The Trump-critical right faces a difficult choice
Sometimes we talk about our country as if 2016 represented a hijacking. As if we were shining, in the sparkling glory of our exceptionalism—only for the defiler to come along and ruin everything. As if he wasn’t a genuine American creation.
This is the delusion swallowed by everyone who took Obama’s campaign slogans a little too seriously, who saw in America’s election of a black man the realization of a postracial epoch. It made sense, from this perspective, to find the prospect of Trump beating Hillary too morally frightening to take seriously.
Never Trumpers, too, showed their naïveté. They sometimes acted as if Trump came along and spoiled a perfectly good party. As if Boehner and Ryan and Romney and the rest of them were at an elegant diner having a sophisticated conversation about the garishness of welfare provisions only for Trump to bulldoze in and raze the building to the floor.
But Trump didn’t represent an intrusion into an otherwise healthy society. His rise was symptomatic of a rot already there. That a person as comprehensively detestable as he is managed to ascend to the highest office in the land, and to engineer a complete takeover of one of our two major parties, is a permanent indignity—one that doesn’t merely implicate his supporters but implicates us all.
The long-term goal, for centrists and center-right people, shouldn’t be to make sure Democrats enjoy a lasting majority. It should be to help make America permanently inhospitable to the very idea of a Trump presidency, or to anything sufficiently like it.