Two prominent right wing political commentators are in agreement that Donald Trump must be stopped, even if it means burning down the Republican Party, this fall. Both have been complicit in helping to bring about the very situation they now denounce. I am willing to give the younger one some benefit of the doubt, but the older one – an eminence grise of conservative punditry, deserves every dollop of his current pain.
Scanning the last several decades of increasingly rancorous demagoguery, I’ve decided that the most toxic political commentator in The U.S. is a fellow known for his soft-spoken intellect — George F. Will.
Oh sure, there are scads of shills on Fox, Drudge, Clear Channel and Breitbart etc. who have spent 30 years spreading direct poisons like the war on science and against every knowledge caste in America. (Name an exception.) But those savanarolas who helped whip the confederate lumpenprols into hydrophobic frenzy were simply doing what they’re paid to do by today’s Junkers-class.
George Will is something else. He has been like the character in Vonnegut’s novel – Mother Night – whose silken goebbels-tongue helped tens of thousands of well-educated Germans to rationalize loyalty to the devil. George Will knows his “side” has gone insane. He knows he’s been a collaborator in the concerted and deliberate destruction of politics as a rational system for negotiation and problem-solving in American life. Here is my mini-essay denouncing him far more eloquently than I have time for, in this place:
So what’s the latest?
Will continues to rant that “Trump must be stopped,” having gone so far as to praise the desperation measures of Ted Cruz who, if ever elected, would have been far worse — a Nehemiah Scudder, intent on fulfilling Book of Revelations prophecies — than Trump’s mere carnival barker.
Oh, I’ll admit that Mr. Will can certainly turn a phrase! Regarding Cruz choosing Carly Fiorina for his own fantasy electoral-ball ticket, he said: “…already know the only important thing about Trump’s choice: His running mate will be unqualified for high office because he or she will think Trump is qualified.”
He goes on to recommend that Hillary Clinton choose Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, in order to curry favor with Sandersites, thereby declaring that he thinks everyone in the universe is less-bright than George F. Will. Ooooh, good choice! Letting far-right GOP governor John Kasich appoint a Republican replacement? Will’s low opinion of our intelligence has made even his fantasies lazy and lackluster.
Sure, he can be cogent: “In losing disastrously, Trump probably would create down-ballot carnage sufficient to end even Republican control of the House.”
Yes… and? We know what you fear most, sir.
Will continues: “Were he to be nominated, conservatives would have two tasks. One would be to help him lose 50 states — condign punishment for his comprehensive disdain for conservative essentials, including the manners and grace that should lubricate the nation’s civic life. Second, conservatives can try to save from the anti-Trump undertow as many senators, representatives, governors and state legislators as possible.”
Note that last bit. Loss of statehouses and state assemblies, which would then end gerrymandering and dozens of other cheats. That is the soft underbelly of this election and the nightmare that the plantation lords and their court intellectuals – their rationalizer courtesans – fear most. (Moreover, that is where disappointed Sandersites should veer their attention and passion, if their support for Hillary herself is tepid.)
Oh, but follow Will’s logic. Is he actually asking republicans to vote for Hillary Clinton, this time around? Is he truly under the delusion that he shares no blame for the demolition of the conservative movement that he claims to love, or for the crisis and peril now faced by the country that supposedly had his devotion?
Oh, what a piece of work, this man.
A newer generation of rationalizer gets it.
On to the younger deserter. Out of all the post-Indiana-mortems, expressing stages of grief among sane or quasi-sane U.S. conservatives, probably the most realistic and helpful is offered up by Jennifer Rubin, who proposes a two phase approach: “Stop Trump, then remake conservative politics.”
Meaning this senior conservative columnist urges any not insane republicans out there to hold your noses and help elect Ms. Clinton… and even a new democratic majority in Congress… then take the GOP ashes, stir them, and come up with a new plan for the movement. A model better suited to the 21st Century. Perhaps even a conservatism that no longer drives away all of the scientists and other knowledge folks.
Ms. Rubin offers examples proposed by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb) and others and concludes:
“Somewhere in that mix are the contours of a platform that is contemporary and conservative and for which there is arguably a broader demographic and geographic appeal. It should not include (for there is no political appetite for these things, and they are unattainable and/or unwise from a policy standpoint): opposition to gay rights; large tax cuts for the rich; protectionism; expelling women from combat in a volunteer army; rooting gays out of the military; obsessing over bathroom assignments; fixating on local ordinances about wedding services; keeping the status quo on entitlements; cutting out (as opposed to reforming) the safety net; never, ever raising taxes on anyone; and mass deportation.”
“…Along with all of this, conservatives have to end their intellectual isolation and self-delusions. They need to stop pretending that climate change is not occurring (the extent and the proposed solutions can be rationally discussed) or imagining that there is a market for pre-New-Deal-size government. Conservatives must end their infatuation with phony news, crank conspiracy theories, demonization of well-meaning leaders and mean rhetoric. It’s time to grow up, turn off Sean Hannity, get off toxic social media and start learning about the world as it is. (Read a book authored by someone without a talk show, spend time with non-Republicans, take an online course in economics.) Confirmation bias has become pathological.”
To be clear about the source: Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn conservative column for the Washington Post. Indeed, over the years her apologias have helped to justify the “see no evil” refusal of decent folks on that side to admit their “side” has been hijacked.
Now that she and George Will are desperately backpedalling, I’ll not (though tempted) make comparisons to Oskar Schindler. Instead, let me observe they are now like characters in a Tex Avery cartoon who have obstinately charged ten paces beyond the edge of a cliff and now face a dawning realization that they… must… look… down…
Still, in confessions like this one there is hope! A germ-line or seed stock for a sane conservatism that might grow from the coming self-immolation. A new, more grownup version that can ditch the never-ever-negotiate “Hastert Rule” concocted by the GOP’s perverted former headman, in the 1990s. A new version capable of noticing, at last, that Supply Side “voodoo economics” has failed every predictive test and cannot ever work as anything but a destroyer of markets.
A new version of conservatism that might instead become a worthy partner in negotiations about moving ahead, across the 21st Century.
Only first? Before you can stir and seed those fertile ashes… the current lunacy must burn down.
Feature image of George Will: Wiki CC BY 2.0 lic.