We Americans like to think that each presidential election is one for the history books — that some vital aspect of any and every contest will be studied by political scientists for years to come. With Bush vs. Gore in 2000, for example, it was said that the disparity between the popular and the Electoral College votes would dominate discussion and analysis for years to come. This had actually occurred twice before — in the Hayes vs. Tilden race of 1876 and 1888’s Harrison vs. Cleveland. Heard much of them lately or, for that matter, the interminable Florida recounts that eventually put Dubyah in the White House? Probably not.
In 2008 the watershed was, of course, America’s first black president. Once we stop fetishising race, expect history to treat Obama like a Gerald Ford: exceptionally unexceptional. Alternately, he might come to be seen as a more disagreeable Jimmy Carter, forever caught unawares by the consequences of his incompetence, innocence and, as the Iran deal demonstrates, his impotence.
I’m certain the 2016 race will bring us more “milestone moments” that are actually nothing of the kind, but whether they feature any of the names now presenting themselves as serious contenders — Hillary, Jeb, Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz et al – remains to be seen. None has managed to whip up any sustained excitement, and this has surrendered the stage, if you will, to the one presidential entrant who is always indecently eager to generate both headlines and controversy: Donald Trump.
Is The Donald, as first wife Ivana dubbed him, the dark horse of 2016? Is he, as Sarah Palin said, a hero whose business exploits bear comparison with John McCain’s heroics in Vietnam? Is this the man to inspire awe and admiration in generations yet unborn?
No, of course he isn’t.
Trump is widely-known, though not exactly beloved — a celebrity whose claim to celebrity is celebrity itself. He’s a billionaire, true, which doesn’t count for a little in American politics, and he is a perennial nuisance in Republican primaries. He has lately bought himself a little extra publicity as he always does, this time with comments about Mexicans and crime, and that attention spawned by those remarks has seen him leading the pack in the campaign season’s early polls.
But there’s no way he’ll win.
“Because the Establishment won’t let him win!” The Trumpettes blurt. No, my dears, not because the Establishment, if there is such a thing, hates him. True, the bulk of of America’s most esteemed conservative thinkers and commentators dislike Donald Trump personally, but that makes them little different to the bulk of their fellow countrymen. What the pundits detest is the candidate’s masquerading an unimaginative centrism as gloves-off, tell-it-like-it-is conservative statesmanship. Years of left-wing abuse — calling conservatives heartless, uncaring money-grubbers — seems to have finally set in. Insofar as this is what conservatism means, Trump’s as conservative as they come. No doubt there are some who admire him for taking up the stereotype and running with it. The giants of conservative opinion, thankfully, aren’t falling for it.
Jonah Goldberg, of National Review, brands Trump both a RINO and a CINO—a Republican in Name Only and a Conservative in Name Only. There go the fusionists.
To Charles Krauthammer he is an “overrated clown”, for which Trump unironically called him an “overrated pundit.” There go the neoconservatives.
Rod Dreher of The American Conservative called him “a rich-kid punk who deserves to have a Vietnam veteran pop him in his big mouth.” There go the paleoconseratives.
Matt Walsh at The Blaze, Glenn Beck’s multimedia operation, says Trump’s supporters are embarrassing conservatism — and themselves. There go the libertarians.
It’s not just the GOP money machine that’s against Trump (and I don’t know that they necessarily are). It’s virtually every respected thinker and commentator on the right.
Whatever the Trumpettes bleat about the Establishment, which probably doesn’t exist anyway, the anti-Trumpers have solid-gold reasons for condemning his campaign as an offence to the Republican Party and the conservative tradition it is meant to represent. With a considerable majority coming out so strongly against him so early in the game, even if—by some horrible twist of fate—he were to get the nomination, most would put partisan sympathy aside and decline to back him in a race against Clinton or Sanders. Most likely they would do what National Review did in ’92 and ’96: take a year off.
Which means Trump’s caustic self-aggrandizement stands likely to get him into the history books only as a footnote and statistic. Were he to get the nomination — a most unlikely turn of events — like poor Bob Dole, he would be remembered as a doomed, colossal loser. He’s already lost.
God willing, Trump will sink before he can drag the Republican Party down with him. And when he fades it will be folks like Dreher, Kauthammer, Goldberg and others who deserve thanks for getting conservatism off a sinking, stinking ship before it was too late.
 To Trump Disciples: You’re Embarrassing Conservatism and Yourselves