Why National Review’s Trump Issue Will Fail

Reading Time: 3 minutes

They. Don’t. Care.

The conservative war against Trump won’t work.

I get why National Review and The Weekly Standard devote whole issues of magazines to Trump’s lack of conservative bonafides. I appreciate it. Their work is important. But their tactic will prove completely useless in defeating Trump. In fact, the fight is already over, and the cover story proves it.

Conservative magazines–online or on paper–are supposed to weigh events and people against conservative principles and pass judgment. National Review and The Weekly Standard are right: there is little evidence that Trump believes what we believe. And there is growing evidence that Ann Wagner’s ilk will hook up with The Donald even before their divorce from Jeb! is final. (Poor Jeb! He was born with a silver low-energy bar in his mouth.)

I find it odd that very few people argue that Trump is a conservative, don’t you? Even Trump doesn’t bother much.

In his recent book, Crippled America, the word “conservative” appears only 15 times and most of these refer to other people or things. He calls himself a conservative only twice. Trump doesn’t exactly kill himself trying to prove he’s a conservative. He just mentions the stuff he does consistently that conservatives typically appreciate. Here’s Trump’s strongest argument:

By nature, I’m a conservative person. I believe in a strong work ethic, traditional values, being frugal in many ways and aggressive in military and foreign policy. I support a tight interpretation of the Constitution, which means judges should stick to precedent and not write social policy.

I won’t point out all the ways Trump strays from conservative orthodoxy in that paragraph. That’s not the point.

If the right is working overtime to convince you Trump’s not a conservative, why isn’t Trump (or his conservative supporters) working just as hard (or harder–Trump does everything harder than anybody else) to prove Trump is a conservative?

Because Trump’s supporters don’t care!

Trump’s eminent domain abuse is appalling, and his support of the Kelo decision sucks. Trump’s infatuation with single-payer healthcare sends Ronald Reagan spinning like a dental drill. Trump’s trade policies smack of Smoot-Hawley on the surface. Trump’s tax proposal has some un-conservative features and it isn’t flat enough by a long shot.

And the people who support Trump don’t care.

And they don’t care that National Review knows Trump’s not a conservative. It’s like telling a smoker about the long-term health effects of tobacco. They know! They. Don’t. Care.

Dilbert creator Scott Adams describes exactly why the National Review’s anti-Trump volley will fail:

Persuasion Stack

Identity (best)

Analogy (okay, not great)

Reason (useless)

Definition (capitulation)

You’ll see a lot of debate on whether Trump is a true conservative or not. That is argument by definition. It is the linguistic equivalent of throwing your gun at a monster because the clip is empty.

In short, the “Trump Ain’t No Conservative” argument shows conservatives are throwing in the towel.

Unlike his conservative foes, Trump never tried to define anything–he operates exclusively in the world of persuasion.

As I’ve said many, many times, facts do not persuade. People reflexively look for errors in facts, so Trump wisely avoids them.

Put another way: Trump knows persuasion. Conservatives do not.

My conservatives friends sincerely believe what they were taught in school, that you win an argument by marshalling the facts, that people decide based on a preponderance of the evidence just like Judge Wapner (or Judge Judy for people born after the Nixon administration).

Every salesman knows that’s nonsense. We decide on emotion and defend our decisions with facts. Facts come last.

In the conservative war against Trump, conservatives led with facts and stuck with facts right up to the bitter end. Trump responded with emotion. And “make America great again.”

National Review’s Shock-and-Awe edition emptied their arsenal of facts. Trump deflected the attack with a single tweet:

 And with that tweet, the election comes to an end. It’s 11:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8, and CNN just called it for Trump.

UPDATE: John Nolte at BigGovernment makes a similar point in Why We Lose. (Victorian thinking.)

UPDATE 2: Rush Limbaugh gets what NR’s Symposium writers fail to grasp: They. Don’t. Care. BTW, NR’s writers are really saying that conservatives are too stupid to understand what they’re doing. Isn’t that what liberals believe?

  • gary wiegert

    Policy wonks put people to sleep. Discussing legislation puts people to sleep. People want a candidate with passion.

    • You’re right, Gary. Passion and a vision that they can see together. When a politician says “I sponsored HR 298 …” he’s saying two things: 1) I live in the past, and 2) It’s about me.

      People want leaders who paint a picture of how the people will make the world look. The shining city on a hill, not last session’s legislation