In a recent op-ed — “If Trump wins the nomination, prepare for the end of the conservative party” — the always articulate George Will expresses the angst many establishment (and some not-so-establishment) Republicans feel about their frontrunner:
If you look beyond Donald Trump’s comprehensive unpleasantness — is there a disagreeable human trait he does not have? — you might see this: He is a fundamentally sad figure. His compulsive boasting is evidence of insecurity. His unassuageable neediness suggests an aching hunger for others’ approval to ratify his self-admiration. His incessant announcements of his self-esteem indicate that he is not self-persuaded. Now, panting with a puppy’s insatiable eagerness to be petted, Trump has reveled in the approval of Vladimir Putin, murderer and war criminal.
It’s hard to dispute Will’s analysis, as far as it goes, but it only goes so far. No doubt The Donald exhibits some of the traits of an inferiority complex, but the real question is, so what? As Joe E. Brown says to Jack Lemmon at the end of Some Like It Hot, “Nobody’s perfect.”
All the Republican candidates have their flaws, as does, in spades, the woman far at the front of the Democratic pack, described almost twenty years ago by William Safire in one of the most prescient op-eds ever as a “congenital liar.”
But my interest here is not in detailing everyone’s weaknesses — I like to remain friends with people — but, as a Christmas present to the angst-ridden, to try to explain how Trump’s flaws can be turned to the advantage of Republicans and conservatives. This is particularly important if, as appears highly possible, he wins the nomination. What do we do about it?
The answer is obvious. The solution to conservative angst over Trump is simple: stop criticizing him, co-opt him.
If you want Donald Trump to be your friend, if you want him to be as conservative as Ronald Reagan, love The Donald to death. He will be your friend for life. And he will do what you wish, mostly. Praise every conservative statement out of his mouth and ignore the rest. It will probably change anyway.
And speaking of the fine art of ignoring, this leads me to something that Will, Charles Krauthammer and other of our best political minds seem to ignore themselves. Trump has kicked ideology to the curb for good reason.
Whether Trump realizes it or not, and I think he does, the situation in the USA has outgrown the finer points of political theory — left, right and center or anywhere in between. It’s far graver than that.
Barack Obama has murdered America’s magnificent sense of optimism — the very thing that made this country unique, that propelled this country, and therefore much of the world, forward in a generally positive way through Republican and Democratic administrations.
Now it’s the reverse. America, the global leader, is a despondent, pessimistic country, leaving a void to be filled by the worst imaginable actors like ISIS. Donald Trump wants to make her great again. Bravo for him. That is something we should all be applauding this Christmas. In fact, it is the most important thing of all.
So if Donald does get the nomination, that’s what I’ll be focusing on. Indeed, I’ll be focusing on that too if it goes to someone else. First, we need our country back. We can worry about the ideological implications later. Merry Xmas.