The Conservative ‘Resistance’ Is Futile
Democrats, in their role as opponents of President Trump, have taken to calling themselves “the resistance.” But I was startled a few days ago when a thoughtful, much-admired conservative commentator used the same term on TV—casually, as if “the resistance” was just the obvious term. Everyone is saying it. It’s no accident that the left runs American culture. The right is too obsessed with mere mechanics—poll numbers and vote counts—to look up.
“Resistance” is unacceptable in referring to the Trump opposition because, obviously, it suggests the Resistance—against the Nazis in occupied France. Many young people are too ignorant to recognize the term, but that hardly matters. The press uses it constantly. So when a young innocent finally does encounter the genuine French Resistance, he will think, “Aha, just like the resistance to Trump!” And that’s all the left wants: a mild but continuous cultural breeze murmuring in every American ear that opposing Trump is noble and glorious. Vive la Résistance!
This abuse of “the resistance” happens everywhere. Many Republicans hate Mr. Trump and love to denounce him—which lets them show their integrity and, sometimes, a less-praiseworthy attribute too.
Many intellectuals think Mr. Trump is vulgar. That includes conservatives. They think he’s a peasant and talks like one. Every time he opens his mouth, all they hear is a small-time Queens operator who struck it big but has never had a proper education, and embarrasses the country wherever he goes, whatever he says. It never dawns on them that the president can’t stand them any more than they can stand him. Yet they expect him to treat them with respectful courtesy if he ever runs into them—as he should, and on the whole does. Conceivably they should treat him the same way.
Conservatives regret the collapse of authority, dignity and a certain due formality in the way Americans treat each other. They are right to complain when any president diminishes his office. Mr. Trump ought to think more seriously about what he owes the great men among his predecessors, and the office itself. But it’s not clear that commentators make things any better when they treat the president himself like a third-rate clown.
I’d love for him to be a more eloquent, elegant speaker. But if I had to choose between deeds and delivery, it wouldn’t be hard. Many conservative intellectuals insist that Mr. Trump’s wrong policies are what they dislike. So what if he has restarted the large pipeline projects, scrapped many statist regulations, appointed a fine cabinet and a first-rate Supreme Court justice, asked NATO countries to pay what they owe, re-established solid relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia, signaled an inclination to use troops in Afghanistan to win and not merely cover our retreat, led us out of the Paris climate accord, plans to increase military spending (granted, not enough), is trying to get rid of ObamaCare to the extent possible, proposed to lower taxes significantly and revamp immigration policy and enforcement? What has he done lately?
Conservative thinkers should recall that they helped create President Trump. They never blasted President Obama as he deserved. Mr. Obama’s policies punished the economy and made the country and its international standing worse year by year; his patronizing arrogance drove people crazy. He was the perfect embodiment of a one-term president. The tea-party outbreak of 2009-10 made it clear where he was headed. History will record that the press saved him. Naturally the mainstream press loved him, but too many conservative commentators never felt equal to taking him on. They had every reason to point out repeatedly that Mr. Obama was the worst president since Jimmy Carter, surrounded by a left-wing cabinet and advisers, hostile to Israel, crazed regarding Iran, and even less competent to deal with the issues than Mr. Carter was—which is saying plenty.
But they didn’t say plenty. They didn’t say much at all. The rank and file noticed and got mad. Even their supposed champions didn’t grasp what life under Mr. Obama was like—a man who was wrecking the economy while preaching little sermons, whose subtext was always how smart he was, how dumb they were, and how America was full of racist clods, dangerous cops and infantile nuts who would go crazy if they even heard the words “Islamic terrorism.” So the rank and file was deeply angry and elected Mr. Trump.
Some conservatives have the impression that, by showing off their anti-Trump hostility, they will get the networks and the New York Times to like them. It doesn’t work like that. Although the right reads the left, the left rarely reads the right. Why should it, when the left owns American culture? Nearly every university, newspaper, TV network, Hollywood studio, publisher, education school and museum in the nation. The left wrapped up the culture war two generations ago. Throughout my own adult lifetime, the right has never made one significant move against the liberal culture machine.
So go ahead, proclaim it from the rooftops: the anti-Trump opposition is a virtual French Resistance! If we’re not going to fight anyway, let’s surrender and get it over with.
Mr. Gelernter invented Lifestreams, the first social network.
Appeared in the July 6, 2017, print edition.