Trump's biggest appeal for conservatives is that he doesn't accept the rules of political correctness laid down by the media and other liberals. Beyond that and his vague rhetoric about Making America Great Again it's hard to find anything in his history that should appeal to social, economic, or foreign policy conservatives.
I'll quote Goldberg at length because he makes the case so well:
If I sound dismayed, it’s only because I am. Conservatives have spent more than 60 years arguing that ideas and character matter. That is the conservative movement I joined and dedicated my professional life to. And now, in a moment of passion, many of my comrades-in-arms are throwing it all away in a fit of pique. Because “Trump fights!”Goldberg is right. Trump's not a conservative, he's a narcissistic political opportunist. Conservatives rightly criticized the elevation of style over substance in 2008 and 2012 when the country elected a man whose chief qualification seemed to be personal charisma. Now in 2015 many conservatives are embracing Donald Trump for pretty much the same reason. Goldberg closes with this:
How many Republicans have been deemed unfit for the Oval Office because of comparatively minor character flaws or ideological shortcomings? Rick Perry in 2012 saw his candidacy implode when he couldn’t remember the third item on his checklist of agencies he’d close down. Well, even in that “oops” moment, Rick Perry comes off as Lincolnesque compared with Donald Trump.
Yes, I know Trump has declared himself pro-life. Good for him -- and congratulations to the pro-life movement for making that the price of admission. But I’m at a total loss to understand why serious pro-lifers take him at his word. He’s been all over the place on Planned Parenthood, and when asked who he’d like to put on the Supreme Court, he named his pro-choice-extremist sister.
Ann Coulter wrote of Newt in 2011: “If all you want is to lob rhetorical bombs at Obama and then lose, Newt Gingrich -- like recent favorite Donald Trump -- is your candidate. But if you want to save the country, Newt’s not your guy.” Now Ann leads a chorus of people claiming that Trump is our only savior. Has Trump changed, or have Ann and her followers? Is there a serious argument behind the new thinking, or is it “because he fights!”?
It is entirely possible that conservatives sweat the details of tax policy too much. Once in office, a president must deal with political realities that render the fine print of a campaign pamphlet as useful as a battle plan after the enemy is met. But in the last month, Trump has contemplated a flat tax, the fair tax, maintaining the current progressive tax system, a carried-interest tax, a wealth tax, and doing nothing. His fans respond, “That shows he’s a pragmatist!”
No. It shows that he has absolutely no ideological guardrails whatsoever. Ronald Reagan once said, “Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.” Trump is close to the reverse. He’s a mouth at the wrong end of an alimentary canal spewing crap with no sense of responsibility.
In his embarrassing interview with Hugh Hewitt last night, Trump revealed he knows less than most halfway-decent D.C. interns about foreign policy. Twitter lit up with responses about how it doesn’t matter and how it was a gotcha interview. They think that Trump’s claim that he’ll just go find a Douglas MacArthur to fix the problem is brilliant. Well, I’m all in favor of finding a Douglas MacArthur, but if you don’t know anything about foreign policy, the interview process will be a complete disaster. Yes, Reagan delegated. But he knew enough to know to whom to delegate.
If you want a really good sense of the damage Donald Trump is doing to conservatism, consider the fact that for the last five years no issue has united the Right more than opposition to Obamacare. Opposition to socialized medicine in general has been a core tenet of American conservatism from Day One. Yet, when Republicans were told that Donald Trump favors single-payer health care, support for single-payer health care jumped from 16 percent to 44 percent.
I’ve written a lot about my problems with populism. One of my favorite illustrations of why the populist mindset is dangerous and anti-intellectual comes from William Jennings Bryan. “The people of Nebraska are for free silver and I am for free silver,” Bryan announced. “I will look up the arguments later.” My view of conservatism holds that if free silver is a bad idea, it’s still a bad idea even if the people of Nebraska are for it. But Trumpism flips this on its head. The conservatives of Nebraska and elsewhere should be against single-payer health care, even if Donald Trump is for it. What we are seeing is the corrupting of conservatives.
I agree that presidents don’t need to be experts on everything. But they do need to do their homework....
When running for president, doing your homework is a question of character and even patriotism. If you love this country and want to be the president, quite literally the least you can do is be prepared. So let’s return to the issue of character.
In 2012, Mark Steyn wrote that a President Gingrich would have “twice as many ex-wives as the first 44 presidents combined.” If that (quite brilliant) line resonated with you three years ago, why doesn’t it for a President Trump?
I understand the ... compulsion to celebrate anyone who doesn’t take crap from the mainstream media. But when Newt Gingrich brilliantly eviscerated the press in 2012, there was a serious ideological worldview behind it. Trump’s assaults on the press have only one standard: whether the journalist in question is favorable to Trump or not. If a journalist praises him, that journalist is “terrific.” If the journalist is critical of Trump he is a “loser” (or, in my case, a loser who can’t buy pants). Not surprisingly, Hugh Hewitt is now “third rate” because he made Trump look bad. I’m no fan of Arianna Huffington or Gail Collins, but calling them “dogs” because they criticized you is not a serious ideological or intellectual retort. (It’s not even clever.) I think Trump did insinuate that Megyn Kelly was menstruating during the debate. He denies it. Fine. But what in the world about his past would lead someone to give him the benefit of the doubt? This is the same man who said, “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
Trump’s glass-bottom id lets the whole world see his megalomania. He talks about himself in the third person all the time. He explains that Trump is great because Trump is rich and famous. He’s waxed profound on how he doesn’t want blacks counting his money (he prefers Jews in yarmulkes). He makes jokes on national TV about women fellating him. He pays famous people to attend his wedding and then brags about it as if he got one over on them. He boasts in his books how he screwed over business associates and creditors because all that mattered was making an extra buck.
If your neighbor talked this way, maybe he’d still be your friend, because we all have friends who are characters. But would you want him to be your kid’s English teacher? Guidance counselor? Would you tell your kids you want them to follow his example? Would you go into business with him? Would you entrust him with nuclear weapons?
Karl Marx coined the term lumpenproletariat to describe working-class people who could never relinquish their class consciousness and embrace the idea of a classless socialist society. Hence, they were useless to the revolutionary cause. I’m no Marxist, so I don’t buy the idea that anybody -- never mind a whole class of people -- are beyond persuasion. But I am tempted to believe that Donald Trump’s biggest fans are not to be relied upon in the conservative cause. I have hope they will come to their senses. But it’s possible they won’t. And if the conservative movement and the Republican party allow themselves to be corrupted by this flim-flammery, then so be it. My job will be harder, my career will suffer, and I’ll be ideologically homeless (though hardly alone).Since this post is about politics and I'm feeling reckless this morning, I offer the following:
That’s not so scary. Conservatism began in the wilderness and maybe, like the Hebrews, it would return from it stronger and ready to rule. But I’m not leaving without a fight. If my side loses that fight, all I ask is you stop calling the Trumpian cargo cult “conservative” and maybe stop the movement long enough for me to get off.
Political prediction: Either Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina, or both, will be on the Republican ticket. Jeb Bush will not be.
Political opinion: Donald Trump should not be.