2016’s unique environment: Why NR’s “Against Trump” misses the mark

posted at 4:41 pm on January 27, 2016 by Ed Morrissey

Come on — this would explain a few things, right? In attempting to make sense of what seems to be an inexplicable presidential nomination cycle, Andrew Malcolm wonders whether aliens are to blame. The GOP had an almost unprecedented amount of talent coming from its gubernatorial ranks, while Democrats had much less talent but the same heir presumptive to the throne as eight years earlier. He’s not saying it actually is aliens, but …

If this election cycle was a movie, no one would pay to see such a far-fetched tale of science fiction with aliens taking over the minds of American voters and politicians.

In the alleged year of the outsider with so many voters beyond sick of Washington gridlock, cronyism, non-stop partisan bickering and inept incumbents, with the first nomination voting less than a week away their dominant, unlikely presidential choices are at the moment shaping up as follows:

Three, maybe four New Yorkers joined by an incumbent senator roundly disliked by colleagues who was born in Canada. A Brooklyn-born socialist, a lifelong politician who honeymooned in the Soviet Union and proudly promises to raise taxes is handily leading a former first lady and senator under FBI investigation for possible corruption and national security crimes. Unlike eight years ago, Hillary Clinton is fervently supporting Obama, whose job approval has long been underwater. …

This was supposed to be the leap year election when executive experience outside the nation’s despised capital would vault another governor into the Oval Office, as four of the last six presidents have been. A fifth was sitting vice president.

But governors have been dropping from the contest like last weekend’s snowflakes. Scott Walker. Bobby Jindal. Rick Perry. Another, Martin O’Malley, labors in progressive obscurity on the Democrat stage.

Three GOP governors – Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee and John Kasich – also lag, despite scores of millions spent on organization and advertising.

It’s actually not so inexplicable — and the fade by experienced political leaders is a key indicator of the current political environment. In my column for The Week, I look back on the impact from National Review’s “Against Trump” issue, which fulfilled William F. Buckley’s intended mission for the magazine when he launched it 60 years ago. The editors and their contributors gave an impassioned defense of conservative ideology and policy and warned voters that Trump has no loyalty to either.

They’re not wrong on that. The problem is that voters have gone past caring about it, and the institutions which undergird it:

In three ways, the “Against Trump” issue misses the underlying passions in the electorates of both parties. First, it is no longer enough to stand athwart history and yell, “Stop!” The Republican Party and conservatism has done a good job of that since retaking control of the House, and it has been a necessary brake on the excesses of the Barack Obama agenda. But President Obama will retire in a year, and voters want to know what Republicans and conservatives are for.

That is especially true of voters in swing states, as I discovered in my research and travel for my upcoming book Going Red. They do not want a continuation of the ideological battles that have wracked American politics for the last 25 years or more. Voters want more competent governance, which to them means less intrusion in their lives, but also solutions to the issues that matter most to them — a lack of jobs and economic opportunity, failing education systems, and the sense that America’s place in the world has slipped. Conservatism offers insight into how we got here and what to do about it, but voters want a sense from their candidates that they share their dissatisfaction, and have the power to do something to resolve it.

Most importantly, though, is the sense that America’s institutions have failed them, including political parties and the so-called elites who populate the political system. Institutional endorsements usually mean little anyway — just ask all of the also-rans who got newspaper endorsements before primaries in the past few decades. Institutional denunciations probably mean even less in a normal cycle, but in an anti-establishment environment such as this cycle’s, it might wind up being a perverse kind of endorsement. It feeds into the very passions that have made Trump into a polling frontrunner in a Republican field where the extent of political experience provides an inverse correlation to popular standing. It’s not a coincidence that the plethora of governors in the race have either withdrawn or all but dropped off the radar screen.

National Review‘s “Against Trump” offers excellent questions about the ideological bent of Donald Trump. The problem for National Review and conservatism is that few are actually asking those questions or care about the answers. That is the challenge for conservatism: how to remain relevant in an anti-establishment era. Yelling “Stop!” will not be enough to answer it.

