The Republican Party is in the ascendancy. Who could have predicted it? No one. The response of Democrats and liberals since the election has been screaming, crying, and telling tall tales about racist incidents on social media while providing no evidence that they’ve taken place—and, on the activist Left, rioting. That, alas, maybe anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear could have predicted.
First, the ascendancy. Among the many things everybody got wrong about this election, including me, was what we were seeing happening on the Right side of the political divide. We looked at the heated primary, the rise of Donald Trump, the right-of-center politicians who refused to support him and criticized him, and the conservative media that attacked him, and we concluded that the Republican Party was in crisis and in danger of breaking up. Up until the moment it became clear Trump was winning Florida, the major discussion point about the Right was the “civil war” that was about to break out and whether for the first time in 160 years the United States would see the rise of a serious third party.
Oops. Crow eaten, very much including by me.
After election night, the Republican Party is just fine. More than fine. The Republican Party is arguably in the strongest position it has held in the modern era—holding the Presidency, House, Senate, 33 governorships, 69 of 99 state legislatures, total control of offices in 25 states.
It turns out the crisis is not within Republicanism, but within conservatism. This isn’t a complete surprise, of course; fissures have been evident for years on various aspects of foreign and domestic policy. But if Trump does 20 percent of what he has said he’ll do when it comes to his policy agenda, he will create crises on the Right in relation to trade, the size of government, American commitments abroad, and the projection of American power. He will be a Republican president pushing an agenda that unsettles and upends many (largely) settled questions.
Will conservatives abandon their principles because the team with which they are aligned now has extraordinary political power? Will conservatives decide honestly they were wrong about certain fundamentals if Trump implements new approaches and those approaches work? If the changes Trump does make do not work, of course, his heresies will be blamed. What’s even more important, if they don’t work, the Republican ascendancy will end as quickly and decisively as it began.
The question for Democrats, liberals, and Leftists is this: After eight years in which perhaps their key talking point was that the problem with American governance was the GOP’s utter refusal to work with Democrats, can they now turn on a dime and simply do the same to the Trump Republicans? As the Magic 8-Ball says, signs point to yes. How else to interpret the behavior over the past five days, the riots and public nervous breakdowns by Leftists and liberals who cannot believe that what has happened has happened?
There is no real way to claim Trump’s electoral college majority of 304 is illegitimate–a charge that has been the favored tactic of the more paranoiac and conspiratorially-minded Right and Left over the past 16 years. George W. Bush was deemed illegitimate because he supposedly stole Florida; Barack Obama was deemed illegitimate because of the ridiculous charge he wasn’t actually born in America. Both of these absurdities seized the emotions and darkest ids of those whose true problem was that they couldn’t bear the policies being enacted and felt impotent in their efforts to block them.
So the claim instead is that Trump is, in his person, illegitimate. He’s racist and sexist and a demagogue and terrible. And this, I believe, has begun an interior process within the Democratic Left that opposing him by any means necessary is not only vital but a mark of moral superiority. And this grants people license to do illegitimate things in pursuit of delegitimizing the results of the election.
Many of the stories being retailed on Facebook and Twitter and elsewhere about watermelons being smashed on cars and swastikas being etched into cars and water fountains suddenly featuring signs that say “Whites Only” are so patently invented it’s staggering how easily people are falling for them. (Case in point: How many arrests have been made in these cases? How many actual news stories verifying these supposed incidents have you read?) The ones that are lies are being told by those who are telling them because, I expect, they believe they are revealing a deeper truth: They may be inventing these hate crimes but, since Trump is himself a walking hate crime, it is in service to a higher cause.
So, too, the rioting, which is nonsensical since the places in which the riots are taking place were Hillary Clinton strongholds. It happened to set a marker and make it clear that the Republican ascendancy will be opposed at every turn by every possible means.
I feel entirely free to make this argument precisely because I myself viewed Trump’s rise during the Republican primaries as a frightening event that was lowering American discourse. Perhaps had, say, the GOP candidates going up against him chose to aim their fire and hundreds of millions at Trump rather than at each other in the fall and winter, and had the horrified media of the past two months not been devoted to giving him $2 billion worth of air time and attention, Trump might have been stopped before he was given the inestimable gift of facing the worst presidential candidate since Walter Mondale. (At least Mondale was an upstanding and morally unimpeachable person, as opposed to the egregiously amoral and crooked Hillary Clinton.)
Instead, there was a certain glee as liberals watched what they believed was a Republican dumpster fire from which they would benefit immeasurably. When Les Moonves of CBS said he didn’t like Trump but thought he was good for the bottom line, he was saying two things at once: I’m making money off the other guy and it’s a double delight because the team I oppose is going to be punished! No, they didn’t like Trump, but they believed he had risen up from the bubbling depths and would destroy conservatism and the GOP for them.
My views on Trump’s fitness haven’t changed. But I do not question his legitimacy. Instead, I question the legitimacy of the lies being told to discredit him and the riots being staged to set a marker for worse civil unrest to come. Every serious person should.