With Donald Trump continuing to rise in the polls, the neoconservatives are in a lather. Bill Kristol, who initially declared he was “anti-anti-Trump”—in the same sense that his departed father declared he was “anti-anti-McCarthy” (Joe, that is, not Eugene)—recently tweeted, “Crowd-sourcing: Name of the new party we’ll have to start if Trump wins the GOP nomination? Suggestions welcome at [email protected].”
The essential unity of neocons and liberals is underscored in the Great Anti-Trump Convergence, with the New Yorker and Commentary both conjuring all the familiar bogeymen who haunt the nightmares of Manhattan’s Upper West Side: Father Coughlin, Charles Lindbergh, Joe McCarthy, Mussolini, and (of course) the failed Viennese painter who rises from the grave whenever it’s time to end the conversation.
All these ghosts are from the World War II era, a time when the War Party was eager to drag us into Europe’s perpetual cauldron of hatreds and bloody internecine conflicts, and the campaign against “isolationism” was in full swing. The paladins of perpetual war again raise their battle flags and urge us into the fight—in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan—against the Hitlers of our day. And Trump is their favored target on the home front. Trump, after all, is alone in making any sense on the Syrian question, wondering aloud why we don’t let Putin take care of ISIS and asking Bill O’Reilly, “Do you want to run Syria?” Apparently, O’Reilly did not.
With perfect timing, Trump floated his proposal to ban foreign Muslims from entering the United States days before the San Bernardino massacre, shooting up in the polls to a hitherto unrealized 41 percent. The FOX News crowd stood there open-mouthed: They, along with their neoconservative brain trusters, have been peddling “Islamophobia” since September 11, 2001, and now The Donald has managed to horn in on their racket, while combining it with a big dose of the dreaded “isolationism.” One has to admire such brilliance, even while keeping in mind Mencken’s aphorism that “A demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.”
I say this because the idea of banning Muslims ranks pretty high on the impossibility scale. Perhaps the plan is to inject all visa-holders with truth serum before interrogating them as to their religious affiliation; as with his other proposals, Trump is light on the details.
Hoping to hitch a ride on the anti-Muslim wave, Rand Paul introduced a bill to “pause” the issuance of visas to those from countries where “jihadist movements” are a significant presence. That this now includes France and Great Britain, as well as Algeria and Syria, is apparently something the junior senator from Kentucky thought we’d never notice.
With every Trumpian surge in the polls, he was said to have peaked. Yet he’s defied the conventional wisdom and is clearly enjoying every minute of his unbroken ascent. Now, with the actual primaries looming large, the Establishment is contemplating the awful prospect that he may actually win the GOP crown. What to do?
A piece in Politico, the bible of the Beltway banditos, poses two strategies: Ignore the national ticket and concentrate on “saving the Senate,” or carry out Kristol’s threat of launching a third party.
“A Trump nomination would virtually guarantee a third-party campaign from a more traditional Republican candidate,” says Dan Schnur, a key operative in the moribund California Republican Party. “It’s impossible to conceive that Republican leaders would simply forfeit their party to him.” They’d have to field another candidate, he says, “if only to keep the GOP brand somewhat viable for the future.”
Of course, such a candidate would be highly unlikely even to get on the ballot in California, where it takes hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions for an insurgent from a previously unrecognized party to get his name before the voters. The same holds true in many other states, where restrictive ballot-access laws—passed by the very party bosses who fear and loathe Trump—have maintained the two-party duopoly for generations.
There is, however, one tactic open to the Stop Trump effort that hasn’t been much discussed: a sudden change in the convention rules that could snatch the crown from The Donald’s hands before he could place it on his ample brow. It might be something as transparently larcenous as enabling the party bosses to appoint more “superdelegates” than are traditionally allowed. Combined with those delegates won by the anti-Trump candidates, this army of hacks might be just enough to steal the nomination. That this would enrage the Republican base, which is clearly behind Trump, to the point that they’d sit on their hands in November matters not at all to the party’s mandarins: Rule or ruin is their mindset, and it has ever been thus.