The neocon meltdown over Donald Trump’s astonishing success in the Republican presidential primaries has been one of the more delightful aspects of the 2016 presidential contest. And yet the temptation to indulge in schadenfreude should be tempered by a foreboding for what might happen—not to the Republican Party, but to the Democratic party, should Trump succeed in securing the nomination, as now looks more and more likely.
Writing in The Weekly Standard, William Kristol denounced Trump as “a proud defender of greed, an unabashed indulger in adultery, a wanton mocker of the meek (the “losers”) of this world.” Brookings Institution scholar Robert Kagan took to the pages of The Washington Post on Sunday and likened Trump’s imminent takeover of the GOP to when “the plague descended on Thebes.” Noted neoconservative scholar Max Boot also got his shots in, telling Vox that he is “literally losing sleep over Donald Trump,” and that he believes Hillary Clinton “would be vastly preferable to Trump.” And Boot is far from alone. On Wednesday he, along with dozens of neocon scholars, lobbyists, and former government officials, signed an open letter denouncing Trump’s foreign policy as “wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle.” Trump, they charged, “would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe, and which would diminish our standing in the world.”
Progressive commentators have opined that Trump is simply the natural consequence of the Republican Party’s intolerance, which some believe, not without reason, reached a fever pitch during the Obama years. In the Daily Kos, Laurence Lewis writes that the Republican establishment has
no one to blame but themselves. For decades, they have played to racism, misogyny, bigotry, and thuggishness, and having loosed the American id, it’s now theirs to live with…it’s a monster of their own making.
In his Post column, Robert Kagan echoed these sentiments almost exactly: “Trump is no fluke. He is, rather, the party’s creation, its Frankenstein monster…” Perhaps so, but readers might find themselves at a loss to recall the widespread neocon revulsion that swept the op-ed pages when Ronald Reagan blew the dog whistle and denounced “welfare queens”; or when George H.W. Bush teamed up with Lee Atwater in order to introduce Willie Horton to America; nor was there a rising tide of establishment outrage when Mitt Romney politely suggested that illegal immigrants should “self-deport.” Then, of course, there is the case of Sarah Palin, who, during her brief but memorable stint as the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008, routinely claimed that Barack Obama liked to pal around with terrorists while attendees at her rallies would shout “Treason!” and “Kill him!”