Conservatives could be Trump's biggest fight

As the mainstream media pillory Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE, and in doing so reveal the hypocrisy lurking in their news standards, Trump’s supporters find themselves caught between the rock of the MSM and the hard place of the conservative intelligentsia. And it may be the latter that are doing the most damage.

Because academia and the legacy media are so hostile to them, intellectuals of the right have for years congregated in think tanks and publications. Places like the libertarian Cato Institute, the conservative National Review and the Wall Street Journal, and the neoconservative Commentary (and more recently the Weekly Standard) have incubated and nurtured some of the best pundits and policy analysts in the country.


Yet today, not one of them supports Donald Trump’s candidacy, and several (particularly the neocons) are in full-throated opposition. Taken together, these “Never Trumpers” fault the GOP nominee for his stands on immigration and international trade, for his personal style, and for his lack of familiarity with, much less fealty to, conservative policy positions.

In other words, they have their reasons. Yet for all of that, there’s a look and feel about their efforts that smacks of vanity. Sadder still, their collective posture reveals an embarrassing lack of discernment about their actual standing in the country.

Among all the major institutions in the land, from the pop culture industries of Hollywood, TV, and the recording companies, to organized religion and its seminaries, and from all levels of government to academia, both private and public, conservative thought of every stripe is not just terra incognita, it's positively suppressed.

Which is another way of saying that, but for their erstwhile influence on the Republican Party, conservative intellectuals have little or no sway over the larger society. They have jobs, and they have the psychological and material comforts that often come to those in the pontification business, but they exist as little more than ideological tokens in the larger scheme of things.

And looked at this way, it's hard to see the virtue or the wisdom in their stance. Instead, the appearance is of people who put themselves above country. After all, for all his shortcomings, by what conservative priorities would a Trump administration be positively worse than a Clinton White House? Or to put it another way, what kind of conservative wouldn’t vote for Trump in the hope that as President he might show some upside, rather than opt for Hillary, whose administration would, by conservative standards, be downside squared?

Some of the Never Trumpers have attempted to answer these questions. The neocons claim that Trump would threaten the international order (read: no more “nation building”), while others parrot the caricatures of Trump peddled by the left. The most fanciful argument is that, after Trump is routed and Hillary’s administration implodes, there will come a resurgent Republican Party (led and informed, of course, by the Never Trumpers), that will reclaim whatever’s left of the USA in 2020.

It’s easy to see why liberals and Democrats would prefer Hillary to Trump, but aside from the protection and advancement of their own welfare, it’s hard to understand, much less appreciate, the actions of the conservative clerisy

Even for those who, like the author of this piece, appreciate the cerebration of the right (if not so much any of its factions), the performance of the Never Trumpers seems more like ambition and what magicians call misdirection than anything idealistic.

Patrick Maines is president of The Media Institute. The views expressed are those of Maines alone, and not those of the Institute’s Board, advisory councils, or contributors.

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