WASHINGTON, DC — In a panel on Donald Trump and conservatism, National Review senior editor Jonah Goldberg attacked the popular image of the Republican nominee as a crusader against political correctness. He argued that Trump refuses to allow political correctness to apply to him, but he is more than happy to use it on his enemies.
“This idea that Donald Trump is against political correctness is just a fiction,” declared Goldberg, who also serves as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and is the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. Trump, he argued, is “against being held accountable to political correctness for himself, but he is delighted to use the exact same bullying tropes of political correctness against other people.”
Goldberg recounted how the Republican nominee used political correctness to attack him. “He tried to get me fired from National Review, saying I was insulting to women, and that I have to apologize or resign or be fired because I was so insulting to women,” the NR editor explained. What did he do to be attacked so? “I said that Donald Trump was staying up late into the night like a teenage girl tweeting, which was A — accurate, and B — accurate,” he added, to laughter.
The NR editor also noted the time when Trump attacked former Florida Governor Jeb Bush for a “completely understandable and forgivable gaffe about women’s health issues.” Bush was speaking about Planned Parenthood, opposing the $500 million the abortion organization receives in federal funding. Rather than passing over the issue, Trump hit Bush on it, “playing politically correct cards.”
Goldberg called Trump “a nearest weapon to hand arguer in all things, because he does have no philosophy.” The editor claimed the Republican nominee is “just making it up as he goes along, riding a populist wave.” Historically, he argued, “populism is a statist [big government] enterprise, built upon group identity politics and grievance, and that is very much what is going on with the Trump campaign, and it’s very anti-intellectual.”
Because of this lack of ideological grounding and Trump’s willingness to use political correctness against his opponents, Goldberg said the Republican nominee is not a conservative. Other panelists argued, however, that Trump is conservative because he would return power to the people.
John Marini, professor of political science at the University of Nevada—Reno and a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, argued that Trump is conservative because he focuses on returning power to the people instead of the elites and he fights the tribalism of political correctness by calling all Americans to stand up for their country.
Marini argued that the American government today has run rampant, surpassing its constitutional limits. Trump, he said, represents returning the government to the hands of the people, and his success depends on his ability to find a common ground beyond politically correct interest groups.
Dr. Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College and author of the new book Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill and the Salvation of Free Government, delved into some of Trump’s writings to bolster the Republican nominee’s conservative credentials.
Next Page: Arnn’s argument for Trump, and his sparring back and forth with Jonah Goldberg.
Arnn quoted a Trump article from the Reno Gazette-Journal published in January, where the candidate declared, “The United States of America is a land of laws, and Americans value the rule of law above all. Why, then, has our Congress allowed the president and the executive branch to take on near-dictatorial power?”
The college president argued that many of Trump’s declarations — like this one — fall in line with conservative principles. He also pointed to the candidate’s strong success in the Republican primary: “Four and a half million more people voted for him than anybody else in the Republican primary. Of course it’s true that more people voted against him than voted for him, but if that is a relevant point it applies to the others more than it applies to him.”
“And as far as we can tell, and the exit polls are not great, but he commands support among independents and Democrats like Reagan,” Arnn added. He also drew a strong contrast between the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton and the party of his wife. “Today, this is the blue wall. … They think they’ve got the demographics right, not just their appeal, not just what they say, they have the whole government structured and organized,” he explained. “That is the situation today.”
Implicit in Arnn’s argument was the necessity to have a populist force like Donald Trump to defeat this all-encompassing political behemoth.
After the panel, Goldberg and Arnn sparred on numerous issues.
Goldberg dismissed Arnn’s argument, saying that Trump’s conservative writings represent “a very thin read when you look at all the other things that Donald Trump has said and has done over the last 30 years. The collected sayings of Donald Trump would not fit in any conservative anthology.” The National Review editor mentioned many of Trump’s flip-flops, concluding, “Even the Devil can quote scripture, he can also quote the collected sayings of Donald Trump.”
In one notable moment, the National Review editor said that in a Playboy interview, the businessman “celebrates the butchers of Tiananmen Square,” at which point the Hillsdale president declared, “Not true. Not true.” Both agreed to go to the text.
Arnn found the passage: “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. They were vicious, they were horrible, they put it down with strength.” While the businessman was clearly praising the strength of the Chinese here, Arnn added, “I don’t think ‘vicious’ and ‘horrible’ are terms of approbation to Donald Trump.”
When one questioner accused Goldberg of holding Trump to too high of a moral standard, the National Review editor shot him down. “You say no politician can pass it … that’s just flatly untrue. If it had been any one of the sixteen other candidates — including George Pataki, whom I despise! — … I would be rallying to him,” Goldberg said.
“Those guys passed a hurdle, that I, truly in my bones — after lots of reading and lots of talking to people who know Donald Trump — do not believe he passes,” the editor declared. “This is not a high bar that I am setting — it’s a very low bar, and he hits his forehead on it!”
“He is delighted to use the exact same bullying tropes against other people.”
Check out the video of Goldberg and Arnn sparring on the next page.
— Tyler O'Neil (@Tyler2ONeil) September 15, 2016
— Tyler O'Neil (@Tyler2ONeil) September 15, 2016