As crazy as National Review has gotten over the past few months, I’ll still occasionally follow a link to it to see the current grim state of Acela Corridor conservatism. This week, Jonah Goldberg doesn’t disappoint, staking out a position as the last Japanese soldier hold out on a remote island in the DC suburbs, living out his version of “never give up, never surrender.”
I honestly believe that a President Trump would do enormous, perhaps fatal, damage to the conservative movement as we know it. I also believe that without the conservative movement, this country is toast. But I further believe that Hillary Clinton would do obvious and enormous damage to the country. That’s why I’m not voting for either of them. That’s why this election sucks. But I don’t write in the voting booth. I don’t get paid to offer my opinions at the ballot box. And I don’t work for the G-d damn GOP.
It’s a snooty drawing room politics. If Goldberg believes that the country is toast without the conservative movement (an arguable point I concede) then prepare the toast. Why Romney, McCain, Dole or Bush(s) didn’t do fatal damage to the conservative argument is never explained, although I could argue that each of those Republican Presidents and candidate wannabes collectively did enough damage to the conservative movement that by the time you get to Trump, the collective knife wounds were already enough to put the patient into a medically induced coma. Trump didn’t do anything. He just grabbed the mic while no one was using it.
The idea that a President Trump would kill the conservative movement is, as I’ve argued elsewhere; ludicrous. Political position-wise, Trump is a moderate Republican in the Romney mode. How Trump kills conservatism, while Romney, the author of Romneycare, who wouldn’t criticize Obamacare, didn’t; is left unexplained. And it will always be left unexplained since it upends the argument that Trump poses some particular danger to conservatism that the Republican Party didn’t already inflict on it.
What Goldberg and the other #NeverTrumpers don’t get is that William F. Buckley’s dictum, to support the most electable conservative candidate, is a sliding scale, not a scientific constant. Demographics, the media, and academia have all worked their magic each and every election cycle to make conservatism in general more and more irrelevant. Sadly the reaction of Goldberg and the #NeverTrump movement is to double down on that irrelevancy.
Goldberg and the other #NeverTrump survivors are perfectly happy to lose elections as long as the ideology remains intact. But the ideology never remains intact. What is conservatism now, which apparently means unlimited trade and unlimited borders, has no relation to the conservatism of most of the 20th Century. When did mass immigration of Muslims become a conservative issue? But that appears to be Paul Ryan’s major sticking point with Trump. We are heading towards a vanishing point where “Conservatism,” as Goldberg and others define it, becomes a rarified ideology like Libertarianism, which has no mass support, and no hope of changing actual real politics. It’s like politics as Fantasy Football; fun to play maybe, but no relation to actual football and totally irrelevant to what’s happening on the field.