The So-Called Trump Supporter/Defender/Endorser

by Victor Davis Hanson

I think we at National Review have to be very careful in blanket condemnations of Trump “endorsers,” “supporters,” “defenders,” and scare-quote “conservatives” as if they were a monolithic group of mindless extremists or utter fools. Many or perhaps even most, who for years have supported National Review, did not support Trump in the primaries. Many saw the Trump phenomenon not as melodrama, but as tragedy — given eight years of Obama, the sense that the so-called “rules” are not applied equally to an elite in Washington, the past failed centrist campaigns of McCain and Romney, the perceived inability of the Republican party to address open borders, staggering debt, Obamacare, and the trajectory of social extremism, along with the ineptness of what had been billed as — and what we thought would certainly be — an especially gifted Republican primary field. Into that void, Trump barreled in with searing heat where in the past sober and judicious light were perceived to have failed. The rest is history.

The challenge for Republicans — whatever the election result and to the extent that it is fixable — will be to bridge the gaps between the diehard Trump core, the so-called conservative media and political establishment, traditional-minded independents, and the conservative base. Key will be discovering what were the conditions that created Trump (especially that undeniable strain of supporter that saw losing with Trump as preferable to possibly winning with a more marketable Republican candidate), both the candidate and the message, and the avoidance of self-righteous disdain that will only be perceived as the sort of elitism that empowered the Trump phenomenon in the first place.

Many National Review readers (as well as those who we all hope will return to NR) are hardly fanatics in their support for Trump. Their common bond is a deep and existential fear of what four, and likely eight, years of Hillary Clinton will do to the country on top of eight years of Obama’s hard progressivism. It is sometimes true that they overlook Trump’s glaring flaws, most recently his gross language, and that has and will have more consequences, but mostly they are frustrated with the double standards of the Left, which poses as morally superior on matter of gender, sex, and feminism, and yet has had for a half century no problem, for political reasons, canonizing the fatally negligent Ted Kennedy or the serial sexual groper, philanderer, and perhaps sexual assaulter Bill Clinton.

Finally, it would be wiser before rather than after the election to seek common ground. And one way to do it is to be careful in all but writing off millions of conservative voters and thousands of loyal National Review readers who will vote Trump as somehow beyond the pale, and whose support, and the expansion of that support, are essential to finding ways of unifying conservatives.

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