The anti-Trump right takes a stand, may signal dramatic changes ahead

NR Trump Cover

As actual voting in Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond approaches, a couple of things are becoming clear. First, against all early expectations, Donald Trump stands a solid chance of winning a plurality of votes in some number of states. And second, however large that plurality may grow, an array of conservatives and Republicans are not going to be converted to Trumpism.

What this means in the short term is unclear. What it means in the long term is even foggier. But it is becoming less likely that Trump’s ascendancy will dissipate without any fallout for the Republican Party — nor, probably, for the Democrats.

Today’s release of an anti-Trump issue of National Review, the publication with which William F. Buckley essentially launched the modern conservative movement, features a broad range of thinkers arguing against the embrace not only of Trump, but of what he stands for, which is anything but conservatism properly understood. The writers represent such varied publications and institutions as the Weekly Standard, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cato Institute. This is more than a single magazine editorializing against a candidate; it is a cross-section of the leadership of the center-right part of the political spectrum, standing athwart Trumpism, yelling “Stop!” And, of course, there are others at places like the Wall Street Journal editorial page (and, I would note, this blog) who are doing the same on their own platforms.

This not a new development. These same thought leaders have been doing this for months now. In fact, those who have taken greatest pains to portray Trump as a legitimate conservative figure have generally fallen into one of two groups: The ratings-driven, entertainment-posing-as-right-wing-thought industry, and liberals who are all-too delighted to pump up a candidate even worse than their deeply flawed favorite, Hillary Clinton.

Trump remains unlikely to win the GOP nomination outright. Voters surveyed in opinion polls have consistently opted for “the field” by a margin of at least 2-to-1. Trump is such a polarizing figure, it seems more likely that those who have any inclination to back him are already doing so, unless they are choosing not to voice their support for him in a kind of reverse Bradley effect. But it is becoming increasingly clear, as illustrated by the new edition of National Review, that even if Trump finds a way to win or emerges victorious from a contested convention, he would not simply be absorbed into the broader party and conservative movement. Instead, he would fracture them.

I can imagine a scenario in which those people now considered Republicans or Republican-leaners divide into two camps: Trump and Not Trump. In fact, I have been hearing from a number of influential, though not necessarily elected, Georgia Republicans who insist they would not remain in a party whose standard bearer was Donald Trump. This is, I think, the closest we have come to a viable three-party scenario since 1992, when Ross Perot delivered the presidency to another Clinton.

But unlike that time, I’m not sure it would be short-lived. We have now gone that much longer without a real political realignment. Like tectonic plates rubbing against one another, the tension between the same collection of factions still represented by either the Democratic or Republican parties cannot go on forever without rupturing. Trumpism may be the impetus for just such a division.

But I don’t think it would be a neat division contained wholly within the GOP, because the GOP isn’t the only party feeling the pressure of a shift. Bernie Sanders’ success among Democrats is showing a much larger fissure than most of them have realized, or been willing to admit. Note the way the Democratic establishment has been trying to patch things up — or maybe paper over the split — as Sanders’ popularity refuses to wane.

For that reason, I don’t think we’d be left with simply Democrats and the Trumpist and non-Trumpist rumps of a Republican Party. I can instead see a division that is more like this: progressivists, Trumpists and a third group whose views might be best described as classical liberalism. The two former groups are both motivated by a dissatisfaction with the status quo; they would just split from it in very different directions. The last group wouldn’t necessarily be content with the status quo, but they would depart from it in less radical ways.

Note that I didn’t call any of those groups “centrist,” or “liberal” or “conservative” in the way we normally understand those terms. What we call “liberalism” and “conservatism” today have morphed from what they used to mean, to accommodate the Sanders and Trump wings, respectively. The third group would absorb people from each side of our current left/right split who are simply more repulsed by the “other side” than by the people on their own side who make them uncomfortable.

The political tensions of the past decade or two will have to be resolved one way or another. The presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama illustrate why that’s true: Each man, due to his decisions and sometimes his personal shortcomings, lost the trust not only of the more ideological members of his own party, but of those in the other party who might have been willing to work with him. The result has been the gridlock of recent years, and a status quo that no one likes but which no one seems capable of changing.

