Making Trump Great Again

Many Republicans and conservatives are supporting Trump now that he enlisted input from The Federalist Society and The Heritage Foundation to craft a list of potential Supreme Court justices. Reluctant Trump supporters take comfort knowing they can vote for him because his SCOTUS choices are not only preferable to Clinton’s, but in line with the experts.

As more conservatives hop aboard the Trump Train because of his assurances to appoint conservative justices, some NeverTrumpers, like George Will, are saying not so fast. In "Supporters Cling to Fantasy about Trump and 'the court' "Mr. Will claims that those who justify their support for Trump because he will uphold the Constitution and appoint conservative judges, are actually ignoring his inconsistent and unpredictable behavior (which negate any assurances he makes) and his cluelessness about the Court and the Constitution -- his belief that justices sign bills, Article XII exists, Kelo is good law and Citizens United bad, First Amendment rights should be limited and executive orders freely used. He questions whether Trump fanboys can truly care about the Constitution if they are willing to look the other way.

I’m not here to quarrel with Will’s thesis, per se, but I do take issue with the scornful picture he paints of Trumpporters in his introductory paragraph and throughout the article:

Like shipwrecked mariners clinging to a floating mast, many Republicans rationalize supporting Donald Trump because of "the court." This two-word incantation means: Because we care so much for the Constitution, it is supremely important to entrust to Trump the making of Supreme Court nominations. Well.

The tenor of his critique isn’t unique to Will, as others have pointed out. Derision from the Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens to the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol and practically everybody at National Review is commonplace these days.

Some may indeed feel marooned at sea this election cycle, reaching for the only life preserver tossed their way that says Trump is a better risk than Hillary. But “clinging” is a poor choice of words and a non-starter if your ultimate goal is to convince others that yours is the better argument. It hearkens back to Obama’s depiction of conservatives “clinging to their guns and bibles.” It suggests helplessness, desperation, and backwardness. By repeatedly referring to Trumpporters as “mast clingers,” he might just as well have said: pay no attention to those simpletons and their antediluvian ideas; they are lost at sea and desperate.

Adding insult to injury, he then uses the word “incantation.” This is a direct assault on the intellect of Trump supporters—living in a fantasy world, desperately clinging to magic spells, incapable of rational thought.

Mr. Will is way too savvy for his word choices to be mere happenstance. If his was an argument simply to persuade, then he would not have used inflammatory language to antagonize the very people he seeks to proselytize. This is clearly less about persuasion and more about drawing red lines…between the enlightened in their ivory towers and the wretched masses below. Between those who know better and those who need to listen to them.

These self-proclaimed keepers of the flame have forgotten one thing about conservatism: it isn’t the experts who matter, but the People -- even if they screw up. For all of his braggadocio about politics and history, Mr. Will seems clueless about the diversity in intellect, education, life experience, and ability among the Republican base today. Perhaps Mr. Will needs to step out of his high tower and visit among the plebes. He might better understand their plight and the quandary they find themselves in this election.

Noted conservative law professors John Yoo and Jeremy Rabkin also make the mistake of dissing the people they seek to persuade. The gist of their argument in a recent L.A. Times article is that Trump has already hedged on the list and, no matter what he says or does, his appointments—even if conservative—will face confirmation hurdles, could end up siding with the Court’s leftwing, as happened with Kennedy in Obergefell (gay marriage) and Fisher (affirmative action), or turn out to be lemons as we saw with O’Connor (Reagan), Souter (Bush ’41), and Roberts (Bush ’43).

As true as this all is, it isn’t specific to Trump -- these are run-of-the-mill obstacles Republicans always face. It is no more a reason not to vote for him than it would be to abandon support for any other Republican candidate. 

Messieurs Yoo and Rabkin conclude that, apart from electing a conservative and appointing conservative justices, a conservative constitutional agenda can only be advanced by winning elections at all levels of government and question whether Trump is the man to lead such efforts. Fair enough.

But, like Will, their reasoning is undercut by comments like this: “Conservatives who are indulging delusions about a Trump presidency are fantasizing even more about the Supreme Court.” Or, by their conclusion in "What a Trumpian Supreme Court Might Look Like", that anyone who finds it plausible that Trump will “help to build a solid constitutional structure” via a “Supreme Court operating on the precise fault lines of almost all our domestic political disputes” is “beyond the reach of argument and… passed into the realm of fantasy.” 

Ouch. Words matter. These do not persuade.

