Forest For The Trees

There have been a number of great articles assaulting the “Yeah, but Hillary!” narrative this week and I thought I’d add my two cents. The single-minded focus on Hillary is dangerously myopic and preventing many on the Conservative side from fully and fairly evaluating Trump. Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter decalared on Twitter, “Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely worse president than Donald Trump could ever hope to be.” Infinitely? That’s an incredibly strong word and it comes from, perhaps, the pro-Trump camp’s strongest critic of Trump. As I see it, the Right is in a three way dogfight and has become completely targeted fixated on Hillary Clinton. Trump is on their six, and in they’re tunnel vision they haven’t bothered to turn around and see if he’s a friendly. I contend he’s not. Trump is in it for himself.

To be sure, Hillary Clinton is awful. She is so utterly corrupt, it is easy to forget she is also a hardcore ideologue going all the way back to her senior thesis which was a love letter to Alinsky. If you somehow need convincing this is a bad thing, I will leave it to a far greater mind than mine. For me, the most illustrative example of Hillary’s vileness is how it took a scandal of felony behavior to make the public and media forget about a scandal of felony behavior. It was about a year ago that the Clinton Foundation first came under increasing scrutiny with stories of the vast fees charged for speeches or just for showing up to an event, the large donations from dubious sources, and the very little ever actually paid out to charity. This story was more than just a spotlight on the duplicity and utter cravenness of two politicians who had built their careers on the rhetoric of class warfare and envy, but indicated probably felony activity as many of the payoffs came while Hillary was still Secretary of State and lines could be drawn directly between the payers to deals brokered or facilitated by State. Yet it was long before that scandal, which by itself, without question, would have destroyed the political career of any other politician and certainly meant jail time for any Republican, was pushed aside due to further felony activity on the part of Clinton. And this is not idle speculation or backseat lawyering. From what we now know for fact, Hillary Clinton broke the law. If a lowly employee at any of our intel agencies had done a tenth of what Hillary did, indictments would already have been handed down.

But let’s set that aside for a moment. We know all that. Hillary has been in the spotlight for decades, and Conservative media have had their crosshairs on her the whole time. She’s been exposed. The people don’t like her. The media doesn’t really like her. And even the gutless elected GOP doesn’t like her and would put up the fight they never had the stomach for against Obama. But set it all aside and evaluate Trump in and of himself.

With a dispassionate assessment of Trump’s conduct, character, and statements on policy and ideology, it’s hard to argue with Charles Murray‘s assessment:

“In my view, Donald Trump is unfit to be president in ways that apply to no other candidate of the two major political parties throughout American history.”

And that’s just candidate Trump, not President Trump with little opposition from his own side, ineffectual opposition from the other side (he’s like a movie monster which only gets stronger the more you fire at it), and all the unconstrained Executive power which now belongs to the president thanks to an authoritarian Obama, a gutless GOP, and willing accomplices in the press and courts. Why do pro-Trump Conservatives keep insisting “he’ll be different!” once elected? Where is the evidence? What has he said to make you think that? What has he done? Why are you willing to risk the combination of reckless behavior with unbridled power? Forget the wicked witch for a second. I can already hear the rebuttal on your lips and it’s an absurd, dangerous deflection. Trump. On his own. By himself. What about him makes you willing to ignore all the faults and all the danger? Or are you so beholden to party and victory you don’t even see the cliff ahead?

For a long time, it has been the Right constantly reminding the angry Left that we are not, in fact, a democracy but rather a republic. You cannot vote away my, or even your, Rights and Liberty at the whims of the mob. Typically, those metaphors have been about 51% of the population voting to enslave the rest. However, now, we have become Mobocracy in a truer sense of the word. Only about 40% of the GOP primary electorate voted for Trump yet their incessant histrionics and ad hominem shouting drove away the opposition before the process was well and truly over. How is your behavior then and now any different than the shouting mobs of the Left angrily loudly shutting down websites, businesses, radio hosts, or speakers they don’t like, refuse to listen to, or engage in rational debate?

“To call this fascism doesn’t do justice to fascism. Fascism had, in some measure, an ideology and occasional coherence that Trump utterly lacks. But his movement is clearly fascistic in its demonization of foreigners, its hyping of a threat by a domestic minority (Muslims and Mexicans are the new Jews), its focus on a single supreme leader of what can only be called a cult, and its deep belief in violence and coercion in a democracy that has heretofore relied on debate and persuasion. This is the Weimar aspect of our current moment. Just as the English Civil War ended with a dictatorship under Oliver Cromwell, and the French Revolution gave us Napoleon Bonaparte, and the unstable chaos of Russian democracy yielded to Vladimir Putin, and the most recent burst of Egyptian democracy set the conditions for General el-Sisi’s coup, so our paralyzed, emotional hyperdemocracy leads the stumbling, frustrated, angry voter toward the chimerical panacea of Trump.”

