One of the things that’s become increasingly annoying to me throughout the course of this campaign, and a thing to which I may have inadvertently contributed on an occasion or two, is the meme that’s been spread like a virus through the DC Beltway echo-chamber: “Trump’s supporters are…angry…stupid…racist…thoughtless…mean…ignorant…Kool-Aid-drinkers…” After watching the race unfold on the battlegrounds of Twitter, Facebook, and in the media at large, and having watched their portrayal in the establishment media, I am prepared to state unequivocally that this is nonsense. The vast majority of his supporters are no more than one of those things, but more, I’d urge conservatives to ignore these media portrayals for one very important reason they may not have considered: Until recently, it had been we conservatives who had been attacked with these same portrayals. I want you to stop and think about all the election campaigns in which the media, and the GOP establishment portrayed conservatives and Tea Party folk in the very same light. We conservatives have a responsibility first to the truth, and the truth is that whatever we may think about Donald Trump, his supporters are now being painted with the same broad brush of infamy, and in the same broad strokes, by exactly the same people.
I know a fair number of Trump supporters, both in my circle of friends and associates, and also in my extended on-line family. None of them fit the meme described above, except in one dimension, but it is the same dimension that has aptly described conservatives for most of a generation: They, as we, are angry with Washington and the seeming one-party establishment that is comprised of an elite media, elite Democrats, and elite Republicans who all hold any opposition in complete contempt. I think this explains another phenomenon that is genuine, though less visible due to the media’s one-sided coverage: There are a number of Bernie Sanders’ supporters whose second choice is not Hillary Clinton, but amazingly, Donald Trump. Why would this be? Most of us have become so jaded about the dirty tricks in campaigns these days that it would be easy to dismiss this as more Democrat trickery. Oddly, I don’t believe that’s actually the case here. I believe it represents something much more fundamental, and infinitely more organic: Those who support Bernie Sanders are being undercut by the same Washington DC establishment uni-party, and they see in Trump somebody who has joined the fight against a common enemy. When I talk to the rare Sanders supporter in my broadened local circle, what I find is that Sanders’ supporter share every bit as much of the same contempt for Hillary as conservatives feel for Mitt Romney, for instance. This common ground with Trump supporters is an interesting, but I believe wholly organic outgrowth of an overwhelming sense of disgust in the nation with Washington DC and the two parties that together rule over us.
We conservatives have been led to believe by popular media that Trump’s support is a wholly-contrived exposition of Democrat tinkering, but while I’ve seen some evidence that this has been the case in pockets, the truth is that most Trump supporters I’ve had the chance to meet are perfectly sane, rational people who have decided something more compelling than the argument that their conservative principles ought to drive their choice. It is their general argument that Trump represents a true outsider movement, in terms of the DC Beltway uni-party establishment. They are prepared to temporarily lay aside their deeper convictions about the particulars of various issues in order to oust the uni-party crowd. Despite my attachment to conservative principles, I know they have a very powerful point, and in truth, we might consider it thoroughly before rejecting it outright.
Here, I think they make an argument that is difficult to contest: As long as the DC-beltway crowd remains in singular, oligopolistic control of the narrative, the law, and the whole of our national machinery of governance, we will never reverse the direction of the country, and no conservative principles will ever be adopted in the halls of power in our nation’s capital. Their argument is that in an emergency, you might well temporarily suspend your strictest adherence to your long-held principles in order that your principles be preserved at all. In essence, they’re applying the legal concept of the “rule of necessity” to popular politics and political philosophy. Their argument therefore rests on the plausibility of the claim that we are in some sort of national emergency. The question we must ask is “Are we?”
Our country is now twenty trillion dollars in operating debt. We have unfunded liabilities of two-hundred trillion dollars. We have a monetary system that has been corrupted to fund big government and big money on Wall Street with a cheap-money bubble that cannot and will not be sustained much longer. Our borders are porous and present no serious impediment to criminals, terrorists, or any illegal entrants. Our national security infrastructure is in a severe state of disrepair and neglect. Our political elites continue to enjoy fabulous wealth largely on the basis of cronyism. Average Americans are out of work, underemployed, or simply destitute as the people who run the DC uni-party continue to enjoy record profits on the backs of the rest of the country. The crisis is surely real, and it is clear that their position is justified.
If their position is justified, so is their inflexible support of Donald Trump. Their basic argument is that nobody who has been a part of the Beltway Bubble ought to be trusted in this critical moment for the Republic. You might point to Ted Cruz as an outsider, as I have done, but let’s be blunt: Ted Cruz was a part of the team that argued on behalf of George W. Bush in the 2000 election. Ted Cruz was a clerk for Chief Justice Rehnquist. Ted Cruz may be disliked by parts or even the entire parcel of the uni-party establishment, but the case can certainly be made in earnest that he is one of them, or has long operated among them. The argument of Trump supporters is that none who have been a part of the DC Bubble ought to be president now, and that it’s too great an emergency in terms of our national future to permit any chance that we will, at this late date, be betrayed once again.
That’s a highly patriotic position to take, among people who are quite diverse in an ideological sense, and many of them have adopted it as the basis of a movement’s justification for accepting a candidate who many of them will readily admit is an imperfect vessel for their particular views. One of the things that Trump’s supporters fervently believe is something that is quite attractive to many voters, including this conservative: Donald Trump is the only candidate on the ballot who can explode the DC establishment. He’s the only person among all the candidates with a clear-cut motive to unmask the uni-party establishment, to expose their serial crimes, and to prosecute them. I think this is where much of the pro-Trump fervor originates, and I also believe it is where the GOP establishment’s shrill denouncements of Trump originate. They are terrified of him, not merely because he would wrest control from them, but that he would be in a position to unmask their deals and extensive profiteering from government operations, and then prosecute them.
That’s a powerful motivation I would concede makes a very strong argument in favor of their position. We conservatives have known for many years that the GOP’s establishment operates in general coordination with establishment Democrats and the media, and they’ve used that coordination against us in a myriad of situations over the last three decades. Rather than joining the DC uni-party in decrying Trump’s supporters, we might reconsider and try to see them as allies, even if we believe their chosen candidate is less than perfect as the platform for our ideas, because many of them come from among our own number, but have merely decided that defeating the DC establishment is the only way we can ever win. On that basis, if I’ve been dismissive of Trump supporters, I’d offer an earnest apology. I had believed the general meme of the DC establishment about your character, but having come to know some of your number, or having discovered some of your number among my friends, I’ve come to understand your earnest motives.
The problem with 2016’s primary season is that it has threatened to splinter the GOP’s broadest coalition forevermore, but in truth, if I am asked whether I would prefer that conservatives keep company with Trump’s supporters or those who cleave to the GOP’s establishment in Washington DC, it’s really a no-brainer: I prefer the broad coalition of Trumpsters to the snooty, elitist Bill Kristols of the world, and I make no bones about my own enmity for the uni-party establishment in Washington DC. The Trumpsters make a compelling argument about the importance of truly rooting out cronyism and corruption in both parties in Washington DC, long before we can ever actually implement our principled stance on any particular issue. It’s true. We conservatives should pay first respect to the truth, and we should note that the same people who have defamed conservatives in one election after the other, or masqueraded as conservatives in one election after another, are the people who are now defaming Trump’s supporters, and it should give us pause.