Friday, December 22, 2017

The Age Of Trumpanzee-- A Bottomless Tasting Menu Of National Debasement


Sam Tanenhaus has a worthwhile essay, On The Front Lines Of The GOP's Civil War in the new Esquire. The most obvious question, though, is whether they really is a civil war at all. He claims "Never Trumpers" are "rallying once more to keep him from destroying the country." None are in Congress or, if there are any, they're playing possum. This week, for example, every single Republican in the Senate, including several who have-- in the last year or two-- expressed that Trump is an existential threat to the nation, voted for a very destructive Tax Scam that was written with an eye on undoing a social system going back to FDR. I'm afraid Tanenhaus' idea of a Republican civi war doesn't go much beyond a scraggly gaggle of disgruntled Northeastern intellectual elites who may fancy themselves émigrés and exile from a thoroughly Trumped-up GOP. He calls them "Republicans with a conscience [and] conservatives without a party," like David Frum, "a heretic and outcast, primus inter pares of the Never Trumpers, a group he dubs "counter-Republicans who mean to take their party back, or blow it up."

Tanenhaus compared the wealthy Never Tumpers to Ukrainian patriots who resisted Russia-- millions of whom were killed: "Today," he wrote, "it is the Never Trumpers who are holding out against 'forced collectivization'-- imposed by the leaders of their own party-- and feel locked in an epochal struggle, with a great deal riding on the outcome. To them Trumpism is more than a freakish blight on the republic. It is a moral test... [A]ffable conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, has called Trump a 'European-style blood-and-soil nationalist.' Another, the historian Ronald Radosh, has written that when he met Steve Bannon in 2013, at the so-called Breitbart Embassy in D. C., Trump’s future Rasputin told him, 'I’m a Leninist. . . . I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment.' That establishment includes the Never Trumpers, and it’s a sign of how far things have come that these insiders have now become outlaws."
Long before Trump was even nominated, when hopeful moderates were pointing to his encouragingly sane positions on abortion and health care and party elders like Bob Dole and Trent Lott were saying that Ted Cruz was the greater evil, a small but influential band of Republicans, not yet called Never Trumpers, were warning that he was an authentic global menace. One august figure on the Right, the Post columnist George Will, renounced the Republican party in June 2016, declaring himself unable to witness its submission to Trump. Others, such as longtime GOP operatives Mike Murphy and Rick Wilson, began appearing on MSNBC, where they swung hard at nominee and party alike. At the time, Trump seemed headed for a historic rout in the general election, and the spectacle of these chagrined oppositionists was a cheap-thrills sideshow to liberals, who chortled, if only to themselves, “So now you get it.”

What was missed was the message the Never Trumpers were trying to send, and how genuinely alarmed they were. “There wasn’t a single conservative I talked with at the beginning of 2016 who thought Donald Trump was a remotely acceptable candidate for president,” says Max Boot, a neoconservative foreign-policy writer who served as an advisor to John McCain in 2008 and Marco Rubio eight years later. In March 2016, as Trump closed in on the nomination, another neocon, William Kristol, a founding editor of the Weekly Standard, tried to engineer a third-party escape hatch. It went nowhere. Two years on, Boot has quit the Republican party and says of his Never Trump confederates, whose numbers seem to shrink by the day, “Right now we could all fit in my living room.” Boot’s tone, plaintive but defiant, is common among the Never Trumpers.

...[Some of them are] creating a centrist sanctuary and talk shop, the Renew Democracy Initiative. They’re polishing up a manifesto and plan to bring out a book, “a kind of Federalist 2.0,” says one contributor, the columnist Bret Stephens, a Never Trumper exile from the Wall Street Journal. In April of last year, Stephens went to the Times and hasn’t looked back, except to toss grenades at Sean Hannity, Steve Bannon, and the rest of what he calls “the bigoted, dipshit wing of the Republican party.” Stephens today sounds less disillusioned than emancipated-- as though, in his words, he’s “walking away from a love affair gone bad.”

The same is even truer of Frum, who outdoes all others in his born-again zeal, perhaps because he got there first and has the scars to show for it. His bill of particulars against the movement and the party he once championed long predates Trump and Trumpism. In the essays and columns he writes for The Atlantic, in his fluent commentary on MSNBC, in his smart Twitter observations (he has close to six hundred thousand followers), and in his new book, Trumpocracy, Frum’s sharpest jabs are aimed not at the “kleptocrat” Trump but at House and Senate Republicans whose “ideas for replacing Obamacare bubbled with toxicity” and were a “radical attack on American norms of governance.” His pages on the “Rigged System,” the Republican campaign to disenfranchise African-American voters in no fewer than twenty states, burn with the white-hot anger we would expect to read in The Nation, not in a book by a former Bush staffer who once teamed up with Richard Perle, the neocon “prince of darkness,” to write An End to Evil, a jeremiad heady with high-Cheneyist fumes. (“Mullahs preach jihad from the pulpits of mosques from Bengal to Brooklyn,” Frum and Perle wrote. “Our enemies plot, our allies dither and carp, and much of our own government remains ominously unready for the fight.”)

