I have a soft spot for Beck. Unlike every other conservative pundit I’ve listened to, I think he’s really sincere, and I find that endearing even if I don’t actually agree with him a lot of the time. Last time I checked, for example, he was a big Cruz supporter and for me Trump, Cruz, and Huckabee sort of round out the Axis of Crazy within the GOP. Still, it is significant because Beck represents–or is supposed to represent–exactly the kind of radical, unthinking segment of the base that is supporting Trump.
I’m not sure exactly what this means, but it undermines the conventional “establishment vs. base” narrative that has been used to explain Trump’s rise. It’s also, to the extent that Beck can galvanize some of the base to actually oppose Trump meaningfully, a potential ray of hope. Because right now, the GOP could use any and every internal ally to displace Trump and put a grown-up back in charge. (It still shouldn’t be Cruz, though. Come on.)
The late Bill Rusher, longtime publisher of National Review, often counseled young writers to remember, “Politicians will always disappoint you.” . . . But if it’s true that politicians can disappoint, I think one has to say that the people can, too. And when I say “the people” I don’t mean “those people.” I mean my people. I mean many of you, Dear Readers.
From there, Goldberg goes on to cite–correctly–Lord Acton (“Lord Acton’s original point wasn’t that power corrupts those who wield power, it was that it corrupts those who admire it.”), skewer decent conservatives who support Trump (“But this is not an argument for Trump as a serious presidential candidate. . . It is catharsis masquerading as principle, venting and resentment pretending to be some kind of higher argument.”), and finally just goes through a litany of reasons why Trump should not be leading in the polls. Why Trump should be a serious candidate at all. Why Trump should not be any kind of candidate whatsoever.
Read the article. It’s worth it. Especially if, like me, these words resonate with depressing force right now:
If I sound dismayed, it’s only because I am. Conservatives have spent more than 60 years arguing that ideas and character matter. That is the conservative movement I joined and dedicated my professional life to. And now, in a moment of passion, many of my comrades-in-arms are throwing it all away in a fit of pique. Because “Trump fights!”
But while Mitt Romney doesn’t back the Trump agenda, Robert Costa of The Washington Post reports that his check-in with close Romney advisers produced no evidence the former Massachusetts governor is heeding any of the calls for him to reconsider the race. Not yet, anyway.
“He’s very surprised that Jeb Bush hasn’t got a lot of traction,” said Costa. “He thought Jeb would be better at this point. He also thinks the race doesn’t really start until January and February.”
“In terms of ruling out a run, he’s not running. But he thinks the race begins in January and February, and he’s watching it very closely, and people just kept telling me the same thing — he’s keeping an eye on it.”
Look, I’m not a political expert or a pollster. I got pretty suckered during 2012 by the folks who thought the polls were systematically skewed and Romney had a better chance than he actually did. That experience left me pretty humble, and I’m out of the political prognostication business. I am not making any predictions or even guesses. Here, instead, are some thoughts.
I’ve liked Romney going back to 2008 when, in the presidential primaries, he wanted to talk about serious social security reform. It’s boring, but it’s important. That’s the kind of person I want to run the executive office: someone who has integrity, competence, and a willingness to focus on things that are boring but important. Candidates like Ron Paul or Bernie Sanders are fun, but are they actually good matches for the job description? Ideology has a very important role, but ideologues may do better work outside the Oval Office than from within it.
Romney is a lot more popular now than he was in 2008 or 2012. The question is: how much of that evaporates the moment he becomes a candidate again? As long as he’s on the outside he’s no threat to Democrats or competing Republicans. As soon as he’s a contender again, all his enemies come back to remind us why he’s terrible. I think at least some of the new popularity is permanent. Folks have seen another side of Romney and they won’t forget that. As NY Mag notes:
“When people were polling this stuff back in January, what was striking was not his popularity but the breadth of it,” says Stuart Stevens, Romney’s chief 2012 strategist. “Unlike a lot of candidates, his support wasn’t siloed. The non-tea-party folks liked him, and the tea-party folks liked him. It’s unique.”
But how much? I have no idea.
Then there’s the tactical question: you don’t just decide at the last minute to run a serious national campaign. You need a whole apparatus for that. Romney can’t summon one up out of thin air. But then, does he have to? The Romney apparatus is somewhat dismantled and distributed among other campaigns, but not entirely. NY Mag again:
Romney’s vast donor network is a coveted asset, and Romney’s finance wizard, Spencer Zwick, who raised $1 billion for him in 2012, remains unaffiliated with any campaign (Zwick now chairs the super-pac America Rising). “Mitt actually attracted new donor groups,” says the Romney veteran. “They’re in the Mormon community, the Bain Capital community, and the private-equity community. Most of them are not going to jump in for anyone else until they get guidance. Romney delivers them.” This is why six GOP presidential contenders went west to prospect for millions at Romney’s three-day Utah summit in June. “With Romney, it’s just so bizarre,” the veteran said, marveling at Romney’s power to organize a cattle call. “Imagine Bob Dole. He’s out of office and he says, ‘I want all my donors to come to some hard-to-reach place.’ That’s just never going to happen.”
Anybody else talking about getting into the race now would be a very, very long shot at best. But Romney? He might be an exception to that rule.
My dream scenario is that Romney gets more or less drafted to come in and take out Trump. Right now everyone else is either failing to make any headway (like Jeb Bush) or starting to pander to Trump supporters in the hopes of picking them up after someone else takes Trump out (like Ted Cruze). Maybe it takes an outsider to come in an be the grown up. That’s a good role for Mitt. That’s a narrative he can sell. I hope he gets that chance.