Poor Peggy Noonan – I never would’ve thought it possible that such an astute political observer and first-hand witness to the Reagan Revolution as Noonan could get today’s Republican electorate and presidential primary environment so wrong.
The fact that Noonan is an unapologetic and unabashed #NeverTrumper is not exactly a secret among regular followers of American politics today. The Wall Street Journal opinion writer fell off the reservation early in Trump’s 2016 run (admittedly, I don’t recall the exact time) when she combined with other heretofore “conservative” scribes to thumb their noses at Donald Trump and his MAGA movement. They cried that Trump was from so far outside the regular political spectrum that he couldn’t be trusted to keep his promises or lead the Republican Party, much less keep longtime GOP supporters from abandoning the ship.
Back then, the Trump scorners searched for alternative “White Knight” candidates to enter the 2016 GOP presidential race – basically, anyone with a beating heart who wasn’t a Trump adherent – and hence save the Grand Old Party. Their animosity continued all the way up to and past the general election. Some of them rejected the Republican party entirely and never returned. I haven’t checked lately, but aren’t a good share of MSNBC’s commentary mouthpieces former Republicans?
Many of them considered themselves “principled” and “above the fray” by endorsing Hillary Clinton, as though spurning Trump would produce the policy outcomes that they’d spent decades advocating for.
In some cases, the Trump bashers established new publications to replace old ones that fell into disfavor with conservatives because of their anti-one-person political kamikaze mission. As an example, Bill Kristol’s neoconservative Weekly Standard fell by the wayside. Kristol and several of his ideological brethren established The Bulwark, which no one I know reads these days. There were others, such as George Will, who all-but disappeared from public view. All because of Trump.
Like dormant alien spacecraft buried beneath the soil in the sci-fi thriller “War of the Worlds” (2005), Noonan and her ilk appear to be resurfacing this cycle with many of the same arguments about Trump, offering doomsday predictions for the future of the GOP and the conservative movement if voters nominate him again. To the non-objective observer, their whining and griping seems akin to applying a fresh coat of premium paint to an old shed with wood walls rotting from exposure and termite damage.
“[O]nce is what you did (made a mistake, as people and parties do). Twice is what you did (almost out of loyalty to the first mistake). But a third time—that isn’t what you did, it’s who you are.
“If the party chooses Trump in 2024 it will mean it has changed its essential nature and meaning, and that it is split in a way that can’t be resolved by time. Republicans of the suburbs, of the more educated and affluent places, won’t agree to be the official Trump Forever Party. They just won’t. They will leave. Some will go third-party and try to build something there. Some will blend into the Democratic Party and hope they can improve things there.
“Trump supporters will stay on in a smaller, less competent party. But they will, as time passes, get tired of losing and also drift on somewhere. But there will be no Republican Party after a Trump ’24 race, which, again, means the vehicle of conservative thought and policy will be gone.”
Hogwash. Noonan spent the latter half of her piece making the case for a Chris Christie presidential run (it was published the Thursday before he announced, a week ago). The talented writer makes the buffoonish Christie sound like a great guy and smart politician who accomplished a lot and would’ve been popular but for those scandals that enveloped his second term, as though being unethical is something that just fades away over the years as the uneducated and uninformed pursue some other shiny object the dullards find more worthy of fragments from their short attention spans.
I’m not here to talk about Chris Christie – or any other candidate, necessarily. That subject is well traveled in this space. Instead, I will address Noonan’s first contention, that if the Republican party’s voters were to nominate Trump for a third time, that the party (her words: “vehicle of conservative thought and policy”) would cease to exist. Where I come from, you might say “Them’s fightin’ words” and reach for your sidearm. Okay, maybe not, but Noonan’s beef is still not something a “normal” person would take casually.
Noonan’s apocalyptic vision of the GOP just imploding in on itself is a fantasy propounded by the disjointed band of “conservatives” who felt it was better to leave the party (to go to where, I don’t know) than join with the new coalition of voters that Trump attracted to form a more grassroots oriented political faction, one that welcomes common folks who work with their hands as well as the business and country club types who desire lower taxes and less government interference in their daily existence.
This conglomeration certainly includes most civil libertarians, pro-life values voters, property rights defenders, Second Amendment gun enthusiasts and proponents of a strong military, one that is used sparingly and only sent into harm’s way if there’s a provable American interest. All of these factions existed prior to Donald Trump’s ride down the escalator eight years ago, and they will still be there when the lifelong real estate developer and tabloid celebrity leaves the scene for good.
Oh yeah, these folks also believe in borders, national sovereignty and the rule of law as well as criminal justice for the fairly accused. They tend to tell people that they liked Ronald Reagan’s America better than the current version and no longer feel that the Bush/Romney establishment is capable of putting up an aggressive fight against the left’s Energizer Bunny-like evil forces who would never, ever, give up until every prior vestige of America is stamped out and replaced by socialism, Marxism and “wokeness” forever.
Contrary to Noonan’s assertions, the suburban highly educated voters are not really Republicans any longer. These misguided government spending dependent souls high-tailed it into the senile Joe Biden Democrat camp and aren’t likely to return even if the GOP nominates a non-Trump candidate like Chris Christie in 2024. Besides, isn’t Christie mean like Trump and arguably just as “divisive” in his rhetoric? Change the hair color, style and wardrobe a bit – and add about a hundred pounds – and the former president and former Garden State governor aren’t all that different in modus operandi or spiel.
They both like to chastise their opponents without a great deal of filter. The snobby elite class – of which Noonan is a card-carrying member – disdain directness and candor. They’re too busy learning the proper way to hold a wine glass to bother with trying to understand why the average Trump supporter was so put off by Bud Light’s advertising campaign.
The Americans who think about politics in a practical way will always at least consider the Republican Party whether Trump is its figurehead or not. Why? Because the alternative – Joe Biden’s twenty-first century Democrat party – is so heinous. Lifelong Democrats are rejecting the liberal party in droves because they can’t recognize it any longer. Is any honest person out there going to forget the transgender and “climate change” agenda nonsense simply because of Trump?
Whereas Trump built a Republican Party inclusive of American traditionalists but also attracted citizens interested in fair trade practices and building an economy based on manufacturing and exporting, the Democrats only care about pleasing their labor union bosses and Chinese car battery and solar panel makers.
And this isn’t even mentioning foreign policy. The old Republican Party’s fixation with military adventures is also a thing of the past thanks largely to Trump. Military recruitment numbers are way down, so even if the GOP powers-that-be were in a hurry to send the fighters overseas, where would they get the manpower?
The fact is, Donald Trump and his MAGA movement brought the Republican party much closer to what the voters wanted than the Mitt Romneys, George W. Bushes and John McCains ever could – or would. Real Republicans want limited immigration and assimilation into the greatness of America, not an open invitation to anyone in the world who desires to come here. Trump’s choice to emphasize America First was very smart – and a political winner.
A final reason why a Trump primary victory wouldn’t spell the end of the Republican Party is the majority of conservative voters approve of the new Trump-led direction. Not all of them want another Trump nomination, but most Republicans still love MAGA. Good luck to Chris Christie or any candidate who campaigns on a platform of turning back the clock.
The Republican Party will survive regardless of which GOP presidential candidate wins the primary nominating race. Establishment swamp defenders like Peggy Noonan no longer understand what makes the average party voter tick. Their ignorance and failure to grasp the new realities renders their voices useless in the big scheme of things. For many of them, it’s a shame.
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