Ross Douthat is still lying to his readers but don't worry, it's for their own good.
POLITICAL parties are mentioned nowhere in the Constitution, and the party nominating process offers few of the protections associated with the ideal of “one man one vote.” Voters in early states have far more influence than voters in later ones. Votes in hard-to-attend caucuses effectively count more than votes in high-turnout primaries. Some primaries are open to party loyalists; others to all comers. The rules that assign convention delegates are byzantine, the delegate selection process is various, and a few states rely on conventions and cut the voters out entirely.
Since the primary process is imperfect we should ignore its results.
As Donald Trump attempts to clamber to the Republican nomination over a still-divided opposition, there will be a lot of talk about how all these rules and quirks and complexities are just a way for insiders to steal the nomination away from him, in a kind of establishment coup against his otherwise inevitable victory.
People will tell the truth. Be ready for that. But pretend that it's "a kind of establishment coup" instead of a real one.
We can expect to hear this case from Trump’s growing host of thralls and acolytes. (Ben Carson, come on down!) But we will also hear it from the officially neutral press, where there will be much brow-furrowed concern over the perils of party resistance to Trump’s progress, the “bad optics” of denying him the nomination if he arrives at the convention with the most delegates, the backlash sure to come if his uprising is somehow, well, trumped by the party apparatus. Americans speak and think in the language of democracy, and so these arguments will find an audience, including among party leaders and delegates themselves.
Conservatives, Ross Douthat is why you are losing and why you have earned Trump. After everything that has happened he is still lying to you. The press is biased towards money; the first color they see is green. Carson was bought off.
Douthat makes every attempt to belittle opposition to the scheme he is desperately trying to peddle: "Bad optics." "Brow-furrowed concern." We also see that Douthat is worried that the thin green line between the elite and the mob won't hold and that the elite will succumb to the interloper.
But they cut against the deeper wisdom of the American political tradition. The less-than-democratic side of party nominations is a virtue of our system, not a flaw, and it has often been a necessary check on the passions (Trumpian or otherwise) that mass democracy constantly threatens to unleash.
Douthat dangles the mob over his fellow elite to keep them in mind. For a moron, Douthat is clever. But the only thing conservatives teach their children is how to manipulate people; it's the parenting style. We must have the elite to think and act for us, we are children, and greedy, violent, destructive children at that. We are the mob.
They think we are stupid. When you ask yourself, "Why did that person just talk to me like I'm stupid?" the answer will always be that that person thinks you are stupid.
That check has weakened with the decline of machines, bosses and smoke-filled rooms. But in many ways it remains very much in force — confronting would-be demagogues with complicated ballot requirements, insisting that a potential Coriolanus or a Sulla count delegates in Guam and South Dakota, asking men who aspire to awesome power to submit to the veto of state chairmen and local newspapers, the town meeting and the caucus hall.
Subverting democracy is a good thing. It's a humble thing.
Douthat is clever but he isn't smart. He thinks that people who refer to the ancient Greeks and Romans are terribly well-educated and brilliant intellectual leaders so he name-checks a few. It's what his people do. That's why they go to Ivy League schools; the idiot sons and daughters of the elite don't go there to learn how to think, they go there to learn the Secret Code Words Of Smartness that will get them jobs at The Atlantic and The New York Times. Douthat is completely and utterly clueless otherwise.
The weird rigors of this process have not always protected the parties from politically disastrous nominees, like Barry Goldwater or George McGovern. But Goldwater and McGovern were both men of principle and experience and civic virtue, leading factions that had not yet come to full maturity. This made them political losers; it did not make them demagogues.
Cruz is just as bad as Trump, with added crazy Jesus-ness. Both would be disastrous for the country. Maybe Trump would edge out Cruz in world-wide negative repercussions but maybe not.
Trump, though, is cut from a very different cloth. He’s an authoritarian, not an ideologue, and his antecedents aren’t Goldwater or McGovern; they’re figures like George Wallace and Huey Long, with a side of the fictional Buzz Windrip from Sinclair Lewis’s “It Can’t Happen Here.” No modern political party has nominated a candidate like this; no serious political party ever should.
Between Palin and Trump, the Republicans can no longer claim that they are not the party of Crazy.
Republicans are authoritarians. Douthat is an authoritarian.
Because such figures speak — as Wallace did, and Long, and Ross Perot, and others — to real grievances, the process of dealing with them is necessarily painful, and often involves a third-party bid and a difficult reckoning thereafter. Trump would be no exception: Denying him the nomination would indeed be an ugly exercise, one that would weaken or crush the party’s general election chances, and leave the G.O.P. with a long hard climb back up to unity and health.
The lies they tell are killing the Republicans. Their wounds are entirely self-inflicted. Douthat demands that the little people suffer so he can prosper. Third-party bids don't happen "often." The Republicans are going to lose no matter who they nominate. The GOP will never climb back up to health because they were never healthy.
But if that exercise is painful, it’s also the correct path to choose. A man so transparently unfit for office should not be placed before the American people as a candidate for president under any kind of imprimatur save his own. And there is no point in even having a party apparatus, no point in all those chairmen and state conventions and delegate rosters, if they cannot be mobilized to prevent 35 percent of the Republican primary electorate from imposing a Trump nomination on the party.
Sooner or later Douthat is going to tell his followers to vote for Cruz or Ryan, both of whom are unfit to successfully lead the US.
What Trump has demonstrated is that in our present cultural environment, and in the Republican Party’s present state of bankruptcy, the first lines of defense against a demagogue no longer hold. Because he’s loud and rich and famous, because he’s run his campaign like a reality TV show, because he’s horribly compelling and, yes, sometimes even right, Trump has come this far without many endorsements or institutional support, without much in the way of a normal organization, clearing hurdle after hurdle where people expected him to fall.
You built this cupcake.#
But the party’s convention rules, in all their anachronistic, undemocratic and highly-negotiable intricacy, are also a line of defense, also a hurdle, also a place where a man unfit for office can be turned aside.
This should expose the con for all time but people don't see what they don't want to see. Sure, I want to subvert democracy but it's for your own good. And it'll make me rich. It's win-win! Or, in your case, lose-lose!
So in Cleveland this summer, the men and women of the Republican Party may face a straightforward choice: Betray the large minority of Republicans who cast their votes for Trump, or betray their obligations to their country. For a party proud of its patriotism, the choice should not be hard.
All those choices Douthat made over the year; were they just as easy? Supporting invasion, torture regimes, theocracy, subjugation of women? Of course they were. Douthat wants what Douthat wants and you need to give it to him because he is rich and important and you aren't.
It's for his own good.