I am a conservative and it looks like I have no home (politically speaking).
The Republican party is in the process of being overrun by a mad mix of altconservatives, Neoreactionaries, “race realists,” white nationalists, and angry Republicans who feel so disenfranchised by the “establishment” GOP that they are willing to support a man like Donald Trump for the highest, most consequential political office in the nation. After years of complaining about the cult of personality that lead to the blind embrace of a man like Obama, these folks are willing to blindly (more on that later) embrace a volatile, divisive figure like Trump, willing to put the fate of our nation in the hands of a man whose policy knowledge is shallow and whose policy prescriptions are almost whimsically foolish.
And I cannot follow down that path.
One of the worst aspects of this mindless rage for the outsider is that no one can say with certainty what a Donald Trump presidency would look like or what a President Trump would stand for; I’d suggest that even Trump doesn’t know the answers to those questions in any meaningful way. His answer would almost undoubtedly revolve around “making America great again” and “winning so much that we’d get tired of winning”– and that’s just meaningless marketing talk. No candidate is running on the idea that they want to make America less great or that they wanted to win only enough that it wasn’t unseemly. His candidacy is based on a fragile frame of meaningless prattle, and his believers are blindly supposing that he will be our national salvation.
What we know of his political beliefs, assuming that he has anything resembling a coherent ideology, is that he has leaned strongly to the left for a good portion of his life in both cultural and economic terms. For folks who claim to be conservatives, this should be a red flag; but a good chunk of his support is coming from those groups who have no claim to be conservatives. These are folks who want to blow up the GOP and American conservatism to replace it with white nationalism, so Trump’s support of non-conservative ideas is no strong roadblock to support. The fact that Trumps strongest policy stand revolves around keeping foreigners out of the US and having Mexico build us a wall on the southern border, it’s not surprising that the “race realists” have rallied to his cause.
The GOP is running one of the most ideologically diverse groups in my lifetime. Kasich and Bush are the Rockefeller Republicans; Rand Paul represents the libertarian-conservative strand that grew over the last few decades and has distinct foreign policy and social ideas; Carly and Rubio represent a sort of Reagan fusionism; Cruz and Christie represent Republican populism at, respectively, the more conservative and more liberal ends of the Republican spectrum; there’s a mess of other candidates who sort of fill the spaces in between; and then, alone at the top, stands Trump, who isn’t any kind of a traditional Republican or conservative and who represents only one thing: destruction of the establishment.
And that destruction is seen as being a good thing.
I get the anger and even the sense of betrayal. Some of that is well-earned on behalf of Republicans who haven’t done the job we wanted them to do, but some of it is also based on some juvenile view of politics as being something where extreme changes can be wrought almost single-handedly by having a simple majority in the House and Senate. That’s foolish, of course, and some of those biggest changes are things that require years or strategy and work, not a handful of junior Representatives with loud voices.
Just as I look at Obama and see doubling down on the worst of both the Bush II and Clinton presidencies (over-reliance on executive action, an unfocused foreign policy that has made bad situations worse, wildly divisive in dealings with the opposition, and a belief that more government, more regulations, and more taxation are the solutions to our problems), I look to Trump and I see someone who will carry those beliefs even further and in the service of no discernible policy beliefs (again, outside of the promised closing of borders). How is that a good thing? One of the things that I want from a candidate in this cycle is someone willing to walk away from the blunt weapon that Obama has used in his flurry of executive orders and a return to doing things the old fashioned way: with dialog, leadership, persuasion, and, where necessary, compromise.
That, in and of itself, would begin to build bridges to span those divisions that have been widening over nearly two decades.
Is that the picture of a Trump presidency? Or would Trump be more likely to continue dividing the electorate, issuing executive orders to achieve his goals, and further alienating his political opponents? Would Trump make America great again or would he just further the rot?
Yes, I get the anger, but Trump is not the answer. Trump, like Occupy Wall Street and the inexplicable idea that Bernie Sanders is gaining in popularity, is just another symptom of a broken, angry nation that is struggling to find its way.
And if Trump is the answer for where the GOP is heading, then I have no home in the GOP.