The PJ Tatler

Life After Trump

Jonah Goldberg has had Trump’s number ever since The Donald first entered the race for president of the United States. Goldberg has been among the real estate mogul’s most prolific critics, pointing out Trump’s ideologically ambiguous track record and urging voters to look beneath the rhetorical surface.

At this point though, Goldberg realizes that Trump’s candidacy heralds something significant that transcends the candidacy itself. He writes in National Review:

…let’s assume the skeptics are right and Trump eventually goes away. What then? To listen to some of the consultants and graybeards, all will be right with the world. They will say, “See, you freaked out over Trump for nothing.” That strikes me as exactly the wrong response. Whether or not Trump is a flash in the pan, what worries me is what his candidacy says about the pan. If you survive a heart attack, that doesn’t mean you should go back to the diet and lifestyle that gave you the heart attack in the first place.

Whether or not he gets the nomination, Trump should be seen as a wake-up call. His entirely cynical exploitation of immigration — Trump criticized Mitt Romney in 2012 for being too harsh on immigration — tapped into an entirely sincere dissatisfaction with the status quo. His brilliant leveraging of his celebrity for political gain reveals much about the calcified state of American politics. Trump may fade away, but the forces driving Trumpism are more enduring and must be taken seriously.

I’ve watched as my political party, which I thought I knew, has adopted Donald Trump as its de facto standard bearer. When I think about the Republicans I know, my friends and neighbors, my fellow activists, people who I came up with in the Tea Party and the liberty movement, I know they don’t view the world the same way Donald Trump does. I know that he is not a representation of them. Yet so many remain drawn to him for the simple reason that he’s not the status quo.

Trump’s success reflects a desperation among the Republican grassroots, a dissatisfaction that runs deep, undermining reason, to a place of primal instinct. He has become a lighting rod for the disaffected. Whether his campaign proves successful in the long-run or not, Goldberg is right. The establishment must wake to the fact that the Republican base wants an opposition party that actually opposes.