Last week, vehement anti-Trumper George Will declared that conservatism in 2017 is “soiled by scowling primitives.” Washington Monthly blogger Martin Longman doesn’t disagree, but he contends that Will is partly to blame for that sordid state of affairs.
In a Friday post on the website of The Washington Monthly, not of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Martin Longman discussed President Trump in strikingly medical terms. “The reason Trump has become so vulnerable so quickly is because he’s treating Washington like the pathogen when he’s the infectious agent,” declared Longman. “A better politician might be able to take over the host and turn to it his own purposes, but what Trump is experiencing instead is a massive and determined immune response.”
Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote margin continues to be a compelling news story for some, including Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, who believes that the Electoral College should vote next month for Clinton because she was “the people’s choice.” Even though The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman thinks Lessig’s view is “nonsense” and that Donald Trump’s loss of the PV is trivial under our current rules, he also wants the Electoral College to choose Clinton. “What Lessig should have argued,” wrote Longman in a Friday post, “is that the Electors should plainly judge Trump a menacing incompetent and reject him with extreme prejudice...Trump is already demonstrating his unfitness for office in many ways.”
Some left-wing pundits, anticipating that Donald Trump will lose on November 8, are pre-emptively trying to make sure that conservatives take the blame for Trump’s nomination. Gary Legum of Salon argued that right-wing news outlets “have both spent the better part of the Obama administration pushing the exact silly demagoguery and conspiracy theories that riled up the conservative base and pushed it into nominating a demagogue of its own.” The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman claimed that “other than John Kasich, at times, and short-timers like George Pataki and maybe Jim Gilmore, the rest of the field represented (or, at least, pandered to) a far right-wing conservative worldview that has been steeping in weaponized stupidity for the entire Obama Era.”
According to one left-of-center blogger and one right-of-center professor, a major takeaway from the 2016 presidential contest is that ideological conservatism is unpopular, even in the Republican party. Samuel Goldman, a political-science prof at the George Washington University and a frequent contributor to The American Conservative, stated that the “great message” of Donald Trump’s campaign “is that there really are not that many movement conservatives” in the sense of average Americans “who are vested in a conventional combination of limited government, a relatively hawkish foreign policy, and a sort of religiously inflected public morality.” From the left, The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman alleged that for most Republicans, policy ideas take a back seat to raw resentment: “‘Small government’ and ‘local control’ and ‘free enterprise’ and the rest of the GOP’s ideological playbook simply never had much appeal to their base except as signifiers for Trumpian impulses to smash outsiders and oddballs and anyone who discomforts them.”
At the Democratic convention, Bill Clinton accused Republicans of fabricating a “cartoon alternative” to the real Hillary Clinton. The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman claims that Democrats don’t need to create cartoon versions of conservatives since there’s already “something cartoonish about the right,” and in that regard Donald Trump “seems like a natural successor” to Sarah Palin and (wait for it) Ronald Reagan and (wait again) Dwight Eisenhower. Conservatism, concluded Longman, has “always been a charade. It’s also a cloak or a mask for selfishness and greed that they gussy up in Bill Buckley style and sell us as intellectualism."
In a few months, Barack Obama will become the fifth post-World War II president to serve two full terms. The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman thinks Obama tops the other four in terms of “popularity and moral credibility,” as indicated not only by the positive reception Obama got for his Wednesday-night DNC speech boosting Hillary Clinton, but by the public’s curiosity beforehand about what he’d have to say. In a Thursday post, Longman contrasted Obama with the other two-termers at their last convention as POTUS.
Though the Brexit debate didn’t break down along ideological lines, some liberal writers focused their morning-after scorn on pro-Leave conservatives. Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall wrote that American conservatives rooted for Brexit because of “the same turn back…the clock to glory nonsense that animates Trumpism…American conservative glee [over Brexit] is just a retreat to the tribalism at the core [of] its nature.” The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman thinks Brexit further decreases the chance of a Trump win: “There’s a lot of speculation that something similar could happen here in America in our presidential election. But giving the American people a few months to witness the shitstorm created by this right-wing tantrum in England probably makes that less likely than ever.”
One demographic group you won’t see mentioned in poll results from Quinnipiac, Monmouth, or pretty much anywhere else is “aggressive a**hole[s].” Nonetheless, according to Washington Monthly blogger Martin Longman, such voters have constituted the key bloc in this year’s Republican presidential primary-and-caucus process.
“If you take the electorate and subtract every laid off mechanic and guy over 40 who obsessively fantasizes about being a successful golf pro, [Donald] Trump’s support approaches zero,” asserted Longman in a Thursday post. “The GOP has been so denuded of ordinary people that the aggressive a**hole vote is now a big enough plurality of the party to decide their nomination. This becomes doubly clear when you realize that the main alternative to Trump is Ted Cruz, who almost defines the aforementioned term of non-endearment.”
If judicial review means that the U.S. Supreme Court is a de facto super-legislature that can in effect supersede actual legislatures, that’s fine with Washington Monthly blogger Martin Longman. In a Wednesday post, Longman acknowledged that certain SCOTUS rulings over the past several decades have been politically motivated, but argued that those were appropriate remedies for the “deplorable and inexcusable wrongness” of conservatives on issues such as abortion.
Longman’s peg was Charles Grassley’s speech this past week criticizing recent SCOTUS decisions, such as the two in favor of Obamacare, that in Grassley’s view were based on “policy preferences” rather than on the Constitution.
Liberals disagree on when Republicans changed from a mere opposition party into a truly malign force. For obvious reasons, the early 1980s are a popular choice. Martin Longman thinks it happened later, during Bill Clinton’s second term, but also speculates that the GOP’s “crackpot” period may be almost over.
Donald Trump’s presidential bid, contended Longman in a Friday post, may even spell the end of conservatism as we’ve known it: “If Trump loses, and loses badly, I’m not sure that future Republican presidential candidates will want to emulate him. There might still be a window where a candidate can hope to win by racially polarizing the electorate and getting enough of just the white voters to win. But that window is closing if it is not already closed…If [Trump’s candidacy] is the logical endpoint of the Conservative Movement, well, it seems like we’re reaching the end…That’s my hope, anyway.”
These days, one of the biggest meta-debates in politics concerns apportioning blame for the staying power of the Donald Trump circus. How much of Trump’s popularity is attributable to, say, the mainstream media? To conservative talk radio? In a Sunday post, The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman pointed the finger at Republicans and absolved President Obama.
Apropos of Trump’s economically dislocated blue-collar backers, Longman maintained that Obama has “done what he could for them, and it’s been considerable,” whereas Republicans “have ignored them…[A] population that makes up the core of the Republican base has been committing suicide, overdosing on opioids, and drinking itself to death at a rate comparable to the AIDS epidemic. And the Republicans not only spent zero time trying to help them during the Bush and Obama years, they didn’t even seem to know that this was happening to them.”