The conservative elite chooses irrelevance

Nearly a hundred years ago, G.K. Chesterton wrote:

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of the Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.

One thing you have to give the conservatives at National Review: they know their Chesterton.

­­­As is widely known by now, the premiere voice of conservatism in America, National Review, recently published an issue dedicated to stopping Donald Trump in his quest for the presidency.  The issue contains an editor’s statement and a collection of Trump-bashing testimonials from 22 sober, distinguished conservatives.  Its objective is to take a Republican candidate who is leading in all the polls, who has held a string of massively popular rallies, whose proposals have both (a) inspired a wide swath of regular, often working class, often apolitical folk to unprecedented enthusiasm and (b) defined the national conversation for over half a year – the N.R. broadside attempts to take this candidate’s juggernaut of success and to stand athwart its path and cry “halt.”

My first question is, how and why did this issue come about?  This was obviously an institutional decision.  Did it begin as a spontaneous movement at the N.R. water cooler?  Or was there an external mover (or external money) involved?

Because since when did the intelligent, independent minds at National Review try to win an argument by ganging up?  What is the logic behind that?  “We all agree, so we must be right”?  This is condescending and sanctimonious in a way that would make the editors of Moveon.org gasp and stand up to applaud.

That the independent thoughts of independent writers need to be marshaled into a phalanx speaks to a degree of desperation and loathing on someone’s part.  The method belies the message.  My question is, who was one to say “get the rope”?

The motivation is suspicious because the criticisms brought to bear against Trump are mostly the same tedious jumble of points against the man and his policies that have been heard for six months.

Trump’s conservatism is unreliable.  Glenn Beck: Trump supported the stimulus.  Russell Moore: Trump’s conversion to being pro-life is recent.  Ben Domenech: Trump advocates a rejection of our Madisonian inheritance (I had missed where Trump said that).

Trump is unqualified.  Andrew C. McCarthy: Trump doesn’t know who Hassan Nasrallah is.  N.R. editors: “The burdens and intricacies of leadership are special; experience in other fields is not transferable.”  (An interesting principle from the advocates of the Founders’ citizen legislator model.)

Trump is boorish.  Mona Charen: Trump constantly insults women.  Bill Kristol: Trump is vulgar.

Trump is authoritarian.  Mark Helprin and David Boaz both bring out the comparison to Mussolini.  No one mentioned Hitler.  No need to go to extremes, after all.

Interestingly, except for some references to immigration and the proposal to temporarily ban non-citizen Muslims from entering the United States (see below), there is scant criticism of Trump’s actual positions, excepting that he doesn’t really believe them and they are too vague anyway.  This is no surprise since, after all, Trump’s positions on most core issues deviate little from conservative orthodoxy.

Trump’s tax plan – and what is more core to a conservative than taxes? – proposes reduction in business and capital gains taxes very much in line with that of other candidates.  Trump claims to be pro-life and that he has evolved on the issue.  Is that so unbelievable in the age of ultrasound and the recently revealed gruesome procedures at Planned Parenthood?  Trump argues consistently for a strong defense and better treatment of veterans.  Do voters especially care if Trump doesn’t, like Carly Fiorina, have a specific target number of army corps and aircraft carriers in mind?

The only actual issues that the N.R. posse undertake to address are the ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and the illegal alien issue.

With regard to the ban, Michael Mukasey argues that Trump’s idea is nonsense because we already know what is going on – to wit, “we face a supremacist movement based in Islam that is intent on destroying Western civilization – and have intelligent suggestions for dealing with it.”  He claims that a ban would ensure the enmity of those whose support we need and that implementation of such a ban would be impractical.

The fact is, however, that large numbers of Americans view Trump’s proposed ban favorably because they recognize that Islam itself is the problem and that those who subscribe to an ideology that calls for the execution of apostates, heretics, and homosexuals are not likely – quite apart from their immediate plans to cause mayhem or not – to add positively to the American cultural quilt.

As for the “intelligent suggestions” for dealing with radical Islam, Mukasey chooses not to elaborate.  Better to just obstruct a solution to the problem.

Finally, let’s look at immigration.  The National Review editors and contributors evidently do not grasp that a large section of the American population views the uncontrolled movement of millions of Latin Americans over a score of years to all parts of the United States as an invasion that has wrought havoc on wages, filled emergency rooms, increased crime, led to the trashing of our state and national parks, and drained the public purse, all so that urban elites can have cheap nannies and unethical burghers can have cheap labor to put that third Mercedes in the driveway.

Michael Medved argues:

[Trump’s] much-heralded hard line on immigration discards pragmatic reform policies favored by the two most popular conservatives of the last half century, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

The N.R. editors add:

Trump pledges to deport the 11 million illegals here in the United States, a herculean administrative and logistical task beyond the capacity of the federal government. 

The American people, meanwhile, will be excused for not being convinced by eight years of George W. Bush and seven years of Barack Obama that enforcing our laws and sending illegal aliens back to their home countries is, in fact, impossible.  Reagan, by the way, was famously convinced that Americans got swindled by the amnesty he signed into law.

Nevertheless, the response of the N.R. elites to the fury that Americans feel at having their government palpably betraying them for so many years is, in effect, “suck it up.”

The National Review hit piece is a shameful scandal.  It reeks of condescension and resonates with impotent rage.  It looks on at the Trump phenomenon that unfolds in its own backyard with a mixture of the fascination and jealousy of a sick child.  Ben Domenech, perhaps unwittingly, sums it up nicely when he says:

In order to build a governing majority, conservatives do not need Trump’s message or agenda, but they urgently need his supporters[.]

Ah, yes.  No worry that the reason they are supporters is because of the message or agenda.

At least the N.R. writers are mostly quieter than in the past about the threat of Trump’s nomination giving the election to Hillary Clinton.  It seems, after all, that that is really not what they are worried about.