What can you say about a movement of people that stands and applauds the incoherent babbling of Sarah Palin in her endorsement of Donald Trump and then blindly dismisses the serious and reasoned arguments of twenty-two veteran conservative thinkers writing in the flagship conservative magazine without even addressing what they said?
What we are witnessing is a wholesale repudiation of thoughtful conservatism by a substantial faction of this nation's conservative political party. The late William F. Buckley, Jr., the founder and long-time editor of National Review said in the early 1980s that "all the philosophical action is on the right." He was right then. But he could not say that today, not in a national party that can't seem to understand any political thought longer than 140 characters, and which thinks that the assertion "It's going to be great" constitutes political eloquence.
Jeb Bush may be low energy, but low intelligence isn't the answer.
Maybe that's the problem: Maybe the people supporting Trump have rendered themselves illiterate and simply can't understand what the National Review writers are saying. One piece of evidence for this thesis is that not a single Trump supporter critical of the National Review issue even bothered to offer a response to anything the writers actually said in the magazine.
On Fox News last night, no one criticizing National Review took up anything any of its writers actually said. Instead, all the survey-addled commentators (and anchors) could talk about was how the National Review issue politically helped Trump. Someone on Bill O'Reilly's show asked something like "What did they think they were doing?" as if the publication of the issue was the mere product of some misguided campaign ploy to shoot down Trump's candidacy on the eve of Iowa.
It apparently didn't even occur to these people that there are serious, thoughtful conservatives out there who think that maybe, just maybe, rational arguments have some relevance to the discussion about who the party should nominate as its standard-bearer and that articulating these arguments in a careful and measured way might actually contribute to the immediate well-being of the party and the ultimate well-being of the country—or at least be worth addressing.
[WE INTERRUPT THIS ARTICLE TO APOLOGIZE TO THE TRUMP SUPPORTERS READING THIS FOR THE GRAMMATICAL COMPLEXITY OF THE PREVIOUS PARAGRAPH WHICH CONTAINED MORE THAN ONE SIMPLE CLAUSE. IN FACT, WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE PREVIOUS SENTENCE, WHICH CONTAINED A GRAMMATICAL TERM ("CLAUSE") WITH WHICH YOU MAY NOT BE FAMILIAR. YOU MIGHT WANT TO GO BACK LISTENING TO SARAH PALIN, WHERE THE RULES OF GRAMMAR SIMPLY DON'T APPLY]
This is what happens when you trade in your critical thinking faculties for the kind of mindless populism that is willing to trade in principle for political success.
In fact, none of those commenting on the accursed National Review attack on Trump seemed aware that not only was William F. Buckley's National Review almost single-handedly responsible for the modern conservative movement, but that that few of them would even be conservatives at all if it wasn't for NR. As a matter of fact, the very forum in which they were voicing their Twitter length thoughts, Fox News, wouldn't even be in existence if it weren't for the influence of NR in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Here was Donald Trump's response to the multiple arguments—most of them fairly cogent, all of them serious and thoughtful:
The National Review is a dying, dying paper. It's circulation is way down. Not very many people read him anymore. People don't even think about The National Review. I guess they want to get a little publicity. But that's a dying paper. I got to tell you, it's pretty much a dead paper.
The first problem here is that it isn't even true, not that that ever stopped Trump from saying anything. In fact, even if it were dying, it isn't now. Their criticism of Trump (and the criticism of them by Trump) has gotten them more attention than anything they've published in recent memory. But note, like the conservative commentators who are now having to confront their consciences (unsuccessfully, I might add) in the face of the Trump juggernaut, that there is not a single response to anything the writers said in their articles.
Trump's response is of the "neener-neener" variety of political rhetoric commonly encountered on elementary school playgrounds that now passes as competent argumentation among people who think that Frank Luntz is an objective political analyst.
This is the state of conservatism in 2016. Conservative Republicans who still think that ideas matter can be excused while they weep for their party.