It’s probably the last time we’ll be talking about National Review. The attack on Donald Trump by Rich Lowry and the other giggling minicons at Mr. Buckley’s vanity project have revealed that Conservatism, Inc. is not just politically but intellectually bankrupt. It’s been reduced to offering slogans none of the writers actually believe or can even define.
We are told true conservatism is opposed to “populism” and that Trump is simply a salesman. Yet the first contributor to the Beltway Right’s supposed intellectual case #AgainstTrump is none other than Glenn Beck, rendering it laughable before it even begins. Beck has fleeced well-meaning rubes for years by posing as a champion of the “real America” standing against shadowy Machiavellian elites. These elites, we are told, are inspired by some monstrous conspiracy uniting figures as diverse as Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, and Saul Alinsky. As the late Andrew Breitbart noted, the huckster Beck personally profits by warning Middle Americans about some imminent disaster that never quite arrives, pushing buckets of “survival food” on evangelicals fearful about the end of the world.
The collection of other mediocrities offered to us as “leading intellectual conservatives” would be indistinguishable from a list any Radix reader would create as part of a parody.
Russell Moore, a Soros-backed evangelical, who claims that God is giving Southern Baptists a “second chance” to redeem their errant ancestors and embrace African-Americans and immigrants.
Katie Pavlich, a Fox News talking head of uncertain accomplishments lecturing us about unnamed conservative “principles.”
Michael Mukasey, a national security advisor to the failed Guaca Bowl Merchant Jeb Bush.
And Erick Erickson, whose mere appearance suffices to define The Cuckservative Mind.
Thomas Sowell’s inclusion surprised some people, as he has provided some work worth reading. Yet none of it is especially remarkable. As with Ben Carson, he is an accomplished man in his field, but none of us would find him particularly noteworthy if he was not Black. He’s simply another example of Dr. Johnson’s woman preacher. And it’s not surprising Sowell’s most often cited work (usually the only one they’ve read) among your typical “movement conservative” is the shockingly shallow Black Rednecks and White Liberals, which suggests White Southerners are to blame for pathologies of urban Blacks and that the only reason people ever oppose Jewish influence is “jealousy.”
And speaking of the ostensible Chosen, if one were to activate the Coincidence Detector before reading this, your computer might explode.
We have William Kristol, lecturing us “as conservatives,” even though the only principle we can discern from his blood-soaked career is the need for Americans to die in wars actively harmful to our national interest (though not to his). He says we need to listen to Leo Strauss, who tells us conservatism is defined by despising “vulgarity.”
We have Yuval Levin, born in Israel, who has openly discussed co-opting the Tea Party in order to push his agenda, which includes favoring Marco Rubio-style proposals for Amnesty.
We have Mona Charen, perhaps the most insipid commentator in a movement defined by Protective Stupidity, whining that Trump will “insult and belittle others including, or perhaps especially, women.” (Only Rosie O’Donnell, Mona).
We have Michael Medved telling us Trump must be opposed because he’ll “associate conservatives with all the negative stereotypes that liberals have attached for decades.” Medved then fulfills a stereotype attached to his own people by moaning about Trump’s “racism,” support for deporting illegals, and his appeal to White voters. “Imagine the parade of negative ads the Democrats are already preparing for radio stations with mainly black audiences and for Spanish-language television,” says Medved. After all, what is conservatism if not worrying about the feelings of the hosts on Hot 97 and Telemundo?
Finally, there’s John Podhoertz, whose crudity, shallowness, and stupidity is too much even for the shtetls of New York City neoconservatism. Podhoertz solemnly informs us Trump would be the worst thing to happen to “the American common culture in my lifetime,” a claim which only be called bizarre coming from someone whose entire professional output consists of squabbling on Twitter and endless kvetching about whatever sitcom he saw on television the night before.
To an outside observer, National Review’s attack on Trump seems absurd. Trump may not be a “true conservative,” by whatever amorphous definition can be cobbled together. Yet Trump is far more conservative by Beltway standards than many other candidates in the Republican primary.
His tax plan is hardly “populist” and is instead a product of supply-side economics, endorsed by figures such as Larry Kudlow. Trump was once pro-choice but is now pro-life, an ideological journey no different than that undertaken by Ronald Reagan. Trump opposes Common Core. He has perhaps the strongest position on the Second Amendment of any candidate, as the importance of national concealed carry cannot be overestimated. And unlike Pat Buchanan, whom NR crusaded against in the 1990s, Trump is a strong supporter of Israel, wants a military buildup, and opposed the nuclear deal with Iran. He’s only a “non-interventionist” in the sense that he favors a realistic approach to Russia.
If Jeb or Kaisch were the frontrunner, there would be no criticism from from National Review. If it were Rubio, there would be celebration.
