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Donald Trump has been dominating American news ever since he announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination six months ago. Trump is known to be a deeply divisive figure, who in a two-way race with his likely Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, would lose the distaff vote by about seventeen percent. He has also emerged as the major domestic villain of the establishment Republican-neoconservative press. In fact no one has rattled our political-journalistic establishment as often as has “the Donald,” as this billionaire real estate mogul refers to himself and is referred to by his numerous fans. From his speeches about sending back our 11 million plus illegal immigrants (instead of amnestying them) to their homelands, mostly south of our border, to his persistent announcement “I’m not politically correct,” “the Donald” is everything that our establishment is not. He revels in needling the Left, takes no prisoners, and projects a macho image that reminds one of Putin (with whom he shares a mutual admiration society.)
There’s already been very loud talk from such establishmentarians as George Will and Bill Kristol and throughout the GOP media empire (paid for mostly by Rupert Murdoch) that it may be necessary to create a new Republican Party that would reflect the “moderate” views of past ( that is, glaringly unsuccessful) presidential nominees such as Mitt Romney and John McCain. The establishment favorites this year, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, have not done well against Trump according to the pre-primary election polls, and Bush may soon drop out for want of popular interest as someone whom Trump has publicly ridiculed as having “low energy.” The state Republican committees have been busily working against an eventual Trump victory by changing rules for who gets to vote in their primaries. Since Trump enjoys a backing that goes beyond his technical party affiliation, state committees want to allow only registered party members to vote for the Republican nominee.
One might easily suppose that establishment donors and more surreptitiously, neoconservative pundits would try to cut a deal with the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who would be more congenial for this power elite than Trump. The establishment GOP, to whatever extent it has social views, holds mostly the same ones as a left-leaning Tory like David Cameron in England. They hope to court the gay and feminist perspectives; they express “liberal” views on all immigration-related issues, except for allowing especially dangerous-looking Muslims to enter the country; and they call for getting tough with “the Russian thug” and standing up “for human rights” throughout the world by “projecting American strength.” An effusive endorsement of the Israeli Right is de rigueur among establishment Republicans. And this has less to do with courting Jewish voters (who vote overwhelmingly left) than as it does with the Republican Party’s donor base. Establishment Republican “think tanks” and politicians like Marco Rubio are awash in funds from wealthy Zionists, like the Las Vegas casino owners Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn. Needless to say, Boeing, Haliburton and other producers of military hardware have not stinted in their support of the GOP establishment.
It is not that Hillary would feel especially beholden to neoconservative deal-makers if they helped get her elected. But their positions generally mesh well, if we discount the posturing that establishment Republican candidates engage in when they’re trying to appeal to the Evangelical vote. In all probability, it would make no difference to most of this establishment which party they linked up with, providing their foreign policy concerns and need for sinecures were met. Even the Obama administration has not been totally impenetrable to neoconservative aspirations, and one of their leading publicists Robert Kagan has seen his wife Victoria Nuland rise to high position as a foreign policy adviser in the present administration. Trump, by contrast, scares the bejesus out of the neoconservatives, as one immediately discovers from reading such organs of theirs as the Wall Street Journal, National Review, and the Weekly Standard.
The reason for this has far less to do with Trump’s actual positions, which are often nebulous, than with the difficulty that the neoconservatives and the GOP establishment would have in managing him as a candidate or as president. Trump is the opposite of the amiable dolt who occupied the White House before Obama, and whom advisers talked into launching a “preventive war” against Iraq. Trump cannot be scripted. He pays for his campaign out of his considerable fortune and makes fun of his opponents “for belonging to other people.” He also sounds insufficiently belligerent about “leading from the front,” which is a favorite slogan of Rubio and Jeb. Although Trump has promised to “wipe out ISIS,” and although his pro-Jewish sentiments cannot be questioned (his daughter is married to an Orthodox Jew), he speaks about “negotiating” with rather than confronting Putin. The Republican establishment candidates want nothing less than a showdown with the Russian government, which they tell their constituents is an extension of the Soviet tyranny or else a repressive nationalist regime that persecutes homosexuals.
The last reason on Earth that the Republican establishment and the neoconservatives are resisting Trump is the one they often give: “he’s not a real conservative.” This charge does have, on its face, some substance, since Trump as late as 2008 was a Hillary Clinton supporter and until recently, fit in easily with GOP establishment donors. His politics were very much the same as those of the Australian media baron Rupert Murdoch, who subsidizes most of the leading neoconservative PR organs (including the Jerusalem Post). Like Murdoch, who has now turned against Trump as a political nuisance, “the Donald” used to be liberal on most social issues, including immigration, as well as friendly toward Israel. His movement toward the right has been a recent occurrence, and when Trump tells his Evangelical audiences about his conversion from being pro- to anti-abortion or his rediscovery of his Presbyterian identity, one is justified in questioning his sincerity. But those who accuse him of political hypocrisy while claiming to be on the right, like Jonah Goldberg at National Review have happily acclaimed the legalization of gay marriage and still endorse amnesty for illegals. Moreover, the Christian traditionalists in the Republican presidential race, like Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, have not been the favorites of those accusing Trump of being a faux conservatives. Although Cruz has been in striking distance of Trump, the neoconservatives and establishment Republicans have gone after him as well. He’s been denounced by them as a religious extremist (Cruz has openly opposed gay marriage), most conspicuously in a WSJ editorial by Max Boot.
