Brian Beutler wrote an interesting article yesterday, Anti-Trump Conservatives Are Embracing the Liberal Critique of the Right. But you get a better idea about what it is about from the subtitle, “And they will disavow every word of it on the first day of the general election.” This, of course, is one of the most entertaining reasons for wanting Donald Trump to win the nomination: it’s going to be great to watch Republicans tie themselves in knots explaining why it is that the demagogue who was totally unacceptable is still the better general election choice than Hillary Clinton.
Of course, as Beutler noted, there aren’t that many Republicans making a real argument against Trump because to do so would be to make an argument against themselves. How is it that Donald Trump is so different from the other Republicans? For a while, I did think that Trump was a real populist. And then he came out with his tax plan. And what do you know?! It was just like Jeb Bush’s tax plan and Marco Rubio’s tax plan — except more so. It was a big giveaway to the rich. There is nothing that more defines a modern Republican.
So what are Republicans going to say against Donald Trump? Almost none of them are willing to say that his tax plan is unreasonable because there is nothing in it that is qualitatively different than what is Republican orthodoxy. In fact, the worst things in it are what Republicans love most. It gets rid of the estate tax and lowers the capital gains tax. The estate tax cut doesn’t just help the rich, it helps only the super rich. The capital gains tax cut isn’t as bad, but it would be a highly regressive cut.
So instead of substantive attacks on him, we mostly get stuff like this:
Now this is a liberal critique. And as Beutler noted, “But if and when the Republican campaign against Hillary Clinton descends into misogyny, you will hear these same conservatives dismiss accusations of sexism as unfounded liberal intimidation.” Indeed, Frances Langum over at Crooks & Liars brought my attention to a hilarious letter sent out by a pro-Cruz group to Reince Priebus. The letter itself is about how he better not allow anyone but Ted Cruz to be nominated if Donald Trump doesn’t get the necessary votes. But it included this bit of delusion:
Other than Trump being more vulgar (and we always knew this about him), he’s no different from Cruz. At least Donald Trump has some amount of charisma. Compare that to the fact that, Ted Cruz Doesn’t Believe You Have the Right to Masturbate. And then, I like Steve M’s analysis of Cruz’s notion about states and marriage, Ted Cruz: States Should Be Able to Ban Interracial Marriages. Ted Cruz: moderate!
Let’s look at one of the vaunted reformocons: Reihan Salam. Yesterday at Slate, he wrote, Why I’m Voting for Ted Cruz. And his only substantive policy point is that he is just as much of a xenophobe as Donald Trump, but that he doesn’t think that Trump is up to the challenge. That is: Ted Cruz would be a more effective xenophobe. (Obviously, Salam doesn’t put it that way.)
But Salam’s other big reason for voting for Cruz is that it would be good for the Republican Party. Fair enough. But do you think that Reihan Salam — who is, again, a reformocon who Ryan Cooper gave a 7/10 on his reformish scale — will sit out the general election if Donald Trump is nominated? No, like pretty much every Republican everywhere, he will get behind him. Sure, Trump’s an authoritarian who doesn’t know what he’s doing, but he’s better than anyone from the other side.
I’ve only ever seen two reasons why the Republican establishment dislikes Donald Trump. The first is that he’s too blunt: he says things that are only supposed to be implied. The second is that they think he can’t win. Neither of those things will make them abandon him in the general election.