Minicon maven (go look it up!) Jonah Goldberg has announced dolefully in his latest commentary on NRO that “the GOP is wrecked, no matter who wins.” The source of this problem for Jonah is the unwanted intrusion of the Donald into Republican national politics. Whether the convention that will take place in Cleveland this summer nominates Trump or tries to withhold the nomination from someone whom Jonah finds to be a peddler of “snake oil remedies,” the Republican Party may be irreparably ruined. There was a chance but one that has been missed to cut the New York troublemaker off at the pass: “Republicans and commentators didn’t believe he would run. They didn’t believe he could be an attractive candidate to rational people, no matter how angry with ‘the establishment’ voters said they were.” In an even greater act of self-delusion, Jonah’s pals didn’t rally to Jeb, Marco and other “conservatives.” Indeed Jeb’s PAC “spent $35 million trying to destroy Rubio before it dropped its first $25, 000 attacking Trump.” Now we face the possibility of a third party, because “the Republican nominee is probably going to be determined on the convention floor in Cleveland.” This means that Trump and his followers will probably capture Jonah’s beloved party or else leave it split by forming their own populist breakaway party.
Jonah’s dire prediction makes me about as much grief-stricken as did the experience of watching the Soviet empire crumble. Perhaps our divergent perceptions result from our contrasting views of the party that Jonah adores and which I profoundly despise. And one of the reasons (I won’t hide it) that I’d be delighted to see the GOP go the way of the Soviet politburo is that I associate it with greasy deal-makers, who are invested in expanding government and surrounded by neoconservative “advisers.” To see both of these groups lose influence simultaneously would be for me a dream realized, although I remain skeptical that it can be achieved. After listening to Trump (as well as Cruz) giving a speech at AIPAC that sounded as if it were written by Max Boot, I’m beginning to doubt whether the Donald will reach the convention in July without first trying to “make a deal” with neocon elites. Jonah (for all I know) may land up becoming his speech-writer, although I would like to think this won’t be the case.
If truth be told (and I’ve already expressed this view on this website), I think it would take more than a brokered convention and a split in the GOP to rid us of the neocons. Their assets and connections remain forces to be reckoned with. What is for me really astonishing is Jonah’s panic that he may be losing his party base, that is, the one that he and his pals depend on for their readership and following. But even if the improbable happened and the GOP vanished, it’s still quite possible that Jonah’s patrons and friends would remain employed, perhaps going to work for Hillary or for someone else as official “conservatives.” There is nothing that requires neocons to be based in the party that Jonah fears may be “ruined.” Parties come and go; but neocons and their offspring, like the common cold virus, may be invincible.
I for one am also struck by the difference between Jonah’s interpretation of the Trump challenge to the GOP establishment and the far more thoughtful response of Peggy Noonan to the same development. Although Noonan is certainly no farther to the right than Jonah, she is painfully aware of what her party has done to awaken their nemesis. She doesn’t blame Trump and the great unwashed for the “uprising” but sees Republican leadership as responsible for bringing about the disaffection. “The bottom and the middle are pushing against the top” and the pressured is being felt by elites in both parties. Noonan is understandably afraid that the GOP elite is “deaf” to what’s stirring, and here she shows that she is, at least, sentient. In Jonah’s world, like that of George Will, everything was going swimmingly well up until recently. Up until then we could look forward to the happy event of another Mitt or Dole or W being elevated to the GOP nomination. Then suddenly the “anti-conservative” Trump erupted on to the scene, and no countermeasures were taken to make him and his voters disappear.
To his credit, however, Jonah never descends to the imbecility of Megyn Kelly, Guy Benson and other “moderates” whom one hears every evening on Fox-news telling us about how Kasich (presumably their Democratic-lite candidate) would trounce Hillary by some astronomic majority. We are thereupon shown poll figures indicating that Trump would lose to the Hillmonster by eleven points or more, dragging down with him Congress as well as the executive. As Jonah understands, “my father was a postman” would never beat the Dems because his nomination could only take place at a brokered convention, and this would necessarily precipitate a third party challenge by Trump and his indignant supporters. Allow me also to express skepticism about the poll numbers indicating that Hillary would run away with the election if she faced Trump. Given the torrent of abuse that the media has been dumping on Trump, I suspect that respondents are terrified to admit to pollsters that they’re voting for this week’s version of Hitler. But this doesn’t mean the same respondents wouldn’t vote for Trump in the privacy of a voting booth. I also find it impossible to imagine that nausea I feel every time I behold Hillary’s sour face and listen to her canned feminist and grievance rhetoric is not being experienced by tens of millions of other people. Hillary may have the same relation to running for the presidency that I do to playing professional hockey.