-TV star, Trump appeals to those who despise reality-TV celebs like the Kardashians. A billionaire, he is the hero of those who hate billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett. A vain narcissist, he earns the loyalty of those who are repelled by the vain narcissism of Barack Obama. A man who dyes and does his hair, tans his skin, and stretches his face, he appeals to those who have neither the money nor the desire to do the same.

A self-described Republican, he attacks Republicans more than Democrats. An elite insider, he blasts elite insiders. He is both to the right and to the left of Cruz, Kasich, and Rubio. Trump rails against dirty campaign fundraising — and he assures us that no one knows such corruption better than he himself, since as a donor he used to spread cash around precisely to influence. Why else should anyone give?

If the rules of politics do not apply to Trump, how then can Trump break them? For Donald Trump, there is only one third rail: conventionality. If he, as advised, were to stop calling his rivals liars and crooks; if he, as urged, were to read sober and judicious speeches off teleprompters; if he, as counseled, were to talk in politically correct platitudes, Trump would turn doctrinaire and conformist — and be undone by reviving the very orthodox rules he once strangled, but that otherwise strangle outsider-insiders like himself. If Trump were to listen to a politico and lose 30 pounds, shorten his tie, cut off his comb-over, and wear earth-tone clothes, he would be finished.

His supporters want a reckoning with a system that has not so much failed as infuriated them. What drives their loyalty to Trump — if not the person, at least the idea of Trump — is a sort of nihilism. As a close friend put it to me this week, “I don’t care whether Trump wins or not, I just want him to f— things up as long as he can.”

I think Democrats ought to take heed of the fact that, in the beginning of the primary campaign season, conservatives and Republicans didn’t think Trump had a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning the primaries — but he did. Moreover, he won his biggest victories in states with open primaries, where disaffected Democrats were able to cross over and vote for him. The Democrats might therefore want to be wary of hubris (a lesson many conservatives and Republicans just learned the hard way).  Trump doesn’t just ignore the rules, he destroys them, then makes his own rules as he goes, winning the game as he plays it.

Looking towards November, I’m terribly conflicted. I cannot make myself like or respect Trump, and I know that, if elected to the presidency, he will destroy the Republican party. But here’s an ugly truth:  I’ve never really been a Republican. Sure, I registered as a Republican so that I could vote in primaries, but that was before California’s open primary system began. On the day that happened, I should have re-registered as an Independent).

What I am is a conservative. I believe in the Constitution, the free market, small government, and individual liberty.

The Republican party isn’t conservative. When faced with my beliefs, many Congressional Republicans would wave crosses and garlic at me, and then try to drive a stake through my heart. I can’t forget that it was the Republican party that allied itself with Democrats to destroy the Tea Party, which was a true grassroots conservative movement.

Since then, we’ve had six years of an ostensibly “Republican” Congress, and that Congress has devoted itself to providing Obama with cover for his Progressive agenda.  Its members despise Ted Cruz, who had the temerity to call his RINO colleagues to account. Trump is a Boehner creation, as much as anything else.  If I want to see destroyed a party that has gone rotten in the last twenty years, a Trump vote is the way to go.

Some claim that voting for Hillary or Bernie will save the Republican party from itself. As I said, though, I’m not sure it’s worth saving. I want a conservative party.

Moreover, even if I wanted desperately to keep Trump away from the White House, whether to save the Republican party or for another reason, I couldn’t in good conscience vote for Hillary or Bernie.  In theory, they’ll bring the Democrat party into further disrepute.  However, in four years they’ll also turn the Supreme Court into a permanent Leftist stronghold without a Constitutional anchor; destroy gun rights; escalate Muslim immigration into the country; turn Israel over to her genocidal enemies; and destroy America’s economy.  Moreover, because those goals are consistent with the beliefs of several generations of Americans educated in America’s public schools and Leftist universities, we’re lying to ourselves if we think either Hillary or Bernie could destroy the Democrat brand by enacting its most devoutly desired policies.

It’s times like this that I’m almost glad I live in California, a state in which my conservative vote for president is completely wasted.

There is one thing, though, that all of us should do, whether we support Trump or not:  Look down ballot. If you can’t make yourself hold your nose and vote for Trump (and I’m strongly inclined not to at the moment, not that my vote matters), you still need to go to the polls and vote for the most conservative candidates you can find, on everything from Congress, to your State assembly, to your local dog catcher, and, most especially, to your school board.

The only way to build a true conservative movement in America is to work from the bottom up. Just as I said  earlier that the Palestinian culture must change before there can be peace, the American culture, which has been tilted hard Left for decades now, needs to be changed before a real conservative political movement can spring up. The Depression and WWII generation that voted Reagan into office is gone. We need to build up another generation and that work begins now.

Your thoughts, please?