Never NeverTrump

Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, September 20, 2016

Any Republican has a difficult pathway to the presidency. On the electoral map, expanding blue blobs in coastal and big-city America swamp the conservative geographical sea of red. Big-electoral-vote states such as California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey are utterly lost before the campaign even begins. The media have devolved into a weird Ministry of Truth. News seems defined now as what information is necessary to release to arrive at correct views.

In recent elections, centrists, like John McCain and Mitt Romney–once found useful by the media when running against more-conservative Republicans–were reinvented as caricatures of Potterville scoundrels right out of a Frank Capra movie.

When the media got through with a good man like McCain, he was left an adulterous, confused septuagenarian, unsure of how many mansions he owned, and a likely closeted bigot. Another gentleman like Romney was reduced to a comic-book Ri¢hie Ri¢h, who owned an elevator, never talked to his garbage man, hazed innocents in prep school, and tortured his dog on the roof of his car. {snip}

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In such a hysterical landscape, it was possible that no traditional Republican in 2016 was likely to win, even against a flawed candidate like Hillary Clinton, who emerged wounded from a bruising primary win over aged socialist Bernie Sanders.

Then came along the Trump, the seducer of the Right when the Republican establishment was busy early on coronating Jeb Bush. After the cuckolded front-runners imploded, we all assumed that Trump’s successful primary victories–oddly predicated on avoidance of a ground game, internal polling, ad campaigns, sophisticated fundraising, and a sea of consultants and handlers–were hardly applicable to Clinton, Inc. She surely would bury him under a sea of cash, consultants, and sheer manpower.

That Trump was an amateur, a cad, his own worst enemy, cynically leveraging a new business or brand, and at any time could say anything was supposedly confirmation of Hillary’s inevitable victory. Her winning paradigm was seen as simply anti-Trump rather than pro-Hillary: light campaigning to conserve her disguised fragile health, while giving full media attention to allow Trump to elucidate his fully obnoxious self. Her campaign was to be a series of self-important selfies, each more flattering to the beholder but otherwise of no interest to her reluctant supporters.

For insurance, Clinton would enlist the bipartisan highbrow Washington establishment to close ranks, with their habitual tsk-tsking of Trump in a nuanced historical context–“Hitler,” “Stalin,” “Mussolini,” “brown shirt,” etc.

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Yet for all Hillary’s hundreds of millions of corporate dollars and legions of Clinton Foundation strategists, she could never quite shake Trump, who at 70 seemed more like a frenzied 55. Trump at his worst was never put away by Hillary at her best, and he has stayed within six to eight points for most of his awful August and is now nipping her heels as October nears.

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Trump’s hare-and-tortoise strategy, his mishmash politics, reinventions, mastery of free publicity, and El Jefe celebrity had always offered him an outside chance of winning. But he is most aided by the daily news cycle that cannot be quite contorted to favor Hillary Clinton. {snip}

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That the establishment was repulsed by his carroty look, his past scheming, his Queens-accented bombast, and his nationalist policies only made him seem more authentic to his supporters, old and possibly new as well. The more Trump grew unnaturally calmer, he became somewhat presentable, and the more he did, the more a flummoxed Hillary returned to her natural shrillness–and likewise became less viable.

By late September, Trump had slowly mastered the electoral formula, in part due to his new campaign staff–ridiculed as amateurs by the handler establishment but who were versed in pop culture that may have made establishment politics this year obsolete. In good Obama (the erstwhile opponent of gay marriage and big deficits) and Clinton (the former free trader and closed-borders advocate) style, Trump became a version of the comic-book character The Flash: He left his critics far behind to shoot at empty silhouettes while he zoomed miles away to pause in his new incarnation.

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The only missing tessera in Trump’s mosaic is the Republican establishment, or rather the 10 percent or so of them whose opposition might resonate enough to cost Trump 1–2 percent in one or two key states and spell his defeat. Some NeverTrump critics would prefer a Trump electoral disaster that still could redeem their warnings that he would destroy the Republican party; barring that, increasingly many would at least settle to be disliked, but controversial, spoilers in a 1–2 percent loss to Hillary rather than irrelevant in a Trump win.

To be fair, NeverTrump’s logic is that Trump’s past indiscretions and lack of ethics, his present opportunistic populist rather than conservative message, and the Sarah Palin nature of some of his supporters (whom I think Hillary clumsily referenced as the “deplorables” and whom Colin Powell huffed off as “poor white folks”) make him either too reckless to be commander-in-chief or too liberal to be endorsed by conservatives–or too gauche to admit supporting in reasoned circles.

Perhaps.

But the proper question is a reductionist “compared to what?” NeverTrumpers assume that the latest insincerely packaged Trump is less conservative than the latest incarnation of an insincere Clinton on matters of border enforcement, military spending, tax and regulation reform, abortion, school choice, and cabinet and Supreme Court appointments. That is simply not a sustainable proposition.

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Trump’s ball-and-chain flail, such as it can be fathomed, is in large part overdue. The old Wall Street Journal adherence to open borders was not so conservative–at least not for those on the front lines of illegal immigration and without the means to navigate around the concrete ramifications of the open-borders ideologies of apartheid elites. {snip}

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In sum, if Trump’s D-11 bulldozer blade did not exist, it would have to be invented. He is Obama’s nemesis, Hillary’s worst nightmare, and a vampire’s mirror of the Republican establishment. Before November’s election, his next outburst or reinvention will once again sorely embarrass his supporters, but perhaps not to the degree that Clinton’s erudite callousness should repel her own.

In farming, I learned there is no good harvest, only each year one that’s 51 percent preferable to the alternative, which in 2016 is a likely 16-year Obama-Clinton hailstorm.

It may be discomforting for some conservatives to vote for the Republican party’s duly nominated candidate, but as this Manichean two-person race ends, it is now becoming suicidal not to.

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