As far as #NeverTrump institutions on the right go, the most powerful would have to be The Wall Street Journal. Few people outside of right leaning political wonkiness read the National Review or The Weekly Standard. But the venerable WSJ is read by all sorts of business and other establishment types, giving that paper real heft to make their views known. And they’ve been engaged in full blown warfare against Trump all year. The hatred and bile towards Trump that drips from the Wall Street Journal editorial page is unprecedented. I’ve read their site online for years and just cannot recall this sort of attack against anyone on the left ever. Maybe someone can correct me, but like with so many other things this Presidential year, we’re on new ground.
But there is one person on the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board that is not simply interested in bombing Trump rallies then machine gunning any survivors. This person wants to really understand what’s going on with the people who support Trump, and that person is former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan. Unlike her WSJ compatriots, Noonan has approached the rise of Trump with humility. What did we miss? How did things get this bad? What we can do to fix it? All good questions that the Republican establishment should have been asking for the past year instead of plotting various Jeb!/Cruz/Romney/French (David) coup d’etat’s.
Noonan asks again in this piece, A Party Divided, and None Too Soon.
The Beltway intelligentsia of the conservative movement continues to be upset about Mr. Trump’s coming nomination and claim they’d support him but they have to be able to sleep at night. They slept well enough through two unwon wars, the great recession, and the refusal of Republican and Democratic administrations to stop illegal immigration. In a typically evenhanded piece in National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru writes of conservative infighting. Most back Mr. Trump, but others, “especially among conservative writers, activists, and think-tankers,” vow they’ll never vote for him. “This debate splits people who have heretofore been friends with similar views on almost all issues, and who on each side have reasonable arguments to hand. It is therefore being conducted in a spirit of mutual rage, bitterness, and contempt.”
This tracks with my observations as well. It’s less the political positions that separate the Trump/anti-Trump forces so much as where each person sits on the Red Pill/Blue Pill Conservative divide. But make no mistake, there are political positions involved as well. I’ve discussed the economic nationalism agenda that Trump brings before, but there hasn’t been much discussion of it as a movement other than in Alt Right circles. That’s a territory that a Peggy Noonan would never venture into, but as an important member of the establishment, she knows people.
So she introduces the blog, Journal of American Greatness. As Noonan gives their own description for themselves from their website:
Where they stand: “We support Trumpism, defined as secure borders, economic nationalism, interests-based foreign policy, and above all judging every government action through a single lens: does this help or harm Americans? For now, the principal vehicle of Trumpism is Trump.”
That is a description describes Trumpism as both conservative, and not conservative in the Bush/Ryan worldview. My suspicion is that these mystery bloggers are known writers and think tankers in the conservative intelligentsia, but obviously they can’t go public because, that’s a career death sentence. Can you imagine a researcher at the Cato Institute or at The Weekly Standard coming out for Trump? Maybe that’s why the Wall Street Journal didn’t allow a link to its site in Noonan’s original column in the WSJ. They are certainly not going to encourage these kind of shenanigans.
But these are serious people, since they are capturing the eyes of Noonan, and some of them are probably names we would recognize. Even noted anti-Trumper Jonah Goldberg referenced in a column an online discussion he had with one of the bloggers at the Journal of American Greatness. Could there be a rapprochement between the two different sides of the Republican Civil War?
And then, the Journal of American Greatness shut down and deleted all of their posts.
Why did they do it? It’s not hard to guess. They were afraid of being doxxed and having their livelihoods destroyed.
No, literally—who are you guys?
None of your damned business.
Why won’t you tell us?
Because the times are so corrupt that simply stating certain truths is enough to make one unemployable for life.
That’s a bit dramatic, isn’t it?
Ask Brendan Eich.
So they do have a point. But the long and short of Trumpism is that it’s simply Paleoconservatism, which got the boot from establishment conservatism when Pat Buchanan dissented on the Iraq War. Turns, out, that’s what the Republican voter wanted all along, or else the Republican voter needed to see how bad things could really get before they would consider Paleoconservatism.
Well apparently we’re at that point.
But is it too late? Probably so. When people who want to write about such things are frightened of losing their jobs and livelihood merely for discussing issues like trade and immigration, then you’ve gone pretty far down the well. There won’t be any big donors or institutions funding this, its people who are afraid of being outed and losing everything, and they will be attacked by forces of both the right and left. Still, I’m glad that at least some people are trying. Keep your heads low guys!