What’s more, the issue confirms what we already knew, that the conservative movement does not see immigration as an important issue. While some of the contributors praise Trump’s stance on immigration (or at least his drawing attention to it), others outright condemn him. David Boaz, who calls himself a libertarian, identifies “nativism” as Trump’s biggest offense, along with Trump’s supposed promise of “one-man rule,” which seems to exist only in Boaz’s imagination.
One’s tempted to say they are attacking Trump precisely because of his opposition to immigration. But it’s not quite as simple as that. And while the conservative movement doesn’t consider stopping immigration important, opposing it (so long as you don’t express it too forcefully) isn’t enough to get you kicked off the island. Though I don’t believe this, there is a case to be made that Cruz, who is now the choice of most movement conservatives, has a stronger position than Trump on immigration. After all, Jeff Sessions, Steve King, and Tom Tancredo have all defended Cruz’s immigration record, with the latter two endorsing him. The conservative movement’s opposition to Trump goes beyond his position on immigration or even Trump’s putting it at the center of his campaign.
Some would say it is about “limited government.” But this ritualistic phrase means nothing. Indeed, much of the current Alternative Right is composed of red-pilled former libertarians well aware of the conservative movement’s empty sloganeering when it comes to their supposed “principles.”
When Ron Paul ran as the “champion of the Constitution” and practically created the modern “Liberty Movement,” it was National Review and the Beltway Right that led the pushback against him. After the invasion of Iraq, the movement bequeathed “Defender of the Constitution” awards on people like Donald Rumsfeld, and the years of conservative silence on Barack Obama’s massive social engineering efforts, how can anyone take these people seriously when it comes to “limited government?” Especially when you have the likes of William Kristol telling you that it’s Donald Trump who is the threat to the Constitution? The lowest shitposter on the chans has a more sophisticated understanding of politics and philosophy than any “movement conservative,” with his gibberish about “limited government” and “constitutionalism.”
So what is really at the heart of the “movement’s” hysterical opposition? This lame attempt to “Stump the Trump” was reportedly organized by NR’s editor, Rich Lowry. One can actually imagine Rich Lowry as a champion of Middle America . . . but only because he looks eerily similar that preacher kid from Children of the Corn. He could have saved the trouble as he and H1-B conservative Ramesh Ponnuru already told us the real case against Trump in October.
[Trump] basically never says ‘freedom’ or liberty.
That’s it. Trump simply doesn’t mouth the required pieties.
They hate Trump because he’s unveiled the scam. They hate him not because he is a vulgar “populist” devoid of substance, but because he is a candidate with more substance in one of his rambling speeches than they have in their entire faux “movement.”
After all, populism is a tactic, not an ideology. Trump’s populism comes from substance, not style. He appeals to the masses with his policies and by attacking their (and his) enemies, not by clumsily pandering to them. Trump doesn’t make a show of himself eating corn dogs at the Iowa state fair. He doesn’t try to fake being a “real person” with a leather jacket he changed into three seconds before his speech. Nor does he give us a lame story about how hard life was for him.
He usually arrives in a suit and tie; on more casual occasions, he’ll wear one of his trademark rope hats. He insists on sleeping in his own bed each night. He flies in on a plane or helicopter with his name on it. He eats his pizza with knife and fork, and defends it when people laugh. Trump campaigns as himself, not as some cornpone imitation of William Jennings Bryan. Insofar as he’s made one concession to being a conventional politician, it’s by overcoming his fear of germs and shaking hands with supporters. (Incidentally, it’s when he started doing that I knew he was serious about winning.)
It’s really “movement conservatism” that is purely a product of style. Though “principles” are constantly invoked, they are rarely defined. There’s almost nothing uniting even the elected group of contributors to #AgainstTrump but their devotion to slogans. All conservatism requires today is certain invocations and rhetorical prostrations before key phrases such as “limited government” and “the Constitution.” But these words are empty. And they certainly have no connection to advancing an agenda that can actually make life better for the GOP’s supporters.
What we are left with is simply a scam, a movement generating an endless series of complicated explanations about why White people are not allowed to pursue, attain, and exercise power to defend their collective interests.
As Richard Spencer observed, the insult cuckervative isn’t directed at those who aren’t “true conservatives.” Before National Review’s attack, an artificial Narrative that had been gaining traction was that Donald Trump was actually the real choice of the “Establishment,” in contrast to Ted Cruz. There are problems with this theory, notably that “establishment” figures were saying the exact opposite thing to reporters only a few weeks earlier.
But more importantly, people like Bob Dole weren’t endorsing Trump, merely pointing out the obvious reality Trump has a better chance of winning a general election than Ted Cruz. Furthermore, it’s clear this Narrative was artificially created and coordinated as part of an attempt by the Beltway Right to seize control over the primaries, now that Trump has largely destroyed candidates such as Jeb Bush.
