A Soft Civil War

Washington, D.C. is blanketed in inches of soft powdery snow. The winds are mild and the roads unplowed. For a short time, we are bathed in silence as traffic, work, and commerce stalls. Once upon a time the Army was in charge of keeping the streets cleared, and they did, I’m told, a good job of it. With a form of self-rule, the district is in the charge, with the to-be-expected results: impassable streets.

Online, however, in the Republican camp there’s a soft civil war going on in preparation, I suppose, for the upcoming Iowa primary. One wag whose name I’ve unfortunately forgotten indicated Iowa should get the first primary in the nation or ethanol subsidies, but not both. The point is well taken. With the exception of only Cruz to my knowledge, candidates desiring an early win and momentum promise to keep the subsidies going. (The Democrat caucuses in that state resemble nothing so much as the Zimbabwe farmers-workers meetings where in true Marxist style the layabout operatives who can stay at it longer win the game as everyone else goes home to work or tend to their family obligations.)

Cruz and Trump, the leading contenders on the Republican side, have their fierce defenders and detractors, though most people concede either would be preferable to the criminal serial liar or the aged Commie on the Democratic ticket. City Journal had to my way of thinking a really sound explanation for Trump’s popularity:

What rankles most among workaday white Americans is that, even as their incomes and life expectancies decline, and even as the protections promised in the Fourteenth Amendment are eviscerated in favor of new minority carve-outs, they’re accused of benefitting from “white privilege.” The rise of Ferguson’s Michael Brown and Baltimore’s Freddy Gray -- the first a thug, the second a small-time drug dealer -- as black icons of white oppression, exemplify the perversions of Obama’s America. Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, a dramatically diminished racism is asked to account for the ongoing infirmities of the inner-city underclass.

Trump is both a reaction to and expression of liberal delusions. [Arthur] Schlesinger’s fears have largely come to pass; we’ve become what he called a “quarrelsome spatter of enclaves.” Schlesinger was too much a part of the elite to imagine that the class he always thought of as representing the best of the future would come to be despised by a broad swath of Americans for its incompetence and ineffectuality. But what Schlesinger saw on the horizon seems to have arrived, with no sign of abating: we are in the midst of a soft civil war."

As if to underscore the Republicans' broad distaste and feeling of betrayal, Senate Republicans, giving up their last shot to reining in our far left president, keep confirming his wretched nominees for office.

After confirming a liberal judge to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this week as their first act of 2016, Senate Republicans are prepared to confirm yet another liberal judge next week.


On Tuesday afternoon, Republicans will vote to confirm Wilhelmina Marie Wright, a sitting member of the Minnesota state Supreme Court, to the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. Just who is Ms. Wright?

Writing a short entry for the UCLA Law Review in 1990 (page 18-19 of PDF), Ms. Wright brazenly asserted that, “[T]he practice of American racism is based on two principles: the sanctity of property and the belief in the hierarchy of races

Giving voice to the many disaffected rank-and-file voters is West Virginia’s Don Surber:

This time, many conservatives just want the wall built. Trump has not always been pro-life and pro-guns, but he is now and that is what counts. He also is unapologetically politically incorrect, to the point of being rude, but being polite has not gotten conservatives a damned thing. Trump is bringing Democrats, independents and unregistered people into the party. Losing just to meet some conservative purity test is a luxury Republicans no longer can afford.

Washington conservatives -- Cable News Conservatives -- overlook the fundamental principle of conservativism, and that is giving everyone the same opportunity. America is best when she is a capitalistic society that builds railroads and industry. The idea that only career politicians are qualified to hold public office is not conservative.

But this year's election is not about conservativism or liberalism. The survival of the nation is. It's not about entitlements or foreign policy or balancing the budget. It is about protecting the borders. We are reduced to that basic an issue because Washington has failed to protect the nation from two simultaneous invasions. Trump's response to Muslim terrorism in San Bernardino led to a chorus of clucked tongues on cable TV, but the people watching at home cheered.

National Review lobbed a grenade into the tug of war between Cruz and Trump supporters with a special issue with an editorial opposing him and a symposium of respected conservative pundits following that theme. Because it tipped its hand in against a candidate it will no longer be a participant in the next debate and it has apparently lost some subscribers and received lots of angry emails.

