Posted by Curt on 29 January, 2016 at 12:16 pm. 1 comment.


Charles Krauthammer:

It’s hard to believe that the United States, having resisted the siren song of socialism during its entire 20th-century heyday (the only major democracy to do so), should suddenly succumb to socialism’s charms a generation after its intellectual demise. Indeed, the prospect of socialist Bernie Sanders, whatever his current momentum, winning the Democratic nomination remains far-fetched.

The Dems would be risking a November electoral disaster of historic dimensions. Yet there is no denying how far Sanders has pulled his party to the left — and how hard the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, has been racing to catch up.

The Republicans, on the other hand, are dealing with a full-scale riot. The temptation they face is trading in a century of conservatism for Trumpism.

The 2016 presidential race has turned into an epic contest between the ethno-nationalist populism of Donald Trump and traditional conservatism, though in two varieties: the scorched-earth fundamentalist version of Ted Cruz, and a reformist version, represented by Marco Rubio (and several so-called establishment candidates) and articulated most fully by non-candidate Paul Ryan and a cluster of highly productive thinkers and policy wonks dubbed “reformicons.”

Trump insists that he’s a conservative, but in his pronouncements and policies, conservatism seems more of a rental — a three-story penthouse rental with Central Park view, to be sure — than an ideological home. Trump protests that Ronald Reagan, too, migrated from left to right. True, but Reagan’s transformation occurred in his 40s — not, as with Trump, in his 60s.

In radically different ways, Trump and Sanders are addressing the deep anxiety stemming from the secular stagnation in wages and living standards that has squeezed the middle and working classes for a generation. Sanders locates the villainy in a billionaire class that has rigged both the economic and the political systems. Trump blames foreigners, most prominently those cunning Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, and Saudis who’ve been taking merciless advantage of us, in concert with America’s own leaders, who are, alternatively, stupid and incompetent or bought and corrupt.

Hence Trump’s most famous policy recommendations: anti-immigrant, including the forced deportation of 11 million people; anti-trade, with a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods and a 35 percent tariff on U.S. manufacturing moved to Mexico; and anti-Muslim, most notoriously a complete ban on entry into the U.S. Temporary only, we are assured, except that the ban applies “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” — a standard so indeterminate as to be meaningless.

Trump has limited concern for the central tenet of American conservatism (and most especially of the tea-party movement) — limited government. The most telling example is his whole-hearted support for “eminent domain,” i.e. the forcible appropriation by government of private property. Trump called it “wonderful.”

Trump has not yet called Vladimir Putin wonderful, but he has taken a shine to the swaggering mini-czar who seems to run his trains on time. When informed that Putin kills opponents and journalists, Trump’s initial reaction was, “Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, also,” the kind of moronic what-about-the-Crusades moral equivalence that conservatives have railed against for decades. Although, to be fair, after some prompting, Trump did come out against the killing of journalists.

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