National Review has a key role to play in making conservatism relevant to voters again. But for that to happen, everyone has to realize that we are really starting at square one when it comes to trust and education on conservative principles. Attacking candidates, even when warranted, will only work when that trust has been rebuilt and when these institutions can present a positive vision and plan to make it a reality. As a long-time reader and fan of NR and its contributors, that’s a challenge I know they can and will meet — and hopefully so will the rest of the conservative movement’s intellectual institutions.


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Comment pages: 1 2

gh on January 27, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Agreed. Don’t underestimate the brick wall that Trump is going to meet when he becomes the “leader” of a Republican Congress that wishes they could keep The Won. The borders and the importation of cheap legal labor is a problem these people seem to want to ignore. I wish we had the guts to primary every member of Congress.

Cindy Munford on January 27, 2016 at 7:06 PM

It was funny, last week when I went to their site the first article after their wackobird manifesto was a puff-piece praising Paul Ryan

They are, quite simply, idiots and beyond tone-deaf.

Redstone on January 27, 2016 at 7:08 PM

Cindy Munford on January 27, 2016 at 7:06 PM

He isn’t going to become “the leader of a Republican Congress”. He will become president. Moreover the GOPe is not in love with The Won, they are scared of him.

I have read on this site that the legislation to build the wall was passed in 2006. He’ll have a pen and a phone just like Obama. If he really jumps on it on day one the GOPe will scramble to make a deal. As long as “the wall” is built, any amnesty negotiation is livable. Reagan never got the wall (i.e. border control).

gh on January 27, 2016 at 7:10 PM

gh on January 27, 2016 at 7:10 PM

They have voted to build that wall a million(slight exaggeration) times. I believe they use it as a negotiating point when they deal with Obama to cut the budget and defund it a million times. It’s an easy call since neither side wants it. They justifiably count on the people to be too confused to figure out why they keep bragging about legislation passed and results that never happen. They really are all a bunch of crooks.

Cindy Munford on January 27, 2016 at 7:23 PM

Cindy Munford on January 27, 2016 at 7:23 PM

It is the job of the president to get things done and this time the president will not be pushing for defunding. At least that is what Trump is promising.

gh on January 27, 2016 at 7:27 PM

gh on January 27, 2016 at 7:27 PM

We will see. At least with the prevailing reality show mentality of the public Trump has a better chance of appealing to cross over voters.

Cindy Munford on January 27, 2016 at 7:30 PM

Cindy Munford on January 27, 2016 at 7:30 PM

I think we’ll know by April. At that point I hope that, whoever the nominee is, that the GOP gets their heads out of their a$$es and works as hard as they can to get a senate seat or two as well as the white house. If Hillary really implodes the GOP will have the chance of a generation to really fix things.

gh on January 27, 2016 at 7:33 PM

gh on January 27, 2016 at 7:33 PM

I know that I will. I can’t even believe that Hillary is a consideration even amongst Democrats. It is just the sort of thing that solidifies by belief that we have lost our collective minds. Some days I am glad I am old.

Cindy Munford on January 27, 2016 at 7:37 PM

Utterly, pathetically FALSE. These people are in such denial.

fossten on January 27, 2016 at 5:02 PM

I stopped reading right there as well. I cannot think of even one thing (off the top of my head) that the Republicans in congress stopped. If they had, there would be no Trump.

Pattosensei on January 27, 2016 at 7:42 PM

I cannot think of even one thing (off the top of my head) that the Republicans in congress stopped. If they had, there would be no Trump.

Pattosensei on January 27, 2016 at 7:42 PM

The border fence/wall. And that’s why there is a Donald Trump.

Cindy Munford on January 27, 2016 at 7:45 PM

12,000+

Schadenfreude on January 27, 2016 at 7:46 PM

National Review has a key role to play in making conservatism relevant to voters again. But for that to happen, everyone has to realize that we are really starting at square one when it comes to trust and education on conservative principles. Attacking candidates, even when warranted, will only work when that trust has been rebuilt and when these institutions can present a positive vision and plan to make it a reality. As a long-time reader and fan of NR and its contributors, that’s a challenge I know they can and will meet — and hopefully so will the rest of the conservative movement’s intellectual institutions.