Apart from his policies, Trump has drawn admiration in other quarters for his straightforward and deft campaign. My friend “Ignatz Ratzkywatsky” is one of those. He thought the National Review symposium unfairly attempted to delegitimize Trump and suggested they might not support him in the general if he got the nomination:

His tactics and inconsistencies may not be appealing but overall his ethics aren't really any lower than we have to expect of any politician are they? Other than his use of bankruptcy which is hardly immoral or illegal, or even particularly unusual in a boom and bust business like highly leveraged real estate and casinos, where are the scandals in his many business interests?


Moreover Trump's family including his exes seem quite normal, accomplished and loyal to him. Were he truly the unscrupulous lunatic he is portrayed as that would be very unlikely.

I wish he was more conservative but a magazine that has supported without question in the general election GHWB, Bob Dole, W twice, McCain and Romney has no business acting as though Trump is so far out of bounds they need a symposium to not just disagree with him, but stop him.

Moreover so long as a guy is a dirty fighting creep, if he's fighting my enemies dirtily more power to him. Beats the hell out of the polite losers we've come to expect as our anointed nominees.

Thomas Lipscomb, a Cruz supporter writing on Facebook, explains why he thinks Trump will probably get the nomination and why that’s not a terrible thing:

The confusion of punditry has masked an astonishing week for Trump since Cruz fought him to a draw in the FNN Debates. A comeback would have been amazing. What we saw instead was miraculous.

Trump had several problems. The first was to stop and reverse the momentum of Cruz’s gain and lead in Iowa. By raising the “troubling issue” of Cruz’s eligibility as a question rather than asserting it bombastically himself… he inserted the nagging question into the mind not only of Iowa and NH voters but all over the nation. Warned off by the twittering of helpful pundits (ie Mark Levin’s column “Cut the Crap), Trump damned the torpedoes and ordered "full speed ahead."

It worked like a charm. Cynical? Yes. Without merit? Probably… but absolutely devastating, particularly because the issue can’t be resolved before the GOP Convention. Like the unhealable wound of the Fisher King, it will continue to fester and pain unresolved in the subtext.

Playing the ethanol card (rather than joining in Cruz’s ethical stand against subsidizing a lousy fuel that costs a fortune and actually injures the engines that use it) immediately brought in the support for Trump of the slimy Iowa governor who had promised not to back anyone. Now ask yourself how many voters these days are looking for a principled stand on much of anything at their own expense? Another brilliant cynical positioning move by the Trumpists.

Signing up Sarah Palin before everyone got tired of her shrill voice again, early in this campaign as well, which neatly took care of questions about whether Trump was a REAL conservative and showed voters the much admired Palin had already made the choice being presented to them… and chose Trump over her own sponsored Cruz? Just plain masterful.

Making sure the point got over by getting the endorsement of John Wayne’s daughter.

And finally the “coincidental” fulminations of GOP RINOs from Bob Dole to various Congress critters echoing Trump’s sad “acknowledgement” that Cruz was a nasty piece of business no one wanted to work with in Washington and wouldn’t be able to get anything done, compared to “deal master Trump” which also surfaced in this past week.

Then Trump raises the absurd issue of the two loans from Goldman and Citibank as more proof that Cruz is nasty, shifty, of questionable eligibility, and possibly violated election rules and steps away.


It was an astonishing tour de force. No GOP candidate had pulled that much together against an opponent in the last 8 years, much less in one week against a primary opponent who was leading him before the first primary.


The good news? Well Trump is one hell of a competitor and will use fair means or foul to win. The Democrats haven’t seen anything like this in 30 years. And they aren’t going to be up to it.

All they can do is rally the really red and the safely dead, their greedy, illiterate minority base, their vile unions and those desperate for the governmental tit and hope the demographic distribution and their media echo chamber can pull off a victory.

I don’t think they can this time. Crossover is going to be amazing. 

In another post Lipscomb compared the National Review’s attack on Trump to the conservative GOP’s “meltdown” when their choice, Robert Taft, was confronted with the candidacy of Dwight David Eisenhower:

Taft was a principled, disciplined favorite of the conservatives who was so acceptable to them he was called MR REPUBLICAN.

