For the conservative movement, it is Armageddon, as we now know who the next president will be.
Americans in 2016 resolved their next president not on November 8, the official date-to-come of the election, but on May 3 in the state of Indiana. It is Hillary Rodham Clinton. With Donald Trump winning Indiana, and Ted Cruz thereby suspending his campaign, the seal has been broken.
For conservatives, Armageddon is fully upon us: a Hillary Clinton presidency, once seemingly impossible when a half-dozen to a dozen attractive Republicans could have defeated her, is a fait accompli courtesy of Trump and his supporters. An unwaveringly devoted sect of followers have pushed a crass, vulgar, uninformed, unstable TV celebrity/casino-mogul/cult-of-personality figure through the Republican primary process, a man unequivocally unsuited in temperament, character, grace, and knowledge for the presidency of the United States.
Marco Rubio put it best when he described Donald Trump as a charlatan and con man who must not be allowed to hijack the conservative movement and the party of Lincoln and Reagan. Well, fear not a permanent hijacking, because Trump’s leadership of the GOP will last only until November, after which he will slink back to New York, and Hillary Clinton will slide into the White House. He can’t win because the vast majority of Americans (outside the tight sect of Trumpists) are repulsed by the man.
A friend of mine emailed me yesterday. He is a lifelong Democrat who, like many Democrats I know, was planning on voting Republican in this election because he despises Hillary Clinton. He liked Cruz and Rubio. He would’ve supported almost any of the original 17 Republican candidates, except Trump. Now, he is so appalled at Republicans that he can hardly contain his anger. His email contains some very strong language. At the risk of offending some of you, I include it only because it’s symptomatic of what I’m hearing from Democrats: “I am stunned that supposedly educated people fool themselves into thinking this guy has any intention of implementing any of the bulls–t that he spews out. Trump has no ideology other than himself……I mean Je–s Chr–t Paul……what the f*** is happening!!!????”
This friend is highly educated — graduate studies in military history from a great European university (University of Leeds). He was excited about voting Republican in 2016. Now, he thinks Republicans are at minimum stupid and at worst borderline fascists. He wants no part of a political party that would nominate Donald Trump for president.
This is the perception/brand damage that Trump is creating for the GOP and conservative movement. It will hurt the GOP for a long time. As for the conservative movement, the damage is less so because Trump is so obviously not a conservative, and thus cannot lead an ideological movement he does not understand.
And so, with a Hillary Clinton presidency ahead, what will we do now as conservatives? How do we retrench? The answer is that we must focus on three things in the years ahead: 1) fight for religious liberty in America; 2) educate Americans about socialism; and 3) educate Americans who voted for Trump about conservatism.
As for religious liberty, the situation is grim. Ted Cruz really understood that. He made it a core issue. Christian bakers are toast, as are photographers, florists, planners, caterers. They will need to either leave the business altogether, lie to “gay” customers, violate their consciences, or risk fines and even jail. Hillary’s presidency and Supreme Court picks ensure this tragedy. And frankly, even if Trump became president, the reality would be dismal, because Donald Trump could give a whit about the sanctity and redefinition of marriage, and his court picks would be made with no concern for the issue at all. (Trump at best might have been coaxed into a pro-religious liberty Scalia-like pick by advisers.) Ted Cruz would have been exceptional on religious liberty and court picks. Marco Rubio would also have been good. John Kasich, who is only slightly more articulate and coherent than Trump, would have been bad on this issue.
(A prediction: I believe that the inexplicable John Kasich will be asked to be Trump’s veep and will accept, infuriating Kasich’s supporters.)
Americans will also now endure forced funding of all forms of abortion and contraception, as Hillary Clinton — an “abortion rights” fanatic — will go raving hog-wild with this matter dearest to her heart. Nothing will animate her court picks like abortion. President Hillary Clinton will lead America into an unprecedented era of darkness in the Culture of Death — thanks to a Donald Trump nomination. You will not be able to religiously object to this either. The Little Sisters of the Poor be damned.
Second, we will need to educate Americans about socialism and just how defeating and enslaving it is. This task, too, will be difficult. Look at the millions of votes that a 74-year-old atheist-socialist is attracting. In my home state of Pennsylvania, Bernie Sanders got over 700,000 votes. In New York and Maryland, he got more votes than Trump. The left has taken over our universities, which makes Bernie’s socialism possible. Trying to repel this tide will be hard work.
And so will be educating Americans into a proper understanding of conservatism. Evidence of that is the Trump emergence from within the Republican tent, which has housed the conservative movement. The idea that Donald Trump is, or has ever been, a conservative is ludicrous. Donald Trump couldn’t spell conservatism, and there’s no way he has read a single book by the likes of Russell Kirk or Friedrich Hayek or Whittaker Chambers.
