The Republican establishment has swung into defcon i, maximum force alert. Last month I contributed to a widely publicized symposium at National Review. Our hope was to stop his rise. The liberal establishment is, if anything, even more agitated. Trump transgresses the rules of political engagement, to say nothing of political correctness. A stream-of-consciousness, reality TV show insult machine leads the race for the Republican Party nomination. How did we come to this point?
The wonder is that we wonder. Trump is a creature of today’s political and cultural establishment. How could a master of comic mockery like Stephen Colbert object to Trump’s political style? Or Jon Stewart, who concludes his regular political rants with crude obscenity? I can’t think of any public figure on the Left who wouldn’t be flattered to share the stage with either man. Why should Donald Trump embarrass—other than the fact that his political positions aren’t liberal.
Our side isn’t any different. Rush Limbaugh makes a living denouncing people on talk radio. He’s even derided Pope Francis as economically ignorant and called his ideas “pure Marxism.”
You can’t get more conservative establishment than the Bradley Foundation. In 2013 one of the winners of the Bradley Prize was Fox News founder Roger Ailes, perhaps the single most influential person behind the transformation of politics into entertainment over the last generation. Very Trumpian.
It’s not just Fox. MSNBC and other networks have developed their own political shout shows—verbal versions of World Wide Wrestling matches. Talking heads bluster, interrupt, and otherwise disport themselves in rude ways. Viewers rejoice in the spectacle. Advertising is sold. Money is made. Very Trumpian.
I don’t want to give the impression that it’s just the popular media that has prepared the way for Trump. The National Review symposium I contributed to also featured Glenn Beck. If he’s acceptable to the conservative establishment, is Trump a stretch?
Then there’s the fact that for the last few years so much has been for sale in the conservative movement. During the Romney campaign, one could almost hear the consultants and operatives counting their money. In this venal atmosphere, which surrounds so much of the establishment of both parties, Trump’s verbal raspberries and rhetorical roundhouse punches hardly seem untoward.
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