Charles C. W. Cooke wrote a piece recently in National Review Online entitled “Trump Has Succeeded in Convincing Conservatives to Discard their Principles Overnight“…and he so misses the boat in this one that I just had to comment. Not only have conservatives not abandoned their core beliefs, but they are responding to Trump in such a positive way now precisely because the Republicans they have been electing for decades are guilty of that charge.
Cooke laments that GOP base voters have decided on Trump as their spokesman despite the fact that “their pick lacks any sort of conservative message at all”. Regardless of what Trump actually believes, Cooke thinks his current appeal lies in HOW he delivers his message. And Cooke is right about that part, actually….what he misses here is WHY Trump’s method of message delivery is resonating so well with the base.
It is no more complicated than this…Trump is leading the way in showing people how easy it is to not worry about being politically correct, and to not really give a hoot if anyone chooses to get offended by what you say. And when you consider that, in conjunction with how sorely disappointed GOP voters have been over decades with most Republicans they elect to represent them, what you have is a recipe for true “hope and change” (to borrow a phrase).
Cooke is a self-described “conservatarian” — fiscally conservative but socially liberal. And as such, he expresses frustration with what he describes as the GOP base’s “penchant for political purity” over the past few years. But now, conversely, he is vexed by what he sees as their discarding of a desire for ideological perfection by hitching their wagons to Trump, “the greatest shape-shifter of them all.” Well, which is it, Charles — do you want Republican voters to be strict conservative ideologues, or not?
Cooke rightly states that these “wannabe purists” hate the GOP leadership. What he fails to mention — probably because he fails to realize it — is that the base hates Republican party leadership precisely because those “leaders” have discarded conservatism. They run for office on promises to, for example, repeal Obamacare or stand up to the president’s lawlessness, but when push comes to shove, they not only get steamrolled by Obama, they often facilitate his political victories via their own willful capitulation. And that happens largely due to the simple fact that they are afraid…afraid of being attacked for criticizing Obama and getting tagged with the any of the usual labels assigned to those who dare to be politically incorrect or stand on principle: racist/sexist/homophobe/bigot/partisan/caveman/exremist/etc.
The base is just tired of getting snookered by candidates who talk tough during a campaign, but then govern as wusses. And, possibly even more than that, voters of all stripes are absolutely fed up with political correctness. Almost no one outside of the media actually cares if someone takes offense at something they say…but almost everyone now operates under the very real fear of something they say/write/think being used against them by anyone who might disagree…often toward the goal of destroying their lives and/or careers.
This is why Trump resonates with voters. His fearless delivery of his message — regardless of its content — is what people have been longing for. So Trump insults someone, or retweets a “bimbo” insult about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly…so what? Kelly — and everyone else — can just consider the source, choose NOT to take offense, and move on with their lives. All of this talk about Trump not being “presidential” rings absolutely hollow…it’s un-presidential to insult someone, but not to shred the Constitution and actively work to degrade and weaken America? Voters are beyond impatient with this utter lack of perspective and common sense.
The support for Trump has has less to do with his pop culture appeal, as Cooke contends, than it does with the fact that he’s not a politician, and apparently has no desire to be. The American people are so fed up with politicians who spend careers in Washington lining their pockets and ignoring the desires of constituents and, more importantly, the Constitution.
Cooke quoted an article in the New York Times, which said: “For years, Republicans have run for office on promises of cutting taxes and bolstering business to stimulate economic growth. . . . But this election cycle, the Republican presidential candidate who currently leads in most polls is taking a different approach, and it is jangling the nerves of some of the party’s most traditional supporters.”
Therein lies the rub, Charles…despite all those promises by Republican candidates during campaigns, if and when they actually get elected to office, they almost never follow through! Why keep voting for people who you KNOW are going to end up being nothing more than unresponsive, spineless liars who care more about pleasing the media than the people who elected them? How many election cycles do we have to go through before we finally wake up and say “enough is enough”?
Unconscionably, Cooke goes on to defend conservative candidates for public office who “take a free-market approach to fiscal policy…because they believe in earnest that it helps the whole country.” Well, when is the last time our federal government got anywhere near anything even remotely resembling a free-market fiscal policy? The last GOP presidential candidate instituted in his state the predecessor to Obamacare, and during a debate with Obama, proclaimed his support for the continuation of a progressive income tax system. Before that, the 2008 candidate had a reputation as a “maverick” who fought more against his fellow Republicans than Democrats, and went all in for growing government at the expense of individual liberty in relation to campaign contributions and “man-made climate change”. Not very free-market or helpful for the whole country in the eyes of true conservatives.
Trump is not, as Cooke claims, “winning their support with the sort of brainless, simplistic, counter-Bastiatian snake-oil that is typically dismissed out of hand”. He’s winning their support for nothing more than not being a politician-as-usual.
Voting for the lesser of two evils can be draining, especially when done year after year after year, and then the lesser evil turns out to be not-so-much-less evil. Why not try a different tack, and support someone who, while he might not claim to have a message in line with the purpose of the Constitution, is simply bold and unapologetic in his delivery and not hampered by politicians’ typical fears?
And honestly, can we really do any worse than the guy currently playing president? At least Trump doesn’t appear to be opposed to the founding of America, or embarrassed for its greatness and exceptionalism, or actively trying to degrade and dismantle it. That’s something.
Also, this is not to say that those conservatives currently lining up behind Trump will agree with whatever policies he tries to implement if he does manage to get elected, or will not hold his feet to the fire and perhaps primary him in 2020. Those voters might not even stick with him throughout this whole current campaign; perhaps he’ll end up just being a trailblazer who served to show other candidates how audacious boldness can garner support from millions of frustrated voters.
Who knows…maybe Trump’s fearless, politically incorrect approach will pave the way for more candidates to enter the fray — perhaps even for the 2016 election — and some of them will be ACTUAL constitutionalists who boldly preach strict adherence to the enumerated powers? After the support Trump has managed to amass simply for HOW he delivers his message, imagine how much MORE support would accrue to an equally fearless candidate whose message was focused on the fact that the federal government is only ALLOWED to do those very few things the Constitution specifically REQUIRES it do to — no more, no less.
If Trump’s “different approach…is jangling the nerves of some of the party’s most traditional supporters”, how much more shaken up would they be if another fearless non-politician entered the race proclaiming something like: “IF IT’S NOT ENUMERATED, IT MUST BE ELIMINATED!”? You’d have the delivery that we know base voters love, coupled with the message they’ve actually been craving for years.
Now THAT would be fun to see.