Is President Trump Hurting or Helping the GOP Brand?
Is it time to stop calling young conservatives unable to fully wrap their minds around the idea of a President Trump “Never Trumpers”?
Has the epithet outlived its usefulness because it has come to describe futility, especially on the right? Mr. Trump owns the contemporary GOP. “Nevering” (to coin a verb) behavior is past its prime and has become tiresome and ineffectual. And to be fair, many of these young (anyone under age forty in my book) skeptics are often willing to acknowledge select Trump’s accomplishments, so the qualifier “never” doesn’t really apply.
The fact remains, many right-leaning young fence-sitters choke down a tablespoon full of unsavory medicine when they grudgingly praise America’s commander in chief because in their heart of hearts they still can’t fathom that a man with his (in their view) value-challenged ethics and unvarnished political style has risen to the highest office in the land.
One of my young and adamantly unconvinced associates recently linked me this Weekly Standard column by Ben Shapiro, asking for my opinion of it.
I read Mr. Shapiro’s piece and found much to agree with. His statistics are inarguable, and his corollaries to generational dynamics utterly plausible. The writer and podcaster hit on all cylinders with his analysis of young versus old vis a vis their respective appraisals of the man our nation elected in 2016. Shapiro is correct in pointing out that, with obvious exceptions, there is a preponderance of support for Trump among certain sectors of the older generations, and substantial reservations about him among the younger set. One obvious reason for this demographic approval imbalance is simple: the exigencies of time itself. Older folks don’t have as many election cycles left. They don’t have the luxury of a long-term, high-road strategy.
This reality leads to the one aspect of Shapiro’s analysis I disagree with: his assertion that Donald Trump is hurting the GOP brand, and in so doing is turning off young conservatives and lessening the likelihood of conservative electoral success in the future.
To illustrate my point of disagreement, I’ll borrow a metaphor, and unassailable truth, from Shapiro’s essay: “Older conservatives weren’t looking for character in 2016. They were looking for a hammer.”
Exactly. Older conservatives are on the way out, simply by virtue of the march of time. They are convinced-- along with many heartland independents and traditional Democrats, incidentally--that the time for Trump’s hammer is now. They’re not inclined to gnash teeth or rend garments about the president’s lack of political pedigree. They believe that the open borders threat doesn’t lend itself to another decades-long period of stasis. They don’t think the horrors currently being revealed about the deep state bureaucracy can be allowed to metastasize for any extended future length of time without the chemotherapy of force-magnified push-back.