Late Thursday night, National Review, the storied conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley, published an issue denouncing Donald Trump

The Republican National Committee reacted swiftly — immediately revoking the permission it had given National Review to host a Republican presidential debate next month. “Tonight, a top official with the RNC called me to say that National Review was being disinvited,” the magazine’s publisher wrote online. “The reason: Our ‘Against Trump’ editorial.”

That soft flapping sound you hear is the Grand Old Party waving the flag of surrender to Trump. Party elites — what’s left of the now-derided “establishment” — are acquiescing to the once inconceivable: that a xenophobic and bigoted showman is now the face of the Republican Party and of American conservatism.

***

According to Heilemann, that effort does more to help Trump than to hurt him.

“First of all, I’d say about the National Review, there’s nothing the National Review could do more to help Donald Trump than to put out an issue like this,” Heilemann said. “I mean, it’s like an in-kind campaign contribution for the establishment to attack Trump. It helps him with his people. It’s where Trump wants to be. It reinforces his message.”

***

“I don’t think this is going to dent Trump’s real support,” D’Souza said Friday on “The Steve Malzberg Show.”

“What it will do probably is ostracize Trump a little bit more within the intellectual ranks of the Republican Party, but those intellectual ranks are a small part of the overall strength of the party.”…

“We have a mystery, which is here you have a Republican Party and by and large its activists are conservative. How is it possible that a man who betrays the fundamental principles of conservatism is leading in the polls?” D’Souza said.

“Ultimately the problem would not seem to be with Trump, it would seem to be with the Republicans who support Trump. So the National Review in a sense is being a little weak in not attacking them because they’d be attacking their own constituency, their own readers.”

***

CHARLES HURT: I don’t really see how it is going to be that effective, because most of the people out there supporting Donald Trump so jubilantly right now, are not reading the National Review or the Wall Street Journal editorial page, or any of these other publications that are held in such high regard around here.

But I have to say, I get that they’re making these arguments, it is good, I applaud that, but my goodness, when you look at the policies, many of which came from conservatives for years out of Washington. Why didn’t they have any outrage over that?

Where was this unified conservative outrage over the bank bailout in 2008? Where is the unified conservative outrage over launching a trillion-plus dollar war paid for with nothing but debt, where is the outrage over Republican politicians who come along and supported amnesty?

***

The only message coming out of this National Review issue today is that A BUNCH OF FAMOUS CONSERVATIVES PILED ON DONALD TRUMP…

It’s all one big Harumph! Harumph! Harumph!

And how is that effective in a year where being an outsider is sexier than Sophia Loren in a lace teddy?…

National Review isn’t hurting Trump, like a Keystone Cop, National Review is stepping directly into his well-honed anti-establishment narrative.

Before you attempt to bury Donald Trump, maybe you should try and learn a thing or two from him.

***

The editorial and several symposium contributors were clear that voters have good reason to be outraged at the serial betrayals by the Republican political class, even if Trump is the wrong vessel for that outrage. But a few of the contributors have helped perpetrate those betrayals – they’re part of the reason that Trump resonates with so many voters, and I’m loath to take their advice on dealing with the problem they helped create.

Tom Sowell, Ed Meese, Andy McCarthy – criticism of Trump from men like this carries real weight. But – to pick one counter example – Russell Moore? He’s one of the leaders of the Evangelical Immigration Table, a Soros front group pushing for Obama’s immigration agenda. He’s written that “our Lord Jesus himself was a so-called ‘illegal immigrant.’” He’s tweeted that a border wall is a “golden calf.” He exemplifies the yawning gap between elites and the public that fuels Trump’s rise.

In short, Dr. Moore is one of the many Dr. Frankensteins who created Donald Trump. Rather than calling on us to turn away from his creation, Moore might do better to retire from public life and devote himself to quiet good works.

***

Whatever you think of Trump personally, his supporters are pushing for three big things:

A return to traditional GOP law and order practices when it comes to illegal immigration.
A return to a more traditional GOP foreign policy that would put the national interest ahead of globalism.
A return to a more traditional GOP trade policy that would analyze trade deals from the perspective of the country as a whole and not blindly support any deal — even one negotiated by President Obama…

By refusing to make room for these ideas within conservatism, NR risks creating the impression that the revolution brought about by George W. Bush — in particular, his belief in open borders, his effort to create a permanent U.S. military mission in the Middle East, and his notion that trade can never be regulated, no matter how unfair — is now a permanent part of conservatism that can never be questioned. They are also inviting those who disagree with Bush on those points to leave conservatism and start seeking their allies elsewhere.

