Best columns: The U.S.
Conservative populism that’s popular
Michael Brendan Dougherty
“What if you could have Trumpism without Donald Trump?” asked Michael Brendan Dougherty. It would look like the revolutionary leadership of British Prime Minister Theresa May. The tough Tory came to power riding the same populist rebellion against globalism that helped propel Trump’s upset victory, and she has the same basic core issues: “sovereignty, immigration ruled by law, and economic policies meant to promote social stability.” But May and her Conservative Party are about to win an upcoming snap election by a historic rout, as she turns working-class voters into Tories and pushes the Labor Party to the irrelevant, far-left fringes. Her reign as prime minister has been free of Trump’s “moral turpitude, personal indiscipline,” and self-sabotage. An astute political player, May knows how far she can push unorthodox positions without triggering a backlash, and has tempered “her get-tough approach to the EU and the issue of migration with gestures of genuine respect to all members of Britain’s life.” After the election, May will be “just as popular a figure in her own country as Angela Merkel is in Germany.” May is proving that “conservative nationalism is a winning formula”—when it is practiced by a savvy politician of good character.
A fake story the Russians endorsed
“If you don’t watch Fox News,” said Max Boot, “you likely don’t have any idea who Seth Rich was.” But if you follow Fox or other fonts of fake news such as Rush Limbaugh or InfoWars, you might think that Rich was murdered by a secret Democratic Party cabal for leaking the party’s emails to WikiLeaks. In recent weeks, Fox News has aggressively promoted the conspiracy theory that Democratic National Committee staffer Rich—who police say was shot during a 4 a.m. robbery on a Washington, D.C., street last July—was actually assassinated by Democrats. The network’s source? A Fox News contributor named Rod Wheeler, a private investigator who once warned Fox viewers about “an underground network” of armed lesbians. The Rich family denounced Fox for trying to exploit his death, and Wheeler recanted his story and admitted he had no sources. But the shameless Sean Hannity nonetheless devoted three segments of his show to “the DNC murder mystery,” in a desperate attempt to distract attention from President Trump’s very real scandals. The Russians, not incidentally, welcomed the Fox story, saying it proved that their hackers didn’t steal Democratic emails after all. “The Russians have tipped their hand—and Fox’s as well.”
The price the GOP will pay
The Washington Post
“Republicans like to point out how disastrous President Barack Obama’s tenure was for the Democratic Party,” said Erick Erickson. Democrats lost more than 1,000 state and federal seats during his presidency, reaching new lows at almost every level of government. But Republicans may be heading for a similar debacle under President Trump, who is far less liked and respected than Obama and has the lowest approval ratings of any new president. Trump “exudes incompetence and instability,” whether it’s through his unhinged Twitter rants, his “divulging classified information to the Russians,” or his angry firing of FBI Director James Comey over the Russia investigation. Republican leaders are squandering their credibility by contorting themselves to excuse the president’s behavior, when the most plausible defense is one they can’t make publicly: “He is an idiot who does not know any better.” Congressional Republicans fear that if they hold this president accountable, they’ll risk primary challenges by incurring the wrath of “a horde of vocal Trump supporters cheering on every inane statement, delusion, and bad act.” But unless party leaders stage an intervention, “I expect them to experience an electoral bloodbath” in 2018 and, perhaps, “lose a generation of voters.” ■