Among the New Left of the 1960s, there was a phenomenon called anti-anti-Communism.
That is, many leftists of the era has no particular illusions about the “progressive” nature of the Soviet Union or the eastern European satellite nations (although some still romanticized Mao’s China and Castro’s Cuba). But they were more critical of those on the Left who denounced Communist regimes than they were of the repressive and undemocratic regimes themselves.
Writing last month in The New York Times, Charles Sykes– a conservative former radio talk-show host in Wisconsin–identified a similar phenomenon among those on the Right: anti-anti-Trumpism.
As Sykes notes, many conservatives freely concede that in a lot of respects, President Donald Trump is not one of them. So:
Rather than defend President Trump’s specific actions, his conservative champions change the subject to (1) the biased “fake news” media, (2) over-the-top liberals, (3) hypocrites on the left, (4) anyone else victimizing Mr. Trump or his supporters and (5) whataboutism, as in “What about Obama?” “What about Clinton?”
For the anti-anti-Trump pundit, whatever the allegation against Mr. Trump, whatever his blunders or foibles, the other side is always worse.
But the real heart of anti-anti-Trumpism is the delight in the frustration and anger of his opponents. Mr. Trump’s base is unlikely to hold him either to promises or tangible achievements, because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish.
This perhaps explains why so much of the nominal support for Trump consists of baiting liberals.
For many in the conservative movement, this sort of anti-anti-Trumpism is the solution to the painful conundrum posed by the Trump presidency. With a vast majority of conservative voters and listeners solidly behind Mr. Trump, conservative critics of the president find themselves isolated and under siege. But, as Damon Linker noted, anti-anti-Trumpism “allows the right to indulge its hatred of liberals and liberalism while sidestepping the need for a reckoning with the disaster of the Trump administration itself.”
Not surprisingly, the vast majority of airtime on conservative media is not taken up by issues or explanations of conservative approaches to markets or need to balance liberty with order. Why bother with such stuff, when there were personalities to be mocked and left-wing moonbats to be ridiculed?
Of course there’s always another leftwing moonbat to ridicule or condemn. That’s much more satisfying than trying to explain why, for example, the Senate Republicans’ version of Obamacare “repeal and replace” will do anything other than deprive millions of Americans of health insurance while providing a tax-cut bonanza to the very rich.
As Sykes writes:
In many ways anti-anti-Trumpism mirrors Donald Trump himself, because at its core there are no fixed values, no respect for constitutional government or ideas of personal character, only a free-floating nihilism cloaked in insult, mockery and bombast.
Needless to say, this is not a form of conservatism that Edmund Burke, or even Barry Goldwater, would have recognized.
And, like many other short-term political tactics, this will work (to an extent) until it doesn’t.