Charles Kesler, writing in the Washington Post, takes on the Never Trump movement. Without wanting to shortchange Kesler’s worthwhile piece, the most remarkable thing about it may be its appearance in the Post.
To my knowledge, not a single conservative or right of center columnist in the Post’s stable has expressed anything other than contempt for Donald Trump. From Charles Krauthammer to Jennifer Rubin, they all seem to despise the tycoon.
Michael Gerson slams Trump at every opportunity. If he’s written a negative column about Hillary Clinton recently, I missed it.
The most positive thing I recall reading about Trump in the Post’s op-ed section is Krauthammer’s statement that although he can’t support Trump, it’s not unreasonable for Paul Ryan to do so. I can’t stand Trump either, but it’s a sad commentary on the Post that this is best anyone in its stable can say about the (presumptive) Republican nominee for president.
Absent an in-house supporter, the Post should at least enlist a guest writer to defend Trump. Instead, the Post featured an over-the-top column by Robert Kagan accusing Trump of bringing fascism to the American body politic.
Kesler’s column, then, is welcome and overdue.
It is also, of necessity given the context, defensive. Kesler’s thesis is that conservatives who want to override the judgment of GOP voters and delegates regarding Trump have a high burden of proof, which they haven’t met. To my knowledge, the Post has yet to run an op-ed that makes a full-throated affirmative case for Donald Trump.
As for the case Kesler makes, it is less than fully persuasive, in my view.
He addresses two arguments lodged by Never Trump critics: (1) that Trump is clownish and (2) that he’s racist and a pro-fascist, if not a full-fledged one.
Kesler sees a tension between these two views. I’m not sure there’s much of one, and I doubt there is any if we soften the second claim to the assertion that Trump exhibits an authoritarian streak.
There’s a third conservative argument against Trump that Kesler doesn’t address — the view that Trump isn’t a conservative. One might well support a clownish conservative in a race against Hillary Clinton. One might even overlook an authoritarian streak given the obvious authoritarian tendencies of the left and the blatant lawlessness of Clinton.
To overlook these deficiencies in order to support a candidate who appears to have been a lifelong liberal may be asking too much.