The battle started when Jonah Goldberg assumed his traditional function of insulting the conservative base. Reacting to Donald Trump’s position as the GOP Presidential frontrunner, Goldberg kvetched: “If this is the conservative movement now, I guess you’re going to have to count me out.” He wrote:
If I sound dismayed, it’s only because I am. Conservatives have spent more than 60 years arguing that ideas and character matter. That is the conservative movement I joined and dedicated my professional life to. And now, in a moment of passion, many of my comrades-in-arms are throwing it all away in a fit of pique. Because “Trump fights!”Goldberg’s tantrum provoked an explosion of Twitter users firing back using the #NRORevolt hashtag. And of course Goldberg’s rosy history of the noble Conservative Movement™ left a few things out. As even conservative true believers observed, “the movement,” as we Beltway types still call it, beyond financing all too many Goldbergian “professional careers,” hasn’t actually done much to accomplish its stated goals.
[No Movement That Embraces Trump Can Call Itself Conservative, National Review, September 5, 2015]
In an “Open Letter” read aloud on air by Rush Limbaugh, “Sundance” at Conservative Treehouse outlined listed the more obvious Republican failings, concluding:
And, you wonder why we’re frustrated, desperate for a person who can actually articulate some kind of push-back? Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are what the GOP give us? SERIOUSLY?In response, Goldberg doubled down, arguing National Review and the “conservative movement” have essentially done their best to push the GOP to the Right. Thus on immigration, Goldberg claims
[An Open Letter to Jonah Goldberg—Re: The GOP and Donald Trump, September 7, 2015]
I came out in favor of a wall on the border in 2006. On specifics — wolfsbane to Donald Trump — I tend to agree with Mark Krikorian that you don’t need a literal wall everywhere, that you don’t need a literal wall everywhere, but I am 100 percent in favor of securing the border, and was saying so when Trump was posing with DREAMers and bad-mouthing Romney for being insensitive to Hispanics.But this isn’t really true. It was Goldberg who boasted (in the midst of a column ostensibly arguing for immigration law enforcement), “Philosophically and politically, I am on the side of every pro-immigration movement of the last two centuries” [Immigration’s bad guys, Los Angeles Times, June 5, 2007]. Presumably, this includes the nation-breaking 1965 Immigration Act.
[The Great Trumpian Divide, September 11, 2015]
And in fact Trump has been pretty “specific” about his immigration policy.
More to the point, one can’t help but see a tinge of fantasy about Goldberg’s complaints. For example, in his initial broadside, Goldberg complained
If you want a really good sense of the damage Donald Trump is doing to conservatism, consider the fact that for the last five years no issue has united the Right more than opposition to Obamacare… Yet, when Republicans were told that Donald Trump favors single-payer health care, support for single-payer health care jumped from 16 percent to 44 percent.Leave aside the mischaracterization of Trump’s position. Opposition to Obamacare did indeed deliver several Republican victories, from Scott Brown’s initial upset in Massachusetts and the 2010 midterms. But the resultant Republican Congress did nothing to reverse it and it was ultimately confirmed by a chief justice appointed by a Republican President (thus demolishing forever the argument that we must vote GOP “to get good judges.”)
If you are actually opposed to single-payer health care or Obamacare, what difference does it make if the “conservatism” exists at all?
But while the GOP has failed to deliver on the issues that animates its base, it has certainly delivered for its donors.
In the most obvious example, the Republican Congress won the 2014 elections by campaigning against immigration—then promptly turned around and funded Obama’s unilateral and illegal Amnesty. But not content with betrayal, the GOP the proceeded gleefully to ally with Obama to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, despite grass-roots conservative opposition. And here too, National Review, rather than representing conservatives to the Republican leadership, acted as a way for the GOP to repress the grassroots.
The unavoidable reality is that conservative voters can never count on the GOP to pass what they want, even if it’s overwhelmingly popular—but somehow the Beltway Right is always there to tell conservatives to slash the few overwhelmingly popular government programs that actually benefit them.
So, quite naturally, they are moving towards a more National Conservative position in which the GOP is expected to defend the concrete interests of its core constituency, like the patriotic parties of Europe.
In a piece on #NRORevolt largely celebrating the split within the American Right, Matt Yglesias at Vox noted that
the demographic math of the Reagan coalition doesn’t work anymore. To win, conservative politicians either need to broaden their appeal to African-American or Latino voters or else significantly improve their performance among white voters from an already high level.He continued:
[#NRORevolt Explained, September 8, 2015].
The strategy favored by much of the party elite… is to try to neutralize the immigration issue in the Latino community and then win votes from more affluent or more religiously devout Hispanics. The alt-right/identitarian/Trump strategy is to do the opposite, and make increasingly explicit appeals to ethnic nationalism to try to make whites more uniformly loyal to the GOP.What Yglesias doesn’t say is that the elite strategy is already Dead On Arrival. Trump is currently under attack by the Beltway Right because The Donald evidently thinks high salaries for CEOs shouldn’t be a defining principle of the American Right. But Hispanics want more economically progressive policies even more than they want free markets.
The plan of the GOP “Smart Set” to win by putting a minority or female face (Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina) on the same tired policies will still ultimately depend on high White turnout and voter share in order to be successful. But it’s just far less likely to work. On the other hand, paradoxically, Trump’s populist strategy actually seems more likely to win a sizable minority of black and Hispanic voters than the cringe-inducing pandering of a Jeb Bush or a Marco Rubio.
It’s an unfortunate situation for the Beltway Right. But, after all, they were warned and they chose to shoot the messenger. Popular disgust at the American Right’s cowardice, short-sightedness, and baffling stupidity is one of the key motivations driving the #NRORevolt.
The existential crisis of Western Civilization in the United States and Europe was utterly unnecessary. But National Review, among others, deliberately chose to treat demographic and racial issues as beneath discussion in the same way they now choose to dismiss Trump.
And so at the beginning of what is shaping up to be the Century of Identity, a new politics is needed. And National Review and its cuckservative fellow travelers have nothing to offer.
They have no one to blame but themselves. When it comes to the death of Beltway Right-style conservatism, I’m reminded of a phrase widely used by the young Alt-Right shaping the new age of Ethnopolitics:
“Don’t call it a grave. It’s the future you chose.”
James Kirkpatrick [Email him] is a Beltway veteran and a refugee from Conservatism Inc.