An oldie but goodie.
Megan McArdle, who sees everything in her world as a zero-sum, binary competition between her group and everyone else, thinks she understands the struggle going on within the Republican party.
This is not normal disappointment with an election that didn’t go your way. It’s not even a procedural battle about the rules, though a Louisiana delegate I walked next to certainly waxed lyrical about all the non-Trump reasons that the rules should be changed. Mostly, it’s a battle over what kind of party the Republicans want to be. And in the convention center this evening, the two sides appeared no closer to agreement.It's the Republican Dark Night of the Soul! The forces of Good (the elite establishment and their loyal servants) are fighting the forces of Bad (Trump and his followers-not the Tea Party ones, the Neo-Nazi ones). McArdle dubs them Populist and Establishment, and tells them that they can either work together and win elections or they can fight and lose them.
At first McArdle said that Republicans were attracted to Trump because he was a celebrity, because the economy was bad for them, and because liberals accused them of being racist. As Trump gained more voters, you will not be surprised to hear that McArdle decided there are no villains, ideas germinate spontaneously, and people decided to follow Trump for no reason.
So whose fault is Trump then, if not the leadership of the Republican Party and the conservative movement?
I tend to think that’s a bad question. It is politics-as-novel, rather than politics-as-system. We are a large, fractious nation full of clashing interest groups and wildly differing opinions, as well as differing levels of engagement with politics. That system will often spit out results that most of us don’t like very much. Trying to ascribe those results to a person, or even a small group, is like blaming the weatherman because it’s raining, or an economist for a recession. You have selected the most visible target, not the most likely one. And, in the case of Democrats who fault Republicans for Trump, a very convenient target as well.When Paul Ryan signed on, McArdle discovered that nice people can support Trump, too. But time turns kittens into cats, and now McArdle wants the Trump rump gone. There is the population and there is the elite. You belong to one or the other in varying degrees, according to the rules of authoritarian hierarchy. The two might have different goals but the elite exists to tell the littlebrains how to live and the little brains exist to listen and obey.
Which brings us to McArdle's in-person report at the Republican National Convention. She briefly describes the clashes between Trump and Establishment forces, which the elite lost, and then goes on to scold conservatives for refusing to unite for the sake of future elections.
It’s hard to see how those two groups reconcile any time soon. Right now, at least, they have one thin thread holding them together: the need to unify in order to defeat Hillary Clinton. If Trump loses in November, as still seems very likely, then that thread will snap. Trump supporters will blame the Establishment for a stab in the back; anti-Trump forces will blame his supporters for nominating a candidate so unelectable that he could lose to a lackluster candidate like Hillary Clinton. The rebellion that was put down today could easily turn into a civil war.
The fact is that -- as I suspect Trump supporters are about to find out -- the party’s populist and establishment wings need each other. The populists supply energy, yes, but they are blind to the tedious-yet-necessary business of raising money, running campaigns, building legislative coalitions, and keeping your candidate from alienating too many voters.
The establishment wing obviously can’t win an election without its populists, notwithstanding all the bitter remarks about purging the Trump element from the party. If they want to win elections, they'll probably need to ask themselves a question I once heard offered to a newlywed in some sort of marital crisis: “Do you want to be married, or do you want to be right?”
As of yet, the answer seems to be they want to be “right.” Our nation’s first Republican president once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Neither can a party.
McArdle is waiting for everyone to come to their sense and go back to obeying the elite so everything can go back to normal. She doesn't think it is possible for her elite to lose power or be replaced by a slightly different elite. The Populists must give up their little obsessions if they want to elect people like Rubio or Jeb!. The angry, violent-tinged Trump contingency will, no doubt, settle down and forget all about their own goals for the good of the Party Establishment.