And just like that, the Republican presidential contest has veered into Todd Akin territory.
In a taped Wisconsin townhall with MSNBC voters, set to air Wednesday evening, Donald Trump says that, if abortion becomes illegal in the United States, the mother involved should be subject to “some form of punishment.”
Here’s the video:
Let me start here, for form’s sake: There is a valid philosophical question here. If you carry out the logic of the pro-life position, what should it entail, legally? As it happens, several leading abortion opponents addressed this question here at National Review in a 2007 symposium. If you’re looking for substantive considerations of this question, give it a read.
But while people are sure to spill gallons of ink on that question, thanks to Trump, it’s irrelevant — because Trump doesn’t mean what he said. Donald Trump has no considered opinion about what should happen in the hypothetical situation in which abortion is completely outlawed. He’s never given it a moment’s thought. Read the transcript of his exchange with Matthews. He’s not substantively “right” or “wrong.” He’s utterly and completely incoherent.
And it’s utterly and completely infuriating. In one minute and thirty-two seconds, Donald Trump has managed to apparently validate every far-flung accusation of retributive, bloodthirsty woman-hating that abortion opponents have tried to fend off for 40-plus years. In 90 seconds, Trump gave Democrats a political millstone that they will cinch around the neck of every pro-life politician for the rest of this election season. Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NOW, Emily’s List have all already issued breathless statements. Hillary Clinton has sent out a tweet with her personal “—H” signature. It doesn’t matter that, one hour later, Trump out-and-out reversed himself. They got their soundbite, and it will be played on loop, to the ululations and I-told-you-sos of Cecile Richards and Sally Kohn and the rest, for years.
But is anyone surprised? This is what Trump does — and it’s the reason conservatives, real, genuine, sincere, life- and liberty-loving conservatives, should not simply be exasperated with Trump; they should be furious with him. They should be enraged with every single one of the endorsers who has facilitated this man’s rise. They should be incensed with every pundit and talking-head who has aided and abetted and excused him.
Because this has been the pattern for months now. Donald Trump makes some idiotic comment about a subject he’s never considered — torture, Islam, the First Amendment, health care, women, &c. — and then real conservatives, who have actually rubbed two brain cells together thinking about these subjects, have to spend the next day, or week, or month, putting out the fire, assuring everyone that, no, conservatives don’t actually think like this.
It’s exhausting, it’s absurd, and it should end. Donald Trump’s statements are not intended to be “true” or “false”; they’re not intended to represent what he actually believes, because he doesn’t believe anything. He doesn’t intend his proposals as serious ideas, to be debated and refined and maybe even executed. His utterances are placeholders. They’re strictly intended to fill space in this interview, or at that rally. Self-contradiction doesn’t matter. If one argument is blown up, he’ll switch to another. This is how a cult of personality works. The statements are irrelevant; the only thing that matters is the speaker. If Trump says the sky is orange, there’s no point trying to convince him it’s blue.
So we should stop trying. Stop trying to convince Trump supporters that he’s contradicting himself. Stop trying to show that Trump’s solutions won’t work. Stop treating Trump’s policies as serious contributions to the hopper of policy ideas — because they’re not.
It’s time for a blackout. We are at a point where the only appropriate response to Trump’s ramblings is ostracism. He’s not a reasonable person with whom you can have a rational discussion, and we should treat him accordingly. Whenever Donald Trump says anything — even if it has the patina of a reasonable, coherent thought — the response of every genuine right-winger should be: “I don’t care what Donald Trump says. He is an affront to rational thought and reasonable, thoughtful, humane discourse. I’m not going to waste time responding to any word that comes from his mouth. Period.” He — and every one of his bottom-feeding surrogates, and his media minions, and his army of Twitter eggs — should be ignored. They should be boxed out of public discourse, with prejudice.
Donald Trump has done incalculable damage to virtually every cause for which the conservative moment has fought for the last 60 years. It’s not enough to say he’s wrong. He should be exiled from public life. The Left will never do that; Trump’s success is theirs. This must be the work of whatever conscientious conservatives remain, and it has to start now.