I feel like a guy walking around town wearing a sandwich board that read, “The End Is Nigh!” How long can we continue to pretend that the Republican Party is rational? It really is very simple. You have the Republican elites. They are more or less what used to be called the Country Club Republicans: rich people who want the party to give them more money through less taxation, less regulation, and more direct giveaways like bank bailouts. If the Republican Party as an institution stands for anything, this is what it is. They don’t care about balanced budgets; they don’t care about abortion; and they sure as hell don’t care about same sex marriage. In other words, they don’t care about what the Republican base cares about.
The problem, of course, is that a party that is really only interested in catering to the wishes of the 1% (more like 0.01% — but the 1% does very well too) is only really popular with the one percent. And that’s about how much of the vote the party would get if it were honest about what it is all about. Now the knock on the Democratic Party is that it is all about identity politics. This is nonsense. It is the Republican Party that is all about identity. It was Barack Obama who said, “There are no red states or blue states, just the United States.” It’s the Republican Party that talks incessantly about the “real” America, as though anyone not voting Republican isn’t an American. According to them, the Republican base is the only “real America.”
The the Republican elites — starting most profoundly with Ronald Reagan — came up with this idea that they could pander to the Christian social conservatives. They could, as Thomas Frank put it, get them riled up and angry at rich rock stars so that the Republican base would march down to the polls and lower those rock stars’ taxes. These are people who are not interested in more tax cuts for the rich. They don’t think that it is okay to poison a generation of people in Flint, Michigan. They don’t think that trillions of dollars should have been spent bailing out the banks.
So now The National Review is out with a whole issue dedicated to trashing Donald Trump. And I suppose that Jonathan Chait is more or less correct in his assessment, “Conservatives fear him not because he is an ignorant demagogue, but because he’s not their ignorant demagogue.” But the issue is that Republican politics is a con. It is a way of getting a bunch of people to vote about issues that the Republicans won’t do much about, even while the party does do things that the Republican base isn’t that keen on.
Obviously, the Republican Party is reaping what it has sown. But this is always the case. And it is especially true of The National Review. This is the magazine that was originally started to pretend that the conservative movement wasn’t really about hatred but about high minded ideals. The fact that it immediately picked a fight with the Civil Rights movement and showed itself to be a bigoted publication just makes for great irony. But now it is against Donald Trump because he’s a bigot and not a real conservative and ignorant and whatever else the 19 writers I will not be reading have to say.
As with everything Trump on the right, the real issue is that they think he cannot win. Because Trump will provide them with tax cuts. He will cut regulations. He will protect the interests of the power elite. They don’t care about anything else. And Trump is using the same tactic that Republicans have been using to win elections ever since Eisenhower. Whoever the Republicans nominate will not be nominated because he is a big believer in supply side economics; he will be nominated because the rage filled base hears in his rhetoric what they believe: that they are being unfairly attacked by “those people” — where “those people” are anyone you want to name, except for the people who are really responsible: the Republican establishment itself. And if the Republican base thinks that Trump is not part of that establishment, it is just another sign that you Lincoln’s “some of the people all of the time” is the Republican base.