This week’s serve of rightwing views comes as the Trump administration is almost bedded down, and he prepares to assume office. What do we know, and what should be the focus of our fears and our resistance? Do Trump’s military appointments threaten basic constitutional norms? Are we making a mistake by treating him as a world-historical aberration, rather than a pretty standard (if idiosyncratic) Republican populist?
Meanwhile, there’s some fun to be had as people on the right adjust themselves to new realities. The president-elect still faces criticisms from holdouts on the right which are as bitter as any from the left, but some of the #nevertrump crowd are desperately trying to walk back their own warnings from election season.
Publication: The American Conservative
Author: Kelley Vlahos is one of the most fearless and principled writers on America’s military-industrial complex and security state. The fact that she has to publish pieces like her exposé of the opulent lifestyles of the people who live off military contracts in the same publication that gives space to the ravings of Rod Dreher is an indictment of the timidity of other outlets.
Why you should read it: Vlahos uses paranoid masterpiece Seven Days in May – which depicts an attempted military coup in America – to frame a nuanced consideration of Trump’s appointments of recently retired generals to a range of cabinet positions. Is there a risk to the fundamental constitutional commitment to civilian control of the military?
Extract: “One could argue that many elements of the movie’s plot are present today: a military infrastructure bred and fed on decades of war is suddenly threatened by a peacetime posture, defense cuts, and a deal with a rival power that’s unpopular with many in the ranks. In the movie, one general, played forbiddingly by Burt Lancaster, believes it is his duty to right the wrongs of the civilian leadership (a peace deal with the Russians) and, thanks to the size and autonomy lavished upon the post-WWII military-industrial complex, can marshal the makings of an elaborate coup right under the noses of official Washington.”
Publication: Conservative Review
Author: This is a wrap (including audio) of a full-bore rant by Mark Levin. Levin, perhaps talk radio’s angriest blowhard, is a Tea Party guy, longtime Trump sceptic and former Cruz-booster. His claim to authority is a stint in the Reagan White House, and a string of books outlining his philosophy of “constitutional conservatism”.
Why you should read and listen: Levin tears strips off Trump for appointing Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, hinting simultaneously that he is a Putin pal and a creature of the conservative establishment. Talk radio dudgeon can be fun when directed at a common enemy, and it shows how Trump might still struggle to retain his anti-establishment credentials after his enemies in conservative media have done their worst.
Extract: “Lemme tell the giddy guys over at Heritage and so on, Ronald Reagan would never have picked a secretary of state with these ties to Russia … What is his foreign policy philosophy other than kissing Putin’s butt?”
Publication: National Review
Author: Jonah Goldberg is a weird unit. He’s a longtime National Review habitué, author of a book that compares American liberalism to fascism, and, in a tough field, he was perhaps the whiniest #nevertrump conservative. As the American Prospect once put it in a review of his magnum opus, he “has no credentials beyond the right-wing nepotism that has enabled his career as a pundit”. But he is instructive for what he represents.
Why you should read it: This piece is instructive rather than insightful. It shows how the #nevertrump crowd are calming down as they come to realize that Trump is shaping up to be much more like a regulation conservative Republican than they imagined. Expect people like Goldberg to walk back their election season opposition to Trump as they realize that he is going to give them most of what they want. This will be fun to watch, but it should also ring alarm bells – if Trump can do deals, progressives will learn exactly how quickly American government can act.
Extract: “That said, I already feel comfortable admitting that, beyond my electoral prognosticating, I got some things wrong about what a Trump presidency will look like. Though many on the left and in the media see his cabinet appointments and policy proposals as cause for existential panic, as a conservative I find most – but by no means all – of them reassuring.”
Author: Justin Raimondo describes himself as a “conservative paleolibertarian”. He is editorial director of antiwar.com, which runs a libertarian, anti-interventionist line on US foreign policy – as such it should be seen alongside paleoconservative “America First” outlets like Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative. Figures like Raymond have entertained high hopes about Trump’s anti-interventionist noises during the campaign season.
Why you should read it: Raimondo makes some points we might heed. The concern not to “normalize” Trump has led many on the liberal-left spectrum to panic about his every trollish tweet, and to make comparisons between what is increasingly looking like a rightwing Republican administration and mid-century fascism. Reactive hyperbole may not be the best posture from which to intelligently and strategically fight Trumpism.
Extract: “In the advanced stages of the disease, the afflicted lose touch with reality. Opinion is unmoored from fact. Life resembles a dark fairy tale in which the villain – Trump – is an amalgam of all the worst tyrants in history, past and present, while the heroes – Trump’s critics – are akin to the resistance fighters of World War II.”
Publication: Politico Magazine
Author: Rich Lowry carries the torch passed by William F Buckley, and is editor of National Review. As the standard-bearer for (now-embattled) movement conservatism, Lowry regularly places op-eds under major mastheads. He’s a habitual ideologue, but not immune to making the occasional good point.
Why you should read it: Lowry asks some penetrating questions about the Democrats’ response to Trump, both during and after the election. Instead of making the Republicans wear him as their nominee, and the culmination of everything they have recently stood for, Democrats caricatured him as an aberration and a Putin stooge. As his administration takes form, it increasingly looks like the recurring nightmare of conservative Republicanism, rather than something darker, and more novel. “Normalizing” him at least to the extent of tying him to the party that birthed him might pay dividends as they prepare to make deals with him.
Extract: “There is no doubt that Trump is unlike any prior president. But if Democrats begin thinking and acting a little more rationally, they will in all likelihood find their opposition to Trump running in a reassuringly familiar rut –Republicans are heartless tools of corporations and the wealthy. They don’t care if people lose their health insurance. They are cutting taxes for the rich. They are deregulating bankers. Etc., etc. This is the critique that Hillary Clinton didn’t make of Trump, opting instead to emphasize his outlandishness and try to separate him from his party. In this vein, liberals are now resisting ‘normalizing’ Trump, when they should be perfectly content to normalize him – specifically, to make him a normal Republican.”