Trump Isn’t the Apotheosis of Conservatism

Writers like Rick Perlstein who find in 2016 evidence to validate their darkest views of Republicans miss the ways in which Trump’s rise is a story of discontinuity.

.. the United States has noteworthy traditions of illiberalism and political violence. The 1920s suffered terrorist violence not only at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, but also those of anarchist bombers who maimed and killed hundreds of people from 1919 to 1921. From the Civil War to World War II, American labor relations were more violent than those of most other industrialized countries. Four presidents have been assassinated; four others—Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan—only narrowly survived or escaped a bullet. Race riots have ripped apart American cities for almost as long as there have been American cities.
.. The “Democrats founded the Klan” talking point is, of course, literally true. But it’s not deployed in the service of truth. It’s designed as an excuse and an attack, not an explanation.
.. Contemporary progressivism values both cultural cosmopolitanism and also economic egalitarianism; both diversity and equality.
.. The wealth and power of the country are moving into the column of the party supposedly of redistribution; disappointment and despair into the party supposedly of enterprise.
.. The Second Klan of the 1920s originated in the Deep South, then rapidly spread after 1919 into the then most dynamic regions of the country: New York and Long Island; Detroit and Pittsburgh: Philadelphia and the anthracite Belt; the Pacific Northwest and Los Angeles. The Trump vote, by contrast, is concentrated in the least dynamic areas of the country. The 2,600 counties won by Trump produce only about one-third of America’s wealth.
.. the Trump vote could be seen as the despair of defeated people—something more like the William Jennings Bryan candidacies.
.. the appropriate source of concern for the American future is not Trump’s duped voters, but the politician who did the duping
.. the story to tell is not that of the remorseless rise of fascism in the people, but the failure of popular institutions to resist and contain the ambitions and impulses of a charismatic authoritarian without a popular mandate.