Less than one week to go before the Iowa caucus, and the battle lines are drawn.
On one side is brash businessman Donald Trump. On the other side is the near-entirety of the professional conservative movement – the thinkers, marketers, editors, donor-schmoozers, lawyers, consultants, money-bundlers, tax cheats, business shills, and communication hacks who profess allegiance to St. Ronald Reagan.
As Michael Buffers says: Let’s get ready to rumble!
Ever since Donald Trump announced his presidential bid last June, he has been walloping the hucksters known as Conservatism, Inc. By channeling working class resentment and throwing out the playbook when it comes to raising money and hiring consultants, Trump is turning traditional politics on its head. He isn’t being spoon-fed soundbites; he isn’t begging for cash; he isn’t bending over backwards to appease huge corporations.
He’s doing something few candidates have done in a long time: Advocating on behalf of the entire national community, rather than a few eggheads and CEOs with bottomless wallets.
Meanwhile, the high-salaried Republican brain trust is losing its collective head. This was most pronounced in a recent symposium hosted by National Review eloquently titled “Against Trump.” Conservative luminaries such as Thomas Sowell, John Podhoretz, and Glenn Beck contributed, lambasting the GOP frontrunner and pontificating on the need for a principled leader in the White House. Their polemics were chock-full of the high-minded ideals and a mastery of vocabulary that would have made William F. Buckley proud.
But even for such a long, erudite (and possibly illegal) spread, the message is the same throughout: Trump is not a cerebral conservative, and thus isn’t fit for the office of the presidency.
Years ago, this kind of concentrated effort to derail a Republican presidential candidate would have been a resounding success. But that’s all changed with Trump. The bedwetting Hayek-lovers in “tassel-loafers and bow ties” no longer call the shots. A man with $10 billion and a twitter account now runs the show.
Conservative brainiacs are at a loss for how to deal with Trump. The usual shibboleths about free enterprise don’t rouse the base. These highbrow highwaymen are learning a tough lesson that wasn’t taught in grad school economics: America’s middle class doesn’t put food on the table by reading 800-page freedom manifestos or worshipping the golden calf of slightly decreased marginal tax rates.
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The conservative intelligentsia can’t swallow the fact that the American people are willing to accept a fair bit of government intervention into their lives for the ability to pay their mortgage. Well-worded tributes to Adam Smith won’t change their mind. Free market ideology is something they see debated on television – it isn’t how they live.
And therein lies the rub. The conservative advocacy business is rooted in the realm of ideas. It eschews the idea of a national interest, of a patriotic, America-first approach to affairs. Instead, it champions the ideological capitalist man with cosmopolitan values.
The war between the conservative conglomerate and Donald Trump boils down to what David Frum describes as, “a battle between those for whom conservatism is an ideology, and those for whom conservatism is an identity.” The former wants to morph our country into a Milton Friedman lecture. The latter seeks to live as an American and preserve the institutions that have shaped our country over time.
It would be one thing if the conservative movement had actually produced the outcomes it promised. Had the endless supply of white papers from D.C. think tanks actually kept Washington fiscally responsible or halted the march of cultural liberalism, Trump’s one-man show wouldn’t resonate so much. But failure gives way to opportunity. And Trump, being a businessman, is buying trust at a time legitimacy is low, and selling truth when the demand for authenticity is high.
Conservatism™ will never understand this. By doing the bidding of big business, it has helped ushered in the double whammy of open immigration and moral relativism that is quite literally killing the lower-middle class. It has alienated the TV talking dopes from the folks they profess to represent. The million dollar budgets, the highly-paid pundits, the generous book deals, the rigged popularity – the conservative industry is awash in the kind of moola the proles can only dream about.
The rise of Trump is a necessary rebuke to the out-of-touch professional conservative class. Their failure to preserve the American way of life from progressive influence has brought about what they most feared: A man who could put the entire movement out of business.
I, for one, hope he succeeds.
There are doubts about if Trump could pull off such a feat, however. Some GOP power players may be warming up to the Donald, and see him as the best bet to win in November. If that happens, we regress back to exactly where we started, with the usual shysters still pocketing huge wads of dough.
It’s my hope that Trump says, “to hell with these guys,” and continues to go it on his own. The neglected part of America needs an advocate on the national stage that isn’t beholden to wealthy interests. They need someone who isn’t afraid to call the conservative movement a scam run by cucks who profit off of rubes.
Trump has the capacity to pull the curtain back on Oz. He could continue to wake tens of thousands of people up to this organized fraud. The question is: Will he do it?