National Review has for decades -perhaps always- been in the tank for large-scale U.S. business interests. They have never been for the U.S. worker, their only vision of conservatism is one that aids the bottom line or the portfolio. Certainly, there is overlap of interest with the average citizen. But never, ever forget that these are the guys the spent the late eighties excusing South African Apartheid and actively campaigning for continued U.S. commerce there without conditions. And that exclusive pro-commerce attitude of the Republican donor class is what has brought us Trump-mania.

… that’s a challenge I know they can and will meet …

I just don’t think they are remotely interested in the challenge you describe, Mr. Morrissey. A tactics change- perhaps. Mission change- never.

M240H on January 27, 2016 at 7:47 PM

The Republican Party and conservatism has done a good job of that since retaking control of the House, and it has been a necessary brake on the excesses of the Barack Obama agenda.

I’m sorry, does this say what I think it says?

Ed Morrissey wrote this?

Lolo on January 27, 2016 at 7:48 PM

I cannot think of even one thing (off the top of my head) that the Republicans in congress stopped. If they had, there would be no Trump.

Pattosensei on January 27, 2016 at 7:42 PM

Principles, and you’re right.

Schadenfreude on January 27, 2016 at 7:48 PM

I cannot think of even one thing (off the top of my head) that the Republicans in congress stopped. If they had, there would be no Trump.

Pattosensei on January 27, 2016 at 7:42 PM

Fooling us, and you’re right :)

Schadenfreude on January 27, 2016 at 7:49 PM

I’m sorry, does this say what I think it says?

Ed Morrissey wrote this?

Lolo on January 27, 2016 at 7:48 PM

Yeah, Ed also thinks that the socialism promoted by the GOPe is conservatism and that its worth salvaging.

Magicjava on January 27, 2016 at 7:51 PM

National Review should have gotten Megyn Kelly’s buddy Michael Moore to write for their anti-Trump manifesto.

Redstone on January 27, 2016 at 8:00 PM

National Review has a key role to play in making conservatism relevant to voters again.

The problem, which apparently requires more intellectual gravitas then Ed can muster, is that National Review is conservative only in their own narcissistic arrogant imaginations.

oscarwilde on January 27, 2016 at 8:03 PM

I cannot think of even one thing (off the top of my head) that the Republicans in congress stopped. If they had, there would be no Trump.

Pattosensei on January 27, 2016 at 7:42 PM

Amazing…. Yet you still cannot understand the appeal of Trump.

oscarwilde on January 27, 2016 at 8:05 PM

The writers at NR clearly have low energy.

BuckeyeSam on January 27, 2016 at 8:11 PM

Mickey Kaus is the only one that gets it. It has nothing to do with complex theories of perverse endorsements or an inverse-squares law relating political experience to favorability ratings. The reason for what we’re seeing at least on the GOP side can all be summed up in one sentence: WE DON’T WANT YOUR STUPID AMNESTY.

One candidate has consistently said he’ll oppose amnesty and enforce the laws. He’s the frontrunner.

One other has somewhat inconsistently implied the same. He’s in second place.

Everybody else has dropped out or is limping along in single digits.

This is really not that hard to understand, guys.

joe_doufu on January 27, 2016 at 8:32 PM

The NR “conservatives” have many complaints but no solutions. Philosophical battles on how things used to be have no relevance to what we are stuck with NOW

Brock Robamney on January 27, 2016 at 8:34 PM

Because they bear repeating.

RockyMtnGirl on January 27, 2016 at 5:56 PM

+100

It certainly does.

Athos on January 27, 2016 at 8:49 PM

The Republican Party and conservatism has done a good job of that since retaking control of the House, and it has been a necessary brake on the excesses of the Barack Obama agenda.

I’m sorry, does this say what I think it says?

Ed Morrissey wrote this?

Lolo on January 27, 2016 at 7:48 PM

Um, yes, it does say what you think it says.

And yes, Ed, the Captain, did write this.

I think he lived 2015 in a different universe / reality than the rest of us did. I would really be interested in hearing what specific ‘brakes’ were done on the ‘excesses of the Barack Obama agenda’?

