If you need a reason for why a fair portion of conservative voters were disenchanted enough with the Republican Establishment to head over to Donald Trump's place, take a look at the final paragraph of David Frum's cover essay in the September issue of Commentary, “Is It 1968?”
Frum, a neoconservative, was a speechwriter for George W. Bush and is now an editor at Atlantic Monthly. He sits comfortably in the world of elite wordsmiths, and his essay is a straightforward expression of rational center-right thinking.
The point of the essay is that Trump and his supporters exaggerate the political chaos and economic harm of America 2016.
“In almost every measurable way,” Frum insists, “the United States is a more stable and peaceful country in 2016 than it was in 1968.” To believe otherwise is to slip into apocalyptic thinking, which in recent times is more characteristic of the Left. All the more dismaying, then, that it should have pulled so many voters and operatives from “in what for convenience sake we'll still call the conservative world.”
Then come these concluding remarks, which are astounding.
We of the center-right have learned something alarming about the susceptibility of extremism, not only of American democracy in general, but of our political coalition in particular.
We've learned something ominous about the gathering power of tribalism in a society riven by rapid migration and slowing economic growth.
Did you get that? David Frum has only now recognized the extremism and tribalism in our midst. His tutors have been conservatives who have joined the Trump camp.
To which one can only wonder where David Frum has been in the last 50 years. Didn't he learn about extremism and tribalism from:
the Black Power Movement radical 70s feminism campus political correctness the removal of religion from the public square . . .
All the way to:
Occupy Wall Street Brendan Eich and Memories Pizza trigger-warnings Black Lives Matter?
Why such solemn indignation over the last twelve months when social and religious conservatives have been hounded by activists and identity politicians for decades?
This is stunning cluelessness, and instead of chiding those conservatives who have decided to support Mr. Trump, Mr. Frum should ask why so many people Establishment Republicans claimed to represent over the years have found little cause for loyalty to them.
Mark Bauerlein is senior editor of First Things.