Welcome To The Conservative Counterrevolution

Welcome To The Conservative Counterrevolution

One way or another, movement conservatives can end Trump's aspirations. They should.

Burn it down. Scorch the earth. Blow it up. If the GOP realigns itself behind Donald Trump and surrenders its alleged principles for a fleeting stab at power, it will almost certainly be blown up—by movement conservatives.

After what happened on Super Tuesday, it would be delusional to believe that Trump is going to be denied the nomination because of a political counteroffensive or a (improbable) unity ticket. You never know, I guess. Whatever the case, there’s still plenty of time to launch scathing attacks on his dubious character and authoritarian ideas. There is still time to root for a brokered convention, where, with any luck, the GOP will pull off some highly undemocratic mischief and deny Trump and his many irrational supporters the nomination.

OMG. How can you say something like that about working-class voters!? You have such disdain for them!

No doubt, you’ve heard this kind of Trumpian identity politics. A lot of us come from modest backgrounds. Are working-class people now exempt from debate just because they harbor legitimate gripes about the economic realities of America? Or are we saying that Americans in a lower economic strata are uniquely susceptible to populist demagoguery? If you believe Trump can force Apple to build its phones in the United States, as the man claimed yesterday, you deserve derision. Not because you’re working-class, but because you’ll believe anything.

Are working-class people now exempt from debate just because they harbor legitimate gripes about the economic realities of America?

Now, a major political party is about to succumb to illiberalism so it can emotionally satisfy this faction of irrational voters. America already has a party of protectionism, class warfare, and top-down economics. It doesn’t need two. It’d be better to burn down this iteration of Republican Party than leave it for the enemy to use in an arms race of government growth. It has nothing to do with securing the future of Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell, and everything to do with clinging to antiquated principles about free markets and limited government.

By all means, GOP, whip up some compelling ideas for the working poor and disaffected middle class. It’s about time. But if the Republican Party is going to make common cause with a candidate who has to equivocate when he’s asked about a David Duke endorsement or threatens to limit the free press for those who are critical of him, it’s a party that’s lost, anyway.

And I’m sorry, but “support the American Putin because he’s the only one who can save SCOTUS and the Constitution” is deeply unpersuasive.

So far, Ben Sasse has been the only senator who’s openly talked about defecting if Trump wins. But how is Mike Lee or Ted Cruz or Rand Paul going to campaign for Trump when a liberal Republican like Chris Christie looks like he’s being held hostage by Trump, Inc.?

America already has a party of protectionism, class warfare, and top-down economics. It doesn’t need two.

Increasingly, you hear the desperation. You can sense anger mounting among anti-Trumpers at the donor class and “establishment,” which waited too long to take Trump seriously, underestimated his appeal, and helped create the disaster with their exaggerated promises and subsequent surrenders. Consequently, it’s becoming less rare for conservatives to argue that a Hillary victory is preferable to a GOP run by Trump.

Some Republicans will almost certainly try to appropriate the Trump movement. Every conservative clique seems to believe his popularity can be traced back to the GOP’s surrender on enter your favorite issue here. If only the GOP fixed this issue, voters would become more reasonable. Some, like the reformicons, are under the impression that you can control the populist mob by offering it some strategically placed child-tax credits or a bit of tinkering on immigration policy. This is absurd.

Much of Trump support is tied to protectionism and the myth that the GOP was in cahoots with the Obama administration. Maybe one day a watered-down redistribution project will appeal to Trumpkins, but right now there is no dissuading the millions of primary voters who like Trump even after everything he’s said and done.

Trumpism, as destructive as it is, is also unsustainable.

But Trumpism, as destructive as it is, is also unsustainable. It’s not to say the 2016 revolt isn’t real; it’s a genuine reaction to discontent. But surely Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot also imagined they had enduring movements on their hands. Trump isn’t going to erect an infrastructure for a lasting party. He will not be recruiting or cultivating lower-tier Trumpian candidates. He won’t be spending millions furthering a set of ideals, because he doesn’t have any to offer. Apple will not assemble phones in Milwaukee. There is no Trump after Trump.

Unless, that is, the GOP backs him. Then they adopt it all. Even then there is way for traditionalists to redeem themselves. If Trump wins the nomination, he will have taken over the party, shelved the conservative agenda and replaced it with big government protectionism. And just as Trump and his infuriated fans could sink the aspirations of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, traditional conservatives have the power to destroy the billionaire’s presidential future, as well. They can run a third-party candidate. It would be negligent if they didn’t.

David Harsanyi is a Senior Editor at The Federalist. He is the author of the book, First Freedom: A Ride Through America's Enduring History with the Gun, From the Revolution to Today. Follow him on Twitter.
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