I’ve written about this in other contexts over the past few years, but it’s time for another update considering the unexpected popularity of Donald Trump with segments of American society no one would have dreamed he could reach out to, or even more remarkably, they to him. In doing so, Trump has thrown not just the Republican Establishment into paroxysms of fear, yes, fear, but also conservatism’s intellectual wing, into a kind of teat-fittery which should tell you something of what they must have been like in 5th Grade. George Will is much too old to whimper, but Trump’s put this newer generation of self-designated intellectuals into a playground frenzy, having to juggle self-esteem issues with conservative-right-thing-to-do-issues, as if they had signed no contract with the Founders, and all their conservatism was just a good paying gig.
In 1979, most Americans were also ashamed of their country, so Donald Trump is not the first to tap that sentiment among Americans. And the people did all right then in their choices. But nearly half of American conservatives today wouldn’t necessarily know that for in 1979 most were little more than a gleam in their fathers’ eyes.
Still, since we’re supposed to admire some of them for a conservativeness that is high-quality enough to get prime-time writing gigs at major national publications, and even slots on national news shows, you’d think these smarter-than-thou conservatives would have some sense of this anger and embarrassment among the masses, and should even share in it empathetically…unless of course they no longer share this sentiment with the citizenry.
That really is the question here, for if conservative pundits no longer can see or feel how the citizens see things, and see only the inside politics of their very small world, then they have lost sight of why the Founders wrote the Constitution in the first place…or that it was not written for them, but for us.
To the extent that the Founders created a niche for an intellectual political elite as part of the Constitutional blueprint, (and they did, since they were among them) it was not for the purpose of creating a snob-class-of-betters to tell us what’s best for us. The American Left expropriated that niche for itself over a century ago. As I said only a few days ago, George Will lives or dies socially at the Left’s sufferance. The Founders embedded an intellectual elite into the Constitutional blueprint for the sole purpose of protecting, yes, protecting the masses as they go about carrying out the principal purposes of freedom; pursuing life, liberty and happiness, to coin a phrase. And by masses, I’m not talking about the (relatively) few who watch Fox News, or read National Review, Weekly Standard, or visit Drudge daily or read any newspaper, but instead watch Castle or Bonanza reruns, Impractical Jokers or just spend time in the garden or share cat pictures on their iPhones. To insure our survival, the Constitution relies on citizens to be free men and women, wrapped in what even Darwinists agree are survival-enhancing social arrangements based on common moralities…and that they should be going about their business of being free, creating commerce, being producers, and not producers of words on a page orpolicy wonks, (which everyone reading this is). If the people can’t do this then this entire experiment in liberty will fail. This failure seems to be nearing reality, in part because so many of our self-appointed better minds spend half the day in makeup instead of actually getting a sense of what makes the common man and woman tick.
How do I know this? Because, just as in 1980, the people, while not yet having said “Yes” to Donald Trump, have loudly and clearly said “No” to conservatism’s pundit establishment.
Donald Trump has clearly upset that rhythm.
More than half of our countrymen today are not only angry, they are deeply ashamed and embarrassed, and that my friends is the biggest national crisis in our history since the Civil War. I wouldn’t expect the Washington establishment and the conservative intellectual establishment to see this phenomenon first hand, for it doesn’t exist where they live. But out here on the hustings we are witnessing not only the belittling of our institutions and common morality…this we expect from a leftist administration…but an absurd reduction of these threats and crimes, from genocide and murder, from ISIS to Iran to Planned Parenthood, to criminal conspiracy by insider political figures and candidates, into mere politics, as if all this were a television game show.
What should be intellectually interesting is that a man like Donald Trump can understand this anger and shame, while a Jeb Bush, or for that matter, all but a few of the GOP field, and the entirety of the conservative establishment can’t…unless you consider Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter…or me… intellectuals.
Actually, I can count a short list out on one hand of other Republican candidates who also feel this same burning embarrassment, only were less quick to make it a central issue of their campaign, and too reticent to speak as full-throated as Donald Trump has been about it. Ted Cruz is the only other candidate who has pushed the Establishment envelope at the national level, while Scott Walker has stared down some big bears at the statehouse level.
Actually it’s Ted Cruz’s generation that is more suspect here, (he’s the same age as my oldest son). But Ted Cruz is the son of Cuban immigrants, which is almost as good as being born in a log cabin, and unlike another Cuban, Marco Rubio, he did not come to town to ingratiate himself to the political class, but instead turn over tables in their temple. Bobby Jindal is also the son of immigrants, and not likely to fall into the exclusivism of class snobbery, knowing his gifts of the intellect are a result of talent and hard work, and not as the birthright of class or status. Scott Walker is the son of working parents, his father a Baptist preacher, so he also gets it. In fact, most of the GOP field are pretty ordinary and common in their origins, even those I don’t like very much. Not a silver spoon among them, although, like many in the conservative pundit, have lost sight of the meaning of those shoulders they stand on.
Of these, most observers would think that Donald Trump is the least likely candidate to connect with the common man, but at 69 (my generation) he is not really uncommon, even for an uber-wealthy New Yorker. He has a generational advantage over all the other candidates, and the entire pundit class, of actually having made his millions by hiring people and knowing how to mix with them. His (our) generation may be the last to actually have maintained a handshake relationship with workaday people at every economic level while attaining great wealth and status. And the fact that Jonah Goldberg, who has written a book, made a few bucks, hasn’t had to do any of those things comes off as almost unqualified to gauge Trump’s qualifications for anything having to do with, you guessed it, the people. I’ll bet Donald Trump even knows how to change a tire or the oil in his car. He just doesn’t have to anymore. Not so sure about Lucianne’s boy.
Jonah Goldberg is very bright, and unlike most of his contemporaries from that generation, one of the most quotable writers since Chesterton. I won’t question his intellectual credentials…but conservative protector?…for the one aspect of American life a conservative intellectual has to be expert about, the American common man and woman, he knows almost nothing… and doesn’t seem interested in knowing.
I don’t doubt the genuineness of the common man connection with any of the GOP candidates I just named. What I question most is why our intellectual guardians feel that it is such a bad thing the common people should appeal to them? George Will certainly does. Jonah Goldberg, being of that younger generation, is absolutely beside himself with the people’s “anti-intellectual” bent in general, when in fact he knows nothing of the subject that is supposed to define his conservatism. Actually it isn’t anti-intellectual, but anti-snobbery, and the better of the GOP candidates are all sending un-intellectual messages to the people, as Reagan did in 1980, bypassing the beard-strokers altogether.
If your premise going in is that the people are ignorant and backward, then you’re likely not a conservative or an intellectual in the sense the Founders imagined them to be.
When the economics of conservatism…the pay check…no longer include the people for whom the Constitution was written, in fact, cuts them out…and even occasionally defames them, because they are “not like us”…constitutional conservatism loses its meaning. Donald Trump doesn’t rely on that pay check or that mutual admiration society that comes with it. Neither does Rush Limbaugh. Neither, in fact, do the people here at Unified Patriots.
This is certainly not to damn conservative writers, only those whose head is situated in such a way to be unable to see their constitutional commission, or the people. They often think very good thoughts and write very good things. But as Johnny Cash once said at Folsom Prison, “I know how you feel about some things, I don’t know how you feel about some other things, and I don’t give a damn about how you feel about ‘some other’ things.”