The agony of conservative intellectuals

As Donald Trump tries to get the Republican party to unify around him, there has been some shifting around among the members of the various sectors within the right-wing party, such as the elected officials, the media, and the influence shapers. One is seeing the first two sectors falling into line behind Trump as they see it in their best interests to not defy the party nominee.

It is within the last sector, those who see themselves as the opinion shapers within the party such as Mitt Romney, George Will, Erick Erickson, David Brooks and Glenn Beck, that one sees the most resistance to Trump and Heather Digby Parton looks at the reasons for this, focusing on Brett Stephens, an editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal, and David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush.

That Trump has broken the rules of politics and so far succeeded is now indisputable. But Parton says that Frum’s opposition to Trump springs from the fact that Trump has broken all the norms that make democratic governance even possible and that is what concerns him.

Frum’s trying to figure all this out and he’s digging deeply to do it. In fact, he’s been doing this for some time as one of the few insiders who have been clear-eyed about the destruction of the conservative movement and the Republican Party over the past few years even before the appearance of Donald Trump. And he’s right about all of this. This disconcerting breaking of the norms that make democratic governance possible has reached a critical stage.

What started with the cynical propaganda projects of Newt Gingrich to the ’90s witchhunts and the dubious tactics of the long election of 2000 metastasized into the Tea Party which was born out of a belief that Barack Obama was an illegitimate president and anything he proposed was therefore invalid. Donald Trump was in the middle of that as the King of the Birthers, the man who mainstreamed the formerly fringe conspiracy theory that the president wasn’t born in America. And now that man is the Republican nominee for president.

It is not at all clear that these so-called opinion molders within the Republican party ever actually influenced the rank and file or were merely reflecting the agreement that already existed between them and the party leadership. Now that the agreement has fractured, we have a test of the extent to which these people actually wield any influence over the party’s thinking.


  1. says

    Now that the agreement has fractured, we have a test of the extent to which these people actually wield any influence over the party’s thinking.

    Yup. The “chattering class” could be all chat and no class.

  2. raven says

    Conservative intellectuals is an oxymoron.
    It also assumes facts not in evidence.

    This is a dangerous time to be around Trump and Republicans. In the mass stampede to endorse Der Furher, Herr Trump, someone could get hurt. I noticed tonight, without any surprise, that Paul Ryan has caved.

    Speaker Paul Ryan, After an Awkward Courtship, Endorses Donald Trump
    New York Times -- ‎1 hour ago‎
    Paul D. Ryan, the House speaker, explained how he came to endorse Donald J. Trump for president, saying they had begun to find common ground on policies.

    Paul Ryan is not in the least convincing as anyone with a conscience or a brain.

  3. brucegee1962 says

    Yes, the chatterers are definitely in denial and despair. However, for most of them, I’m not sure whether the agony is mainly from the knowledge that their party has nominated at best a moron and at worst a nazi, or else the knowledge that their life-long influence on their own party would have probably been equally great if they’d adopted duck decoy carving as a career instead of journalism. Perhaps greater, given the success of those duck dynasty guys.

    I mean when Glenn Beck — GLENN BECK!!! --has become one of the party’s voices of reason, then the GOP is well and thoroughly hosed.

  4. lorn says

    Gingrich set out to win control of government by discrediting the idea of government. It worked for a time but the reflexive attacks on the idea of government, and anyone proposing good governance, never stopped. The corrosion of the idea of government never stopped because the attacks became a style and identity they couldn’t give up.

    Over time the GOP, still pursuing the idea of discrediting government, they logically shifted from sending people who could govern into an institution they considered evil to sending people into government to destroy it. That is the point of the Tea Party, and placing anti-science people in charge of the science and technology committee. They are political suicide bombers intending to get elected to do as much damage to the idea of good governance and blow up the very idea of government. The seek to destroy the very idea of government without replacing it with anything, this is nihilism.

    The absurdity of people running for office while claiming that the government they wish to join, or any government for that matter, is incapable of doing anything right or good is a testament of how far down the hole we have gone.

    Of course, Donald Trump just takes it to the next level. When the idea of government serving the needs of the people has been thoroughly discredited, and there is no hope, the only thing left is to vote for the most entertaining candidate. If life is down to a long trip to Hell in a hand basket you might as well be entertained on the way.

    That, is the attraction of Donald Trump.

  5. machintelligence says

    It isn’t original with me, but I really like the term “Hair Trump.” It works on so many levels.

  6. Menyambal says

    I like the word “trumpery”. It’s an old term for attractive nonsense.

    As PZ Myers put it, the Republican party is no longer conservative. It is now embracing every trumpery fad to come down the road. The solid, careful, check-your-work ethic is now science, and science has a liberal bias.

  7. busterggi says

    Conservative intellectuals don’t matter -- they actually think so they are not true Republicans.

    Ein volk, ein reich,ein fuerher.

  8. doublereed says

    Eric Erickson and Glenn Beck consider themselves intellectuals??? No come on…

    Is David Brooks still considered a conservative? I mean he loves Obama, so I figured they disowned him.

  9. Holms says

    I enojy the fact that for the ‘intellectuals’ wanting to hark back to the previous halcyon days of a Republican president, their most recent choice is …Dubya Bush.

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