Of course, the actual elections that begin next month in Iowa may play out in a way that puts off this resolution, or a different one. But the divisions apparent on each side of the aisle, and the unwillingness of some people on each side to go where others are trying to drag them, make me wonder just how much longer we can go on like this.

Reader Comments 0

65 comments
patriotdog
patriotdog

Excellent thesis and one with which i agree totally, and would support. The GOP has gone way too far right and the Dems are the Socialists/Fascists

of previous decades.

Many on both sides of the current landscape would be eager for a more centrist approach.

Keith Bryant
Keith Bryant

The USA would best be served by having five major parties. A place for everyone and compromise would be required to produce coalitions to govern. 

Starik
Starik

@Keith Bryant A parliamentary system might work - what you lose is stability.  When we elect a President we're usually stuck with him for 4 years, while parliamentary systems can be unstable - see Italy.  For me, now, a viable third party that excludes the crazy right and the crazy left would be nice.

Starik
Starik

I see the former Mayor Bloomberg of NYC is thinking of a third party run - he's not the sort of person I had in mind as a centrist, but he does have the huge wealth required. 

Starik
Starik

It would be nice to have a centrist political party that doesn't pander to the far left or far right - but who is running who could form the nucleus of such a party?  Who's going to create it?

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

Come election day these conservative "thought leaders" will most likely forget their ideological preferences and support whomever the (R) candidate happens to be - once they consider the alternative.

Cijohnson
Cijohnson

Why does the AJC continue to support/favor Hillary when she has lied about her use of personal internet services which was against the law and she is being investigated by the FBI for wrongdoing?

Brit
Brit

Last time I checked the writer of this blog is a conservative!

Cijohnson
Cijohnson

I would welcome some dramatic changes in the mess we have currently.  I don't care for either party and would welcome a third party if it did not contain the same old career politicians.

Fbarney
Fbarney

Amazing, you never read any Anti-Hillary articles in the AJC. It's all positive.  They could have a Field Day with her and Bill, if they weren't campaigning for her.

Brit
Brit

See above Kyle is no "liberal".....just a reasonable conservative voice

LeaningLibertarian
LeaningLibertarian

A thoughtful approach to this whole sorry situation. This sort of fracture seems inevitable; and we've been refusing to deal with it. Perhaps Mr Trump will make his biggest contribution as a wedge in the fracture lines.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

One thing you missed in your realignment analysis is the possible indictment and corruption of the Clintons.  I think what happens with that and how it plays out, especially if she goes on to get elected,   will have a major impact on any realignment. 


If voters think Hillary got away with it, they have three choices, try and rationalize and excuse it, join the group advocating for reform, or just drop out of the game.  I think most will just drop out, as they will figure she got away with it and still got elected, so the game is just too rigged to play.



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RafeHollister "One thing you missed in your realignment analysis is the possible indictment and corruption of the Clintons."

True. I don't know if Obama has the guts to allow a prosecution of her, though it's clear any regular old American would be charged given the same set of facts.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Kyle_Wingfield @RafeHollister Why would President Obama be involved? Go to court with your evidence. Put YOUR money where your mind/paranoia is. Why does the government need to try her? Eating from the public trough repubs? Your hearings on her SOS actions has gone well, hasn't it? The repubs should pay back the money to the US taxpayers.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara


..."liberals who are all-too delighted to pump up a candidate even worse than their deeply flawed favorite, Hillary Clinton"


Really, liberals are pumping up Donald Trump for their own personal gain?  I have not heard one liberal pump up Trump and Obama went as far as to criticize him in the SOTU. I can't say that I've heard any liberal say a good word about Trump.


" Each man, due to his decisions and sometimes his personal shortcomings, lost the trust not only of the more ideological members of his own party, but of those in the other party who might have been willing to work with him."


Obama has an 82% approval rating among Democrats.  Bush ended with a 60% approval among Republicans.  I'm not sure the case can be made that Democrats are unhappy with Obama. 