Those ‘brakes’ would be quite debatable…and we should have that debate.

Athos on January 27, 2016 at 8:53 PM

More proof that the Pundit class still doesn’t understand what happened.

It’s really not complicated.

SpongePuppy on January 27, 2016 at 8:53 PM

I wish we had the guts to primary every member of Congress.

Cindy Munford on January 27, 2016 at 7:06 PM

What this reminds me of is the so many cases of people saying ‘Congress sucks, except for my representative’.

It’s what reinforces to me that de Tocqueville was right nearly 175 years ago.

Athos on January 27, 2016 at 8:55 PM

I cannot think of even one thing (off the top of my head) that the Republicans in congress stopped. If they had, there would be no Trump.

Pattosensei on January 27, 2016 at 7:42 PM

The border fence/wall. And that’s why there is a Donald Trump.

Cindy Munford on January 27, 2016 at 7:45 PM

Agree with both, and it makes me wonder just why in hell we elected them in the most sweeping election in 100 years?

itsspideyman on January 27, 2016 at 8:55 PM

Agree with both, and it makes me wonder just why in hell we elected them in the most sweeping election in 100 years?

itsspideyman on January 27, 2016 at 8:55 PM

Why?

Because we believed them when they said with control of Congress, they would use every possible tool to oppose the Obama / Progressive agenda.

The result? They lied and we know they lied. Now they’re paying the price for that callous and craven mendacity.

Athos on January 27, 2016 at 9:00 PM

Enjoy that Trump Kool Aid. You’ll need it when he loses in a landslide to Hillary or Bernie and takes your kind back to the Stone Age.

Low-information GOPe voters, that’s all you are. A pox on you all.

Myron Falwell on January 27, 2016 at 9:04 PM

The result? They lied and we know they lied. Now they’re paying the price for that callous and craven mendacity.

Athos on January 27, 2016 at 9:00 PM

Yes, by nominating a pro-choice socialist elitist who pledges to work alongside Pelosi and Schumer.

How mentally incapacitated are you dolts?

Myron Falwell on January 27, 2016 at 9:06 PM

Athos on January 27, 2016 at 8:55 PM

Yep, it’s the way it works.

itsspideyman on January 27, 2016 at 8:55 PM

They lie so well or we are so stupid. Neither speaks highly of us.

Cindy Munford on January 27, 2016 at 9:06 PM

How mentally incapacitated are you dolts?

Myron Falwell on January 27, 2016 at 9:06 PM

He hasn’t been nominated yet. The GOP has no one to blame by themselves.

Cindy Munford on January 27, 2016 at 9:08 PM

NR chuckle headed cubical people are flummoxed. There must be a reason. More data is needed. Another spreadsheet might help.

SpongePuppy on January 27, 2016 at 9:09 PM

I think he lived 2015 in a different universe / reality than the rest of us did. I would really be interested in hearing what specific ‘brakes’ were done on the ‘excesses of the Barack Obama agenda’?

Athos on January 27, 2016 at 8:53 PM

Barack wanted Michelle as speaker, and we got Ryan instead.

/

Lolo on January 27, 2016 at 9:36 PM

Aliens? No
Illegal Aliens? Yep

Dollayo on January 27, 2016 at 10:55 PM

The Republican Party and conservatism has done a good job of that since retaking control of the House, and it has been a necessary brake on the excesses of the Barack Obama agenda.
I’m sorry, does this say what I think it says?

Ed Morrissey wrote this?

Lolo on January 27, 2016 at 7:48 PM
Um, yes, it does say what you think it says.

And yes, Ed, the Captain, did write this.

I think he lived 2015 in a different universe / reality than the rest of us did. I would really be interested in hearing what specific ‘brakes’ were done on the ‘excesses of the Barack Obama agenda’?

Those ‘brakes’ would be quite debatable…and we should have that debate.

Athos on January 27, 2016 at 8:53 PM
I
I
I
One night we were attacked by Space Aliens, O’bambi wanted to surrender but the GOPe stopped him. I know it’s farfetched but my congressman told me that in confidence.
I am a member of Numbers USA, an immigration control outfit. Whenever I send a fax to my congressmen I always type the name Eric Cantor on the bottom.

