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A theory of Trump

May 9, 2016

Let us grant the National Review a soupçon of credit for its resolute opposition to Donald Trump: “The party of Lincoln is in ruins. A minority of its primary voters have torched its founders’ legacy by voting for a man who combines old-school Democratic ideology, a bizarre form of hyper-violent isolationism, fringe conspiracy theories, and serial lies with an enthusiastic flock of online racists to create perhaps the most toxic electoral coalition since George Wallace.” And then look at their puzzlement at how it happened: “Thoughtful conservative institutions.. contain multiple checks against extremism and demagoguery. They’re invested in the long game, not in capturing and extending that elusive 15 minutes of fame.”

Yes, Trump traffics in the absurd, in conspiracy theories. Read that last link. Trump follows a pattern well established by Fox News, WorldNetDaily, and other popular right-wing media. That is the institution that has fed conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory to its audience. With little objection — and sometimes help — from National Review, so long as their cause was joined. Now that the mob goes its own way, David French is shocked and aghast. Jonathan Chait gives the more accurate accounting:

The paranoid mendacity of Joe McCarthy, the racial pandering of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and George Bush, the jingoism and anti-intellectualism of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin — all these forces have embodied the essence of American conservative politics as it is actually practiced (rather than as conservative intellectuals like to imagine it). Trump has finally turned that which was always there against itself.

I would call out what wasn’t explicitly noted in that summary: a political worldview often at odds with reality, propped up by a right-wing media that churns out conspiracy theories. If David French wants to fix the conservative institutions that are broken, that is the place to start.

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