In this Age of Trump, we are told, the Republican Party has changed its spots. As evidence, Democrats and the #Resisters point to the many GOP candidates who campaigned with the President this year and the rank-and-file who overwhelmingly support his policies. The claim, in other words, is that it is Trump that is the moving force in the Republicans’ pivot to a more aggressive stance on the Greatness Agenda.
Undoubtedly, many Republicans are following their political leader, a development that is neither unique nor even noteworthy. But to assign the credit or blame to Trump for the widespread anger among Republicans ignores the many other factors that have led to it.
Things, for instance, like the despicable conduct of the neocons and NeverTrumpers in showing contempt for the base; the Democratic Party’s full-throated embrace of the theory and practice of identity politics; the wholesale abandonment of journalistic objectivity by the MSM; and the disturbing practice and example of major corporations and many of the ultra-wealthy.
Neocons and NeverTrumpers. Many years ago I spent a brief amount of time in New York with Irving Kristol as he was putting together a fund intended to support neoconservative intellectuals. I didn’t particularly like him but I thought he would be useful and successful in the scheme he was hatching. For many years thereafter I was a supporter of neocons, including their “nation building” agenda.
That began to change for me in 2009, when I saw a wire service photo of a dying U.S. Marine, lying in the dirt with his legs blown off, in Helmand, Afghanistan. The soldier’s name was Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard, a 21 year old, home-schooled boy from a small town in Maine. And when I saw this photo I thought of how many years U.S. forces had been in Afghanistan by then, and I questioned if his death would mean anything to the neocons.
Flash ahead to 2016-18, and neocons like Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, David Frum, and NeverTrumper George Will have reinvented themselves as the Guardians of True Conservatism, a burden that obliged them (as they would have the credulous believe) to support the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, and obliges them still and regularly to sing from the progressive hymnal on news channels like CNN and MSNBC.
So while most of the GOP’s turning points reflect the action of outside forces, the widespread anger and disgust felt by Republicans for neocons and NeverTrumpers is strictly an internal affair, diminished only slightly by the welcome news of the folding of the neocons’ charter magazine, The Weekly Standard.
Democratic officials. The Republicans recently formed fear and loathing of Democratic Party officials is less an internal matter and more of a public awakening. Though it’s been clear for a number of years that Democrats were comfortable with the growing identity politics movement on college campuses and elsewhere, it wasn’t until the Brett Kavanaugh hearings that it became crystal clear that they are spear carriers in that army themselves.
Though it’s only been a short while since Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, even now those hearings recall a frightening and surreal atmosphere. Did it actually happen that every Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee argued that Christine Ford’s allegations should be believed because she was a woman? Is there anything more deeply unconstitutional, not to say bizarre, than this argument? To plainly suggest the suspension of due process, particularly in a case where the accuser’s story is not only uncorroborated but positively contradicted, and lacking in even the most basic details, is to put everyone on notice that the Democratic Party is dangerously and deplorably wed to identity politics. And Republicans noticed.
The media. The legacy media in this country are now, and have been for decades, dominated by editors and reporters who favor, in the things they publish and broadcast, liberalism and Democrats over conservatives and Republicans. But until 2016 the most prominent of them, the Washington Post and the New York Times, gave at least lip service to the idea of journalistic objectivity. No more. These days, both papers’ breaking news and feature stories read like pieces run on their editorial pages, filled with opinion and transparent malice against Trump, conservatives, and Republicans. And what’s true of the leaders is even worse when it comes to the second string at places like The New Yorker, Huffington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.
Then, of course, there are MSNBC and CNN, the former a progressive opinion network owned by those wonderful people at Comcast, and the latter an ersatz news channel headed and staffed by the shallow and malevolent. Consider a recent comment by CNN host Chris Cuomo. Reflecting on a much-publicized White House meeting in October, he had this to say; “Trump looked like he was thinking racist thoughts while talking to Kanye West.”
Never mind the adolescent absurdity of Cuomo claiming to know, by looking, what the President was thinking—what about the sheer malevolence of his comment? Who can imagine a statement like that uttered by a reporter on a national news network that was neither censured nor retracted say, 10 or even 5 years ago? If, during the previous administration, any reporter said something equally malign about Obama, that reporter would these days no longer be practicing journalism. And once again, the Republicans noticed.
Large corporations and the ultra-wealthy. For years the canard has been that the GOP is the party of the wealthy, and perhaps it was back in the day when a person’s wealth was measured in the millions. But today’s mega-rich count their assets in the billions of dollars, and judging by their political activities many of the richest are not Republicans.
Take, for instance, Messrs. Bezos, Steyer, Buffett, Soros, Bloomberg, Eychaner, Zuckerberg, Cook, and Hastings. None of these billionaires are Republicans; indeed several of them munificently fund Democratic and progressive politicians and nonprofit organizations. Of course there are some on the right too; people like the Mercers, Adelsons, and the Koch brothers.
Large corporations too have had the support of Republicans for many years. Indeed, many of those corporations were and still are headed by registered Republicans. But as with ultra-wealthy individuals, Wall Street corporations are coming to be seen in a bad light as they pursue trade and tax deals that advance their own business interests over those of Main Street companies, to say nothing of citizens, and surrender without a fight, and sometimes with alacrity, to the shakedown protests of all manner of speech police, “investigative journalists,” and left-wing activists.
Quite apart from the political dimension of the GOP’s growing dismay with the ultra-wealthy and Wall Street, there grows in some quarters, and probably many, a disgust with the whole idea of the ultra-rich. There is a difference between making a billion dollars and holding it. Making it often redounds to the benefit of others, like employees and pensioners. But what motivates anyone to keep it? Do they see their personal acquisitions and investments as a magnet for attracting the envy of others? Or are they just unconcerned about the growing inequality in the country and the struggle of the middle class? Either way, an answer is coming soon—and it likely will be an answer the billionaires do not like.
There’s no gainsaying that Trump has raised the political temper of the times, but Republican anger has been motivated by the actions of people and organizations like those mentioned above.
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