Charles Krauthammer: A #NeverTrumper’s legacy in the Age of Trump
WASHINGTON. The death this week of syndicated Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer was a serious blow to the so-called conservative Republican intelligentsia. Somehow, these establishment dead-enders remain stubbornly in charge of the failing cadre of #NeverTrumpers, neoconservatives, and liberal Nelson Rockefeller clones that continue to weaken the Grand Old Party.
Krauthammer and the GOP’s dead-enders
Krauthammer was a member in good standing among the New York City/Washington, D.C., salon of intellectualoid conservatives, as represented by the likes of William F. Buckley and George F. Will. To his credit, however, Krauthammer did not yield to the affectation of adopting the initial “F” as a wedge separating his first and last names.
But the relevancy of this conservative salon collapsed with the rise of Trump.
Five months before the presidential election of 2016, Krauthammer drew parallels between Trump and a failed GOP nominee from the past:
“When in his 1964 GOP acceptance speech Barry Goldwater declared that ‘extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,’ a reporter sitting near journalist/historian Theodore White famously exclaimed: ‘My God, he’s going to run as Barry Goldwater’ … Hillary Clinton is a lousy campaigner but her machine is infinitely larger and more skilled than any of Trump’s 16 GOP [primary] competitors. More riskily, Trump is now going toe-to-toe with a sitting president [Obama]… he now enjoys an unusually high approval rating of around 53 percent. Trump’s latest favorability is 29 percent (Washington Post-ABC News).”
A righteous “extremism” finds its time and voice
Goldwater’s America had yet to feel the brunt of military escalations in Vietnam by Democratic administrations from Harry Truman to Lyndon Johnson (as later revealed in the Pentagon Papers). And Johnson was several years away from unleashing his economy-sapping Great Society programs upon the nation.
And continuing in that tradition, President Obama added another expensive and disruptive social program in the form of Obamacare.
Furthermore, as a member of the mainstream media, one key reality never occurred to Krauthammer. Those widely-touted 2016 political polls represented nothing more than the wishful thinking of newsroom editors and their reporters.
A paradigm shift
What Krauthammer did not see coming in 2016 was the impending rejection by American voters of the GOP’s open-borders support. Likewise, the GOPs advocacy for perpetual-war and their embrace of a Goldwateresque “extremism.”
Another worrisome trend for the GOP establishment was Trump’s use of Twitter. Trump took advantage of this platform to attack his enemies. He also used it to explain his policies without any need for conservative columnists or journals to “interpret” his remarks.
And as Krauthammer himself observed, there was Trump’s effective use of the presidential bully pulpit:
“It’s the tweets, of course. Trump sees them as a direct, ‘unfiltered’ conduit to the public. What he doesn’t quite understand is that for him — indeed, for anyone — they are a direct conduit from the unfiltered id. They erase whatever membrane normally exists between one’s internal disturbances and their external manifestations.
“For most people, who cares? For the president of the United States, there are consequences. When the president’s id speaks, the world listens.”
Indeed, the world does listen. And they listened intently when President Trump expressed the dark side of his (and the nation’s) id. He expressed it clearly in response to nuclear threats by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s regime.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States… They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Since then, it has become clear that both Kim Jong-un and the never-Trumpers have lost the battle of ids with the man in the White House.
A fight for relevance
The late William F. Buckley’s National Review magazine came out with guns blazing against Trump in its February 2016 issue. TNR proclaimed that the New York City real estate magnate was “not deserving of conservative support in the caucuses and primaries.
They also railed that Trump was a “philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP.” (But there, at least, the editors had a point.)
Buckley founded the National Review in 1955. But this intellectual conservative journal’s relevancy peaked during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
More recently, Democratic Party leftism and the Republican Party’s “broad conservative ideological consensus” have dropped dramatically in the esteem of America’s apolitical majority. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Trump’s 16 GOP presidential challengers had ever considered that a possibility.
Nor did the late Charles Krauthammer, while crafting his columns for an industry that, since 2004, has seen journalism jobs decline by 45 percent.
The old left/right paradigm is dying. And like the robust Trump economy, which recently saw the Obama-friendly General Electric removed as a component of the Dow Jones Industrials, America’s patriotic populism is sweeping out the old U.S. politics and replacing it with a dynamic – and responsive – new model.
Top Image: Columnist Charles Krauthammer. Fox News screen grab.