At the Democratic convention, Bill Clinton accused Republicans of fabricating a “cartoon alternative” to the real Hillary Clinton. The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman claims that Democrats don’t need to create cartoon versions of conservatives since there’s already “something cartoonish about the right,” and in that regard Donald Trump “seems like a natural successor” to Sarah Palin and (wait for it) Ronald Reagan and (wait again) Dwight Eisenhower.
In his Wednesday post, Longman, reacting to a glum comment from anti-Trumper William Kristol that when America goes from “a politics with cartoonish touches to a politics of cartoonism, we become unmoored,” wondered, “How is Trump really a departure for other conservatives? They do, after all, seem to like him.” Longman touched on Palin and Dan Quayle before discussing other Republicans whose cartoonishness is, let’s say, more questionable (bolding added):
Without getting into the strong points Ronald Reagan brought to the table, it’s not in dispute that he was a B-List actor by training and disposition. It was easy for him to be a facsimile of a president, and easy for us to suspend our disbelief.
Even Eisenhower was brought from central casting, as he was far less a Republican than an established leader of men…
Or maybe you bought George W. Bush as a brush-clearing rancher, but I hope you noticed that Laura moved them out of that place about five minutes after they left the White House and bought a more appropriate dwelling in the Dallas suburbs where the couple actually belongs.
It seems to me that the Republicans have only ever been politically successful when they’ve given us some kind of put-on. When they’ve given us someone real, like Dole or McCain, the people have regurgitated them with extreme prejudice.
Conservatism, concluded Longman, has “always been a charade. It’s also a cloak or a mask for selfishness and greed that they gussy up in Bill Buckley style and sell us as intellectualism…It’s not that I don’t see the cartoonish nature of Trump. It’s that I see fake jokes everywhere I look, and I still haven’t found what any of it’s moored to other than a dollar sign.”