WASHINGTON, DC — As I write, a political pundit on a bar stool not far away is leaning over his fourth glass of Pinot Grigio, breathlessly telling his friend the truth about Donald Trump.
“He’s over the top!” he’s saying. “He’s reckless! The things he says, they’re incendiary, they’re not rational!”
“He’s Caesar, he’s Napoleon!”
And then, the flourish: “He is literally Hitler!”
Of course, he’s none of these things. Yet the clawing shrillness of the cocktail circuit continues, reaching a level that would annoy a dog by the second bottle.
And it isn’t only in the bars and parlors — the Hashtag Warriors are a personal favorite.
“The #NeverTrump movement took off this weekend and it may be a much needed moment of unity for the conservative movement and rank-and-file Republicans after years of discord,” a former Eric Cantor spokesman wrote unironically last month.
We can forgive the author for living alongside the first lady in that bubble where Twitter is somehow considered more than a simple exercise in narcissism, but he should be careful: If Mr. Trump’s shrillest critics are correct in their predictions, when Emperor Trump rounds up all those pundits and journalists who opposed him, puts them on a train and sends them off to that farm he promised to buy in Iowa, writing an article on Medium about a hashtag movement is not going to look cool. No one is going to want this man to join their prison gang. (RELATED: Hashtags That Prove Twitter Activism Can Change Human History)
Bill Kristol, on the other hand, will probably do quite well. Not only is he delightful company, but a third party threat will have more street cred in the Iowan prison yard. And really, he can’t be blamed either: Who knew that the millions and millions of Republicans who have voted over the past few decades weren’t actually motivated by free trade agreements and foreign interventions?
Don’t tell Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gov. Mitt Romney, though — let them slumber on in a dreamscape where their tepid, forced endorsements still matter to the electorate.
It’s painful to think about, with all these movements that good men spent their lives building, but it looks like Donald Trump will be more inconvenienced by the movement that follows his second cup of decaf than by a hashtag, or an endorsement from Mr. Romney.
Both parties are slowly beginning to understand: This new populism is addressing a need that has been festering for decades. Teenage junkies are passed out in the streets of Des Moines and Manchester; uneducated men are unable to work proud jobs and provide for their families; Wal-Marts stand in filthy parking lots where hardware, drug and toy stores used to be.
And what do the Republicans and Democrats talk about as they point their thumbs at the screen? Corporate tax rates, gay rights in Russia, drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, democracy in the Middle East.
Does that help anyone in Iowa? In New Hampshire? Now we have our answer.
It tears at me, this thing. The conservative movement of Russell Kirk, Bill Buckley and Ronald Reagan has become a series of meetings filled with men who have never produced a day in their lives asking for handouts for their organizations before adjourning for admittedly enjoyable cocktail hours.
Case in point, when the candidates considered skipping the big conservative gala, CPAC, its organizers had to reach all the way back to Mr. Reagan to list an accomplishment. I guess decades of overcharging for booths for nonprofits to push keychains and free books no one will read isn’t something to brag about in a press release. And the whining continued.
Is it any wonder the voters disregarded the Right when making their decision? Even National Review’s big purple cover couldn’t change the weather. It took 20 years for conservatives to learn to nominate a candidate, another 20 to learn to win an election, and the next 30 learning to make all the cash they could.
The party is over, and it deserves to be. The good news is there won’t be a lot of money in the wilderness, so hopefully the flies will move on.
The party isn’t over because Donald Trump is a maniac. The gravy train isn’t parking because he said mean things about the Muslims. And stating that America doesn’t win anymore is not “literally Mussolini.”
The conservative movement and the Republican Party are learning what everyone who has come and gone before us already found out: You get to choose your lifestyle, not your undertaker.
So quit carrying on — this shrillness is unbecoming.