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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 29 September 2017 > INSANE CLOWN POSSE

INSANE CLOWN POSSE

HOW THE RIGHT LOST ITS MIND, SOLD ITS SOUL AND EMBRACED DONALD TRUMP
CLOWN SHOW: The party of Paul Ryan, middle, and Mitch McConnell, right, has allowed liberal overreach to blind it to the crackpots in its midst.
ILLUSTRATION BY ALEX FINE

THIS IS A PAINFUL STORY FOR ME TO write. For a quarter of a century, I was a major part of the conservative movement. But like many on the right, in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory I had to ask some uncomfortable questions. The 2016 presidential campaign was a brutal, disillusioning slog, and there came a moment when I realized that conservatives had created an alternate reality bubble—one that I had helped shape.

During the 2016 election, conservatives turned on the principles that had once animated them. Somehow a movement based on real ideas—such as economic freedom and limited government— had devolved into a tribe that valued neither principle nor truth; luminaries such as Edmund Burke and William F. Buckley Jr. had been replaced by media clowns such as Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos. Icons such as Ronald Reagan—with his optimism and geniality—had been supplanted by the dark, erratic narcissism of Donald Trump. Gradualism, expertise and prudence—the values that once were taken for granted among conservatives— were replaced by polls and ratings spikes, as the right allowed liberal overreach in the Obama era to blind them to the crackpots and bigots in their midst.

Some have argued that the election was a binary choice, that Hillary Clinton had to be defeated by any means. I share many of their concerns about Clinton, but the price was ruinous. The right’s electoral victory has not wiped away its sins. It has magnified them, and the problems that were exposed during the 2016 campaign haven’t disappeared. Success does not necessarily imply virtue or sanity. Kings can be both mad and bad, and the courtiers are usually loath to point out the obvious— just look at Caligula or Kim Jong Un.

Today, with Trump in office, the problems of the right are the problems of all Americans. And the worst part of it is that we—conservatives— did this to ourselves.

Donald Trump is the president we deserve.

Off the Wall

THERE WAS A TIME when we deserved better. And had it too. On June 12, 1987, President Reagan was in West Berlin to deliver a powerful message to the evil empire, the USSR. His Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, had branded himself as a benign peacemaker, and Reagan wanted him to prove it. More than two decades earlier, East German Communists had erected the Berlin Wall to keep defectors from fleeing the eastern part of the city, and the barrier remained, physically and symbolically dividing the two sides. With two panes of bulletproof glass separating him from a crowd of roughly 20,000, Reagan stood with East Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate behind him and uttered the words that have come to define part of the greatness of his presidency. “If you seek peace,” Reagan said, “come here, to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

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About Newsweek International

INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE During the 2016 election, conservatives turned on the principles that had once animated them. Somehow a movement based on real ideas,such as economic freedom and limited government, had devolved into a tribe that valued neither principle nor truth; luminaries such as Edmund Burke and William F. Buckley Jr. had been replaced by media clowns such as Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos. Icons such as Ronald Reagan, with his optimism and geniality had been supplanted by the dark, erratic narcissism of Donald Trump. With anger and bravado, Trump declared war against Reaganism during the 2016 campaign and some people loved him for it.
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