After all, what is the “Establishment?” As Ann Coulter said in a speech at CPAC which cost her future speaking slots, there is a “fake Republican establishment” which is “scapegoated” on marginal issues, thus allowing the “true conservatives” to avoid doing anything about immigration. The “true conservatives” never deliver or even mobilize on anything important. Instead, we get frantic editorials and appeals to Middle Americans to get really worried about things like the Export-Import Bank.
It’s just a scam. And Trump has revealed it as a scam. The arguments raised against him now are openly dependent on ignorance. Conservatives who champion the Keystone Pipeline tell us “eminent domain” is the worst thing imaginable, even though it’s required to build that pipeline. And people who want a large military built by politically connected defense contractors scream and shout that “ethanol subsidies” are the worst injustice in the Republic.
The conservative rhetoric about “limited government” and all the rest accomplishes two purposes. First, it justifies support for unpopular and self-defeating programs that are beneficial to certain donors and ideologues, but not for voters. Thus, the only tangible accomplishments movement conservatives can point to are economic benefits for those who profit from globalization, cheap labor, and capital gains. Americans are confronted by a hostile elite dedicated to destroying them—and the GOP wants to cut its taxes.
Second, conservatism provides arguments why the grassroots is ideologically forbidden from pursuing its interests. Whenever you hear someone say “as a conservative” or “as a Christian,” you know he’s about to cuck. And what is most dishonest about this is it is designed to defend those already in power, even as it cloaks itself in the rhetoric of individual rights or egalitarianism.
Thus, we can’t defend our interests as Whites because “as conservatives” our ideology forbids it—except when we have a non-White we can run for president. We can’t oppose immigration “as Christians” because we have to be altruistic—except towards working-class voters. We can’t support programs that benefit our voters because “limited government” means the only purpose of gaining political power is to lecture your people why you aren’t allowed to help them. “I know you think it’s bad when we cut your Medicare and sent your job overseas, but it’s what the Founding Fathers would have wanted.”
The problem for National Review is that the smarter people keep seeing through this. And not just the masses, their own writers. Mark Steyn, late of NR and who had a “not terribly pleasant” parting with the magazine, wrote in response to the #Against Trump issue,
“I don't think Trump supporters care that he's not a fully paid-up member in good standing of ‘the conservative movement’—in part because, as they see it, the conservative movement barely moves anything.”
He dismissed the issue as a trolling attempt and mocked the continuous references to Reagan, saying:
“You have to be over 50 to have voted for Reagan, and a supposed ‘movement’ can't dine out on one guy forever, can it? What else you got?”
Not much. L. Brent Bozell III says Trump must be condemned because he doesn’t “walk with” the conservative movement or read Human Events or National Review enough. But people who walk with the movement, at least the more interesting characters, tend to walk away eventually. His own father, L. Brent Bozell Jr., who ghostwrote Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative, eventually found a society more to his liking in Francisco Franco’s Spain.
Another fierce Catholic, Joe Sobran, was perhaps the finest stylist the magazine ever produced. And he saw clearly how power is exercised in contemporary America. As he put it, “The Constitution poses no serious threat to our form of government.” He was eventually purged for what Bill Buckley called “contextually anti-Semitic” writings.
Three of the most prominent people purged from the magazine are Peter Brimelow, John Derbyshire, and Ann Coulter. All have defined themselves as opponents of mass immigration and political correctness. All have essentially supported Trump. All have proven to be right about what is driving conservative voters—the questions of immigration, identity, and nationalism that are defining world politics. And none now write for National Review. But don’t worry, you still have the scintillating prose of Kathryn Jean Lopez.
But the scam hasn’t quite run its course yet. Though it’s dying, it’s may be able to cost Trump Iowa in its death throes, as there are a lot of useful idiots out there who think Trump is a dictator because he supports ethanol subsidies.
Talk radio hosts such as Mark Levin, smoothly pivoting away from last week’s line that Trump exemplifies #NewYorkValues, now condemns Trump because he is offering “agrarian national populism.” Such Talmudic reasoning is absurd on its face, but it will win over some people. Whatever his later sins, Jack Hunter was right when he said the movement is defending “conservatism” as a word, and breaking away from that label will be hard for many people.
But the breakaway will happen. The problem National Review faces is bigger than Trump. It can’t engage on the questions of identity, immigration, and race that will define this century. More than that, its own infantile sloganeering ensures “conservatives” are incapable of even understanding let alone driving the debate.
The postwar conservative movement dies not with a whimper or a bang, but with one last news cycle of relevance. For all the talk of “principles” and the “conservative intellectual tradition,” the Beltway Right has been left with nothing to say.