One line near the beginning of National Review’s issue-wide blistering of Donald Trump revealed for me the subconscious motive behind the enterprise: “He and Bernie Sanders have shared more than funky outer-borough accents.”
Ah, I thought, a dog whistle to the cognoscenti. The real problem with Donald is that he grew up in Queens, not Manhattan or Greenwich. He might have been “to the manor born,” but it was the wrong manor. Ted Cruz missed his target. Those aren’t “New York values.” It’s those tacky “outer-borough values.”
Yes, I know the NR editors and their contributors dealt with many more substantive manners, some of which are of genuine concern, but that sentence, buried in a parenthesis in only the second paragraph of the lead editorial “Against Trump,” said more to me of their feelings about Donald than everything else combined. He’s vulgar. He’s not one of us. Even more, he doesn’t need us.
Now I don’t mean to make enemies here. After all, we all want to be needed. And every single one of the contributors to the issue is quite smart and some are personal friends. Also, I have on occasion written for the online edition of the magazine myself and some years ago they published a favorable profile of me, for which I am grateful. But this attack was not only several bridges too far, it was a bridge to nowhere.
Many of their arguments revolve around whether Trump is a “true conservative.” Instead of wading into the definitional weeds on that one — as they say on the Internet, YMMV — allow me to address the macro question of what the purpose of ideology actually is. For me, it is to provide a theoretical basis on which to act, a set of principles. But that’s all it is. It’s not a religion, although it can be mistaken for one (communism).
Ideology should function as a guide, not a faith, because in the real world you may have to violate it, when the rubber meets the road, as they say. For those of us in the punditocracy, the rubber rarely if ever meets the road. All we have is our theories. They are the road for us. If we’re lucky, we’re paid for them. In that case, we hardly ever vary them. It would be bad for business.
Trump’s perspective was the reverse. The rubber was constantly meeting the road. In fact, it rarely did anything else. He always had to change and adjust. Ideological principles were just background noise, barely audible sounds above the jack hammers.
When National Review takes up arms against Trump, it is men and women of theory against a man of action. The public, if we are to believe the polls, prefers the action. It’s not hard to see why. The theory has failed and become increasingly disconnected from the people. It doesn’t go anywhere and hasn’t for years. I’m guilty of it too. (Our current president is 150% a man of theory.) Too many people — left and right — are drunk on ideology.
That is why, more than any other potential matchup, I would like to see Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders go head-to-head in the coming presidential election. And, although far from a sure thing, this is becoming increasingly likely.
It would be an American epic — the quintessential business pragmatist against the most extreme ideologue to have run for national office in years … in a nutshell, capitalism versus socialism. Capitalism is ragged and wild and wooly, like Donald Trump. It changes its mind on a dime. Ideology is secondary. Socialism is a rigid utopian theory that leads to bankruptcy (at best) or mass-murdering Maoist totalitarianism. Ideology is primary.
If the battle of those two men were to occur, the true conflict of our society would be drawn. Trump would prevail and, yes, America would be great again.