And yet, Trump has said one thing — yes, one — that has been spot-on. He boasts of having attracted entirely new voters to the GOP. He has indeed. Only a tiny sliver of Republican voters who I have met and known and seen at conferences have told me they like or intend to vote for Trump. Where are his supporters coming from? Many are indeed entirely new — and not traditional conservatives.
I know this because I have been hearing from them daily for months. One of them responded to an article I wrote against Trump at American Thinker. Her response: “OMG, who is this guy Kengor! What an establishment RINO! What has happened to American Thinker! It has become a liberal rag!” This protest came because I criticized Donald Trump’s outrageously un-conservative statement about his marriage to Melania, which he sat flatly would soon end. As is typical of a Trump supporter, the woman refused to even countenance the criticism of Trump, instead blasting me as a phony conservative.
In response, one of the readers informed the woman that I had written for American Thinkerfor nearly 10 years, probably close to 100 times, and was a known and well-established conservative who had written (among other things) a book on Obama’s communist mentor. Her response? “I’ve never heard of him!”
Of course she hadn’t. She is a Trump voter who considers herself a (new) “conservative.”
I could give countless such examples, but I’ll give just one more.
A newspaper editor sent me a letter-to-the-editor by a Trumpist outraged at me for writing a piece complaining of The Donald’s undeniable crudeness. The guy denounced me as a “typical liberal college professor.” When it was explained that I am a totally atypicalconservative college professor who has written a half-dozen books on Ronald Reagan, another half-dozen on communism, and hundreds of related articles, he was incredulous. He likewise had never heard of me. We struck up a friendly dialogue after I sent him my book, 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative, which, alas, convinced him that maybe I was a conservative — even if I’m oddly somehow not championing that great conservative colossus, Donald J. Trump.
For the record, The Donald himself, in yet another unforgettably disqualifying moment easily shrugged off by his followers, was asked to define conservatism in an interview on CBS’sFace the Nation. The following stream of incoherence issued from his mouth and mind:
Well, I think it’s a person that doesn’t want to take risks. I think that’s a good thing. A person that wants to in terms of government I’m talking about. Person that wants to conserve, a person that wants to in financial sense balance budgets. A person that feels strongly about the military and I feel very strong low about the military. And you have some of these and they don’t even want to focus on the military. Our military is falling apart I feel very — I have always felt very strongly about the military. By the way, if you look at vision, the word vision, I was the one that said, take the oil, I’ve been saying that for years, take the oil, let’s take the oil. Nobody would listen then all of a sudden after Paris they started saying maybe that’s right we’ll take the oil. They still don’t take the proper way. I was — which is a little bit different than normal conservative. But I was very much opposed to the war in Iraq. Lot of these guys were all for the war in Iraq, look what’s that has got it. Spent $2 trillion, now handing Iraq over, just handing over to Iran. Iran is going to take over Iraq I said that was going to happen. I said that years ago. In 2003 that Iran will take over Iraq was largest oil reserves in the world that’s not a conservative position. When I was saying, don’t go into Iraq I’m a very militaristic person, I’m very much into the military, will build our military better and stronger, that’s the — opposed to what we have now. I was opposed to the war in Iraq. Most conservatives, let’s go gung-ho. Everyone of them wanted the war in Iraq. Look where it got us.
The sound of weeping that you hear is William F. Buckley Jr. sobbing from his grave. At least when Barry Goldwater lost 44 states it was in service of an intelligent understanding of conservatism. Trump’s “definition” is a trainwreck. That is a picture of a hustler hijacking a movement — and very poorly. He is not only a suckerer, but a lousy one. But what did P. T. Barnum say?
And for Trump “conservatives” still reading: conservatism certainly isn’t about building a wall. I’m surprised Trump didn’t tell CBS that conservatism is about shipping 12 million “illegals” back to Mexico.
Alas, where does the historic Donald Trump massacre of 2016 leave conservatives? It banishes us to an even longer period of exile in our own land, still further removed from the ideals of the American Founders. The year 2016 takes us another leap away from 1776.
“America is less of a place than an idea,” said Ronald Reagan, who understood conservatism. In 2016, it is more of a place than an idea, especially in the understanding of Donald Trump.
Over the next four to eight years of a Hillary Clinton presidency, we have a lot of work to do, and we conservatives should brace ourselves to accept that most of our efforts will end in failure. A man named Donald Trump arrived on the scene and torched it all. His scorched-earth candidacy, fueled by his devout supporters, leaves us gasping among smoldering ruins, with liberalism dancing upon the ashes.