It’s Trump. Get over it.
To the dismay of many serious conservatives, including many in our AT family, the Republican primary voters have spoken, and barring black swan events, Donald Trump will be the GOP nominee. He is not a perfect man, but those Republicans contemplating a cup of hemlock instead of coffee this morning (as one well-known writer told me he was – jokingly, I hope – in the wake of Indiana) need to take a deep breath and contemplate Trump’s upside potential – for America, for conservatives, and for the Republican Party.
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, D.C. only to discover the impossibility of breaking the hold on the levers of governance of lobbyists, bureaucrats, and politicians in their pockets. Washington, D.C. 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 buzzsaw 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).
Trump’s chosen profession, building, is an apt metaphor for what needs to be done for the GOP and America. Before you can build a new building on the urban sites Trump prefers, you have to tear down what was there before. Some heavy-duty political demolition needs to be undertaken. The Republican Party was locked into a downward spiral, with Democrats having re-engineered the voting population in their favor, importing millions of immigrants lacking the skills necessary to prosper in a 21st-century economy and therefore dependent on subsidies from a big government that would buy their fealty in return for the votes to keep big government’s handmaidens in power forever.
Trump first shot to notoriety – positive and negative – by addressing uncontrolled immigration. He followed this up by demonstrating an utter disregard for political correctness, which has been the enforcement mechanism used to keep dissent under wraps. In the process, he has violated taboos with abandon and in the process offended many people. C. Edmund Wright and Steve McCann today outline how grievously affronted are many in the electorate by Trump’s off-the-cuff, unscripted rebellion against the laws of propriety that keep the political order in place.
A large share of the conservative pundit class shares their dismay. Trump is smart, but he is no intellectual. Ever since William Buckley pulled together what became modern conservatism by founding National Review, there has been a distinct brainy cast to the movement. Part of it is the deep roots of modern conservatism in constitutional scholarship and the wisdom of the Founders of the American Republic.
Unfortunately, the appeal of intellectual conservatism has been eroding ever since Ronald Reagan left the presidency. He was able to communicate its wisdom in language and emotion that reached the voting public. But thanks to decades of educational rot, the scandalous dumbing down of the public at the hands of teacher unions, and progressives like Bill Ayers in the education industry, the voting public today does not respond as it did in the 1980s to eloquent rhetoric. Pundits marinate themselves in large vocabularies and well-turned phrases and persuade the remnant of the electorate that maintains a belief in educational achievement.
Donald Trump uses a surprisingly small vocabulary, something that I am certain annoys many pundits. He repeats himself, driving home his points with repetition. And for a public that adores reality television, at which Trump has proven himself a master, it works.
Trump is explicit that he is assembling a new coalition for the Republican Party, one that has a distinctly populist character. He is appealing to those who feel locked out of the opportunity for advancement that has been the foundation of the American Dream. That includes many traditional Democrats. His appeal to union members and working-class people is clear from a cursory look at the huge crowds that have attended his rallies.
Trump’s bluntness and disregard for political correctness have the potential to break the stranglehold the Democrats have had on the black vote. The deep truth of the uncontrolled immigration that has added millions of unskilled workers to the labor force is that it has kept down wages for those with few skills, a condition that sadly includes a disproportionate share of blacks, who are the biggest victims of educational rot. Trump has the ability to point this out in ways accessible to the audience that needs to hear it.
There are plenty of risks for conservatives in the rise of Trump. His devotion to the Constitution is uncertain. He is not well grounded in the intricacies of national security, though he does understand the rise of Islamism in ways that the GOP establishment has preferred to ignore. He shoots from the hip on the podium.
But for all those uncertainties, Trump is a patriot and a man who sees the devastation the bipartisan D.C. power structure has wrought. The fate of the Republic will be in either his hands or Hillary Clinton’s. Choosing between them requires no more than a millisecond of thought.
Trump is the chosen vehicle of the rebellion against a system that has failed us. If he is as smart as I think he is (and look at all the really smart people he has outsmarted), he will rise to the incredible challenges ahead for a reform presidency and a reformed GOP.