A.T. Tapman on January 27, 2016 at 10:55 PM

The End is near. Politics is a failure.

flataffect on January 28, 2016 at 12:59 AM

Trump’s supporters don’t care about his lack of conservative principles or beliefs. They don’t care about ideology at all.

They just want someone, anyone, to stop the mess, to make us “great” again and they believe Trump can do it.

How? It doesn’t matter. He’ll figure out a way.

They don’t care whether conservatives say, “Look, government is broken because it tries to do things it can’t do. We need to return to constitutional limits on it.” Saying things like that goes right over their heads.

They think Trump can fix things – how doesn’t matter – and that’s all that counts.

SteveMG on January 27, 2016 at 4:47 PM

Unfortunately, they’re trying to fix the problem of the “establishment” by putting a different guy at the top. The establishment will still be there. The different guy at the top will still be making deals with them. Trump has already promised to do just that. And not just with the GOP establishment, but also with the Democrat establishment.

The only way we get rid of the establishment is to start throwing out incumbents. Every Senator who’s been compromising with the Dems rather than doing what he or she was sent to do should be out. Every Representative who is not representing his voters should be out. Elect some conservatives to Congress.

Instead, they think electing a different president will fix the rest. It’s not going to happen.

There Goes the Neighborhood on January 28, 2016 at 1:00 AM

Cindy Munford on January 27, 2016 at 5:26 PM

I’m saying Congress is, as Ed said, putting brakes on the Obama agenda, to the limits of the law they can. I don’t know what they can do about Obama’s executive orders and illegal immigration shenanigans. But they’re not letting him do what he wants to do legislatively, as he did with Obamacare when Pelosi and Reid were in control.

LashRambo on January 27, 2016 at 5:31 PM

There’s some truth to this. No matter how disgusted I am with the GOP for caving in to the Democrats over and over, the lack of Democratic control of Congress has at least put a stop to some of the runaway spending and regulation of the first two years of the Obama administration.

And that’s exactly why the economy is sloooowly recovering. It’s not easy to completely wreck the American economy, but constant regulation and social spending can do it. Once Obama got restricted to his pen and his phone, he lost the power to keep driving the economy into the ditch.

So yes, the Republican Congress has been better for the nation than the Democrat Congress. It just could have done so much more if they hadn’t been afraid to take a stand.

There Goes the Neighborhood on January 28, 2016 at 1:12 AM

How’s that “conservative” GOP majority in both houses of the Congress working out?

I’ll vote either Trump or Cruz. Anyone else gets the GOPe nod, and I’m sitting this one out like I sat the last one out. What makes anyone think that a Romney with our current Congress would be any different or better than Obama with the @ss-kissing Congress we now have? We’d just have different, un-American [email protected] shoved down our throats, and spending would be just as high.

Wino on January 28, 2016 at 1:48 AM

To: There Goes The Neighborhood

We have to start somewhere

TRUMP 2016

…because America needs an Alpha Dog in charge in order to…

MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN

Pragmatic on January 28, 2016 at 6:21 AM

Enjoy that Trump Kool Aid. You’ll need it when he loses in a landslide to Hillary or Bernie and takes your kind back to the Stone Age.

Low-information GOPe voters, that’s all you are. A pox on you all.

Myron Falwell on January 27, 2016 at 9:04 PM

I love it when Moby trolls attack and rewrite our Dictionary. Calling anybody who opposes Amnessty GOPe and everybody that supports Amnesty “conservatives”…. LOL

Brock Robamney on January 28, 2016 at 7:18 AM

The Emasculated boys club is in overdrive on these threads… Did Glenn crier Beck give the marching orders?

Brock Robamney on January 28, 2016 at 7:21 AM

The Republican Party and conservatism has done a good job of that since retaking control of the House, and it has been a necessary brake on the excesses of the Barack Obama agenda.

There’s no shame in rehab.

Younggod on January 28, 2016 at 8:32 AM

Sometimes I think I’m the only one that understands Conservatism.

It is not a belief system that one pulls out to argue with liberals. Conservatism is a tool for implementing solutions for problems.

