I’m thinking about the NeverTrump people again.
His personal character has real-world consequences. I reject entirely that everything bad he does and says is mere "style" but everything good is "substance."
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahDispatch) July 1, 2018
That’s Jonah Goldberg, a normally sensible guy, complaining about Trump’s character. There are a couple of obvious — to the point of being hackneyed — answers, like “And we think Hillary’s character was better? Why?”
Since people keep making me defend Trump, it’s well to recall that I was not a Trump fan. I’m slowly becoming more of one because I’m slowly starting, I think, to understand him. Here are what I think are the keys.
First, as I started seeing when I wrote “What is Trump’s deal?“, I don’t think he has a lot of deep ideological views about politics or anything, other than some vague impulses toward mercantilism. (But even then, when he started with the tariffs, he also was pushing for completely free trade agreements; and it’s not like the EU, China, Japan, and South Korea don’t indulge in a little mercantilism of their own.) What he has in its place is a deep belief in, and need for, Closing The Deal, along with a sense that he should dance with the one whut brung him as long as it’s at least convenient. So he talks about tariffs, and then relents when some other country offers him a deal that seems better than we had; making a deal with what he sees as some profit in it is better than holding out for perfection. But having promised to nominate SCOTUS judges from his list, and seeing no advantage to be gained by breaking that promise, he’s sticking to that list.
Second, I think he understands mass media better than just about anyone in history: he understands their motivations, and he knows the buttons to push and the knobs to twist to get what he wants.
And third, I think he has a puckish, somewhat malicious, mischievous sense of humor, and he’s not above trolling people for a laugh. Especially if it advances Closing The Deal. In this, he is marvelously assisted by the collective couch-fainting of the Left in particular and the Ivy-League Clerisy in general.
His policies, though, have turned out to be much better, and much more libertarian-conservative, than I’d expected — with the exception, of course, of his trade policy. But a good SCOTUS justice and the prospect of another one — that’s a win. (And please, let his sense of humor drive him to nominate Willett, who I not only think would make a good justice but who would cause a pandemic head-explosion of lefties looking at Willett’s Twitter.) Tax cuts? Definite win. The reversal of decades of regulatory overreach? Big win. Foreign policy? Dude, we have North Korea negotiating and a railroad from the port at Haifa to Saudi Arabia being planned. No one even semi-conscious cannot see that as progress.
Now, this shouldn’t be understood as me saying that I think Trump’s character is good. He has a long history of stiffing small contractors, he made a whole television career out be being a blowhard and a bully in The Apprentice, and he seems to have a real problem with keeping his pants zipped when he should. He seems to be only indifferent honest. At best.
But then — from Thomas Jefferson to today, it seems like a whole lot of presidents had that zipper problem. Facile as it has become, Hillary Clinton’s honesty problems are glaring and frankly did a hell of a lot more damage to the country at large. And I’ve known a bunch of real estate salesmen and developers over the years, on both coasts and in the middle, and I’ve never known one of them I’d actually trust. Does Trump seem any less honest than any of the developers I’ve known? I don’t think so. Does he seem less honest than Bill Clinton? Than Bernie Sanders or Nancy Pelosi? Than Obama?
So here’s the puzzle. We’ve seen a number of the Republican or conservative members of the Ivy Clerisy — Bill Kristol, Jennifer Rubin, and now George Will — adopting the position that Republicans should vote for the Democrats in the next election, to “punish” Trump, to “send a message,” to “save the Republican Party.”
Here’s what Democrats are campaigning on:
- Raise taxes by a trillion dollars — at least. Trillions more if they got all the programs they want.
- A $15 minimum wage
- Universal single-payer health care
- End pretty much any control over the borders or immigration enforcement inside the U.S. — and while I believe in open borders in principle, open borders and a $15 minimum wage and expanding social programs are, finally, just crazy talk.
- Impeachment — followed by an extended Constitutional crisis, either with McConnell pointing and laughing, or Chuck Schumer trying to push it through, and then failing to get two-thirds of the Senate to vote to convict. Or getting a conviction followed by Pence becoming president, rinse and repeat.
Let’s be real emphatic here: by pushing for votes for Democrats to “punish Trump” or “save the Republican Party” that’s what you’re advocating. Voting for Democrats means voting for their policies. And remember, Trump’s superpower is his willingness to make deals and desire to Close The Deal. If you think Trump would not then ally with the Democrats in favor of Closing The Deal — well, it’s not the way I’d want to bet.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. But then, Jonah Goldberg —and Bill Kristol — and Jennifer Rubin — and George Will aren’t required to justify themselves to me.
I just don’t understand how they can justify it to themselves.