Trump is an extinction-level event

It is not often that you will see me agreeing with Andrew Sullivan. So take note when I do. He has a long-form piece at New York Magazine ominously titled “Democracies end when they are too democratic. And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny.” The whole thing is about the threat of Trumpism and the very real prospect of Trump assuming the presidency. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, you should at least read the conclusion (see below). Read it and shudder.

Republicans desperately trying to use the long-standing rules of their own nominating process to thwart this monster deserve our passionate support, not our disdain. This is not the moment to remind them that they partly brought this on themselves. This is a moment to offer solidarity, especially as the odds are increasingly stacked against them. Ted Cruz and John Kasich face their decisive battle in Indiana on May 3. But they need to fight on, with any tactic at hand, all the way to the bitter end. The Republican delegates who are trying to protect their party from the whims of an outsider demagogue are, at this moment, doing what they ought to be doing to prevent civil and racial unrest, an international conflict, and a constitutional crisis. These GOP elites have every right to deploy whatever rules or procedural roadblocks they can muster, and they should refuse to be intimidated.

And if they fail in Indiana or Cleveland, as they likely will, they need, quite simply, to disown their party’s candidate. They should resist any temptation to loyally back the nominee or to sit this election out. They must take the fight to Trump at every opportunity, unite with Democrats and Independents against him, and be prepared to sacrifice one election in order to save their party and their country.

For Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others. In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.

The language is rough throughout this essay. Also, I don’t agree with him on every detail, so caveat lector. But in the main, I am afraid he is right about the threat that Trump poses to our constitutional order. I hope I’m wrong. I really do. You can read the rest here.

17 Responses to Trump is an extinction-level event

  1. Johnny Mason May 2, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

    “He is usually of the elite but has a nature in tune with the time — given over to random pleasures and whims, feasting on plenty of food and sex, and reveling in the nonjudgment that is democracy’s civil religion. He makes his move by “taking over a particularly obedient mob” and attacking his wealthy peers as corrupt. If not stopped quickly, his appetite for attacking the rich on behalf of the people swells further. He is a traitor to his class — and soon, his elite enemies, shorn of popular legitimacy, find a way to appease him or are forced to flee. Eventually, he stands alone, promising to cut through the paralysis of democratic incoherence. It’s as if he were offering the addled, distracted, and self-indulgent citizens a kind of relief from democracy’s endless choices and insecurities. He rides a backlash to excess—“too much freedom seems to change into nothing but too much slavery” — and offers himself as the personified answer to the internal conflicts of the democratic mess. He pledges, above all, to take on the increasingly despised elites. And as the people thrill to him as a kind of solution, a democracy willingly, even impetuously, repeals itself.”

    While I agree Trump has many of these qualities, so too do those running on the Democratic side. America needs to prepare for a long, cold winter.

    • Ian Shaw May 2, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

      Brace yourselves…..winter is coming.

  2. Frank Franklen May 2, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    I think it’s time to stop whining, stop hyperbolizing and realize that anyone is better than Hillary Clinton.

    • Denny Burk May 2, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

      I hope you are right.

    • Ike Lentz May 2, 2016 at 3:37 pm #

      This is the sort of false equivocation that gets Trump elected.

      Say what you will about Hillary, she’s far from perfect, but she’s never threatened journalists, promised to force the military to kill innocent civilians, knowingly courted racist organizations, insulted the looks of an opponents’ wife, or come anywhere close to the sort of evil that Trump espouses on an almost daily basis.

      She also has a baseline understanding of government, foreign relations, and the political process. At worst, she’d be a bad president, but not a ruthless, unpredictable demagogue or an “extinction level event”.

      • Ian Shaw May 2, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

        “knowingly courted racist organizations,”

        Hmm… The Clinton Foundation has taken money from countries that don’t allow women out in public without a male family member. From countries where it’s against the law to be homosexual and if you are, you are stoned to death or at best, flogged.

        How many Americans lives were lost in Benghazi? That’s right, “what does it matter?”

        She supports the legal murder of hundreds of thousands of human beings each and every year.

        Even Colbert has called out how bad her lying is….

        • Ike Lentz May 2, 2016 at 6:30 pm #

          When it comes down to it, I know what I’m getting with 4 years of Hillary Clinton- a frustrating president who makes decisions I disagree with. With Trump, I’m getting 4 years of a petulant, ill-informed demagogue who calls trade relations with china “rape” and makes jokes about his penis during live debates. Hillary Clinton doesn’t do that. No other candidate does that.

          This is exactly why Trump is happening. Out of one side of their mouths #nevertrump conservatives will bemoan Trump’s candidacy like it’s the coming of the apocalypse, but when it comes down to it, they’re too wrapped up in partisanship to take the logical step necessary to block him.

    • buddyglass May 2, 2016 at 7:38 pm #

      Honest question:

      Consider for a moment the various doomsday scenarios people have said might happen under a Trump administration. For the sake of argument, ignore how unlikely you may think they are to happen.

      My question to you: How “bad” would Trump need to be, and in what specific ways, for you to consider him “worse” than Clinton? You can assume for the sake of argument that a Clinton presidency will be roughly the same as Obama’s.

      For example:

      Trump instructs the military to detonate a nuclear weapon in Iraq or Syria in an attack on ISIS, resulting in the deaths of a non-trivial number of civilians.

