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Tue Oct 15, 2019, 10:20 PM

"American Carnage" - How The Never Trumpers Were Never Right To Begin With

Early in Tim Alberta’s American Carnage, Peter Wehner, the head of President George W. Bush’s Office of Strategic Initiatives under Senior Adviser Karl Rove, remarks bitterly that John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008 presaged the rise of Donald Trump. Wehner deplores how his party, founded on “glorifying excellence and achievement,” came to embrace “this anger and grievance and contempt.” He had a different view in 2008, though, when he described Palin as the future of the Republican Party, which she had “suddenly revitalized” with her “grace and style.” Palin, he said, was “a supremely gifted political talent” whose “conservatism seems organic rather than manufactured, ingrained rather than recently imbibed.”

The main responsibility for Palin’s selection lay with two pillars of the post-Reagan Republican establishment: Bill Kristol, the neoconservative editor of The Weekly Standard and former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle, and Steve Schmidt, McCain’s chief political strategist and previously a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush and counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney. In plucking Palin from obscurity, Kristol and Schmidt, like innumerable GOP leaders before them, were promoting the party’s indispensable hard-right base—a base it has done so much to arouse and exploit since the late 1960s. “A spectre is haunting the liberal elites of New York and Washington—the spectre of a young, attractive, unapologetic conservatism, rising out of the American countryside,” Kristol wrote breathlessly in early September 2008. “That spectre has a name—Sarah Palin…a challenger of a corrupt good-old-boy establishment who’s a conservative; a successful woman whose life is unapologetically grounded in religious belief; a lady who’s a leader.”

Kristol, Schmidt, and others somehow persuaded McCain that he could appease the reactionary elements in the GOP, including the white Christian right and the Second Amendment zealots, while still keeping the party firmly under control. In fact, Palin’s nomination was only one incident in the party’s continuing radicalization. After Barack Obama was elected president, the Koch brothers and the Donors Trust of dark money funders (to which the Kochs were leading contributors) would mobilize and subsidize the Republican base in the so-called populist revolt they named the Tea Party.

Wehner, Kristol, and Schmidt are today among the most prominent of what remains of the Never Trumpers, hoping against hope that they can wrest the Republican Party from Trump’s grasp. Wehner has fared the best, securing prestigious contributing writers’ posts at The New York Times and The Atlantic, and a fellowship at the right-wing Ethics and Public Policy Center. Kristol—whose magazine, once owned by Rupert Murdoch as a premier vehicle for conservatism, was closed under pressure from Trump—rails against the president on the cable-news talk shows. Schmidt, who formally broke with the party in 2018, was last spotted guiding into oblivion the quixotic third-party presidential aspirations of the former CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz. While they stumble around dazed, the Never Trumpers seem unable to admit, at least publicly, to their complicity in their own downfall. Nor do they seem to grasp that when Trump seized control of the GOP in 2016, he reaped the populist whirlwind that Richard Nixon began sowing nearly half a century earlier and that the Bush administration—their administration—had whipped to hurricane force.

EDIT

https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2019/10/10/american-carnage-republican-decay/

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Reply "American Carnage" - How The Never Trumpers Were Never Right To Begin With (Original post)
hatrack Oct 15 OP
Zorro Oct 16 #1

Response to hatrack (Original post)

Wed Oct 16, 2019, 07:02 AM

1. Excellent writeup

I especially like the way the review turns into a scathing critique of the Bush administration's policies, with dead-on remarks about the Republican Party's long embrace of culturally divisive positions stretching back to the 1950s.

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