No score and seven years ago, Ivanka Trump’s father brought forth on this nation a new political movement, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that America could be made great again.
To suggest that Donald Trump changed the world on June 16, 2015 is an understatement. Instantly embraced by nearly a quarter of the Republican primary electorate, the lifetime real estate developer, tabloid celebrity and reality TV star shot to the lead in the early polls of declared 2016 Republican presidential candidates, a development that shocked veteran political watchers and amateur armchair observers alike.
It wasn’t necessarily what Trump said on that afternoon as much as how he said it. Instead of sticking to standard platitudes and the lofty rhetoric of most would-be politicians, Trump lit into the Washington establishment of both parties and hasn’t let up ever since. He drew the most headlines for his comments on illegal immigration, claiming that Mexico and countries south weren’t sending us their best, but rapists and murderers and criminals instead.
“[Mexico] are sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists,” the new candidate said.
For those familiar -- or at least aware -- of Donald Trump’s style, the words he employed weren’t unexpected, yet it was still shocking to hear anyone speak so publicly that which many, including myself, believed in our hearts. Flatly stated, politicians don’t talk like that. Could you imagine Jeb! Bush ever uttering such harsh words? Or George Pataki (a 2016 GOP candidate, if you recall)? Republicans were supposed to issue strong anti-illegal immigration stances if they hoped to be president someday, but they also weren’t expected to wholesale call out and trash an entire neighboring country. You just don’t do those things in polite political company.
Or at least Republicans didn’t. Then President Barack Obama could get away with uttering things like “the police acted stupidly” and also imply that half the country harbored racism in their hearts after the Trayvon Martin incident, but the nation’s first black president didn’t always go to extremes. The man couldn’t even get himself to articulate the descriptive label “terrorist” when referring to Muslim radicals.
At the time on the Republican side, mild-mannered and soft-spoken Ben Carson was running as an outsider non-politician and attracting a reasonable amount of attention, and the always good for a quote Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was also in, among over a dozen others. But it took Trump’s official declaration that he was vying for the Republican nod to completely change the dynamic in the race.
Trump eventually beat all his fellow 2016 Republicans and then the anointed Democrat, Hillary Clinton, to become America’s 45th president. Along the way, he divided the GOP, motivated status quo defending party statesmen to swear they’d never vote for him, and tore up the proverbial train tracks behind him. Now, these seven years later, #NeverTrump is still alive and Trump is still causing controversy.
“If you want to understand what an ‘establishment’ is in politics, it is this: A collection of people, institutions, and ideas which are not all powerful but are dominant to the point of being all-encompassing. The establishment can be, every once in a while, circumvented or leapfrogged. But it cannot be successfully opposed. Which is why the Reagan legacy remained in firm control of the GOP for 28 years after Reagan had left office. Until Trump.
“We are now six years into the Trump era and one clearly sees—in the donor and media ecosystems, in the new ideologies (however poorly grounded and tendentious), in the odd combination of orthodoxies that an establishment can enforce and the flexibility it can grant itself—that a new MAGA establishment has been created. Do not count on it going away soon...
“Trump’s claim on the party centers around failures. He beat a weak Democratic candidate in 2016 while losing the popular vote. He lost the popular vote by an even bigger margin in 2020, as he became the first sitting president to lose re-election in 30 years. His hold over the party is based not on expansion, but on contraction: He has whittled the party base down to a demographic nub—but it is a nub which is in thrall to him precisely because of its sense of grievance.”
Among the multitude of “old” Republican establishment turns to the political dark side, Kristol’s was perhaps the most dramatic. As the main force behind the neoconservative, aggressive George W. Bush foreign policy and now defunct magazine The Weekly Standard, Kristol was never in Trump’s corner. From the beginning, Bill and his ilk detested Trump’s call for “no more stupid wars” and I thought they would birth kittens when the brash New Yorker started tearing into week-kneed Jeb! Bush and his older brother. At several of the primary debates, Trump earned additional media attention -- and outrage from establishmentarians like Kristol -- for directly addressing and savaging the Bush era foreign policy faux pas.
And he wasn’t nice about it, either. Cowardly but dignified Jeb! said he wouldn’t support Trump if he were to win the nomination. So did a few of the other establishment candidates. A mad rush of Bush-ian consultants, politicians and media personalities soon followed the others out the proverbial door. Some of them now work at MSNBC and play the part of enlightened “former Republicans” who supposedly were and are more “with it” than the wayward Trump backers.
The battle continues -- and will continue until the old guard “wimp factor” establishment is defeated and supplanted by adherents to the movement Trump created seven years ago. Thankfully, the get-tough, anti-rollover Republicans are now ascendant.
But Kristol doesn’t believe that’s a good thing. Having a new “Trump establishment” apparently “[M]eans that authoritarianism—with inflections, or at least overtones, of fascism—will be here for a while, too. With an infrastructure, with a popular base, and with elite enablers. In other words: With its own establishment.”
Pfft. Fascism. Seriously? What plank of the Make America Great Again agenda equates to fascism? Building a border wall? Enforcing the immigration laws? Extreme vetting of Muslim immigrants from terrorist hot spots around the globe? America First trade policy? Making our NATO allies pay their fair share of defense costs? Putting the interests of American citizens above those of the DC elites? Championing traditional American culture over the woke wishy-washiness of the “old” Republicans?
Who would Kristol say embodies true non-MAGA establishment Republicanism these days? Mitt Romney? Evan McMullin? Liz Cheney? Susan Collins? Lisa Murkowski? The late John McCain? John Kasich?
Which RINO Republican would trigger a stampede of Kristol’s neocons back into the GOP fold? Would we even want them back? George W. Bush all-but made it clear that he no longer wishes to participate in the party. Remember the speech Bush made last year on the 20th anniversary of 9/11? What a disgrace!
These blueblood snobs blame the people themselves for their own traditionalist beliefs, the types of things all of us grew up with, like standing for the national anthem (and insisting on saying so, like Trump did) and, most of all, calling out the other side by name.
If today’s Democrats are evil -- or at least propounding evil -- there’s no sugarcoating it. It’s not fascism, it’s realism. The “old” establishment quiche-eaters like Kristol would prefer that decent people remain civil about the absurdities that Democrats are pushing these days. Should we just accept that we’re all racists and allow nationalized federal mandatory mail-in voting? Or that we’re climate deniers and agree with Democrats to end the drilling for and consumption of fossil fuels?
Should every Republican have marched with Mitt Romney a couple years ago when the RINO joined a Black Lives Matter protest? Should we throw down our objections to the teaching of Critical Race Theory and become “anti-racists” like Ibram X. Kendi? Should we empathize with the leftist protesters who besiege conservative Supreme Court justices’ homes and threaten their families?
Kristol is perhaps right -- Trump has indeed ushered in a completely new type of Republican establishment -- and it’s here to stay. This primary cycle has demonstrated that voters demand leaders who will swear allegiance to the set of principles embedded in the MAGA agenda.
If this means RINOs and neoconservatives like Kristol -- and Democrats -- become extinct, so be it. Long live the new Trump establishment. It was decades in coming, and we’re glad that it’s finally here. The question is whether it arrived too late to save the republic. Senile Joe Biden and his congressional cohorts have screwed things up pretty badly.
It will take a Trump redux -- or someone like Trump in intestinal fortitude -- to dive into the still raging Washington DC swamp establishment, and, with no fear or hesitation, do whatever it takes to reverse the negative course this nation has been set upon. The movement started seven years ago today in New York City, with an unconventional leader who pulled no punches and didn’t mince words. Can we ever get the feeling back again?
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