by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
What is this grand new party? Do Trumpites have an answer to the charge that they have sold their conservative birthright for a mess of white-identity politics? If I remain un-hypnotized by Trump’s strongman antics, was anyone planning to give me another reason to vote for him, or are we just leaving all of our eggs in the Not-Hillary basket?
With Trump preparing to assume command, it’s time for round two of “What Is Trumpism?” questions. And this time we need answers. Three months ago, a sizable group of conservatives claimed to be for it, even as they criticized Trump personally. For tactical reasons, I always thought that was a mistake. Now that the phantom is taking on flesh, it’s time to look beyond the tactical. Anti-anti-Trumpism was mainly an expression of sympathy, usually seasoned with a dash of “I told you so” for whatever mistakes the speaker thought the Republican party had made in the past. It turns out in the end that two antis do make a pro. What now?
Donald Trump is vile. Can we admit now that Trumpism is also bad? Even its defenders implicitly acknowledged this when they rhapsodized about depressed rust-belt towns, withering cultural foundations, and fancy Manhattanites who use the term “redneck” without shame. Notice that these apologias, even if they inspire sympathy, are not justifications. They are excuses. Excuses are what we give for people we know are doing wrong.
Trump’s backers have done wrong, and not because any particular Republican candidate was ever entitled to widespread voter support. Trumpism is irresponsible and destructive. In their wrath, Trumpites blithely treated millions of ordinary working, family-rearing, flyover-dwelling Americans (who regard Trump as offensive and disturbing) as mere collateral damage in their private war with snooty Washington elites. Even in victory, they seem to cherish the hope that they can grow the movement with vinegar (their favorite flavor) instead of resorting to the less-satisfying honey of persuasion.