Republicans never gave Obama a chance. Two months after the inauguration, we had Republicans spewing this garbage.


http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2009/03/03/36544/pence-hopes-failure/


I'm not sure how that is a personal failure of Obama. Republicans hated him as soon as he was inaugurated and you know it. 


The Democrats are fine.  They are having a fight about how they want to proceed.  Republicans are having an existential crisis.  Don't try to make the other side look bad simply because your party is in shambles.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara Check out the way Democratic elites are bashing Bernie as a socialist, and tell me there isn't an existential crisis in that party, too.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@Kyle_Wingfield @JFMcNamara , The Clinton camp and her backers are leading the charge.  That seems like simple campaigning.


When MSNBC, New Republic and whoever else the Democrats listen to come out and publicly try to take down the frontrunner, then we'll call it even.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Democrats might approve of Obama's liberal fascism, but Americans do not.

DerekGator
DerekGator

I love it.  The Republican party was hijacked years ago by the religious right and the moral majority and now the "establishment" doesn't like it that someone else is hijacking the party?  Well, the establishment should have done something a long time ago when they sold their soul to the far right wackos for a few votes.  While I am not enamored with Trump, another 4 or 8 years of Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio would be not much different than Obama, except that Rubio would have us in a half dozen wars.  Trump running through the Republican party like a bull in a china shop is the best thing that could ever happen to the fat old white dude party.

Trump would be a heck of a lot better than Sanders or Clinton, the establishment needs to shut their pie holes and vote for the republican nominee and let the chips fall where they may. 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

"Each man, due to his decisions and sometimes his personal shortcomings, lost the trust not only of the more ideological members of his own party..."

Funny President Obama hasn't lost many votes or blocks.

I agree with your premise...the far right T-P er's would be one party. Their would be a middle with Trump types and Clinton's, and then the Sanders types. But I disagree that the Dems are fractured. They weren't until Bernie started to challenge Hillary, and she has gotten defensive. She comes across arrogant at times, like the GOP field . Plus her "baggage".


Actually we need a Dem President to balance the crazy Senate and House that seems like they'll wait forever just to get their way.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RoadScholar "I agree with your premise...the far right T-P er's would be one party. Their would be a middle with Trump types and Clinton's, and then the Sanders types."

That's not my premise. There is nothing about Trump that says "classical liberal."

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Trump slammed Kelly, saying her questions were "ridiculous" and "off-base."


"You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes," Trump told CNN's Don Lemon on Friday night. "Blood coming out of her wherever."


Is that going to fly with Republican women who have daughters ?


If Bernie and Trump are two sides of the same coin please point out an equivalent statement by Sen Sanders.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

It is a weird world out there.  Like Palin pointed out, when is the last time a major party tried to destroy their most popular candidate and frontrunner and wreck his chances.  I don't support Trump, he is a charlatan in borrowed conservative clothes, but I think folks who do, are not going to look favorably at those who try and destroy him.  Palin pointed out that many of the folks saying that Trump is not a conservative, voted for Amnesty, voted for the last spending bill that funded PParenthood, more refugees,  and Obama's illegal immigration EO.  Are they more conservative than he?


The cabal of media, establishment politicians, and the talking heads are once again taking a position against the will of the people.  The people, I believe, have finally emerged from their coma and realized that neither party, the media, or the talking heads care what they think.  They are trying to find someone who will tell them the truth and will attempt to implement what is promised on the campaign trail.  It takes a great leap of faith to think any of these bozo's will be the same person when they are elected, as they pretend to be now.   Much has to be overlooked in order for me to vote for any of them, as they all have serious flaws.


The self appointed elite cabal have for years considered the citizenry to be inferior and unwilling to do what is in their best interest.   They have perfected the game of pandering to the folks to get elected and then working their hardest to satisfy their campaign donors once elected, the people's wishes be damned.  This is what spawned the Trump phenomenon and those folks are not going to go to the polls and enthusiastically support one of the other candidates, if Trump is unfairly treated.  


