If I had to categorize the conservative philosophy at National Review, I would call it "Rote Conservatism." It's a learned thing, passed down from founder William F. Buckley, as if scripture from the National Review archives. It's the old "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" brand of conservatism. It's conservatism that demands the utmost in personal strength of character, which is what National Review says is lacking in those who support Donald Trump. To steal some words from Kevin Williamson, it's "You know: Them," those people that are keeping Trump's presidential aspirations alive long past their expiration date.
I'm stealing his words but not his context. Mr. Williamson was somewhat defensive when he used that phrase, taking issue with something written by "estranged" conservative Michael Brendan Dougherty. In Williamson's context "them" were the political elites, "people who live in places such as Washington, D.C., and New York City and work in fields such as politics and media." In other words, him, not the white working class supporters of Trump. But it's the white working class who became the target of Williamson's tirade.
Williamson offers a remarkable straw man argument, complete with a fictional villain, "Mike, an imaginary member of the white working class who is getting by on Social Security disability fraud." Williamson borrowed Mike from Dougherty. According to Williamson, fictional Mike's refusal to face his own failures and shortcomings is emblematic. Mike represents a dysfunction in the white working class that powers the Fuhrer" Trump's improbable rise. Mike just won't get off his ass and get out of the dying town of Garbutt. Instead, Mike lays around collecting disability, shooting up on heroin, and listening to Donald Trump tell him that he's a victim of the Chinese.
"The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul."
But Mr. Williamson never gets into why Mike's dying town of Garbutt is dying. Could tax policy be a factor? Or maybe punitive, anti-growth business regulation? It's funny how some towns seem to thrive while others don't. Can we honestly say fictional Mike is to blame for the ones that don't?
And how about the rising divorce rates and the decline of the family? Mike's fault? Or might there have been policies that contributed. We used to hear conservatives rail against liberal policies that would encourage the demise of the American family. It turns out, after all these years, they were wrong? Mike's fault?
How about welfare policies? Can Mike really forego his Social Security disability check, fraudulent though it may be? Can he actually afford to pull up stakes, rent a U-Haul, and head west, or south, or someplace?
Well, since Mike is a fictional character, I'm going to give him a fictional brain. I won't make him a genius, but I will give him enough smarts to realize that for all the preaching from real world Williamson, opportunity keeps getting harder and harder to come by. For all intents and purposes, Mike has been facing recession for eight years. Mike may not understand why. I can't imagine that he would. But Trump offers Mike the hope that he can change things, end the recession, make it so that Mike can get a job.
Williamson, on the other hand, tells Mike to get a goddamned U-Haul.
The recent #NeverTrump hysteria at National Review is almost comical, except for the damage its war on Trump might do. Williamson and the rest of National Review used to explain how progressive policies, in spite of all promises of panacea, would instead actually cause the problems now facing fictional Mike. But now, rather than entertain the heretical thought that boorish Trump might actually reverse the trend, perhaps ending the policies that they used to oppose, Williamson wrings his hands over the bigoted, fictional Mike and how his ignorance gave rise to the insufferable Donald.
By poisoning Trump, Williamson, National Review, and a host of other "conservative" elites will most likely usher in a resurgence of progressive control. They will elect Hillary. With Hillary in the Oval Office we'll see our federal agencies become further weaponized against our citizens. We'll see the systematic erosion of our liberties at the hands of a progressive Supreme Court. And for fictional Mike? Welfare with dignity, maybe. But not opportunity.
Thank you Mr. Williamson and National Review, but do please stop masquerading as conservatives. There's only so much fiction we can stand from you.