As we approach the last Republican Debate before Super Tuesday, it’s “reap just what you sow” day from the Left across the Center and to all points beyond the Movement Conservative Right.
It’s been a long run of Republicans accepting, encouraging, and exploiting uncivil discourse, anti-Obama hatred, and right-wing anger. (Republicans also welcomed nearly $300,000 in campaign contributions from Trump since he went birther.) The GOP raised the expectations of its Obama-detesting base and primed the pump for Trump. There is not much wonder that a xenophobic and misogynistic bigot and bully who bashes immigrants and calls for a Muslim ban—and who also slams the Republican insiders for rigging the system—should now find a receptive audience within the GOP’s electorate. For years, Republicans gave their voters a taste for the reddest of meat. That increased the appetite for more. And here comes Trump the butcher with a heaping plate.
Oh, the clichés abound. You play with fire. The chickens come home to roost. Hoisted on your own petard. You reap what you sow. The call is coming from inside the house. The GOP elite laid the foundation on which Trump is building the biggest, classiest—really classy—most beautiful insurgent presidential campaign in all of US history. And there may be no emergency exit.
When figures like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin brushed aside detailed policy critiques as the picayune obsessions of Washington insiders, Republicans cheered their vapid anti-intellectualism as the righteous populist folk wisdom. It has been a bracing experience for conservative elites to behold when the forces they have successfully harnessed for so long shake free and turn against them. Conservatives are right that Trump does not represent their ideas perfectly, or even very well. What he represents instead is the actual constituency for those ideas.
Today, the very pathologies that conservatives who should’ve known better indulged as a matter of shortsighted convenience are being exploited by a reality-TV populist whose agenda is far from “libertarian.” His ascension poses an existential threat to movement conservatism. And he cannot be stopped in part because, over many years, conservative media trained its audience to respond to tribal signaling more than rigorous debate; to reflexively dismiss any complaints about speaking disrespectfully about others as bogus “political correctness;” to respond to mainstream-media criticism of public figures by redoubling their trust in them ; to value the schadenfreude of pissing off ideological opponents more than incremental policy gains; and to treat Sarah Palin as a credible candidate for the vice-presidency.
Trump could not succeed but for a large faction that grins at indecency; cheers attacks on Mexicans; sees no need for governing experience; has lost its immunity against populist misinformation and manipulation; believes that establishment officials are trying to destroy the country; elevates cultural cues over substance; and dismisses the possibility of improvement through compromise.
The uniformity on the above statements should not be surprising. If you, dear user, have not been saying something along the above lines, or nodding along with someone else saying it, or have not had it thrown at you, then you must not be an American zoon politikon – and, by the way, what are you doing here?
If you prefer your left-liberal lullaby of self-congratulation in a more demotic, and vindictive, key – for that matter an oddly familiar key – you can try John Cole at Balloon Juice, as per recommendation of OT commenter Chip Daniels.
Before Corn, Chait, Friedersdorf, and Cole likely had completed their posts – though each can be said to have started years ago – I got a quick preview on Twitter. A left liberal tweep-friend and I were discussing a representative polemic from within conservatism against Trump by Commentary‘s Noah Rothman. My friend was unimpressed:
— Tahar (@laseptiemewilay) February 24, 2016
I called his statement myopic, suggested that Trump’s people were the Left’s orphans, and predicted they would be coming for his side, too.
Friedersdorf deserves some credit at least for acknowledging at the outset that the Right may not have created Trumpism completely on its own. Perhaps on some other day, he and these very extraordinary gentlepeople will pause to consider the possibility, along with the further possibility that a failure of the Reagan coalition’s operative theory of mass governance may presage the failure of the counter-coalition’s theory, too, sooner1 or later.
Meanwhile, yet another voice sounds out from halfway into the wilderness: What Needs To Happen Tonight To Save the Republic.
I have a feeling that most of our usual debate-watching crew will not need to be mustered formally, but will be tweeting along for the fresh Hell of it.