No, Trump Didn’t Radicalize the Left

A new poll offers grim but realistic news about America: One-third of our fellow countrymen, including 40 percent of Republicans, say we are on the verge of a civil war. It is a dangerous time—terrifying for parents of children of any age—as the radical Left’s 50-year incursion into every American institution finally is reaping long-sought dividends with the full cooperation of the country’s academic, corporate, and media leadership as well as the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for president.

Political observers on the NeverTrump Right, however, have analyzed the moment and identified the culprit for the widespread mayhem and destruction: Donald Trump.

Of course.

Always eager to play the role of useful idiot, NeverTrump is blaming the president—not lawless loons on the Left or their powerful guardians occupying executive mansions and mayoral offices and C-suites across the country—for our current state of brinkmanship.

“[Trump’s] spirit of authoritarianism creates a sense of perpetual crisis among his opponents, uniting left-wingers and liberals despite their differences,” wrote Ross Douthat in the New York Times over the weekend. “His spirit of chaos, the sense that nothing is planned or under control, turns moderates and normies against him. And finally, his spirit of incompetence means that conservatives get far less out of his administration than they would from a genuine imperial president, a man of iron rather than of pasteboard.”

Now, imagine witnessing not only the rampage of the past few weeks but also all that has been unleashed over the last several years and tagging Trump as the authoritarian, chaotic, and incompetent one. (Before his diatribe against the president, Douthat admitted his “dire predictions” about Trump’s presidency have been wrong for three years in a row.)

Incinerated urban neighborhoods, defaced monuments, shattered storefronts, and a bizarre breakaway “zone” in downtown Seattle are the result of Donald Trump’s . . . what exactly? His mean tweets? His legitimate criticism of Black Lives Matter and Colin Kaepernick? His defense of the flag and the Constitution? Trump’s blunt pledge to protect the foundations of our democracy, the same bearings the Left is successfully dismantling one riot at a time?

Douthat’s analysis isn’t just the default position of NeverTrump, a groveling sort of cosplay that pleases Times readers so Douthat can keep his gig as the Trump-hating “conservative” on the Grey Lady’s opinion page. It’s something worse than that. Douthat actually gives a pass to the most dangerous foe America has faced in decades, an internal enemy far more menacing than Russian Facebook memes or a criminal North Korean dictator. Further, his assessment defies fact and reality; the Left’s accelerated rise, as Douthat undoubtedly knows but chooses to ignore, predates Donald Trump.

Douthat isn’t alone in his misdirected finger-pointing: Jonah Goldberg, cofounder of a newsletter called The Dispatch, agreed. “Many of us saw [fast-radicalizing Left] even earlier, but Trump and his apologists . . . are utterly oblivious to, or unconcerned by, the fact they are making conservatism less appealing and respectable everyday [sic].”

Yes, that’s the real problem right now—conservatives are not respectable. Not out-of-control anarchists and their accomplices in the House Democratic Caucus.

Rod Dreher, a columnist for The American Conservative, called Douthat’s column “superb.”

Writing for Commentary, Noah Rothman also jumped on the Blame Trump bandwagon. Inaccurately claiming Biden “rejects” radicalism, Rothman insists, “Trump has so bungled the moment that he can’t serve as a pole in the debate. He is polarizing & divisive. His bizarre behavior has left the conservative movement all but defenseless in the face of an onslaught of radicalism.”

There is a reason, of course, that people like Goldberg and Douthat want to believe Donald Trump has made conservatism unappealing and defenseless—that the Bad Orange Man in the White House is why Democrats literally are taking a knee in the Capitol in subservience to the radical Left. It’s because they, not Trump, actually are to blame.

In fact, our current crisis speaks as much to the failures of the old-guard conservative movement, particularly neoconservatives, as it validates the triumph of the Left.

The pre-Trump Republican Party prioritized nation-building abroad at the expense of nation-building at home. Republican leaders, including presidents and presidential candidates, insisted that we “take the fight” against America’s enemies to some faraway land without realizing there already was a fight here and it was far more destabilizing than a faction of terrorists in Fallujah. (Or perhaps they did realize it and just didn’t have the guts to do what was necessary to counterpunch?)

Pre-Trump Republican Party establishment turned a blind eye to the consequences of their failed wars and disastrous trade pacts and “compassionate conservative” immigration policies. Oh sure, they gave lip service to welfare reform and deficit reduction, but it’s sort of hard to cut the debt when Republicans commit trillions in U.S. tax dollars to unsuccessfully spread democracy in undemocratic hellholes around the world. Every bit of political capital was squandered.

All the while, the Left laughed at the fecklessness of the pre-Trump Republican Party and “conservative” movement, confident that the likes of Paul Ryan, George W. Bush, and John McCain were impotent opponents. Pre-Trump Republicans had no plan to halt the Left’s stranglehold on academia; the kids they didn’t send to fight in the Middle East were brainwashed on college campuses in the Midwest and elsewhere without a peep of dissent from Republicans in Congress or the White House. The national news media, and now social media, act as the near-monopolistic organ to spread leftist propaganda while silencing dissent. To this day, NeverTrump “conservatives” reject any use of federal power to stop it.

Corporations and business interests that openly discriminate against conservative viewpoints still receive federal subsidies and tax benefits without question. The nation’s most powerful law enforcement and intelligence agencies can target innocent Republicans and these same prostrated “conservatives” will justify it as a credible attempt to save the country from imaginary Russian agents.

No one embodies the scourge of the pre-Trump Republican Party more than Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a pathetic sycophant once considered a racist, sexist pig by the Left when he ran against Barack Obama—and who last week attended a Black Lives Matter protest organized by the same forces that once tried to destroy him.

Romney’s antics prove Douthat and company wrong—and Trump supporters right. The notion, as Douthat later argued, that a “center-right” president such as Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or John Kasich would have achieved the same policy goals and political victories as Trump without the ruckus is pure fantasy. The ruckus wouldn’t have been necessary precisely because they would have caved.

Does Douthat really think a President Jeb Bush would have stuck by Brett Kavanaugh? Would a President Marco Rubio have survived a special counsel investigation or a concocted impeachment trial without submitting to whatever demands the Left would have made of him?

If John Kasich were president, he already would have signed a Green New Deal-lite and a compromise open-borders bill along with higher tax rates. Any Republican president not named Trump would have surrendered to the Leftist mob. The war wouldn’t be on the horizon; it would be over. Surrender without a fight.

Donald Trump and the reconfigured Republican Party didn’t accelerate the rise of the radical Left. What we’re enduring is the result of decades of neglect by the pre-Trump Republican Party. Their cowardice has rendered conservatives nearly powerless in what likely amounts to a now unavoidable civil war with the Left. And millions of conservatives view Trump—not the lily-livered flops of failed Conservative Inc.—as their best, and only, hope for victory.

But once again, NeverTrump fingers the wrong enemy while bracing for another defeat. At least they have landed on the one thing they are reliably good at.

About Julie Kelly

Julie Kelly is a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness. She is the author of Disloyal Opposition: How the NeverTrump Right Tried―And Failed―To Take Down the President Her past work can be found at The Federalist and National Review. She also has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and Genetic Literacy Project. After college graduation, she served as a policy and communications consultant for several Republican candidates and elected officials in suburban Chicago. She also volunteered for her local GOP organization. After staying home for more than 10 years to raise her two daughters, Julie began teaching cooking classes out of her home. She then started writing about food policy, agriculture, and biotechnology, as well as climate change and other scientific issues. She graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1990 with a degree in communications and minor degrees in political science and journalism. Julie lives in suburban Chicago with her husband, two daughters, and (unfortunately) three dogs.

Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

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