I think Trump will run the table, if the field stays the same or as long as the other candidates pursue their own self interest, over what is best for America.  Who among them has the moral courage to drop out so the anti-Trump vote can consolidate?  How can you enthusiastically support someone, who you know is putting his/her self interest in staying in the race, over the interest of America.  It is a mess and for once I'm glad that Georgia doesn't vote yet, that maybe the other states can eliminate some of the candidates and we can vote based on who is in the top three or four most likely to win.  



RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Hedley_Lammar @RafeHollister That is why you remain willfully ignorant, unwilling to entertain any thought that conflicts with your own rehearsed proggie talking points.


Explain why that thought of hers is wrong.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@RafeHollister @Hedley_Lammar No, because they don’t eat their own, they don’t self-destruct. But for the GOP establishment to be coming after Donald Trump’s supporters even, with accusations that are so false. They are so busted, the way that this thing works.


Sarah Palin. Republican Statesman.


They are so busted !!!!

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Hedley_Lammar @RafeHollister Judge not, lest you be so judged, is what I live by. She certainly knows how to pronounce corpsman and how many states there are and that Austrians do not speak Austrian.  I wonder about people who can instantly determine someone else's intelligence level.  I remember those pointing out how dumb Dubyah was and said he was accepted in college because of his father, but when someone posted both his and John Kerry's IQ, they were shocked that Dubyah had the higher one.

IvanFig
IvanFig

My opinion on which Republican to vote for is still "undecided".  That said, all the anti-Trump rhetoric is a concern, as is all the other anti-(put your name here) rhetoric.  Trump's popularity is that his "filter" is set low - he speaks his mind and many of his opinions have merit (and many are outlandish).  My concern is that the GOP has become a party of I'm more conservative than you, therefore you are a RINO.  Whomever the Republican Presidential nominee is, I  WILL vote for them because the alternative is not acceptable to me. My hope is that all fellow Republicans also vote for whomever the eventual nominee is. The alternative is an extension of the past seven years. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

I mean seriously. Read the text of Palin's speech the other day.


And when you do remember this is the person Republicans thought would make a fine VP.


Im curious what you felt of the Palin nomination at the time Kyle ?


It was just the warmup for the main attraction we are seeing now.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

What the GOP should be asking itself is how they have fallen so far as to have a clown show like Trump and Palin ( remember she was the VP pick ) at the head of the party.


Palin was strongly defended by these same folks at the National Review who now bemoan Trump.


This has been a long time coming. Nothing happening on the left even comes close to this. 

lvg
lvg

@Kyle_Wingfield @Hedley_Lammar Krugman endorses Bernie's single payer plan as the most economically sensible. but states in current political climate it will never get off the ground. Kyle  is listening to Hillary for what Krugman believes.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@lvg "Krugman endorses Bernie's single payer plan as the most economically sensible"

I would like to see where he's said that. He has repeatedly written that Bernie's plan glosses over real costs and is unrealistic in that regard, not just the political one. Or maybe you've been listening to Bernie for what Krugman believes?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @Hedley_Lammar I disagree with one radical TV star buffoon.


I dont disagree with Bernie who I would consider serious about governing.


Many things he is proposing work well elsewhere in the world.


Yes I realize we aren't Denmark.

DerekGator
DerekGator

@Kyle_Wingfield @lvg While I am not a fan of Bernie or any liberal, I do think that fiscal conservatives should have an open mind and take a look at the single payer idea.  A single payer system after the initial shock would be a huge stimulus for businesses, spreading the cost of medical care between taxes collected, employee and employer.  Businesses would no longer have to pay for workers comp insurance and employees would no longer have to subsidize the cost of the uninsured.  Sure, there are a lot of kinks to work out but in the long run, it would be a major stimulus to the economy. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Hedley_Lammar "Nothing happening on the left even comes close to this. "

Right, that's why Paul Krugman is devoting column after column to explain why Bernie Sanders, who advocates some things very similar to what Krugman advocates -- or used to (see: single payer) -- is wrong. Democrats have indulged left-wing fantasies like Bernie's for years, only to realize he might actually use them to win and upset their apple cart. It is virtually indistinguishable from what Trump has done to the GOP; the only difference is you agree with Bernie and don't see what the fuss is all about.