A plague is sweeping the land, gathering victims of all shapes and sizes and turning them into fools. Its name — for now — is Trumpism.
The Trump virus’s primary effect is twofold: First, it implants in its hosts the unshakable conviction that one of the most execrable clowns in the history of these United States is a hero who deserves to be elevated to the White House; then, having inculcated the conceit, it removes the faculties that are necessary for its removal. The results are ruinous. As might the partisans of a deliberately unfalsifiable conspiracy theory, those who have been stricken soon come to believe in earnest that there is no such thing as a fair-minded or legitimate criticism of their swashbuckling charge, and that all embarrassments, mistakes, and inadequacies are in fact signs of imminent victory. To converse at length with a committed Trumpite is, in consequence, akin in nature to conversing at length with a moon-landing denier: Every protestation is taken as a clear indication of complicity in the cover-up; distinctions between matters of minor and major import are disintegrated at will; run-of-the-mill inquiries are received as telltale signs of “fear” or of “hatred”; and bluster and the turning of rhetorical tables (“so who do you like: Jeb?”) substitute for patience and for forthrightness. There is a certain irony in this. By their own insistence, Trump’s devotees consider themselves to be the rebels at the gates; by their dull, unreflective, often ovine behavior, they resemble binary and nuancless drones, as might be found in a novel by Aldous Huxley or Yevgeny Zamyatin.
Alas, difference is soon taken as a virtue in and of itself. To any moderately informed observer of the present political scene, it is evident that Donald Trump is not in fact a conservative, and that his political instincts tend more often than not in precisely the opposite direction. For those who describe themselves as “conservatives,” this should present something of a problem. But, because he does not operate within the same world as the much-loathed Mitch McConnell — and because he cannot therefore be judged on the basis of anything concrete — the man’s ideological indiscretions are being steadfastly ignored. For decades now, our friends on the progressive left have wondered in vain what it might take to convince a sizable portion of America’s rightward-leaning dissenters to embrace single-payer health care, advocate stricter gun control, propose higher taxes on the wealthy, endorse the broad use of eminent domain, defend protectionism in trade, affirm the pro-choice cause, and cozy up warmly to the likes of Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. Today, they have their answer: It takes a general dissatisfaction with the status quo, and the cheapest of P. T. Barnum knockoffs to exploit it.
— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.