The battle going on for hearts and minds of the Republican Party intelligentsia is well bracketed by Boot’s defeatism, juxtaposed against the evolution of Noonan’s thinking over the course of the Trump campaign.
From Day One, self-anointed keepers of the neoconservative flame, like Boot, Rich Lowry at National Review, John Podhoretz at Commentary, William Kristol at the Weekly Standard, and Karl Rove and Paul Gigot at the Wall Street Journal, have unmercifully flayed Trump as a closet liberal given his renunciation of neocon causes like free trade and Bush’s Middle East wars.
In sharp contrast, Peggy Noonan’s thinking has clearly evolved in considering that the fault may lie more with the Beltway commentariat’s stunning misperception of what matters to real voters in that vast stretch of “flyover country” between Georgetown and Beverly Hills. Ultimately, the outcome of Peggy Noonan’s intellectual struggle may be a far better leading indicator of a Trump defeat or victory in November than the rants of neocons increasingly out of touch with an American anger that their very own flawed policies helped spawn.
For his part, Trump has not sought to politely cleanse the likes of National Review, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, and the Wall Street Journal of its affinities for free trade, open borders and nation building, but rather give these stiff neocons a full-scale enema. No wonder they both hate and fear him. The only remaining question is whether they can mortally wound him.
In this Republican “Never Trump” vein, there is also the chorus of establishment politicians who continue to rain invective down upon Trump—to the delight of the Clintonites and Democratic Party. The most high-profile of these Republican Clintonians include a Mount Rushmore of failed presidential candidates: Mitt, Jeb, Ted, and the two Johns—Kasich and McCain. It’s an open question as to whether the Republican base will heed the warnings from this usual suspects or see them as just a bowlful of traitorous sour grapes.