Donald Trump – despite his brash, blunt, coarse and in-your-face “manic personal style,” continues to command die-hard support from his base. His fans absolutely love the man – spots and all, and establishment politicians still can’t seem to understand why.
Breaking it down in epic fashion is the Wall Street Journal‘s deputy editor of the Op-Ed page, Daniel Henninger – who lays out exactly why the Mitt Romneys of the world will continue to lose – at least for now, and why the core of Trump’s base has developed an undying love for the man – not despite his flaws, but because of them.
The Right’s Resistance
They are unalterably supportive of Donald Trump’s presidency, flawed vessel or not.
The reasons offered for why Donald Trump won’t win re-election in 2020 continue to pile up. His approval rating is stuck, seemingly forever, below 45%. The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll puts the percentage of voters who say they’re likely to vote for him at 38%, while some 52% currently prefer a Democratic candidate.
Numbers like that are why every Democrat and your grandfather is jumping into the presidential race. It’s why the Pelosi-Schumer tag team is chest-thumping over the border wall.
Finally, the truest weather vane of the political winds is freshman Sen. Mitt Romney’s maiden diatribe against President Trump in the Washington Post. Mr. Romney’s denunciatory op-ed was a politician sensing that this presidency is—his words—“in descent.”
The anti-Trump betting could be right. Much of the country is exhausted with Mr. Trump’s manic personal style and may vote for some downtime when choosing the next president.
But that Romney op-ed served one useful purpose: It reminded us why neither Mitt Romney nor anyone like him will take the Republican nomination away from Donald Trump.
One of the abiding mysteries of recent political history remains how the blunt and brutal character standing on the GOP primary stage in his fire-engine-red tie beat the skilled politicians alongside him. You can find the answer in Mr. Romney’s Washington Post article.
“A president,” Mr. Romney intoned, “should unite us and inspire us to follow ‘our better angels.’ ” And then he said: “I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault. But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.”
You could not make up a more explicit pander to the prevailing political zeitgeist, or conventional wisdom, on Donald Trump—racist, sexist, destructive to democratic institutions. This is a kitchen sink of anti-Trump buzzwords. And the enduring reality two years after Mr. Trump won the presidency is that more U.S. voters than the conventional wisdom will admit just don’t care.
For two years, this column has received emails virtually every week from readers who have been along for the entire Trump ride. Some love him, others abhor him.
But among the most intriguing on this political odyssey are those in recent months who have been at pains to say they don’t need more descriptions of what a crude, often insufferable boor Donald Trump is. They know that. I’ll let one of them explain. The reference to “nutburgers” is his summary of the cultural and political left in America:
“When I see long-hoped-for ‘Resistance’ to those nutburgers from Trump—which I did not see from Nixon, Ford, Bush 41 or Bush 43—I am unalterably supportive, flawed vessel or not. It’s not the man, it’s the resistance that binds us to him.”
This is the voice of the resistance on the right. These aren’t only dislocated people living inside the Trump “base” in places like hollowed-out Wilkes-Barre, Pa. This sentiment has been building for decades. Its scale is suggested by the degree of Trump outrages these voters have been willing to discount on behalf of a larger cultural and political cause.
What exactly is their problem? In our time, it takes the form of the left’s cultural triumphalism on matters of identity, race, gender and indeed assimilation, or “the American idea.” If Donald Trump or any other political figure challenges these ideas, some media figure will call it a dog whistle.
Mitt Romney and virtually all Republican politicians entertaining runs for the presidency simply will not stand up to this dominant status quo. They just won’t do it. Instead, they address these matters in a kind of tiptoeing careful-speak. Meanwhile, any Democratic candidate, notably a so-called “serious” moderate such as Joe Biden, must pay obeisance to these ideas or get out of politics.
As to appeals to our “better angels”—typified by the Romney op-ed or anytime John Kasich speaks—history shows that the cultural left simply pockets these genuflections and then pushes its army forward. This history of bad faith—the identity left’s takeover of the campuses being Exhibit A—has created the right’s resistance, which in 2016 defaulted to Donald Trump and still does.
Anyone thinking of challenging Mr. Trump in the New Hampshire primary will have to show they understand, and would fight for, voters who don’t care about “the man” but care deeply about the nation’s cultural direction. Which means being willing to accept exclusion and ridicule by the media trolls. Don’t hold your breath.
It is possible Mr. Trump will personally grind down enough people to make him a one-term president. Still, we hope no one feigns shock in 2020 if, despite everything, at least half the electorate quietly opts for the incumbent over what the Democrats have come to stand for. The resistance on the right is real, with the presidency the only outlet remaining for their vote.