The 50th post on the Journal of American Greatness originally published in April, 2016.
We’ve received a few ear tweaks along the lines of “How do you like your boy now!?!” Said in a taunting, gloating tone, of course. The occasion being (also of course) Trump’s septimana horribilis plus his rather stinging loss in Wisconsin.
We can only presume that these gloaters are not careful readers—at least not of JAG. We’re not lying or joking when we say that we hold no brief for Trump personally, that (had we the power) we would have chosen a different vehicle for Trumpism, and that we care more about the ideas animating his campaign than about the man himself or even his candidacy.
We can hear some of our friends snickering at the mere mention of the words “Trump” and “ideas” in the same sentence. Laugh all you want, but secure borders, economic nationalism and America-first foreign policy are not merely ideas—they’re better ideas than any other political figure on the right has presented to the American people in at least 20 years. And they’re ideas that speak directly to the most pressing concerns the country faces right now.
All good catechismical conservatives have memorized one line from Reagan’s first inaugural: “government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” Does anyone remember the first clause of that sentence? I do! It was “In this present crisis.” In this present crisis.
In other words, Reagan knew something his present-day followers don’t realize or deny: his program was specifically meant to address the problems of his time, not of all times. There could be other crises for which government might be the solution to the problem. Is there a single writer at National Review who understands this?
In our present crisis, an effective government working for the interests of the American nation is essential to securing the border, enforcing laws such as visa overstays and employer sanctions, and rationalizing our out-of-control immigration system. Effective government will be essential for implementing trade and economic policies that benefit the American people and not the Slave Power. Effective government—a national security bureaucracy run by clear-sighted patriots—will also be necessary for the vigorous reassertion of strict considerations of America interests.
But let’s get back to the taunting. Peter Brimelow has pointed out that “Cruz basically has Trump’s positions now. It’s just a question of who you trust.”
“Trust” and “Trump” also no doubt strike our friends as two words that don’t even belong in the same dictionary, much less the same sentence. If so, it would appear that we are being asked to trust two equally untrustworthy vessels to carry these positions. Most conservatives who attack Trump for his inconsistencies ignore, gloss over or deny Cruz’s. Trump’s strike us as less worrisome, more the product of an inexperienced politician and a man used to winging it and winning. Cruz’s flip-flops, on the other hand, seem calculated down to the penny. Beyond this, on all three issues that count, Trump was there first, showed their popularity and power, then Cruz followed. So who is really more likely to follow through?
We couldn’t say whether or not the much-prayed for Trump melt-down is finally upon us. Certainly, his chances of winning the nomination seem more remote than they have in months. Trump still seems to us like a more likely general election winner than Cruz. We’ve seen all the polls. We know. But can you imagine the base-pleasing beauty pageant contestant, that ossified red state ideologue Cruz winning a single state that Romney lost?
If Cruz is the nominee, I at least will vote for him—fat lot of good that will do him, considering where I live. But I would have little to no expectation that he will pursue secure borders, economic nationalism and America-first foreign policy. He may be unpopular with Senators but this hardly constitutes the radical outsider perspective he claims for himself and which the Party and our politics so desperately need. It’s all-too-plausible to envision Cruz, as President, buffaloing the base with fine speeches while Finlandizing back into the arms of the Washington Establishment that rejected him more than a decade ago and for which he is still so plainly in the throes of unrequited love.
Trump may well be the disaster that his detractors say he is: the most unpopular major party nominee since … ever. That’s what the polls say, anyway. But at least he offers the prospect of scrambling the electoral map and realigning the electorate around the pressing issues of our time. Can anyone say that with a straight face about Cruz?
Beyond this, in the memorable words of this Journal’s Mission Statement, what difference, at this point, does it make? Cruz is not going to Save the Constitution. Trump almost certainly won’t either. We’ve explained some of the reasons why. To recap in brief: mass immigration, radical modernity, and the cycle of regimes. All you most opposed to Trump are a big part of the first and second. You’ve not so much as stood athwart history yelling stop as stood beside the left whispering “not quite that fast, OK? Also, we’re not racists! Please like us!”
The agenda—secure borders, economic nationalism and America-first foreign policy—is what matters. We have our doubts whether that—or anything—can save us now. Since nobody has any better ideas, or anything better to do (in the political realm), why not try it? Same-old is a sure loser, electorally and pragmatically.