Jonah Goldberg expresses concerns, concernedly, that Donald Trump will fail to be the kind of president Jonah Goldberg prefers.
I very much want Trump to be a successful conservative president — which is to say, I don’t want him to be a successful statist president. I understand all-too-well that many of Trump’s fans do want him to be a successful statist president. They don’t use the word “statist,” preferring the rough synonym “nationalist.” They either sincerely think, or convincingly pretend to think, that there’s a meaningful difference between a statist and a nationalist. There isn’t. That’s a worthwhile argument to have, and there will be many opportunities to have it down the road. But if Trump is going to be a successful conservative president, I think his biggest fans will have to recognize their own tribalism.
The intrinsic dishonesty of some civic nationalists runs so deep that they do not even appear to recognize it when they make massive blunders like confusing statism with nationalism.
Jonah is smarter than this. He understands the difference between a nation – a group of homogeneous people – and a state – a sovereign political entity. He’s written about the Kurds before, so he knows there is a Kurdish nation but not a Kurdish state. He’s written about the Soviet Union before, so he knows there was a Soviet state despite there being no such thing as a Soviet nation.
Moreover, conservatives have been overt statists since the first Bush ’43 administration. Has Jonah already forgotten “big government conservatism” or the bank bailouts of 2008? The fact is that conservatism is a dying non-ideology, and that’s why all the anti-Trumpers and Never Trumpers are beginning to cozy up to the God-Emperor Ascendant, whispering their wicked advice in the hopes that they can influence him.
But it won’t do them any good. Their electoral impotence, their intellectual irrelevance, and their lack of character was revealed in last year’s primary and general election campaigns. And very, very few of them are indicating that they learned anything from the experience.
And as for tribalism, we readily admit ours. We would just like to see Mr. Goldberg and company be honest about theirs. Given the absence of a strong demographic majority, tribalism and identity politics are the inevitable order of the day. See Thomas Sowell for details.