The great lesson and surprise of this election -- which few heed -- is that the more the Democrat-Media Complex and NeverTrumpers push back against those who favor him (or even reluctantly support him), the more resolute his supporters become, the more conservatives defend him, and the more attractive he appears to conservatives still on the fence. Every snarky comment leveled at conservatives -- by conservatives -- reaffirms what the base has long suspected: the party leadership does not give a hoot about their well-being, only their donations and votes and then, only for select candidates.

If the pundits truly want to disrupt the vote for Trump -- ushering in a more palatable Clinton victory and saving conservatism from a death by 1000 Trumpian cuts -- they would be more solicitous of their conservative readers and careful with their verbiage. But they deliberately go out of their way to put down pro-Trump conservatives -- direct hits disparaging those who think differently. This is not friendly fire, but fragging. 

It seems, in the effort to thwart Trump’s journey to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it doesn’t matter who is thrashed and trashed along the way. In order to disrupt the pro-Trump vote and take Trump out, the end justifies the means.

Whoa. Did I just say that? Could it be that noted conservatives have stooped to employing tactics we usually associate with liberals? Is it possible that our enlightened commentariat is utilizing Alinsky’s RULE 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it”?

Some might say it is outlandish and scandalous to lump our distinguished punditry in with the basest of leftwing tactics; that it amounts to unnecessary and unsavory bridge burning. But who is belittling Trumpporters in the first place? Who is aligned with the leftwing, digging in heels and voting for Hillary, a write in, or a third party candidate?

Maybe Will, Yoo and Rabkin do know better. Maybe the electorate is clueless. And maybe Trump will be a disaster as a candidate and president. They are all smarter and more accomplished than I. But the one thing I have over most of the punditocracy, is that as a Tea Party founder and organizer, I’ve spent 8 years listening to average Americans -- many of them immigrants. They did what was asked of them -- they got involved, they got out the vote and helped secure Republican victories in the House and Senate. Many of them have run for office. They used the political infrastructure and electoral process to be heard and have their needs addressed. And they were largely ignored and forgotten. Trump wasn’t the first choice for most of them but no bone in their collective bodies wants Hillary Clinton to step foot in the Oval Office.

Bill Bennett told Fox’s Martha MacCallum that Trump doesn’t need to address the NeverTrumpers because “they suffer from the terrible case of moral superiority and put their own vanity and tastes above the interests of this country.” He’s right. Trump doesn’t need to address them, but I do.

Just a few months ago, Trumpistas and NeverTrumpers were unified against Clinton when backing our respective primary candidates -- all of whom pledged to support the Republican nominee, too many of whom are singing a different song now that it’s Trump. Many, who were on the fence, gradually gravitated towards the nominee, although that journey remains speckled with moments of serious doubt.

We can either continue apace, or pivot to a new strategy to defeat Hillary.

Throughout this election cycle, the focus has been on Trump’s weaknesses and what he doesn’t know. Although cast as an enfant terrible who doesn’t listen, once the cacophony of electoral politics and the incessant yammering of journalists and critics subside, it’s obvious that his business accomplishments could not have happened without having mastered at least one thing: the art of listening -- something our tone deaf politicians and our 7-second-sound-bite-140-character-tweet society have long abandoned.

He accepted help crafting the list of justices. He refined his proposal to pause the immigration of unvetted Muslims from high risk regions to a more nuanced “extreme vetting” of individuals from high risk regions. He has finally pivoted towards being more presidential. He’s re-shuffled his team. He is thankfully focused on the economy, national security, immigration, and Hillary Clinton. Clearly, at least for now, he’s listening.

It’s time to make Trump a better conservative by marshalling our most compelling legal minds to meet with the candidate and explain how the legal system works, what federalism is, why Kelo is bad law and Citizens United good. And not just law. If there are other areas that need refinement and education, rather than excoriate him publicly, those in the know should offer up their services. Since he met with Megyn Kelly and allowed Ted Cruz to speak at the Convention, I’m sure he’d entertain such a meeting, even with those experts who have written or spoken ill of him.

My goal is not to quibble with NeverTrumpers and lose friendships I care about. I don’t want to push away or be pushed away by the very people with whom I mostly agree and have worked over the years. But… I want to win. I want to defeat Hillary. I want Trump to govern as a conservative and I’m determined to get as much “conservative” out of him as possible because it will be more than we’ll ever get from Hillary. Most of all, I want us to accomplish this without further unraveling the fragile coalition that makes up the GOP and has survived all these years despite our differences. I think all of us -- Trumpporter and NeverTrumper -- should be thinking this way. After all, in the end, aren’t we better off making Trump great? 

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