But Trump may be hard to stop from winning his party’s nomination if present trends continue. He has almost 40% support among likely Republican voters, and among Republicans polled, a majority believe that he is the “most capable” of governing the country of all GOP candidates. His nearest competitor, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, trails Trump at about 17% support and the only neoconservative candidate with any chance of winning the nomination sweepstakes, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, is fluctuating between 12 and 14%. The media establishment has pulled out much of the same denunciatory ammunition against Trump that it once deployed against Buchanan, when this populist presidential candidate tried to scramble the ideological cards. Although Trump has behaved churlishly, Buchanan was treated just as badly by the media and political establishment even when he practiced exemplary courtesy. Of course those who are attacking Trump are correct to view him as a disruptive force, from the perspective of their interests.
Someone who hardly supports him, Jim Tankersley, explains in the Washington Post (August 5, 2015), “Donald Trump is winning” precisely because “he can speak to the anxieties that are animating so many of the [Republican] party’s core voters.” The frequently heard complaint against him in the establishment Republican press, namely that he appeals to the uneducated without college diplomas (only 8 percent of his GOP supporters are college graduates), can be understood in a different way. Those afflicted with stagnating or declining incomes have no interest in competing with cheap foreign labor and feel particularly impacted by crimes associated with illegals. As one of his reluctant admirers points out in the Post: “he’s a huckster. He’s a loudmouth New Yorker. People don’t like people like that.” But on the positive side, continued the speaker from Rappahannock County, Virginia, “He just seems like the guy who can take on the people who Trump supporters think have been screwing with them for so long.”
David Frum in The Atlantic (January/February 2016) perceptively observes that the emotion of college students when they mounted the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations pales in import beside the feelings being released by Trump’s candidacy. Among Republican voters and many independents who have rallied to Trump, there is “a rebellion against the power of organized money.” Those who were Tea Party rebels are angry that the GOP establishment treated them like mindless foot-soldiers, while others who cheer on Trump are reacting against the arrogance of wealth. A social war, notes Frum, has erupted in the Republican Party, and it may split that party apart. “The dividing line that used to be the most crucial of them all, class, has become a division within the parties, not between them.” Moreover, those who are coming over to Trump “aren’t necessarily superconservative. They don’t often think in ideological terms at all. But they do feel strongly that life in this country used to be better for people like themselves, and they want the old country back.”
It might be almost too obvious to note that the Trump supporters, who may be on the verge of destroying the Republican Party as we know (and speaking personally, detest) it, bear a striking resemblance to the National Front in France. Both are identified with the populist Right and have been incessantly denounced as fascist or Nazi-like by the media-political establishment. Both groups are shuffling the political cards by incorporating working-class programs into an anti-immigration parties that, as Frum remarks about the Trump’s followers “want their country back.” Finally, each party can claim about 40% of the electorate but may have problems capturing any more. The rest of their countries‘ voters stand with the Left or with a socially left-leaning globalist corporate establishment.
The accusations of “fascism” that are brought against both populist movements is the kind of boilerplate that one might expect from those in power who are trying to remove a pesky opposition. The charge of being „fascist“ has become so widespread among establishmentarians that it now means nothing more than that so and so is my opponent. As far as I know, neither Marine Le Pen nor Donald Trump has called for a corporate economy in which everything would be in the State and nothing outside of it. Comparisons drawn between Trump’s opposition to allowing Muslim migrants to enter the US and the refusal of Western countries to accept refugees from Nazism are totally misleading. Many of the migrants beating on our gates came from Turkey and other countries where they were already residing because they were trying to reach First World societies. (Let’s thank that ultimate antifascist blockhead Angela Merkel for sending out the invite.) There is also the fact that refugees from Nazism did not pose the danger of terrorism that is demonstrably present in the wandering Muslim droves.
That said, there is critical differences between the National Front and Trump‘s following, all of which work to the favor of the French insurgency. Unlike Trump, the National Front is a well-organized party with perodically updated platforms (the latest of which was framed and circulated in 2014). Again unlike Trump, Marine Le Pen speaks in whole sentences and is highly articulate in reponding to her critics. She does not shoot from the hip, like “the Donald” or Marine’s father Jean-Marie. Equally important, unlike Trump, the National Front could conceivably form a government in the multiparty system that exists in France. If the Front could draw into an alliance French splinter parties or peel off some members of Sarkozy‘s UMP (recently renamed Les Républicains), it would be in a position to head its own government. At this point it is hard to imagine Trump elevating his base of support much beyond its current level. His main achievement will not be the acquisition of power but wrecking what deserves to be torn down. If the result of Trump’s rude break-in at the Republican country club is the election of Hillary Clinton as president, I certainly wont‘t weep. I‘ll take solace in Bismarck’s inspired aphorism: “There is a Providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America.” (“Es gibt eine Vorsehung, die beschützt Idioten, Betrunkene, Kinder und die Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika.”)