      Trump instructs the military to torture the civilian family members of enemy combatants and it complies.

      Trump goes on Twitter and makes jokes about Angela Merkel’s menstrual cycle.

      Trump gets his proposed protectionist tariffs through Congress and the result is an increase in unemployment and a deep recession.

      Trump enacts his proposed tax reforms, the deficit skyrockets and debt consequently increases.

      Trump’s affect on down-ballot races results in the Democrats reclaiming the Senate and coming very close to reclaiming the House.

      (Whatever else you can think of.)

  3. Ian Shaw May 2, 2016 at 1:23 pm #

    Just read the article. It was pretty sobering.

    If that’s the case, then are we left with 2 options? Go the ‘Kang and Kodos’ route and throw our vote away with a 3rd party candidate, or abstain from voting altogether for this presidential election?

  4. Ian Shaw May 2, 2016 at 1:52 pm #

    If Romney comes out as a third party, would he get enough conservative support?

    • Andrew Orlovsky May 2, 2016 at 2:46 pm #

      Why Romney? Why not Ben Sasse? We already have a Northeasterner with moderate views on social issues in the race. Donald Trump!

      • Ian Shaw May 2, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

        Last i checked, Romney was still pro- traditional marriage.

        No Paul Ryan, or anyone else that hasn’t been living under a rock. That’s the problem. For a 3rd party to work, it has to be someone that is known.

  5. Andrew Orlovsky May 2, 2016 at 2:42 pm #

    Is it really GOP elitists who are anti-Trump? When people say GOP “elitist” or “establishment”, I am assuming they are talking about the big money social moderates, who are usually contrasted with the “religious right” or “tea party”. But look how much support Trump is getting in the Northeast. Most of the hardcore opposition to Trump from the republican party is coming from Evangelical Leaders and hard-core economic conservatives, who support Cruz. Kasich support even in the liberal states is just a blip on the radar.

    • Ian Shaw May 2, 2016 at 3:42 pm #

      It’s not just GOP elitists. There are a lot of “joe the plumber” conservatives that are very much anti-Trump. But we don’t yell, scream and in general, not blowhards.

    • buddyglass May 2, 2016 at 7:58 pm #

      I suspect the main groups that skew strongly anti-Trump are GOP voters who are:

      1. Not white, and/or
      2. Have a high rate of religious participation (i.e. church attendance), and/or
      3. are highly educated.

      Re: Kasich vs. Cruz in liberal states, the following states I’d consider “liberal” have already held their Republican primaries:

      New York
      Rhode Island

      Kasich earned a significantly higher share of the vote than Cruz in 7 of them:

      New York
      Rhode Island

      Cruz earned a significantly higher share of the vote than Kasich in 6 of them:


      They more or less tied in Michigan, although Cruz did have more votes.

      What’s arguably more important is how each candidate did in the “purple” states that will most likely decide the election: Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Florida.

      Among those, Kasich won New Hampshire and Ohio while Cruz won Iowa, Nevada, Virginia, Florida and Colorado. However, popularity in the GOP primary doesn’t necessarily predict how a candidate will fare in a given state in the general election. My suspicion is that a more “moderate” candidate like Kasich would fare better in most of these “purple” states.

  6. Gus Nelson May 2, 2016 at 9:23 pm #

    Two points:

    1. I don’t want Trump to be president. But are we forgetting that there is a Congress and there is a Supreme Court and there are 50 states that all have their own legislatures and executives known as governors and their own Supreme Courts? He is not going to be elected King of America. There are hindrances to presidential power. Unlike Obama (can’t say anything bad or act against him lest ye be labeled racist) or Hillary (can’t say anything bad or act against her lest ye be labeled anti-woman) if Trump is elected there will be no holds barred in the criticism and the roadblocks to his agenda from both the left and the right. I predict if he is elected he will govern as a moderate Republican and those who have hailed him as the next Hitler will be left scratching their heads. He’s simply not going to be able to get away with all the mayhem everyone seems to think he will cause because he will be derailed from both ends.

    2. Worse, if we truly think that our country is in such bad shape that electing Trump is going to end in some sort of apocalypse, then it matters little who we elect, as the apocalypse will be coming anyway. Trump is not the disease – he is a symptom. We have unloosed ourselves from any sort of moral objectivity then complain when an immoral jerk is unleashed on us. What do we expect? Our ruling class politicians have paved the way for this kind of candidate by crumbling before social pressures to pretend that a country can operate without an objective moral center. Walt Kelly, the Pogo cartoonist said it best years ago: We have met the enemy and he is us. We (meaning the US) have asked for this.

  7. Ezra Thomas May 2, 2016 at 9:49 pm #

    Sullivan is exaggerating Trump’s likely effect on the republic. He is certainly an extinction-level event but not necessarily to the US. His movement is destroying the conservative coalition that makes up the current GOP. The likes of George Will, Erik Erikson, and Sullivan who support the #nevertrump movement don’t realize that Trumpism isn’t going away with his likely defeat this fall.

    That’s really the goal of the #nevertrumpers. They would like Trump and his movement to be thoroughly repudiated so that the traditional GOP can make a triumphant comeback in the next cycle. This isn’t going to happen. He will have a lasting impact, unfortunately..

    Realignments happen. You’re watching the three stool foundation of the modern Republican party come apart.

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