The rise of Donald Trump to the top of the polls in the 2016 Republican presidential contest has spawned an ugly fit of condescension and contempt by the conservative establishment’s cognoscenti toward the perceived rabble driving his ascent.
Rarely has elite conservative opinion seemed so hungry to eat its own. And never, perhaps, has the divide and the tension between those who claim intellectual fealty to the principles of Jeffersonian democracy and the actual practitioners of democracy been so starkly on display.
At the forefront of this orgy of snickering is Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, who normally writes about foreign affairs. He probably thought he was well within his beat Monday evening when he issued a diatribe against Trump’s supporters, given how little connected he seems to those he describes.
In a vicious snit fit that makes H.L. Mencken seem like Mr. Rogers, Stephens spews a volcanic eruption of vitriol at real people who sound more primitive and angry than anything his targets would seem capable of.
“If by now you don’t find Donald Trump appalling, you’re appalling,” Stephens writes. “If you have reached physical maturity and still chuckle at Mr. Trump’s pubescent jokes about Rosie O’Donnell or Heidi Klum, you will never reach mental maturity. If you watched Mr. Trump mock fellow candidate Lindsey Graham’s low poll numbers and didn’t cringe at the lack of class, you are incapable of class … Mr. Trump is a loudmouth vulgarian appealing to quieter vulgarians. These vulgarians comprise a significant percentage of the GOP base. The leader isn’t the problem. The people are. It takes the demos to make the demagogue.”
But wait, there was more.
The Trump ascendancy “says that a movement that is supposed to believe in defending old-fashioned values and traditions against the assorted degradations of the postmodern left might allow itself to be led by a reality-TV star whose meretricious tastes in trophies, architectural and otherwise, mainly remind me of the aesthetics of Bob Guccione.”
A reality TV star. Sounds a lot like those who fretted 35 years ago about the nation being led by “a B-movie actor.”
Stephens, who seems to have woken up on the wrong side of his canopy bed, wrote that the conservative movement may embrace the “Trumpian creed” that immigrants from Latin America “are a specimen of garbage.”
That is, the yahoos are about to default toward racism.
Such notions of latent racism were also enumerated by Gerald Seib, the Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau chief, who scribbled out a piece earlier the same day comparing the anti-establishment mood of 2015 to that of 1968. The 1968 role of socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders was reserved for good guys like Sen. Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy, while Trump and his supporters got tagged with the racist Alabama Gov. George Wallace.
“Mr. Wallace tapped into fear and anger arising from the civil-rights movement, much as Mr. Trump is tapping into fear and anger arising from illegal immigration,” writes Seib.
You get the idea.
The nastiness toward the base oozed well beyond the tidy pages of the Wall Street Journal.
“Donald Trump is porn for nativists,” declared David Harsanyi in The Federalist.
“It is perhaps quixotic to try to distract Trump’s supporters with facts,” harrumphed George Will.
“These voters never determine the nominee, because too many of them waste their passion on hopeless candidates, such as Ben Carson, Michele Bachmann … Donald Trump,” opined Ramesh Ponnuru.
“Let’s assume, for fun, that Donald Trump’s supporters are thinking with their brains, not their viscera,” muses Mona Charen.
Trump is certainly fair game. He has a lot to say, but beyond immigration, precious little of it amounts to a coherent conservative platform.
But the people who support Trump are not idiots, do not deserve belittling, and while they may be emotional, they have not taken leave of their senses.
They have deduced, not unreasonably, that even though they don’t know exactly what Trump will do, he will definitely do it. And that can’t be worse than those who profess what they will do, but won’t actually do much of anything. Those people will go to Washington and be co-opted, as so many fake firebrands inevitably are, by Washington’s go-along get-along consensus of big spenders and status-quo protectors.
The America that Trump backers love is being stolen out from under them as government grows inexorably, the culture deteriorates irretrievably, religious freedoms are denied, their health care decisions are annexed by bureaucrats, and America becomes subsumed within a new world order governed by values they don’t share.
And if you harbor legitimate fear that the nation’s culture is being overwhelmed by unlimited immigration from a very different culture, you must think the mass new arrivals are “garbage.” Hillary Clinton couldn’t have said it better.
What, one wonders, have the “classy,” ostensibly reasonable people wrought for America? They have run up more than $18 trillion in debt to be paid off by their children and grandchildren. Is that the elite’s definition of probity and sanity?
“I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University,” said the founder of modern conservatism, William F. Buckley Jr.
Today’s leaders would instead take the first 2,000 names of the social register and stick it to the “poor slobs” they think are in the phone book.
This post originally appeared on PoliZette.