The Corner

Politics & Policy

Trump, the GOP, and Conservatives

President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan with congressional Republicans in the Rose Garden of the White House after the House of Representatives approved the American Healthcare Act, May 4, 2017 (Carlos Barria / Reuters)

“Let Reagan be Reagan,” we used to say. We got it from “Let Poland be Poland.” Poland was being dominated by the Soviet Union (no matter what President Ford said, in a colossal foul-up, in that infamous debate). The slogan “Let Poland be Poland” originated in a Polish protest song from the mid 1970s.

There is no need to say “Let Trump be Trump” — he is, 24/7, and that’s one of the things his fans love about him. Yesterday, he tweeted,

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.

Etc.

“Go back where you came from” is probably as old as America itself. (You can imagine the Indians saying it.) So is “Love it or leave it.” These feelings spring up in me, from time to time. My inner Archie Bunker comes out. When I see activists on the streets of America chanting “Sí, se puede” and waving Mexican flags . . . why . . .

Of course, you have some people on the right, too, who got here two seconds ago and now want to overturn our longstanding liberal-democratic order. You’ve got enthusiasts for Putin and his Euro-buddies. The Archie Bunker in me wants to bark at them, too.

Back to President Trump and his authenticity. On Thursday, he tweeted the following (and, as above, I’m combining some consecutive tweets — the president is a threader now):

The Fake News is not as important, or as powerful, as Social Media. They have lost tremendous credibility since that day in November, 2016, that I came down the escalator with the person who was to become your future First Lady. When I ultimately leave office in six years, or maybe 10 or 14 (just kidding), they will quickly go out of business for lack of credibility, or approval, from the public. That’s why they will all be Endorsing me at some point, one way or the other. Could you imagine having Sleepy Joe Biden, or Alfred E. Newman or a very nervous and skinny version of Pocahontas (1000/24th), as your President, rather than what you have now, so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius!

Etc.

In those tweets, you see classic Trump, including his name-calling and his denigration of others’ looks. Much of the public thrills to this. The grip of Trump and Trumpism on the Republican party, and the conservative movement, is firm. There is no denying this. It is “manifest,” as WFB would say.

Trump frequently says that he’s more popular than Reagan, at least among Republicans. On Saturday, he tweeted,

94% Approval Rating in the Republican Party, an all time high. Ronald Reagan was 87%. Thank you!

I don’t have the data, but, like everyone else, I have impressions — and I have never seen more fervent devotion to a politician than the devotion to Trump. His supporters live and die with him. Every victory for him is their victory; every slight he suffers is a slight against them, too. I understand this very well: I was similarly attached to Reagan, and even more than I loved him, I hated his enemies. I defended him at every turn, including Iran-contra and Bitburg.

In 2016, there was a wide array of candidates before Republican voters: Jeb, Cruz, Rubio, Christie, Carly, Jindal, Walker — and Trump swamped them all. The narrower the field got, the stronger he got. What he was selling, the people wanted. He is the People’s Choice, or certainly the GOP’s.

The transformation of the GOP and the conservative movement has long been clear, but it has been especially clear, I think, in recent days. Yesterday, Trump retweeted Joy Villa. She had tweeted out an article from Fox Business, whose headline was “This is what the ‘new conservative movement’ looks like.” It showed a picture of Ms. Villa herself. She is a singer-songwriter and a Trump booster. At CPAC this year, she sported eye-catching earrings: Q earrings.

“Q” stands for “QAnon,” which is a movement with a startling contention: President Trump and the U.S. military are engaged in a glorious shadow war against a global pedophile cult, in which top U.S. Democrats figure prominently.

One of the leaders of this movement is a radio personality named Michael Lebron, also known as “Lionel.” He is a contributor to RT, the Kremlin propaganda outlet. Last year, he had his picture taken with President Trump in the Oval Office. Meeting Trump, he said, was “an awesome transcendental moment.”

The Q movement apparently grew out of “Pizzagate,” a conspiracy theory that, again, involves pedophilia. The contention is that top Democrats were, or are, running a child-sex ring out of a D.C. pizzeria. A man from North Carolina, under the influence of the theory, drove to D.C. and shot up the pizzeria. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

One of the promoters of Pizzagate has just been named a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute. Mona Charen and Jonah Goldberg both wrote about this last week, with great pain. (Mona’s column is here, and to sign up for Jonah’s G-File, go here.)

Remember Paul Ryan? He was a congressman from Wisconsin and a Great Conservative Hope. Ryan had some candid things to say about President Trump to Tim Alberta (late of National Review), who has written the best-selling American Carnage.

Trump fired back:

Paul Ryan, the failed V.P. candidate & former Speaker of the House, whose record of achievement was atrocious (except during my first two years as President), ultimately became a long running lame duck failure . . .

When Mitt chose Paul I told people that’s the end of that Presidential run. He quit Congress because he didn’t know how to Win. . . .

I remember well the run-up to Romney’s vice-presidential pick. A lot of people who fancy themselves “true conservatives” said that, if the GOP nominee picked anyone but Ryan, he would prove himself an “establishment” nothing-burger.

Back to Trump, who tweeted,

People like Paul Ryan almost killed the Republican Party. Weak, ineffective & stupid are not exactly the qualities that Republicans, or the CITIZENS of our Country, were looking for.

To my knowledge, the only Republican who has defended Ryan is Mitt Romney. He tweeted,

The fault for our 2012 loss is mine alone; ‪@SpeakerRyan was a tireless campaigner, fundraiser, and conservative champion. As the sole person who could unite the House, he acquiesced to be Speaker as a service to the country.

His selfless leadership and lifelong policy work were critical to the tax and regulatory reform that have helped propel the economy. A man like Paul Ryan does not often come along.

You know where I think the fault — or, better, the responsibility — for the 2012 result lies? With the electorate. Because I’m a writer, not a politician, I can say that, thank heaven (and WFB).

What will become of the GOP and the conservative movement after Trump? That will be interesting — but surely no more interesting than now.

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