Both parties had elements that saw Eisenhower as a perfect candidate. No one in either party really thought of him as naturally their candidate. As a military officer he was specifically enjoined from political partisanship. A superb poker player, Ike played a winning hand close to the vest.

In a masterful textbook example of arm-twisting by the small internationalist branch of the GOP, they got him. And the rest of the GOP wasn't quiet about being railroaded

But while the entire country LIKED IKE... the Party and its long suffering priesthood and functionaries hated every minute of it. They had sat it out in Siberia for 24 years and were ready to "Take Taft", as their buttons said. It was THEIR turn (sound familiar?) and they weren't going to be kicked to the curb by some opportunistic interloper sponsored by just the kind of people they did not want influential in the party. For all anyone knew Ike was REALLY a Democrat and they were using him to take over the Party.

So although all the nation was dying to do was LIKE IKE... the GOP had a very public snit and left heel marks in the carpet right up to the convention, leaking and bleating and having a conniption fit that delighted the Democrats and gave them hope the GOP could blow a sure thing.

The irony here is that the NR purists don't even have a candidate. All they have is their purity, and yet they are perfectly willing to shoot down the closest thing the GOP has seen to a "sure thing" in years to defend their doctrinal sanctuary.

Maybe both men on the same ticket would win the general election.

Part of me hopes Jeffrey Lord’s suggestion of a Trump-Cruz ticket will resolve this. 

Speaking for myself -- I can more than “live with” Ted Cruz. In fact, if Donald Trump wins this nomination, I believe Ted Cruz should be to Trump as George H.W. Bush was to Reagan or Lyndon Johnson was to John F. Kennedy -- the runner-up whose base of support is so big and critical to victory that the second spot on the ticket is a political necessity. I’m a supporter -- and proudly so -- of Donald Trump. And call me crazy, but I believe what the Times describes as a “conservative manifesto” isn’t. And I say this with the greatest of respect to the signers, many of who are friends and are the real deal as conservatives.

But what is really revealing in this Times piece is how many “conservatives” can’t seem to live with either Trump or Cruz. It causes me all kinds of uncomfortableness to know some of my friends -- and whether I know them or not they are all friends -- have signed on to this manifesto. Which to me says that when the dust settles in this battle of giants, it is more than time for a Trump-Cruz ticket. Why? As unbelievable as it may seem, that New York Times article spells out the answer in as close to black and white as a subject like this will ever get.


One of the prime movers in this manifesto, according to the Times, is National Review. Which is, yes indeed, questioning Trump’s conservative credentials. Gee. Remember back there in the mists of 2011? When my friends at NR were headlining “Romney’s the One”? That would be the Mitt Romney who was the father of Romneycare -- the Godfather of Obamacare?


Not to put too fine a point on it, the Times draws in Bob Dole, a wonderful American hero turned GOP Establishment icon -- who lost, in the finest of GOP Establishment styles, a perfectly winnable presidential election by doing the moderate “me-too” dance. Dole, in fact, is a Jeb Bush supporter, but of course.

Last night there was, yes indeed, NR’s Rich Romney -- oops, sorry, that would be Rich Lowry -- professing his love for limited government. Like, apparently, Romneycare-cum-Obamacare? 

Oh please. Please, please, please.

The destruction of conservatism? 

Let’s see what emerges here from this “manifesto” to be issued by what the Times describes as “conservative intellectuals.” But make no mistake. When something like this emerges from the adjunct of Romney headquarters? More than a grain of salt should be at hand.

It’s time to start moving forward. To a Trump-Cruz ticket. 

Doubtless… and respectfully… to be continued. 

I don’t know where I am in this debate. In a sense we are like the blind men trying to describe an elephant. Do we trust the polls, can we really decide who is the most “electable” candidate except by crowd size? What will the candidates do if elected? Surely we know by now that whatever candidates say to win, their promises will be tempered by the facts on the ground at the time. I think voters know this and are more interested in how they view the personal attributes of the candidates. Helmuth Von Moltke the Elder famously noted, “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” Experience teaches that political promises rarely survive the shifting moods of the electorate and Congress, economic exigencies, and the actions of our enemies. I do consider this election a critically important, perhaps existential one, and hope that the blizzard in the Northeast will cool off passions enough that others can see this and quit the civil war.