Sometimes I watch The Five on Fox News. Oddly, the one who raises my blood pressure the most is not the orthodox liberal Juan Williams — there is a soothing predictability to Juan that forces me to like him — but the nominal conservative Dana Perino.
Perino doesn’t seem to grasp the enormity of what’s unfolding before us in the forms of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. She strikes me as one of those people who think this election season a mere glitch — a short circuit that the dirty, uneducated lower classes have caused in a system that is otherwise functional.
Actually, that might be the strongest sense in which Perino is a conservative: she thinks that once November 8, 2016, comes and goes, the Republican Party can go back to doing business the way it did before Trump descended the escalator at his eponymous tower last year.
You know that old routine. Milquetoast Republicans, preferably Bushes, pitch us corporate tax cuts, amnesty (with some sort of vague “enforcement” that will be abandoned the first minute they’re called nasty names), a few more wars for democracy, absolute free trade, a few Ronald Reagan quotes, and not much else. They play fight with Democrats, get called more names, then roll over and die for the next omnibus spending bill.
Come election season, the party throws up one of these Bush clones to be the nominee. Official Bush Clone talks about “helping the middle class,” “strengthening families,” “cutting taxes” (“just like Ronald Reagan”), “having a strong military” (“peace through strength, just like Ronald Reagan”), et cetera ad infinitum. The Democratic nominee calls Official Bush Clone racist and sexist. Official Bush Clone apologizes for his alleged racism and sexism, noting that we are a “nation of immigrants” and that he is a member of “the party of Lincoln,” who “freed the slaves.” The Democrat calls Official Bush Clone a racist again. And again. And again. Official Bush Clone loses the election.
On the down ticket, various other Bush clones might win seats in Congress, where they will be gloriously ineffective in stopping the Democrats from doing whatever they want.
Look, I’m sort of exaggerating, but that, more or less, has been the Republican model of politics since the end of the Cold War. It’s one reason (just one, mind you) we have Trump. And even if you dislike Trump intensely, one useful service he provided was to show us all how phony and worthless the Republican Party is.
There is a contingent of conservatives who don’t see it this way. They think it was all going just great. A few bumps and setbacks here and there, but hey, we were doin’ our True Conservative thing, cuttin’ some taxes, startin’ some wars, not enforcin’ the border laws. Sure, a few liberal policies slipped by, but so what? Sure, pretty much every university teaches that white men are to blame for everything, but so what?? Why are these dirty, uneducated, lower-class Trump people screwing up such a beautifully functioning system??!! It was so good for us! Don’t worry, once we squash these degenerates we’ll go back to the way it was!
No. That old way is done, whether you want it done or not. The genie hasn’t just left the bottle; he’s smashed it over Paul Ryan’s head.