Both liberals and conservatives want workers to make more money, so how does conservatism effect this problem? By the proposed solution. Liberals want to legislate higher wages and conservatives want a growing economy with more job opportunities.

So deciding that someone is conservative based on what they believe is useless. Judge based on their proposed solution. Being pro-life is not enough. What do they propose to reduce the number of abortions that will stand up in court. Rhetoric is useless.

huckleberryfriend on January 28, 2016 at 8:57 AM

“The editors and their contributors gave an impassioned defense of conservative ideology and policy and warned voters that Trump has no loyalty to either.

They’re not wrong on that.”

Then they are doing precisely what they should do; whatever we are for, the immediate concern is not to make a mistake in following a man whose previous history is the diametric opposite of everything conservatives are supposed to be for.

*I* listen to them, but I suspect many voters are allowing their hearts and emotions to mislead them, and so NR will not be listened to. Perhaps they should be renamed “National Cassandra”. That’s the curse of prophets in both the Bible and Greek myth; to be ignored while alive and commemorated when safely dead.

pendell2 on January 28, 2016 at 9:08 AM

National Review has a key role to play in making conservatism relevant to voters again. – Morrissey

No it doesn’t. It isn’t even a conservative rag. It’s a GOPe rag staffed by a pack of neo_Marxist elitist pricks. Why would I write that? This is why (educate yourselves on what the GOPe really is:

http://www.unz.com/article/why-i-support-donald-trump-and-not-ted-cruz/

earlgrey on January 28, 2016 at 9:23 AM

I think we can safely say that Mr. Trump doesn’t take criticism very well.

Cindy Munford on January 27, 2016 at 6:54 PM

Trump is fine if you want to debate issues, but he will not stand for the personal attacks, it is as simple as that. He is a businessman, not a politician and he thinks the personal attacks are out of line. He says the amerikan government ought to support amerikans first, not foreigners. And it should put our country first in all its dealings with other nations.

He also believes in the constitution, and has complete disdain for most politicians as incompetent, lying sacks of you know what, and that their biggest problem is they have no leadership. He is a leader and will fix that.

You should read his book because your concerns about him ar completely wrong.

earlgrey on January 28, 2016 at 9:39 AM

earlgrey on January 28, 2016 at 9:39 AM

I disagree. Most of his personal attacks have been against people who have inched up in the polls. I am sure he is a smart man and very accomplished but if you have been around here long enough to “know” me, his style is not one that I admire.

Cindy Munford on January 28, 2016 at 10:05 AM

Well, at least the Left has their own “Against Sanders” movement to distance the Democrat party from Socialism.
Oh, wait…

Dexter_Alarius on January 28, 2016 at 11:11 AM

The mention of brick walls reminds me of earthquakes and the brick wall break up and fall down due to the power of the quake. I am not a conservative any more because that word does not any more really mean conservatism buts a cover up for everything but! I am an Independent, and I am a Nationalist which better reflects my love of America and its former values which so-called conservatives have ruined, taken away, or even acknowledge. Today’s so-call conservatives are anything but pushing for more laws, supporting the DNC members, spending money we do not have, and supporting an inadequate and brain dead president in his puppeteers program. Having lived outside America for a time, I am able to see what the conservatives really are: socialists and communists and hate America but want to bleed our country for their pockets and program, not ours by any stretch of the imagination. You voted in what your thought were “conservatives” who have turned out to be traitors to their oath and supporting whatever the empty suit and Democrats put forth and many of you are truly Demolites and not even real Republicans. You need to go and a breath of fresh air in the EO and getting rid of the garbage we allowed into Congress and the SC.

Roselle on January 28, 2016 at 11:47 AM

Ed has finally gone completely off the rails, describing GOP populists as nihilists.

Ed, you embarrass yourself with this piece. Why do you believe populists so morally bankrupt? I’m no Trump supporter, mostly because I think (immigration aside) he’s a pretty middle of the road Democrat, but nihilist?

Ed’s article reads as if a Kathleen Parker or a David Brooks wrote it.

MTF on January 28, 2016 at 1:15 PM

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