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National Review Puts Out A Hit On The GOP Base

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 15/03/2016 Jason Linkins
ATHENA IMAGE © Paul Sancya/Associated Press ATHENA IMAGE

Back in January, National Review published a special "Against Trump" issue, which made it clear that they were, you know, against the nomination of rejected John Waters villain Donald Trump. They pulled out all the stops, too, assembling a roster of thinkers ranging from conservatives with media sinecures, to last year's maniac Glenn Beck, to that guy who wrote that book about the magical horse everyone loves, to ex-Attorney General Ed Meese, for some reason. 

It was, essentially, a plea to unite the conservative intelligentsia behind the cause of making their displeasure more loudly known. One might imagine that this would be followed by these same elites making some sort of special pleading to the voters, whose ardor for the reality television star seems to grow by the day, to convince them to turn from the primrose path offered by a candidate whom these elites disparage as a con artist.

Apparently, however, the magazine has endorsed an altogether different way of reaching those voters: telling them that they can all go screw themselves.

Kicking up the clatter on National Review's pages is their own Kevin D. Williamson, who pens this valentine to the white working class of America:

It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn't. The white middle class may like the idea of Trump as a giant pulsing humanoid middle finger held up in the face of the Cathedral, they may sing hymns to Trump the destroyer and whisper darkly about "globalists" and -- odious, stupid term -- "the Establishment," but nobody did this to them. They failed themselves.

Proceeding from there, Williamson contends that "nothing happened" to these communities, that "the truth is ... they deserve to die," and that they are "negative assets," economically speaking. Rather than turn to Trump, he says, they all need to pick up and move: "They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul."

Seconding Williamson, and defending his piece, is colleague David French, who writes: "Simply put, Americans are killing themselves and destroying their families at an alarming rate. No one is making them do it. The economy isn't putting a bottle in their hand. Immigrants aren't making them cheat on their wives or snort OxyContin. Obama isn't walking them into the lawyer's office to force them to file a bogus disability claim."

It's a strange theory: that "nothing" happened to these communities. That the industries that created boom towns -- in the Rust Belt, Appalachia and points west -- didn't become obsolete. That jobs weren't sent overseas by trade deals. That a massive financial crisis didn't really wash away an entire class of people through the gaps in a long-since-frayed social safety net.

It's equally strange to imagine that these towns are packed stem-to-stern with drug addicts and families who are consciously unraveling themselves. That no one is trying to make a go of it. No one is trying to revive these communities. That entire regions of America are filled with wastrels, killing themselves because of some juvenile reaction to something that -- according to National Review -- didn't actually happen.

Also, where are these people supposed to move, and what are they going to do when they get to wherever they're going? Also, how? French writes: "If getting a job means renting a U-Haul, rent the U-Haul." Are U-Haul's vehicles free now? And are there communities that will allow people to migrate there and live out of this U-Haul? Is this article just sponsored content for U-Haul?

But let's leave all of that aside. The really gobsmacking thing about this disparagement of the white working class is that the white working class is all the conservative movement has. Outside of the plutocratic elite, this is where American conservatism resides. It's the only place from which to draw a mass movement of voters. Decades of conscious decisions among conservative elites have led them to this point: The white working class is where they've laid all their bets.

And what's more, outside of failing to win the White House in two election cycles, this voter bloc has been dutifully delivering for conservatives. They've taken statehouses and state legislatures and county boards. They've enabled the conservative agenda on the local level in ways that Republican majorities in Congress have been unable to do. And while the long-term future of this demographic dependence is surely in doubt, the next generation of national candidates fielded by the Republican Party will have gotten their start down that road because of the way this constituency has voted.

There has, perhaps, never been a presidential candidate more worthy of being deranged about than Donald Trump. But it's also important to remember that Trump is a historical fluke. Had he not run for president, the white working class would still face a high degree of destitution, drug addiction and dereliction. The criticisms that Williamson mounts, and that French defends, would theoretically be no less apt.

And yet I cannot imagine that these pieces get written, absent Trump's involvement in the race. No, no, if these same voters were lining up behind more acceptable candidates, I'd have to imagine they'd be praised on the pages of National Review.

But Trump derangement is total. The men in the ivory tower are hungry, and they're opting to eat their own.

Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast "So, That Happened." Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

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