Donald Trump has alternately been described as a Republican, a fascist, a successor to Pat Buchanan, and an antiwar candidate. You might then be surprised to hear that what inspired his first serious flirtation with running for president, his formation of a committee to consider filing for the 2000 race, was his outrage at Pat Buchanan for suggesting the U.S. should not have gone to war against Hitler and Trump’s resulting desire to nab the Reform Party nomination from Buchanan (as Charles C. Johnson has noted).
As I really, really love to say when these unnoticed internal divisions arise: Think fast, ideologue! Whose side are you on? The correct answer is usually “No one’s,” but that answer does not come naturally to most people. Like Buchanan and Trump, most people like to fight, even when there’s no good reason, and that in turn necessitates picking sides.
The latest stupid thing for the entire right to schism over is whether Breitbart News staffers are lying about Trump’s campaign manager assaulting reporter Michelle Fields. Jennifer Rubin has gone so far as to create an entire dual taxonomy of serious and non-serious conservative journalists based on how they react to that incident. Here’s the footage of the less-than-a-second forearm-grab that launched a thousand op-eds and resignations. I’m not pro-forearm-grabbing (nor pro-Trump), but you tell me whether, in the midst of a crowd of Trump staff trying to keep their man from being mobbed, that looks like an assault warranting a police report, chaos at Breitbart, and sanctimonious standing-up-for-Fields pieces.
Rubin is right to say as she taxonomizes that there’s no clearly defined conservative “establishment,” but I’d say one good indicator of who belongs to it would be anyone insane enough to fall within the little Venn diagram overlap area of people who simultaneously believe (A) Fields has been seriously assaulted and is not an attention-seeker but (B) the Rubio staffer who hauled off and just plain punched a Rand Paul staffer a while back was engaged in harmless highjinx. Partisans see what they want to see.
Future historians may look back at the all the politics of this era as being mere internal squabbling among different forms of fascism, I fear. Being the Republican establishment and seeing Trump waltz in is less like being heroes attacked by a villain or vice versa than like that classic surreal storyline in the Micronauts Marvel comic book in which the six-inch-tall dictator Baron Karza briefly became the head of the terrorist organization Hydra. (Here’s hoping the impending Batman v Superman movie is half as sophisticated in treating fascism.)
If you doubt for a moment that Trump enjoys himself more and more as his apoplectic foes and critics turn combative, by the way, remember his deep ties to professional wrestling. The Trump-allied spammers at American Action News gleefully sent out an item last week with the headline “Team Trump vs. #BlackLivesMatter: Round 1,” which gives you some idea what they’re hoping the rest of the campaign looks like.
Maybe the Libertarian Party should be encouraging Jesse Ventura to run after all.
—Todd Seavey can be found on Twitter, Blogger, and Facebook, daily on Splice Today, and soon on bookshelves with the volume Libertarianism for Beginners.