There are a lot of reasons to dislike Donald Trump. Just to name a few, there's his fascist leanings, his open xenophobia and Islamophobia, the fact that he makes Americans look bad, the support he gets from white supremacists, and his recent endorsement from Sarah Palin. But National Review, the publication of the old-guard intellectual right founded by William F. Buckley, is attacking him for a simpler reason: Trump's not conservative enough.
On Thursday night, the magazine published a scathing editorial on its website titled "Against Trump" that attacked the leading Republican candidate as "a philosophically unmoored political opportunist" who "often makes no sense and can't be relied upon" and is "a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself."
Many, many observers have noted that Trump contradicts himself the way you would if, say, you were running a campaign for president while basically making up shit as you went along. But since National Review is essentially critiquing the GOP frontrunner from the right, its editors are concerned mainly with Trump's history as a real estate mogul who used eminent domain and favors from politicians to enrich himself while voicing support for "abortion, gun control, single-payer health care à la Canada, and punitive taxes on the wealthy."
The magazine also commissioned a shining city on a hill's worth of prominent conservative voices—up to and including Glenn Beck—to echo the publication's concerns. The essential critique, to quote National Affairs editor Yuval Levin's contribution, is that conservatives have been generally in favor of "limiting the power of [elite] institutions, reversing their centralization of authority," whereas Trump seems to be in favor of an all-powerful presidency, just so long as he occupies it.
Or, as Townhall editor Katie Pavlich put it:
"Conservatives have a serious decision. Do we truly believe in our long-held principles and insist that politicians have records demonstrating fealty to them? Or are we willing to throw these principles away because an entertainer who has been a liberal Democrat for decades simply says some of the right things?"
Any other candidate would be presumably disqualified from leading the national Republican Party for saying the things Trump has said, so what makes him so special? You can almost hear National Review grabbing the right-wing electorate by the shoulders and screaming "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?"
The reasons for these frustrations aren't hard to suss out:National Review, along with the rest of the Republican establishment, likely imagined that the 2016 primaries would be about choosing between the varieties of conservatism offered by Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and maybe Rand Paul. Problem is, the GOP base seems more enamored of Trump, despite everything. Long after pundits predicted his demise, the short-fingered vulgarian is leading nationally as well as in Iowa and New Hampshire, even though he's inspired a lot of animosity along the way. No one has had the chance to cast a ballot for him yet, but if he starts actually winning primaries, the GOP will have to contemplate a reality where the face of their party is bright orange and topped by insane hair.
Even now, the Republican Party is bracing itself for a Trump nomination. In response to the National Review editorial, the Republican National Committee disinvited the magazine from being a debate partner, which publisher Jack Fowler shrugged off as being a "small price to pay for speaking the truth about The Donald."
It's not clear if National Review's efforts will have any effect on the election, since the type of conservative who reads it likely already had pretty severe doubts about Trump. (The magazine has previously engaged in online spats with the racist alt right.) And if Trump does get the nomination, there's a chance that a lot of his former conservative haters will hold their noses and declare him the lesser of two evils. As Erick Erickson wrote in his denunciation of Trump, "I would vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton."
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