This is an absolute disaster for conservatism. It is obvious by now that Bushism — however well-intentioned it may appear on paper — does not work for the average American.

***

There’s one thing this dispute symbolizes, aside from the ongoing (and long-running) battle for the soul of the modern Republican Party. And that is this: Many or even most of the people who make a living working in politics and political commentary—even those who think of themselves as outsiders, such as nonpartisan libertarians—inevitably begin to view their field as one dedicated primarily to ideas, ideology, philosophy, policy, and so forth, and NOT to the emotional, ideologically unmoored cultural passions of a given (and perhaps fleeting) moment. Donald Trump—and more importantly, his supporters, who go all but unmentioned here (Ben Domenech is an exception)—illustrate that that gap is, well, yuuge.

Yes, Trump is nobody’s conservative, but it’s not at all clear that many voters really care about such things. His rise is a rebuke to the stories that political commentators have long told themselves, and to the mores they have long shared even while otherwise disagreeing ideologically with one another. You can despise Donald Trump (and oh Lord I do), and appreciate National Review’s efforts here, while simultaneously wondering whether his forcible removal of a certain journalistic mask might also have some benefit.

***

The problem here is that the authenticity of Trump’s conservatism or the orthodoxy of his ideological commitments isn’t really in dispute.

Trump isn’t an orthodox conservative, but he’s also not a fake conservative. He’s someone who is speaking to the Republican Party rank and file and telling them that orthodox conservative politics has failed and that what’s needed instead is a new form of conservative populism focused more explicitly on American nationalism and white Christians’ ethnic and sectarian grievances.

And here’s where the editorial falls flat.

It doesn’t argue that some other candidate is going to do a better job of addressing white working-class concerns about their relative decline in the 21st-century United States of America. Nor does it argue that the GOP has some other path to victory that doesn’t involve increasing its appeal to Trump’s grievance constituency.

***

Trump is not a movement conservative, and people who are have good reason to doubt that he would stick with their principles if (and when) they became inconvenient. But Trump’s ability to commandeer the presidential race is no more an accident than Palin’s brief but torrid rise to the heights of right-wing idolatry. Modern American conservatism is inherently vulnerable to this kind of exploitation.

One reason for this is that, whereas liberalism tries to apply the conclusions of science and academia to public policy, conservatism rejects those conclusions in favor of an a priori belief that more government is always wrong. One contributor, the not notably hinged commentator Glenn Beck, assails Trump for supporting the stimulus, the auto bailouts, and the bank bailouts — three measures that most economists believe helped prevent a much deeper recession. Movement conservatism rejects the conclusions of wide swaths of economists, social scientists, the entire field of climate science … of course it is liable to attract anti-intellectual candidates.

A second problem is that conservative doctrine is unpopular with the public as well. The majority may often support generalized anti-government sentiment, but it does not follow those generalities through to their specific implications. During George W. Bush’s first term, the proposition that Medicare ought to add prescription-drug coverage drew the support of 90 percent of the public. Conservatives did not believe this — some of them grudgingly accepted the Bush administration’s political need to cater to popular sentiment, while others castigated Bush as a traitor to conservatism for doing so…

This is the rub with Trump. Conservatives fear him not because he is an ignorant demagogue, but because he’s not their ignorant demagogue.

***

I did notice, though, as I read through the pieces that I felt far less charitable than most of the writers towards Trump’s supporters—perhaps the most sensitive constituency to ever appear in American politics.

Trumpism is an ideology that judges all things on how they interact with Donald Trump. As a result, it is completely disconnected from any cogent philosophy or moral worldview. And though Trump’s fans characterize anyone who notes that the word clouds springing from the candidate’s mouth are nothing more than incoherent platitude-infused puffs of gibberish as snobby, monocle-wearing, America-hating elite, all I’m saying is that if you’re shopping around for a dictator, you can do a lot better than Donald Trump.

American politics has become a giant appeal to the base emotions of envy and anger—depending on what party you happen to be in. And Republican primary voters are about to bring every liberal fantasy about their regressive, anti-intellectualism, to vivid life. There are many rational people on the right who either justify or are sympathetic to this movement for understandable reasons: They’re sick of corruption. Sick of the frauds and the failed promises. Sick of the abuses of the other party. Republicans want their own Obama…

The ugly reality of the right-wing electorate might be that a majority (this includes the Trumpkins, rent-seeking donor class, those who rarely pay attention, etc.) doesn’t give one whit about Buckley-ite conservatism anymore. The other day, Rush Limbaugh pondered whether “nationalism and populism have overtaken conservatism in terms of appeal.” Maybe. But if it has, America is going to need another party. Maybe two.

***

***

***