Magazine | May 23, 2016, Issue

‘At This Point Who Cares?’

The tweets of Trump enthusiasts have three styles. There are the dark, muttered threats to settle scores when it’s all done, as if inauguration will blend into a festival of retribution, a Benghazi on K Street. Some sunny acolytes bray about the manifest brilliance of their guy, untroubled by his actual utterance. Sometimes Doubters of Donald will get an all caps exhortation to find a seat on the #TrumpTrain. Is that like Amtrak? Government subsidized, with eminent domain used to raze an old lady’s house for a new station? The mood darkens: On it or under it, pal.

Not all resort to threats about how you’ll get yours when the New Era dawns with a faint orange glow in the east. But there’s a constant theme. From the talk-radio hosts with slopping pails of throne polish to the earnest voter who’s just tired of the GOP, there’s an awestruck, unshakeable faith. As one fan began a recent call to the Michael Medved show: “Donald Trump is right about everything.”

Ta-da! It makes life so much easier. Rally speech: You know, you know, they said Pluto isn’t really a planet. I know planets. I own a lot of real estate on one. A lot. Let me tell you, Pluto is a planet. Yay! Finally someone’s standing up to the establishment octoplanetarians! Pluto is also made of sticky putty. I said that back in 2003, and they said, No, you can’t say that. Now they say, I was right. It’s putty. Some kind of spackle. (Crowd roars.)

Ask anyone after the rally whether he thinks Pluto is made of bathroom caulk and you’ll get a pitying look: What kind of gotcha question is this? When Pluto was a planet America was respected around the world. Yes, but it’s not putty. Why does that matter? Don’t you see the situation we’re in?

Which brings us to this liberating Trump remark: “I’m a conservative but at this point who cares? We’ve got to straighten out the country.” Enough of measuring one’s actions against one’s principles! It’s time for action. As one person tweeted in response to Trump’s call for ideological ecumenicalism:

“Conservatism is what? like the mystical holy grail. I don’t give a hoot. I want my neighbors and children to have jobs.”

Okay. So let’s nationalize the cable industry and pay the jobless to drive to customer’s houses and offer new batteries for the remote. Free of charge. Unemployment? So over. Not conservative, but it works! Or we could nationalize the banks and forgive all mortgage debt. Even the least-skilled person would be guaranteed a job feeding paperwork into the shredders, to say nothing of the armies of shredder repairmen we’d hire because people forgot to take out the staples. Banks would have no money, but that’s cool because we hate banks. They take our money and give it to someone else and keep the profit for themselves — how was that insider racket ever legal?

Eventually, Venezuela. Eventually, Cuba. Eventually, less of everything, including such “conservative” things as “freedom,” but hey, that’s just another of your mystical holy grails.

Sorry; that’s unfair. You don’t have to go full Bernie to try something outside of the conservative toolkit. Granted. So let’s consider what might work, because Working is Winning and Winning is Awesome.

Fixing the debt: The standard conservative position would be entitlement reform, smaller government expenditures, and tax and regulatory policies that encourage growth and thus boost revenue. Which of these should be tossed out like the anchor baby with the bathwater? Trump does not want to touch entitlements, because we don’t need to. We’re going to get so much tax revenue when Apple is forced by the Domestic Industrial Repatriation Act of 2017 to build smartphones in rural Idaho that there will be enough money for socialized health care. You can say that’ll work, but if you are a conservative who wants a command economy and state control of health care, one has to wonder what drew you to the party in the first place. Was it a pancake breakfast?

If these people are so eager to shed the itchy church pants of conservatism for the supple raiment of the progressive elect, what were they? Pro-America, pro-military, inclined to side with the baker instead of the gay-wedding client, sorta pro-life (that first trimester’s a head-scratcher, when you get down to it), and doubtful we must reduce the economy to pre-industrial levels to keep the sea from eating a yard of Miami Beach. The party of the Right was where they felt they belonged, because it wasn’t full of snotty academics who look at an artwork that consists of 50 pounds of liposuctioned fat and call it quantitatively transgressive. It was full of regular folk.

But if those guys in Washington haven’t figured out a way to stop Obama from doing stuff, well, what’s the point of a party? Understandable. But somehow this morphed into a simultaneous rejection of the ideals behind the party and embrace of the agent of rejection as the true embodiment of those ideals. This attitude condemns the “establishment” for its pliable spine and salutes a man whose ideological flexibility makes a Cirque du Soleil acrobat look like someone in a full-body cast.

The novel 1984 would have wrapped up much quicker if Winston Smith had been one of these folk. O’Brien tells him that the State wants him to believe “2 + 2 = 5”; Smith says sure, why not? What matters is getting to five. And if you count one, two, three, four, that’s like two plus two, and what comes next? Five! Besides, Marco Rubio wanted to open the borders to people who say “Dos plus dos equallo cinco.” So, #TrumpTrain! Whether it’s private or state-run, who cares? As long as it runs on time.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at www.lileks.com.

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