The Trump phenomenon—based, we acknowledge, primarily in the anxieties of middle-class whites, which is not an altogether comforting point—has whipped movement conservatives into a frenzy. And why not? They’re about to lose their grip on the Republican Party. The latest paroxysm of this frenzy is Kevin Williamson’s National Review article, “The Father-Führer.”
In this piece, which only goes downhill (if possible) from the title, Williamson argues, essentially, that the middle-class whites of America behind the Trump movement have only themselves to blame for their lot in life. Trump isn’t the answer; abandoning their doomed communities and their wastrel ways is the answer. Only he’s not as polite as that. His piece is behind a paywall, but a National Review colleague, running to save Williamson from the tidal wave of opprobrium quotes extensively from it. Williamson’s viciousness reaches its fullest expression with this nasty little peroration:
The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your g——-d gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.
(Expletive redacted.) If the best answer Kevin Williamson can come up with for Trump is to recite the same old conservative dogmas, but louder and meaner, then Kevin Williamson does not have an answer. Because Williamson’s piece boils down to the same old poor bashing that some conservatives resort to whenever their policies don’t produce the results they think they should. (If only the Czar knew!) That National Review thinks that that’s somehow an answer to the Trump phenomenon, then National Review is out of answers, too. In fact, we’re inclined to say that “The Father-Führer” represents the end of National Review.
It is plain that National Review is panicked by Donald Trump. We note that they did devote seemingly an entire issue—or at least a significant portion of an entire issue—to brief essays “against Trump.” And they printed that plea for help from Catholics from Robert George and George Weigel a little while back. Of course, National Review is right to be panicked by the Trump movement, because Trump has tapped into a right-wing current different than the economic and moral currents generally claimed by the conservative movement. And it is clear that many Americans no longer believe in basic, Reagan-era conservative doctrine, largely because they have noticed that that doctrine has not, in point of fact, stopped their communities from being devastated one way or another. It is no surprise that they’ve run to someone who promises something better, but it is surprising that National Review hasn’t come up with a better response.
We note in passing that we could be wrong, and this could be little more than a profoundly snotty reaction of a thought leader who has discovered that his followers have run to the other guy’s show, but, in a way, that’s worse. It means that deep suspicion of cultural and political elites that runs through the Trump movement is justified or at least justifiable.
But the thing is, we agree: Donald Trump is not the answer to what’s wrong with America today. No politician is. The towering Pope Pius XI tells us that only the Social Kingship of Christ will cure the disease at the heart of modern American society—and modern society more generally. But even speaking in narrowly political terms: Donald Trump is not the answer. But neither is Republican Party orthodoxy, however stringently one wants to express it. As we have discussed previously, it is Republican Party orthodoxy that created the conditions that made Trump possible. Doubling down on that orthodoxy is not going to make Trump go away. And insisting that it will obliterates one’s credibility.
Just read National Review if you don’t believe us.