Thursday, May 26, 2016

Trump: Conservative Agonistes

Trump won the Republican nomination. He won in large part because his behavior separates him from polite society. Those in the Republican primary who gave Trump their votes dislike the establishment. They want to send the establishment a message. The more Trump is a bad boy, the more Trump’s army embraces him.

Not surprisingly, the establishment's Republican wing struggles with Trump’s win.  Even Walter Russell Mead has a tough time accepting Trump.  Mead, in my opinion, is one of conservative America’s most astute analysts. Mead several years ago realized the progressive elite has failed our nation. So he has a soft spot for Trump voters and in the end, Mead has sided with the Trump army, if not Trump himself:
Clinton[‘s] praetorian guard—Wall Street, the upper middle class feminists, the African American establishment, the Davoisie, the institutional power of the great foundations and educational bureaucracies, Silicon Valley, Hollywood—have defeated their intellectual and political rivals in their spheres of interest and influence. Supporting her is a massive agglomeration of power, intellect, wealth and talent. Her candidacy is the logical climax of the Baby Boom’s march through the institutions of American life. . . The American Right for all its earnest efforts has been unable to construct a counter establishment that can compete with the contemporary liberal behemoth.
Yet . . . in the eyes of many Americans [the Boomer elite has] not done all that well in the real world. Foreign policy, financial policy, health policy, support of the middle class, race relations, family life, public education, trade policy, city and state government management, wages: what exactly has the Boomer Consensus accomplished in these fields? Many Americans think that the Consensus is a scam and a flop when it comes to actually, well, making things better for the average person. . . This is where Trump comes in. His supporters . . . are united in opposition to the status quo. They believe that the emperor has no clothes . . .
To Mead, Clinton stands for competent management of “an unsustainable status quo,” and “a pair of safe and steady hands on the wheel” of a ship slowly gliding “toward the reefs.” By contrast, the Trump movement has “the social instinct of revolt and rejection” that is “a sign of social health.”

The single most thoughtful conservative voice is probably that of Charles Murray. Murray has documented how America’s cultural wars -- the loss of post-war unity, the decline of religion, and consequent rise of secular progressiveism -- has damaged working and lower classes. You might therefore expect Murray, like Mead, to identify with Trump's working class-based movement.

Yet as a true credentialed elitist, Murray can’t stomach Trump:
Trump makes strategic decisions about what useful untruths he will tell on any given day — it looks as if he just makes up stuff as he goes along. . . That he deals so heedlessly in those misrepresentations makes it impossible for an opponent to conduct an authentic policy debate with him.
It’s one thing when a candidate knowingly deceives the public on a few specific topics. Hillary Clinton has knowingly tried to deceive the public about her flip-flop on gay marriage and her misuse of her e-mail server. That’s bad. It should be condemned. This aspect of her character should affect one’s deliberations about whether to vote for her. It’s another thing entirely when a candidate blithely rejects Pat Moynihan’s (attributed) dictum, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts.”
To bury Trump, Murray quotes fellow elitist and New York Times anti-Trump commentator David Brooks, who wrote:
Donald Trump is epically unprepared to be president. He has no realistic policies, no advisers, no capacity to learn. His vast narcissism makes him a closed fortress. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he’s uninterested in finding out. He insults the office Abraham Lincoln once occupied by running for it with less preparation than most of us would undertake to buy a sofa. . . . He is a childish man running for a job that requires maturity. He is an insecure boasting little boy whose desires were somehow arrested at age 12.
Murray advises fellow establishment conservatives:
I cannot end without urging you to resist that sin to which people with high IQs (which most of you have) are unusually prone: Using your intellectual powers to convince yourself of something despite the evidence plainly before you. Just watch and listen to the man.
Comment: We wrote earlier about the liberal elite’s “smug style,” a “knowing” meritocracy happily superior to “stupid hicks.” Murray, a Harvard grad and author of books that separate people into classes -- even races -- by IQ, seems to be rejecting Trump because he isn’t smart enough to base policy on facts. Apparently use of facts, book knowledge, is the decisive measure of the man.  Murray's elite snobbery shows in his asking “people with high IQs” not to betray their “intellectual powers” by endorsing Trump.

Here’s what smug liberals and conservative Murray miss: the unwashed masses are unimpressed with “the best and the brightest” running the country, and are perfectly happy to make a mess (Trump), if it will produce real change. “You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.”

We don’t yet know whether the Trump movement is strong enough to overpower the status quo liberal elite and their “identity politics” allies in the classes below. We do know the fight is underway.

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