If there's one thing that Donald Trump has done for the leaders of the conservative movement, the Christian Right and the Republican party it's that he's teaching them a necessary lesson in reality: It turns out that a large number of their supporters don't really care about ideology, morality or even their supposedly mutual loathing of the hippie Democrats on the other side. Their concerns run to something much more primitive.
Sure they all called themselves Republicans and/or conservatives. For decades they played on the same team. But all that stuff about "family values" and "drowning the government in the bathtub" and "constitutional conservativism" were just slogans they chanted for their team. They meant no more to them than "rah, rah, sis boom bah."
National Review slowly came around to the knowledge that something terrible had happened to their movement and last week put out their ineffectual "Against Trump" issue. They realized too late that all the movement propaganda meant nothing to a whole lot of right wing voters. In fact it looks as though the constitution itself means nothing. And the conservative movement of activists, writers and grassroots organizations has suddenly awakened to the fact that a good many of those they considered true believers are completely oblivious to conservative ideology.
Poor social conservative and movement warrior Ted Cruz is finally recognizing that his fealty to the cause was a sucker move. It bought him the enduring enmity of the party electeds and too many of the movement conservatives just don't care about any of that. That's not to say he isn't trying to rally the faithful. The Christian Broadcast Network's John Brody aired some footage of Cruz desperately begging Iowa pastors to do everything they can to stop Trump:
“[I]f Donald wins Iowa, he right now has a substantial lead in New Hampshire, if he went on to win New Hampshire as well, there is a very good chance he could be unstoppable and be our nominee. And the next seven days in Iowa will determine whether or not that happens. So even if you’re thinking about another candidate, the simple reality is there’s only one campaign that can beat Trump in this state, and if conservatives simply stand up and unite, that’s everything.”
You can't help but wonder if he regrets all those months of "bear-hugging" Trump now. In fact, it makes you wonder if the whole field regrets not unleashing hell on him from the very beginning. They couldn't possibly be any worse off than they are now.
But as sad as Cruz may have been when he started the day yesterday, realizing that he'd devoted himself to a conservative movement that turns out to be an empty shell, imagine how he felt when Jerry Falwell Jr endorsed the libertine billionaire later in the morning. Falwell might as well have looked into Cruz's face and laughed at his gullibility. All these years Cruz believed that following the Evangelical Christian code of conduct was a requirement and the man who inherited the legacy of the Moral Majority supplicated himself to a degenerate billionaire who says it's never been necessary to ask God for forgiveness.
Sarah Posner wrote about this strange course of events for Rolling Stone yesterday:
For Falwell, Trump is a strongman who can save America where the Christian right has failed to do so. Falwell's endorsement is a tacit admission that his father's mission to rescue America from the supposed scourges of feminism, the "homosexual agenda" and secularism is now a defunct fundamentalist dream...
Trump has other qualities that many evangelicals admit they admire: wealth and success and — don't let this surprise you — ruthlessness. Trump first addressed a Liberty University audience in September 2012, after his failed presidential bid. In his remarks, he suggested to students that they need to "get even" with adversaries in order to succeed, prompting an outcry over whether this advice was compatible with Christian values.
At the time, Trump's special counsel, Michael Cohen — without pushback from Liberty — told ABC News that he conferred with a Liberty official, who confirmed, in Cohen's words, that "the Bible is filled with stories of God getting even with his enemies, Jesus got even with the Pharisees and Christians believe that Jesus even got even with Satan by rising from the dead. God is portrayed as giving grace, but he is also portrayed as one tough character — just as Trump stated."
Falwell later told a Christian radio program that he took Trump's advice to mean that often succeeding in life requires "being tough."
See? No need for all that weak tea about the meek and the poor. And surely when it comes to their driving obsession with sexual morality and abortion, it just takes a real man to put his foot down. And it's clear who is the Real Man in this campaign. Donald Trump is an Old Testament leader for a New Testament world.
According to this poll, evangelicals are flocking to Trump.
Perhaps the most puzzled by what they're seeing is the conservative movement old guard who spent decades creating the organizations that in recent years have risen up to challenge the Republican elites for supremacy of the party. They have made great strides, primarying apostates, defeating RINOs and even taking out good conservatives just to show they could. They showed the entire country that they are willing to destroy the government itself if that's what it takes to demonstrate their commitment to their principles. They take no prisoners, give no quarter. And finally, after decades of hard work and strategizing, they are on the verge of total dominance.
Or they were until Trump came along and proved that many of the people they had been counting on to be the foot soldiers in this conservative revolution weren't paying attention. In fact, they don't even care that their new strongman leader openly says things like this:
"I'm going to be able to get along with Pelosi — I've always had a good relationship with Nancy Pelosi," Trump said Tuesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," referring to the House minority leader. "Reid's going to be gone. I've always had a decent relationship with Reid," Trump said, referring to Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate minority leader. "I always had a great relationship with Harry Reid."
Trump said he thought he'd get along with "just about everybody," including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), likely to be the next Senate Democratic leader, who Trump said he was "close to ... in many in ways."
"I've been in politics all my life, I've been dealing with politicians all my life," Trump said of whether he would have any friends in Congress.
The man who has made a fetish of being politically incorrect reassured his ardent fans at a rally this week that it was all an act:
"When I’m president I’m a different person. I can do anything. I can be the most politically correct person you have ever seen," Trump said at a rally in Pella, Iowa, on Saturday.
In what began as a typical Trump speech, the presidential candidate — who made headlines in December for saying he would ban Muslims from entering the US — said the reason for his tough rhetoric is twofold.
First, political correctness takes too long and "we don’t have time," and second, with such a full slate of Republican candidates, Trump says he needs to be aggressive. "Right now they come at you from 15 different angles. You have to be sharp, you have to be quick, and you have to be somewhat vicious," Trump said.
"When you are running the country it is a different dialogue that goes, and we can do that easily."
(He seems to believe that he has experience at doing this, perhaps in a dream.)
The Republican establishment is under a tremendous amount of stress right now. Donald Trump has the party functionaries running around like his personal factotums and the elected officials are all figuring out the angles to ensure they come out on the Donald's good side. It's possible it may not survive in the form we've come to know it.
But the conservative movement is equally under pressure. They thought their years of carefully growing and indoctrinating the right wing of the Republican Party had resulted in a common belief in a certain conservative ideology, strategic vision and commitment to a specific agenda. It turns out that a good number of the people they thought had signed on to their program just wanted someone to stick it to ethnic and racial minorities and make sure America is the biggest bad ass on the planet -- authoritarian, white nationalism. If you've got a man who will deliver that you don't need ideology. And he doesn't need democracy.
The mystery is why all these smart conservatives didn't see this coming. They unleashed this beast a long time ago with the hate radio and the media propaganda and the ruthless politics. It was only a matter of time before it turned on them.