National Review hasn't been this fun to read since it used to try to be funny—and succeed—decades ago. Each day brings a new hysterical reaction to the political success of Donald Trump, which NR writers variously predict will lead to the end of conservatism, or democracy, or America, or perhaps even the universe, with the Donald himself likened to all manner of unsavory historical characters. My favorite of these comparisons was Jay Nordlinger's likening of Trump to Mussolini. (Alas, Nordlinger hasn't followed this up with a piece comparing the New Hampshire primary to the March on Rome).
Of course, the real fear is that the rise of Trump will highlight the irrelevance of National Review and the rest of establishment conservatism. After all, NR has been denouncing Trump for months, during which time he continued to rise in the polls. And Trump has succeeded by opposing free trade, wars in the Mideast, and a political system financed by plutocrats—all causes championed by National Review. NR has sometimes been critical of immigration, but not in a serious way. Opposition to the Iraq War or free trade has earned anathemas from NR, but George W. Bush's and John McCain's support for open borders did nothing to lessen the magazine's ardor for those prior Republican candidates.
Trump is no Mussolini. He is an American businessman who feels about America the way American businessmen used to feel about America before globalism taught some of them that their countrymen could, and even should, be replaced by foreigners. Indeed, Steve Miller, formerly an aide to Sen. Jeff Sessions, now an adviser to Trump. recently said that this election will be a referendum on "the nation-state versus globalism." Miller also took aim at National Review, stating that “Part of being a conservative is looking at results. We’ve followed the globalist ideology–and it’s an ideology. It is not fact-based. . . . The record is in. The jobs haven’t come back, wages haven’t gone up, communities haven’t been rebuilt."
And Trump's supporters are not incipient fascists. They are ordinary Americans reacting to real issues that have been ignored by our political elites for decades, such as the economic and social devastation wrought by free trade and mass immigration. As Charles Murray recently noted, "the central truth of Trumpism as a phenomenon is that the entire American working class has legitimate reasons to be angry at the ruling class. During the past half-century of economic growth, virtually none of the rewards have gone to the working class. The economists can supply caveats and refinements to that statement, but the bottom line is stark: The real family income of people in the bottom half of the income distribution hasn’t increased since the late 1960s." Murray also observed: "Add to this the fact that white working-class men are looked down upon by the elites and get little validation in their own communities for being good providers, fathers and spouses—and that life in their communities is falling apart. To top it off, the party they have voted for in recent decades, the Republicans, hasn’t done a damn thing to help them. Who wouldn’t be angry?" Needless to say, NR and the Beltway Right haven't done a damn thing to help them, either.
The truth of Murray's remarks was shown by the recent news that a major American corporation was closing two plants in Indiana, one in Indianapolis that now employs 1400 and one in Huntington that now employs 700. The work done in those plants is now going to be done in Mexico. For years, such stories have brought forth nothing from National Review other than hosannas to the infallible market and praise for "creative destruction." If the magazine and the rest of Conservatism, Inc. had taken a different approach, perhaps Trump would not be where he is today.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.