...“I’m a registered Republican,” Frum told me recently, as if trying to convince himself that the party he once belonged to still exists... somewhere. Across the continent, possibly? “If I lived in California,” he speculated, “I’m sure I’d be voting for Republican members of the state legislature or a Republican candidate for governor”-- but not, he allows, if he lived in Alabama.

Of course, Frum knows very well that Republicans have no power in California and frighteningly much in Alabama. And one can scour the conservative press—which tends toward either robust Trumpism or evasive anti-anti-Trumpism—and not feel the urgency that one finds in Frum’s Trumpocracy, with its despairing plea to an audience he worries is deaf to the approaching thunder of the Cossacks. “Maybe you don’t care about the future of the Republican party,” he writes, addressing an imaginary liberal reader. “You should. Conservatives will always be with us. If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.”

...“Conservatives have decided they are a tribe,” says Jennifer Rubin, the conservative Washington Post writer who has declared war on both Trump and his GOP. “They’re not Americans first. They’re Trump defenders first.” It is ideological groupthink, the Right’s own political correctness. And it gives credence to the old argument, rooted in the culture wars of the nineties, that a great many conservative writers and policy experts are intellectuals manqué, tightly leashed by wealthy donors, just like the Republican politicians they promote.

But in truth, “Conservatism, Inc.” was never the luxury gravy train its critics depicted. It was closer to a Soviet-style nomenklatura, with a good deal of ideological policing. “I had the president of a small conservative think tank tell me he admires my anti-Trump position but he just can’t be identified that way because his donors would cut him off,” says Boot. Even now, the Never Trumpers I talked to, though freed from the grip of the old dogma, were constantly going off the record or pleading, “Protect me.” Who can blame them? For all their resources, they are indeed outnumbered-- unwanted and unloved.

So it was in an earlier time, too. “We ex-communists are the only people on your side who know what it’s all about,” Arthur Koestler, another of the great apostates, said long ago to liberals disinclined to take him and his ilk seriously. The good news is that the Never Trumpers are getting a close hearing. Whatever mistakes they made in their time of devotion, they have emerged as the best exegetes of the conservative god that failed. No one else understands it so well-- its means, its ends, its methods, its costs. “The problem with the devil’s bargain is that the devil never delivers,” Frum says. “That’s the point of the story.”

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At 2:42 PM, Blogger VG said...

Just as a total aside, just me indulging my own memory, but I "met" Ross Douthat when he was running around in diapers with my nominal godson, also in diapers. His mother Patty Douthat was also there. She seemed very much one who preached "the best of all things"- vegetarianism, no violence, etc. Pretty amusing, in odd way, when I look back on the episode.

At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These "principled republicans" worked their entire lives to make their party what it is today. And now they lament the perfectly logical result of their own work?

“the bigoted, dipshit wing of the Republican party.”

what they fail to realize is this: All of their voters are bigoted dipshits. The billionaires only amount to a couple thousand.

And this situation is exactly what they all worked so hard for since the '90s. They were all very good at culling moderate voters and turning the rest into brain-dead zombie Nazis.

If they all didn't work so effectively at it, we'd never ever had either the bushbaby nor trump. We may have had Mccain or Romney, which would have been bad but not THAT bad. But no way trump could ever have gone anywhere.

At 4:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These Never Trumpers are only displaying their ineptitude and uselessness since they're have having ZERO effect on current events.

At 9:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:10, I disagree. They were all proximate CAUSES of the current events.

A perfect parallel is bill fucking Clinton who brought in bob rubin and who passed and signed the banking and derivative dereg bills that gave us 2008 who admitted a couple of years ago that it was "probably a mistake". He refuses to take any blame, of course.

He's been religiously circumspect on the matter since then. But in a rare moment of honesty, he did so admit.

In a sane society, Clinton would have been burned in a retaliatory pyre... and trump would be in prison for 1500 cases of fraud, but we've not been a sane society since maybe JFK.

At 1:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"They were all proximate CAUSES of the current events."

Certainly were, 9:32. But NOW they think they can limit the damage? This only shows what fools they are.


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