Just when you thought the GOP establishment couldn’t be any more condescending, elitist, and . . . well, repugnant, along comes George Will to prove you wrong. Tin-eared, out-of-touch, and clearly suffering a memory lapse regarding the past two presidential and the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, Will has penned a column that argues, in essence, that the GOP should “purge” the GOP not only of Trump but of his supporters, as well.
Will, writing at WaPo, explains:
When, however, Trump decided that his next acquisition would be not another casino but the Republican presidential nomination, he tactically and quickly underwent many conversions of convenience (concerning abortion, health care, funding Democrats, etc.). His makeover demonstrates that he is a counterfeit Republican and no conservative.
He is an affront to anyone devoted to the project William F. Buckley began six decades ago with the founding in 1955 of the National Review — making conservatism intellectually respectable and politically palatable. Buckley’s legacy is being betrayed by invertebrate conservatives now saying that although Trump “goes too far,” he has “tapped into something,” and therefore . . . .
Therefore what? This stance — if a semi-grovel can be dignified as a stance — is a recipe for deserved disaster. Remember, Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond “tapped into” things.
We can argue about whether or not Trump is conservative (I have argued that he is not) and about Trump having tapped into something that is meaningful to a lot of people (this is clearly the case), but what is galling—and short-sighted—is Will putting out there, front and center, his cavalier attitude toward the people who support Trump. This is the same attitude that may well keep Jeb! from winning the GOP nomination. Fingers crossed.
Unlike Ted Cruz who purposefully, and wisely, embraces Trump supporters, Will wonders who these star-struck hicks who would support such a clown could possibly be. He just doesn’t get it.
Conservatives who flinch from forthrightly marginalizing Trump mistakenly fear alienating a substantial Republican cohort. But the assumption that today’s Trumpites are Republicans is unsubstantiated and implausible. Many are no doubt lightly attached to the political process, preferring entertainment to affiliation. They relish their candidate’s vituperation and share his aversion to facts. From what GOP faction might Trumpites come? The establishment? Social conservatives? Unlikely.
They certainly are not tea partyers, those earnest, issue-oriented, book-club organizing activists who are passionate about policy. Trump’s aversion to reality was displayed during the Cleveland debate when Chris Wallace asked him for “evidence” to support his claim that Mexico’s government is sending rapists and drug dealers to the United States. Trump, as usual, offered apoplexy as an argument.
What Will doesn’t seem to understand is that it doesn’t matter if Trump’s supporters are “Republican”; the ones on the right, conservatives, clearly intend to vote Republican . . . if there is a palatable nominee. That nominee doesn’t have to be Trump, but it will have to be someone who is not, like Will and Jeb!, dismissive of and disdainful toward the conservative base.
Will concludes his piece calling for, and I’m not making this up, “excommunicating” Trump and his supporters from the GOP:
So, conservatives today should deal with Trump with the firmness Buckley dealt with the John Birch Society in 1962. The society was an extension of a loony businessman who said Dwight Eisenhower was “a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.” In a 5,000-word National Review “excoriation” (Buckley’s word), he excommunicated the society from the conservative movement.
Peter Whener, writing at Commentary, agrees, quite enthusiastically, with Will:
Fortunately there are conservative commentators who are doing just that [“excommunicating” Trump and his supporters], including Bill Bennett, David Brooks, Mona Charen, Charles C.W. Cooke, Michael Gerson, Jonah Goldberg, Victor Davis Hanson, Charles Krauthammer, Matt Lewis, Rich Lowry, Michael Medved, Paul Mirengoff, Dana Perino, John Podhoretz, Karl Rove, Jennifer Rubin, Kevin Williamson, regular contributors to this web site (among them Max Boot, Noah Rothman and Jonathan Tobin), editorial page writers for the Wall Street Journal and others.
These individuals, while differing on various matters, understand the difference between angry populism and conservatism. They don’t believe crudity is a conservative virtue. And they don’t want conservatism stained by an unprincipled interloper and cynical opportunist, which is what Mr. Trump is. (It’s been well documented that until a few years ago, Trump was a registered Democrat, a large financial contributor to leading liberal politicians, and held liberal positions on a wide range of issues.)
In that sense, this is a clarifying moment for conservatism. Those on the right who have become Trump defenders have, I think, made a serious error in judgment that is the result of a rather profound misunderstanding of conservatism (for more, see here). You can cherish and champion conservative principles, or you can support and praise Donald Trump. But you can’t do both.
Not being a fan of Trump, I can see the argument for not supporting him. What I cannot see is the need to purge the GOP of anyone and everyone who does support him. What will be left of the GOP if they start purging everyone with whom they disagree or those whom they feel are beneath them?
Writing at Townhall, Pat Buchanan sums it up perfectly:
For there is a plot afoot in The Washington Post Conservative Club to purge Trump from the Republican Party before the primaries begin.
“A political party has a right to … secure its borders,” asserts the Post’s George Will, “a duty to exclude interlopers.” Will wants The Donald “excommunicated” and locked out of all GOP debates until he kneels and takes a loyalty oath to the nominee.
“Marginalizing Trump” carries no risk of “alienating a substantial Republican cohort,” Will assures us, for these “Trumpites” are neither Republicans nor conservatives. Better off without such trash.
The Post’s Michael Gerson says “establishment Republicans” must “make clear that [Trump] has moved beyond the boundaries of serious and civil discourse.” He loathes the Trumpites as much as Will.
Trump’s followers are “xenophobic,” Gerson tells CNN. They have a “resentment of outsiders, of Mexico, of China, and immigrants. That’s more like a European right-wing party, a UKIP or a National Front in France. Republicans can’t incorporate that.”
But if the GOP has no room for Trump’s followers, it has no future. For there simply aren’t that many chamber-of-commerce and country-club Republicans.