I was sufficiently moved by how well Douthat’s article to write a response.
I am offended, firstly, by the people who dismiss Trump’s candidacy without really thinking about it–even given that people I know and care about hold this position… and Donald Trump is a safety-vest-colored douche-bag who will empirically never be president.
[Note: when I use the word douche-bag as an insult what I mean is that the douche is an unnecessary product invented by male doctors to make women feel bad about themselves; any man who tries to make women feel bad about themselves out of ignorance and/or profit-motive is a douche-bag–is logically the same as the douche-bag.]
In this country, voting is a zero-sum game. Voting for Trump, even in a poll, means not voting for someone else. So why aren’t they voting for someone else? Why is it that Conservative Americans are throwing their lot in with Trump instead of the upstanding, thoughtful citizens obscured by the breadth of his bling? Grave and decisive and ingenious politicians like Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush… yeah. Who knew you could be a lame duck without winning the election first?
Trump has said repeatedly that he’s funded all of their campaigns. So the choice is between:
a) someone who takes money from, and is thus beholden to, others and is secretive about it as well as about other things.
b) someone who gives money to others and is thus beholden to nobody (that’s obviously not true but it’s close enough for now) and is open about that and other things.
Am I saying Trump is honest? Hell no. He won’t give you a straight answer about how much money he has. Because still the most important thing to him is to protect his “brand.” So we take all of his comments or all of the parts of his comments that serve to inflate his brand; we take them and we crumple them up ad we throw them in the corner with Ted Cruz’s promise that ‘net neutrality’ is the ‘obamacare of the internet.’
Then we pass a damn amendment reforming campaign finance because that is the spawning bed which birthed the Trump dragon. We all know this. More to the point, Republicans should want campaign finance more than anyone, particularly moral conservatives. Why? Because a viable political party is necessarily a platform of compromise between various disagreeing parties. And as the Republican party is currently constituted, (along the same lines the Democratic party was constituted in the 1850s) white people from the south have to agree with northern industrialists as to what candidate to back. And what kind of candidate is capable of pleasing both of these constituencies? He’d have to be a monster… or an erasable white-board… or both. And when you try to combine credible presidential candidacy (long resume, experience, public recognition) with a willingness to enforce the Christian Right’s moral rectitude in matters of social policy and also the willingness to enforce Wall Street’s moral and fiscal permissiveness in matters of financial policy you get… Mitt Romney. And Jeb Bush. And a wagonload of other useless candidates who will never win a general election. The consumers, because they are polling in favor of Trump, are apparently too stupid to exist; they are nevertheless smart enough to see the Jindal and Christie and Bush 2.5 candidacies as warmed over pot-stickers dressed up in a coat and tie.
If campaign finance laws were fixed, social conservatives would not need to ally themselves with fiscal venality to produce these chimera-candidates who, rightly seen for the monsters they are, are polling at zero while Trump is receiving ovations for shouting anti-immigration slurs all the way home to his latest Eastern-European mail-order bride.
I’m not saying I want to see a credible socially conservative candidate. I’m saying I want to see campaign finance reform. And if I were a liberal of any consequence, I would want to partner with any social conservatives of consequence in this lonely point of mutual self-interest. Yup. I would definitely… um… douthat.
All the best.