My first column in this space worried that the most dangerous thing Donald Trump could do in the 2016 presidential election was not win, because he almost certainly couldn’t, but rather to make Hillary Clinton look humane and even reasonable by comparison.
According to Nate Silver, if that was Trump’s goal, mission accomplished:
On the positive side, it’s been a really terrible 18 months or so for Bill Kristol and Company. His latest whinge in the Weekly Standard uses Pat Buchanan’s enthusiasm for Trump and what might be termed European-style nationalism as a jumping-off point to position himself–and neoconservatism–as ground zero for post-Trump conservatism:
American conservatism is also a conservatism that, while rejecting the intolerance of the present, disdains the bigotry of the past; that, while respecting the public, insists that vox populi is not vox dei; that, while pledging allegiance to the American nation, also does so to principles of liberty and justice for all; that, while cherishing our freedom as Americans, hopes that one day all men will be free.
For those keeping score at home, this seems to be Kristol’s response to Buchanan accurately stating in June that Kristol’s effort to conscript the unknown columnist David French to run for president was the latest instance of “Kristol making himself look ridiculous.”
At any rate, Kristol’s Acela corridor versus pitchfork-wielding Middle American mobs framing may make the former look appealing, but it cannot make them look numerous. Kristol and Company need to reckon with the fact that they have the money and they have the connections but they do not have the numbers.
Moreover, Kristol’s and National Review’s empirical politics owe a lot to the creation of Trump. I caught a snippet of a Trump speech for the first time in a long time this afternoon, and to put it politely, it is magical thinking. Trump will renegotiate NAFTA if he cannot change how it operates, punto. Except that’s absurd, or at the very least, one would want to hear more on how exactly this would work. But Trump zoomed off to discuss Benghazi, or Clinton’s email server, or any other of the policy-free zingers he–and the Republican Party–have chosen to emphasize in the election. Every one of Trump’s statements is world-historic in importance and yet is impervious to scrutiny.
Trump’s ability to get away with chesty but dubious proclamations is bad. But is it any worse, or more egregious than the 2005 National Review “We’re Winning” cover story from Mister Never Trump, Rich Lowry? It certainly is not worse than Lowry’s wildly erratic, internally contradictory statements over the years on Iraq. Nor is it worse than the movement that enabled, venerated, and continues to exalt Kristol, a man whose idiocy is an open secret in Washington but whose status is never questioned by Republican elites.
Political scientist Adam Berinsky memorably concluded that “in the battle between facts and partisanship, partisanship always wins.” Kristol and the Republican elite have thrived in and fertilized such an environment.
Now that Donald Trump has hold of Republican partisans, they’re reaping what they’ve sown. If anyone wants to complain, it probably shouldn’t be the guy who bought a multimillion dollar house declaring in 2003 that
I think there’s been a certain amount of… pop sociology in America, that, you know, somehow the Shia can’t get along with the Sunni, or the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of fundamentalist regime. There’s almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq has always been very secular.