One would have though that having failed to stop Trump’s nomination and then failed to find a prominent figure to lead their third-party effort, the beltway renegades would have been embarrassed enough to crawl under a nearby rock where they might ponder their lost credibility and squandered influence. Who, after all, could take seriously a movement launched through a tweet announcing an “impressive” candidate with a “good chance” to alter a national election, who turned out to be an obscure writer with no footprint in the political world?
But if one expected the beltway boys to have second thoughts about their nihilism, one would have been wrong, at least for now. Eyebrows had barely settled when the magazine whose manifesto launched the movement published a list of reasons for their anti-Trump sentiment that others must have missed. Why did they miss them? Because they were “obscured by the fog of political war,” and therefore “insufficiently studied and understood.” Preposterous as this explanation might seem after seven or eight months of Trump-pounding by National Review, Commentary, the Weekly Standard and the vast liberal media conspiracy, the actual reasons proposed by Nicholas Frankovich are even more so.
I will confine myself to the three coherent ones:
“The so-called alt-right, a fusion of nationalism with anti-Semitism and white separatism, has attached itself to Trumpism. Feed the host, and you feed the parasite.” That’s the reason, according to Frankovich – insufficiently studied and understood. But this makes about as much sense as blaming Trump for the violent fascists who “protest” his speeches. To be fair, Frankovich concedes that Trump himself is not a racist or anti-Semite, and also that most of his supporters are innocent, as well. But then he leaps to absurdities like this: “One reason that conservative writers are more likely than the average conservative to be Never Trump may be that they know that the alt-right exists. They spend more time in the political corners of the Internet where that particular virus that the Trump campaign has emboldened is still largely confined.”
So the big, insufficiently understood reason for Never Trump is that somewhere in the political corners of the Internet is a virus that Trump has somehow emboldened, but which is still largely confined to those corners. Perhaps the Never Trumpers haven’t noticed that the virus of anti-Semitic, anti-white racism is out in the streets in large and violent numbers, protesting Trump rallies, or swelling the ranks of Bernie supporters, or that Bernie himself has picked three anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist allies to be on the platform committee of the Democratic Party. If Trump’s virus is still confined to fringe characters on the Internet and Bernie’s and Hillary’s are out in the streets and on the Democrats’ platform committee, what reason can there be for opposing the one man (because he’s the candidate, fellas) who can stop them?
This leads Frankovich “to a second under-examined reason that many conservatives oppose Trump’s candidacy: It has had the effect of legitimizing race-based grievance and of expanding the sphere of speech that is considered taboo, or politically incorrect.” In other words, since Trump has had the balls to blast through the orthodoxy of the left-wing party line, he has also expanded the sphere of politically incorrect speech, which includes racism! How about the racism of the Democratic Party, which remains, after all is said and done, politically correct? Democrats support racial preferences in hiring, in school admissions — in fact, in virtually every aspect of public life. Democrats control every large inner city, every killing zone – Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, New Orleans, St. Louis – and control them 100%, and have done so for fifty to a hundred years. Every racist oppression in inner-city America, the failed schools that deny minority children a shot at the American dream, the welfare systems that drive fathers out of the homes and encourage dependency at every level, are products of Democratic policies. Yet, the Never Trumpers are upset not over the perpetuation of this racist nightmare, which their campaign could make possible, but over the fact that Trump has expanded the discourse – the freedom to speak! – of American politicians and their constituents.
Finally, according to Frankovich, “Trumpism reflects a degradation of American culture but also promotes it. Some of Trump’s fans thrill to his transgression of commonly accepted standards of decency and decorum. Others tolerate it, for the sake of some good they hope he might achieve.” Thinking about this transgression, I am put in mind of a quip from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall: “Lyndon Johnson is a politician. You know the ethics those guys have. It’s like a notch beneath child molester.” The transgression is ongoing; only one side gets to do it more than the other. When Democrats warn voters that black churches will burn if Republicans are elected, as they have done in several presidential campaigns, or accuse Republicans of wanting to put blacks back in chains, as Joe Biden did in the last election, does that lie within the bounds of “accepted standards of decency and decorum”? The degradation of the political culture is now a fact of political life, as Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton knows all too well. Does fighting back in kind equate to a promotion of degradation? If it does, should one not do it? Should Trump fight with one hand tied behind his back like other Republicans? Should Trump’s chief Republican rivals also have refrained from taunts in kind?
What Frankovich and the Never Trumpers refuse to see is that the political contest as waged by Democrats – and not only Democrats – is already a form of war. Trump’s political style and tactics have allowed him to prevail on a primary battlefield where no one thought he could survive. Now the battle is with a racist party that wants to dismantle our borders and cripple our defenses in the holy war that Islamists are waging against us. There is no neutral ground. Nor is there a referee to impose rules of decorum and punish transgressors. Only the electorate can do that. The Republican electorate, however, has already spoken on this issue. Their nominee is Trump, and anyone who cherishes our constitutional system is bound to respect that. Or have the honesty to declare their support for the other side. Or sit the battle out. What is not acceptable is to sabotage your own army in the field and pretend that you don’t want the enemy to win.