Decades of intellectual and political activity preceded the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. William F. Buckley Jr. founded National Review in 1955. A little less than a decade later, National Review publisher William Rusher helped orchestrate Barry Goldwater’s presidential nomination. The following year, 1965, Buckley ran for mayor of New York City and Irving Kristol, then still a member of the anti-Communist left, founded The Public Interest. The year after that, Reagan was elected governor of California. The 1970s saw the proliferation of the single-issue interest groups that comprised the New Right. The first Conservative Political Action Conference was held in 1973. In 1977, a year after losing the Republican nomination to incumbent Gerald Ford, Reagan addressed the conference.
Donald Trump was elected president last November by winning 306 electoral votes. He pledged to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C., to overturn the system of politics that had left the nation’s capital and major financial and tech centers flourishing but large swaths of the country mired in stagnation and decay. “What truly matters,” he said in his Inaugural Address, “is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.”
“Republicans seized her microphone,” writes the New York Times. “And gave her a megaphone.”
Who’s she? Elizabeth Warren, the overrated Democratic senator from Massachusetts. The other night Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell rebuked her for impugning colleague Jeff Sessions. Exercising a little-known rule, the Senate revoked Warren’s floor privileges for 24 hours. Now, says the Times, “Ms. Warren is considered a very early frontrunner for 2020, should she run.”
“What happened to the honeymoon?” Charles Krauthammer asked last month. The opposition has long granted presidents time to form their administrations, to announce their signature initiatives. Donald Trump’s honeymoon lasted all of 10 days—from his surprise November 8 election to the rude treatment of his vice president at a performance of Hamilton on November 18. After that, divorce.
“Retreat” is an appropriate description of what took place in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, this week. Senate Democrats took a break from not confirming President Trump’s cabinet to visit this historic city in a state the president won by 40 points. According to Politico the assembled were scheduled to hear from associates of the Clinton family and to “hold lessons on how to talk to real people.” Oh to be a fly on the wall.
It’s rather sickening to watch self-described liberals and advocates of human rights embrace China as a responsible power. The headline on the cover of this week’s Economist, which I now read solely to find out what is not the case, is “China: the global grown-up.” The Washington Post purports to explain “Why China will be able to sell itself as the last liberal great power.” These articles, besides being wrong, have the distinction of following the line set by Beijing itself: “China may lead globalization movement,” says propaganda outlet CCTV.
Donald Trump’s inaugural address was a stirring call for national unity and a declaration of war against the establishment in Washington, D.C. The speech was vintage Trump: politically incorrect, critical of both parties, amped up, biting, strongly delivered, and wildly ambitious. Anyone who believed Trump would change his beliefs or style when he assumed the office of the presidency was proven wrong. He’s not going to change. And he’s not going to let up.
The tone of Donald Trump’s presidency has been set one week before he takes office: raucous, brawling, improvised, unpredictable, frenzied, entertaining, and more than a little weird. It’s hard to keep track of all that is happening in Washington and New York: Russian hacks, salacious gossip, fake news, government ethics, the fate of Obamacare, cabinet and White House appointments, personal feuds, and confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, Elaine Chao, Mike Pompeo, Jim Mattis, and Ben Carson. Each day brings crazy revelations, rebuttals by the president elect and his team, congressional maneuvering, proclamations from Trump Tower, and media sniping. And Trump wouldn’t have it any other way.
Democrats have been in power for so long that they’ve forgotten how to oppose. Their party has been on a roll since 2005 when the botched Social Security reform, the slow bleed of the Iraq war, and Hurricane Katrina sent the Bush administration into a tailspin. The Democrats won the Congress the following year and the White House two years after that. And while they lost the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014, Democrats still had the advantage of retaining the White House, a president seemingly immune from criticism, the courts, the bureaucracy, and large portions of the media. The correlation of forces in Washington has weighed heavily in favor of the Democrats for a decade.
Richard Nixon was plotting his 1968 presidential campaign when he received a letter from a high school English teacher in Pennsylvania. The correspondent, a young man named William F. Gavin, wasn’t certain Nixon would run. But he sure wanted him to. “You can win,” Gavin wrote. “Nothing can happen to you, politically speaking, that is worse than what has happened to you.”