It’s all about anxiety.
The rise of Donald Trump. The reaction against him. The fear that he will bring down the Republican Party and poison “true” conservatism. It’s all about a slow, methodical unraveling of white Christian privilege in America and the fear and uncertainty that comes with that dawning reality.
Let me start with Anus Mouth. Donald Trump’s success, so far, has been based on crassly and confidently, if not coherently and consistently, addressing the cultural angst that many white conservative Christians feel. I have written about this angst for many years now. It is palpable. It is real. Even if it is un-Christianly.
So, a rather un-Christianly Donald Trump comes along—Mr. “Two Corinthians”—and figures out a way to feed the beast of collective white conservative Christian anger and resentment that has now become the dominant force in Republican politics. It matters not that he feeds the hungry beast a smorgasbord of megalomania and mistruths or that he offers the beast a feast of bewildering bigotry and baptized balderdash or that he serves all-you-can eat dishes of toxic demagoguery and dissonance to this famished and unfortunate creature.
What matters is that the beast has been starving for attention, hungering for a conservative cuisine that satisfies its most basic, and basest, instinct: fear of the Other. Fear that the Other is winning. Whites are getting dirtied by malicious brown people from Mexico and the Middle East. Christianity is under attack from within—Obama is a Muslim! The War on Christmas!—and from without—ISIS is just steps away from pulverizing American churches just like they did that 1400-year old Christian monastery in Iraq!
Donald can fix it all. Make America White Again.
Now, there are those on the “true” right starting to figure out that Donald’s Diner, affectionately known as the Buffoon’s Buffet, perhaps needs some health inspectors to come in and shut the place down before too many conservatives are poisoned and the movement dies. The most recent conservative health experts joined forces in a lengthy critique of Trump’s conservatism that was published by National Review, a magazine founded by William F. Buckley and that was, once upon a time, a place where thoughtful and interesting conservatives could make intellectual war on liberalism. These days National Review is publishing pieces by trolls like Glenn Beck and Erick Erickson. Talk about cultural decline.
In any case, reading some of these critiques oddly reveals just why there is a beast hungry for the kind of junk food that Trump cynically serves. Sure, one writer criticized Trump’s “nativism and his promise of one-man rule” and his “racial and religious scapegoating.” Another isn’t sure if he is a “boor” or a “creep” or a “louse,” but is sure that he is a “con man” and “has demonstrated an emotional immaturity bordering on personality disorder, and it ought to disqualify him from being a mayor, to say nothing of a commander-in-chief.”
But when you dig a little deeper into these latest critiques of Trump, you find that at the heart of many of them is a validation of the anxiety and fears that Trump is exploiting. One writer said that Trump is embracing “Barack Obama’s authoritarianism.” Another wrote of Obama’s “withering assault” on “religious freedom.” You see? The subtext is validation: The Scary Negro is a tyrant tearing down the scaffolding that supports white Christian privilege. He’s letting into the country brown immigrants from Mexico. He’s welcoming Muslim refugees from Syria.
Another writer, again published by the once-reputable National Review, did manage to call Trump a “know-nothing demagogue.” But in the same paragraph he called Bernie Sanders a “Marxist,” Hillary Clinton a “leftist crook,” and said, “all are competing to see who can be even more like Mussolini than is Obama.” Mussolini? Really? And you wonder why there is an appetite for the kind of ignorance and hate that Donald Trump piles on his buffet table and sells the Republican electorate?
An old Reaganite, Ed Meese, criticized Trump for his vigorous and vitriolic attacks against fellow Republicans in the race. Then he ended by calling President Obama “one of the most divisive and incompetent presidents in history.” Again, we see the validation of one of Trump’s central messages: our leaders are incompetent and ruining the country and The Donald is so much smarter and much more cunning—he loves that word—that he will make great deals and build great walls and win great wars. Thus it is that even when the conservative health inspectors are trying to claim the food Trump is serving is bad for conservatives, they are authenticating the recipe.
But it’s not only such authentication that serves to undermine the conservative case against Donald Trump, a case prosecuted not only by the writers at National Review, but writers and pundits and politicians elsewhere in the right-wing world. Perhaps what really undermines the seriousness of their arguments against him is best illustrated by what Eric Erickson wrote to begin his anti-Trump essay:
I would vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.
That sentence pretty much explains why it is that so many people, empty buffet plates in hand, stand in long lines and fill large arenas to hear a hateful demagogue repeat stupid and hurtful things on the campaign trail and why those same people don’t pay much attention to National Review writers or others trying to take down Trump. In the end, right-wing criticism of Donald Trump is hollow, unless it is followed by, “Donald Trump is dangerous and I will not vote for him—and neither should you.”
Until we hear more of that kind of talk from conservative Republicans, there is every reason to believe that fearful and anxious white Christians will continue to flock to the Buffoon’s Buffet and feed on the poisonous pottage that Chef Anus Mouth serves them.