At best, how will the mob movement of the Right led by a cult of personality in Trump, be any different from the mob movement of the Left led by a cult of personality in Obama? At best. Given the damage that movement has done and is continuing to cause to the institutions of Liberty, isn’t it possible “our” movement will be even worse? History is certainly replete with examples of just that. Omar Encarnacion, writing in Foreign Affairs, draws the disturbing parallels between the rise of Trump and the rise of numerous Latin American strongmen and reminds us of the destruction wrought by their rule. If you’re in the that can never happen here crowd, then do a little light reading on Woodrow Wilson. Though if you think it can’t happen here, I wonder where you’ve been for the last years. It already has happened here. Nixon was excoriated for having a secret enemies list. Obama, in contrast, has been quite public. Think about who he targets as an enemy, how he assaults them with the IRS and DoJ, and it’s no wonder many on the Right, some of whom are now loudly pro-Trump, have compared him to banana republic dictators.

That’s all purely attitude and character. On policy, how does he help America? How does he further the cause of Conservatism? David Limbaugh scoffed at a Twitter question about how Trump would be treated if he had a D after his name, but it’s a legitimate question. Would his policies be any different? Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, Trump does everything he’s promised, a dubious proposition not just because of his serial lying but also because of how often he’s contradicted himself, what would we have? Trump has been unapologetic in his call for universal healthcare, even using the language of the Left in talking about people “dying in the streets,” but just last election Ann Coulter was declaring Obamacare and its repeal was all that mattered because once a government program is implement it never gets repealed no matter how unpopular. Trump cheerleaders Breitbart and the WSJ once wrote negatively on bailouts and nationalizing of the banks, yet Trump has spoken positively of the idea. Back in 2014, Rush effectively ended Jeb Bush’s candidacy before it even began by suggesting the perfect Establishment ticket was Jeb/Hillary or Hillary/Jeb. Many of their policies were indistinguishable, El Rushbo observed, so what was the point of voting for Jeb to stop Hillary? And yet Rush and many others in Conservative media directly and indirectly supported the candidate even farther to the Left than Jeb. So was Jeb’s ideology really the problem, or did the Right reject him simply because he could not win?

The main problem, as I’ve already stated, with this declared fear of Hillary as the greatest boogeyman is the surrender of all leverage by the Right to hold Trump accountable. By declaring him our savior from the great beast, we are giving him free reign to do as he likes because all we care about is beating Hillary. There is no honest assessment of Trump. There is support with reservations. On the other side, members of the #NeverTrump movement have given options and examples for how they could be swayed, while the pro-Trump side has been angrily shouting shut up and get in line, if you’re not for us you’re against us, not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary; though not voting for Hillary somehow isn’t a vote for Trump which is tremendously confusing. I have yet to see one of them say, Dear Mr Trump, while I do not agree with them, the #NeverTrump movement has some rational, legitimate arguments and we, the Conservative movement, need you to do these things to maintain our continued support. You don’t have to believe the worst case scenarios being laid out by some Conservatives, but to not even acknowledge the possibility Trump could be disastrous is itself disastrous. Personally, I’m inclined to agree with Brad Thor on the possible horror of a Trump presidency; I don’t think I’d rate the probability quite as high as he would, but I don’t see it as an irrational position. Even so, the potential, however slight, of some positive benefit to a Trump presidency might be worth the risk if I thought the Conservative movement would stand apart and more solidly and strongly oppose him; as opposed to the current cheerleading for him and demonizing of his opponents which are all too reminiscent of the Obamaniacs. In conclusion, if you can’t criticize Trump now, then when he’s elected you’re just going to be “our” version of this guy:

***UPDATE*** Further consider, though there is not universal agreement as to why and how, it is widely accepted and asserted that Trump is like no other candidate. Yet, curiously, his supporters and many apologists assure us that he will be like any other President. That he will moderate his language, compromise his policies, generally just act more Presidential. These two ideas are incongruous. If candidate Trump is like no other, how and why will President Trump suddenly start fitting a more traditional mold? As an example, look how Hillary has responded to the IG report on her blatant disregard of national security for personal gain. Of course she’s lying, it’s easy to look at her past statements on the subject let alone listen to numerous security experts, but she’s spinning and doing damage control like a normal politician. Well, in the manner of a normal politician at least; it’s hard to think of any other who has lied and spun so brazenly against such obvious personal corruption. Trump, however, would just bluster, maybe accuse other of the exact thing to deflect, maybe just laugh and double down, and his supporters would love him all the more. And by denying the very premise, by walking off with such sociopathic narcissism, he denies the media has any power over him. Which means he denies any accountability or checks on his actions.

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