Dear Josh: So, as you know, the last few months my enthusiasm for talking, thinking, and blogging about politics has diminished considerably.
Much of my political apathy is due to this obvious truism: politics is much less fun when there is NOBODY to root for and support. And that’s the situation in which I now find myself.
Back in August I named four candidates who I thought had potential to be future Ronald Reagan-level leaders. Since then, three of them have dropped out -- Governors Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and Scott Walker.
The fourth -- Carly Fiorina -- I was open-minded on initially but as the months have passed she’s failed to prove herself. I wasn’t sure whether to regard her as a corporate establishment narcissist or a genuine constitutional conservative guided by transcendent, Biblical moral values. At this point I’m leaning much more toward the former and have lost most hope in her.
Now, I’m not just being picky and insisting that whoever the candidate is share my ideology. My growing political apathy and professional shift toward culture and fiction is also pragmatic. It’s not just that I disagree with the different ideologies of the remaining candidates, it’s that from my political science degree perspective I don’t see a probable pathway for any of them to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016 -- especially if The Donald chooses to play the Ross Perot role and run third party to split the Right.
I don’t want to write about Trump and how he’s a big phony snake oil salesman who’s duped a third or so of the Republican electorate. (Good post from you about him, by the way.)
The ultimate take-down of him personally and ideologically is the Encounter Broadside The Case Against Trump by Kevin D. Williamson, a regular columnist for National Review:
In just 48 pages, Williamson explains what would take me many blog posts to untangle:
How has a crass celebrity clown managed to create a political coalition that’s kept him above 30% in the polls?
It’s not just that Trump is a provocateur who knows how to manipulate the media -- with his focus on immigration and his previous years’ flirtations with the “Birther conspiracy movement,” he has created a populist, fringe coalition that has often been ignored.
Trump isn’t just one particular ideological tradition; he knows how to jump amongst, play with, and manipulate a half dozen of them. His root ideology, though, is the same as his pals Bill and Hillary: corporatist narcissism. He believes the union of big government and big business is to be encouraged and expanded because doing so enriches him. A favorite excerpt from Williamson:
It is impossible to say how and when the Trump phenomenon will end. It should end; rather, it never should have begun. Donald J. Trump spent most of his life as a progressive Democrat, a patron of Charles Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Hillary Rodham Clinton –the woman against whom Trump presumably would be running. He is a lifelong crony capitalist who boasts of using his wealth to buy political favors to make himself wealthier still. He is a proponent of the thieving Kelo eminent-domain regime and has attempted to suborn local governments into using eminent domain to seize properties in order to clear the way for his casino developments. He was until the day before yesterday as absolutist a proabortion advocate as any you’d find at an Emily’s List meeting. He has proposed daft, confiscatory wealth taxes and remains in accord with Warren Buffett and Elizabeth Warren on taxation. His views on trade and immigration are much more like those of Bernie Sanders, the Vermont socialist, than they are anything that might plausibly be described as “conservative” in the American context. He is apparently incapable of stringing together three complete English sentences, lies reflexively and instinctively, and contradicts his own pronouncements at every turn. On the verge of his 70th birthday, his mind remains unsettled about the most elementary issues of our time.
Is there a way to beat both Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump in 2016?
Yes, there is and Daily Wire Editor-In-Chief Ben Shapiro lays it out in his new ebook pamphlet, How To Win In 2016: Debunking The Five Myths That Will Lead to Republican Defeat.
Much of the short book explains why many establishment, centrist approaches will fail. Shapiro discourages Republicans from again trying to offer big government, Democrat-lite candidates. He explains the mathematical disadvantages to trying to target voters by ethnicity, to pander to single women on abortion, to Millennials on social issues.
Shapiro disputes the corporatist establishment idea that “consensus language” brings victory, instead arguing that the key is projecting strength:
Warmth at the expense of strength connotes neither warmth nor strength in politics. Voters want a leader, and they want that leader not to back down in the face of hardship. They would rather have the arrogance of Barack Obama than the humility of Mitt Romney; they’d rather have the swagger of George W. Bush than the stolidity of Al Gore. For Republicans, strength translates as warmth – and consensus language, without throwing your opponent out of the wrestling circle, translates as weakness.
The last two election cycles no Republican wanted to try and throw the Democrats out of the ring of respectability -- they let their opponents set the terms of the debate and then fought within them. And they lost and will lose again. In politics the one who decides what the game will be is usually the one who wins.
Until Republicans cease trying to imitate Democrats and instead actively reject their enemies’ core ideological assumptions then they will not see consistent electoral victories.
Right now the party is up for grabs for who and what will define it going into 2016. I wish that there could be a candidate who could embrace Williamson’s ideological understanding and Shapiro’s tried-and-true political tactics.
Alas, I’m coming to suspect we’ll have to wait until 2020 or 2024 until more viable contenders arise, and that the GOP will have to spend more years wandering in the deserts like the Israelites after escaping Egypt.
Sincerely, your American pal,
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