America needs a healthy two-party system. America needs a healthy center-right party to ensure that the Democrats remain a healthy center-left party. America needs a center-right party ready to offer market-based solutions to issues like climate change. America needs a center-right party that will support common-sense gun laws. America needs a center-right party that will support common-sense fiscal policy. America needs a center-right party to support both free trade and aid to workers impacted by it. America needs a center-right party that appreciates how much more complicated foreign policy is today, when you have to manage weak and collapsing nations, not just muscle strong ones. But this Republican Party is none of those things.Sounds good. Here's the problem: What kind of electoral success would thoughtful conservatism have without its Trumpkian allies? Not much of one. Damon Linker identifies the problem:
The fact is that Republican politicians are in a terrible bind. Trump is very bad news. But he won the votes. He was the clear choice of the Republican electorate — just as every presidential nominee since the 1970s has been the clear choice of the party's voters. A lot of writers and analysts, especially committed members of the conservative movement, convinced themselves over the past few months that this wasn't true — that Trump's victory was somehow electorally illegitimate. But now that the primary season is officially over, we can see that this is clearly false.GOP officials have known this since well before Trump became the nominee. It's why Sarah Palin became the party's veep nominee in 2008. It's why Mitt Romney had to grovel for Trump's endorsement in 2012. It's why GOP leaders demurred when asked to oppose rumors that President Obama was actually a Muslim Kenyan. It's why Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Fox News have spent the last 20 years or more trying to keep the GOP base frothing: Without the angry populists as part of the base, the party goes nowhere.
The rise of Trump doesn't make that any less true for thoughtful conservatives. They long ago made their peace with the Trumpista wing of the party. The only thing that's really changed this year is that they lost control of the process — and thus the ability to elide populism's worst excesses.