The Conservative ‘Resistance’ Is Futile

The right has never made one significant move against the liberal culture machine.



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.

11 responses to The Conservative ‘Resistance’ Is Futile

  1. hinckleybuzzard July 6th, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    Quite right. Acceptance of “the resistance” not only legitimizes the idea of sabotaging the duly elected president, it reflects the larger problem of conservatives allowing the Left to define the terms of the debate and choose the battlefield. Just recall how in 2008 McCain and others cravenly opposed anyone actually using the middle name of a presidential candidate. It was mind-numbing at the time and in retrospect seems positively insane. Juts one example of many instances.


    • Clem Caddidlehopper August 6th, 2017 at 11:39 am

      McCain’s middle name is Sidney, a name now easy to associate with a spoiled child with long curly locks and velvet knee britches. So his opposition to using a candidate’s middle name might have been more than simply because Barry O’s middle name is Hussein.


  2. David Kane July 6th, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    The GREAT Gerlernter, a technocrat victim of The Unabomber.
    When he speaks, it’s short and sweet. NO “willy-nilly”. Deadly serious…and correct 100% with “logic”?


  3. Alan Lansburg July 6th, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    One of the best commentaries about the Trump presidency I’ve ever read.

    So many (but not all) of those who “are so good with words, and at keeping things vague,” detest Trump because he is practically the exact opposite in this regard.

    His presidency is, no doubt, be something of an aberration in US political history. Nevertheless, he was voted into office fair and square, so let’s give the guy his shot.


  4. Mark L July 8th, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Obama didn’t wreck the economy. It’s completely idiotic to believe that and irresponsible to publish such falsities. It’s insane that a large portion of Americans believe they are worse off today that before. Totally insane.

    The economy isn’t wrecked. Not even close. The US is doing just great economically. It is the richest country, #1 in terms of GDP and possess the most power and influence around the globe. Americans just can’t get it through their heads that free-trade and Western investment abroad, especially American money, has allowed the rest of the world, specifically the developing world, to catch up in terms of standards of living. This a great thing a is not a reflection of the a weakening US economy. It just shows that American spread of a lot of goodness around the world. They should be proud of it rather than being jealous, angry and fearful.

    What is wrecked is American society and fairness within it, including the distribution of wealth, and healthy and respectful communication between people. It’s hard to argue that. Republicans, especially the Tea Party gang, are the ones responsible for creating such a rude, hostile, closed-minded, and very selfish environment. It’s all about perception and Republican Americans love to scare its citizens into believing armageddon is near, hell has broken loose and that only they will save them from this “harm” (sounds like religion).


    • jms July 9th, 2017 at 8:37 am

      Yes, the rest of the world has certainly largely caught up in their standard of living. Not surprising seeing how we’ve mostly moved our manufacturing base overseas. There’s nothing to be proud of when a company is regulated out of business, or undercut by foreign labor paying workers at pennies to the American dollar. When a manufacturing company moves from the U.S. to Mexico or China, a bunch of Chinese and Mexicans get jobs for sure, and are raising their own standard of living in their own country, but at the same time a bunch of Americans become unemployed and a financial burden on those who haven’t been put out of work yet.

      Now Obama and his regulatory and trade policies are being rapidly retooled. Let’s just wait and see. Maybe the U.S. economy will continue to slump along under Trump, but I think the opposite will happen. I think that there is a lot of pent-up potential in the American economy, and I think that in the next 8 years the U.S. economy is going to take off like a rocket, vividly demonstrating that the Obama administration’s policies caused the economy to dramatically underperform for the entire length of his administration.


      • susan lewis August 6th, 2017 at 5:26 am

        you are right


        • LadyImpactOhio August 6th, 2017 at 1:25 pm

          The ones who have lost jobs are most probably the result of Obama’s job-killing policies. Namely Obamacare which forced many lay offs or hours cut to keep them below 29. And also so many regulations co,panties couldn’t afford to stay in business. 209,000 jobs were created in July and unemployment is at an incredible 4.5 area. The jobs are there for those who want one.


    • susan lewis August 6th, 2017 at 5:24 am

      tell that to the ones that lost their jobs

      it one thing for a job to be lost
      but another if there are no other jobs to go thru

      you are like a lot of elites
      you live in a bubble
      go to where the heart of the people in the US live
      and you will see your opinion change

      lots of moms and dads that cannot afford the high prices of bread and milk
      and no prospects of sending their kids to college

      tour the country and i don’t mean the vacation spots

      you will find out what the average person is facing


  5. Sven F. Rehulka - Sydney July 10th, 2017 at 1:27 am

    Misuse name of heroic French fighters against Nazi occupiers is typical from all lefties in Free World ! After dissolving of Soviet Union, Communist Party of Australia dissolved herself for lack of finances. Hard core Commie agents joined Labor and Green parties and youngsters poisoned by Marxist academics, create organisation “Resistance” which associate “Anarchists”, “Socialist Alternative” and “Antifa” – gangs of left wing criminals !


  6. bobmontgomery August 6th, 2017 at 9:21 am

    But you’ve got to accept the premise or you’re closed-minded ……a bigot……undertrained (oops, meant to say “under-educated”; heh). As in “Well, of course we don’t want to be cruel, so we agree that pre-existing conditions have to be covered somehow, that man is hurting the earth, and little children deserve to be heard as well as seen, probably to even have the right to vote.” etc, etc, etc, etc


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