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The Road Ahead

January 4, 2019
The Road Ahead

“I don’t think he’s capable . . . He knows very little about the legislative process, hasn’t learned anything, hasn’t surrounded himself with people that can get it done, hasn’t done all the things you need to do, so it’s mostly his fault that he hasn’t achieved those things.”

“They’re about to have a country where no Republican will ever be elected president again. Trump will just have been a joke presidency who scammed the American people, amused the populists for a while, but he’ll have no legacy whatsoever.”

These two quotes strike us as fairly accurate assessments of Donald Trump’s presidency. Who are they from? Nancy Pelosi? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Jeff Flake?

Umm, no.

The first is from Tucker Carlson. The second is from Ann Coulter. Even the president’s most stalwart supporters understand that this administration has been a failure, wrapped in a joke, written by a con man.

Lots of Republicans, even the ones who defend him publicly, have said these things quietly over the last two years. Now they are beginning to say them publicly. It’s a start.

But it’s not just the elites.

Trump has now been on the wrong end of two consecutive elections: He lost the popular vote in 2016 by 3 million votes. The GOP lost the midterm popular vote by a staggering 8.6 million votes. His polling average has been hovering around 40 percent for his entire presidency. Do you know who the real “Never Trumpers” are? They are the majority of American voters.

If the conservative movement cannot reckon with this fact, then it is spent as an intellectual force. As Andrew Ferguson recently wrote at Commentary:

What does it mean in the long term when the nation’s conservative party becomes stamped with a style of governing that consists of casual lies, exaggerations, childish and personal and public attacks on subordinates and political opponents, hush money to old lovers, disregard for simple propriety and good manners? What does it cost when the lies and the other trademarks of Trumpism are deployed in service of the traditional Republican principles of small government and individual liberty? Sooner or later, those ideals must lose their appeal in the minds of the voting public, owing to their association with a leader two-thirds of them cannot abide. How long before the Trumpian means discredit the conservative ends?

The question isn’t really whether or not Trump will win re-election. The grifters will tell you that if Trump loses in 2020 it will be an enormous loss for conservatism. This is false. Gerald Ford’s defeat rejuvenated conservatism. (John Kerry’s defeat did the same for liberalism.)

The question is, pace Ann Coulter, whether or not there will be a viable conservatism left after Trump and his supplicants are through maiming it.