Donald Trump, Establishment Sellout

May 20, 2017 · 633 comments
NW Gal (Seattle)
I have to agree with you. Trump has stumbled along and into things that may or may not please his supporters, the conservative wing and the populists.
How could you expect more of an empty vessel? If he were interested in becoming a leader or a man of principles that don't involve increasing his wealth and being a dictator/king of sorts, then he might be effective doing something.
He doesn't have a choice because he doesn't know enough to really make one.
In fact, he is selling us all out, this country and our sense of ourselves. I'm just not sure that anything he does will come to much other than to point those who counted on the United States in another direction.
Maybe that's his intent all along...
Carol Avrin (California)
At least Nixon was pro environment and a lot smarter until he out smarter himself. Watergate didn't rise to placating a foreign power and possibly compromising national security.
deus02 (Toronto)
When someone reads a column such as this one, you would think considering all that has been written about him along with his ongoing obsession with publicity and being loved by all, Ross and many others(including several million of his supporters), would, at least have some knowledge of the man's history.

For those that know the reality of Donald Trump, it came as a no surprise that his entire campaign was a "con job" and he ultimately surrounded himself with the only people he ever knew, "The Establishment". It is still mind boggling to think that there is still several million people out there that honestly believe that he cares about them. Just looking at the so-called " healthcare" bill alone, I ask of his supporters, "has it finally sunk in yet"? Other than his wealthy buddies, "he could not care less about you and never will".
Steve Kremer (Yarnell, AZ)
Is anyone else make a list of collaborators and accomodationists.
Dennis (MI)
Trump is not actually governing at all. He was unqualified, and even more, undeserving. What we have to date is an Acting government, with an acting "this" and acting "that". We have been lucky so far..that the institutions and the career professionals in our country's government have proven to be strong in the face of such incompetence and dishonesty at the top. But it's frightening to ponder how long can our luck hold out.
James Young (Seattle)
Trump and the GOP will lose the war, and rightfully so. They have lied, cheated, and stolen this country's future, or children's future. In my 4 year olds lifetime he will see the US become a 3rd world back water thanks to our elected officials. We are guilty too, we moved from a look down the road to the future, to we want immediate satisfaction. We want to keep up with the joneses,

We've lost our way, led by our morally corrupt congress, since they are the only body that bears sole responsibility for all the problems of this country. From lack of healthcare, to unfolding education, to giving tax breaks to to those who don't need it, to becoming the slaves of corporate America at our expense.
Bob Brussack (Athens GA)
Trump's hardcore support is cultural. It has little or nothing to do with most of the issues you discuss. His biggest fans see him as a Great White Hope, a good ole boy with money. He's who they would be if they could afford it. He signals to them constantly that he's one of them. He appoints old white men. His few nods toward diversity are almost mocking gestures. He chose Pence to show his solidarity with blue-collar white evangelicals, who use religion as a tribal totem. His approval number is unlikely to sink much lower because his base sees him as what stands between them and a brave new world in which they are diminished.
David L, Jr. (Jackson, MS)
"Are you with Donald Trump, or with the Washington insiders who want to undo his election? Do you favor the legitimate president of the United States, or an unelected 'deep state' that’s determined not to let him govern?" The latter in both cases.

Le Pen would've been a disaster. Did you actually look at her platform? It was seppuku. The Economist described her, correctly, as "offer[ing] bigotry mixed with make-believe." Many of her economic policies overlapped with Mélenchon's, which is not unusual among populists (note the overlap in the economic rhetoric of Sen. Sanders and Pres. Trump).

Trump was never going to govern as a real populist or drastically alter America's role in the world. NO ONE can do that easily. You can't shake off history. Even Sanders would have infuriated his supporters by aligning closer with "the blob" than they'd like. We hear a lot about endless war from libertarians, nationalists, and leftists; but American withdrawal and weakness is, ironically, the very thing that will create it. (Sure, we COULD sit by and watch the world burn.)

The Establishment needed shaking up, but that doesn't mean we needed a populist takeover, which is dangerous. There are two groups who have too much influence on our government: mobs and billionaires. Also this:
Lucifer (Hell)
It doesn't matter who gets elected for president or congress.....there is no difference in what they do....war in middle east....job losses....major industries going under....unaffordable healthcare...loss of liberty...race conflicts....gender conflicts....all while the 0.001% accumulate more wealth than the bottom 80%....They are distracting you from what is really going on by the "reality" show that is Donald Trump.....We are the government of the rich/corporation, by the rich/corporation, and for the rich/corporation......The first thing we need to do is make corporations illegal.....just think what that would eventually do to the world's economy....
Jsbliv (San Diego)
This president is the con job the establishment has been working on for years now come to bear fruit. His agenda has always been to support the wealthy and nothing was more evident than the people he placed in positions of power once he was sworn in. Populist measures may come down the line eventually, but only after all his friends and supporters have been taken care of. Instead of questioning who's out to get 45, conservatives should be ashamed of themselves for being so gullible. Of course, the Dems made it easy with their choice of candidate to run against him.
Alex E (elmont, ny)
Take a look at the meeting in Saudi Arabia today, what Trump said there and what he achieved there. It was amazing. The world feels that America finally has a president after the last 8 years. Ross is testing different tactics to get Trump impeached, but it is not going to work.
B. (USA)
Most Trump supporters do not care about the facts and cannot tell truth from fiction.

The GOP has been grooming this group for over 30 years with the "feeling are more important than facts" attitude, with the "government is the problem" talk, with the denigration of education, and with the denial of scientific fact.

But now the GOP is facing the unintended consequences of their actions. This group, once fiercely loyal to the GOP is now fiercely loyal to Trump. It's going to take something really big to shake that loyalty, not mere facts. They've been trained to ignore them.
Marian (New York, NY)
I agree with Douthat's analysis, except as it relates to potential criminality. Trump is too into gilt to contemplate iron bars.

Alan Dershowitz, who voted for Hillary, sees this Comey-Trump imbroglio not as Nixonian but as Stalinist, as in Stalin's bloodthirsty executioner, Lavrentiy ("Show me the man and I will show you the crime") Beria.

Dershowitz says there is no crime here. The unitary executive theory of American constitutional law—the doctrine is rooted in Article Two—holds that President Trump possesses the power to control the entire executive branch.

If you want Nixonian, think Hillary. (Some would argue she's a Stalinist, as well.) The conundrum: Trump is terrible, but the alternative is orders of magnitude worse.


Milhous is her middle name
Nixonian is her bent.
Woodward became short of breath
Counting her obstructions, her intent.

Bob Woodward became hypoxic
Contemplating crimes of the cover-up czar.
120,000 counts at 20 years per
2.4 million years behind bars.
Judy (NY)
Wow! You've (mostly) spoken truth! Let's see if Trump's people have eyes to read you with, ears to hear you with. One slight issue I would take with you: Trump is not merely a paper tiger; he was a false prophet and a snake-oil salesman. A paper tiger would be a step up.
ted (portland)
"Trump an Establishment Sellout"
Hardly, but they would like you to think that as they sell the Saudis 120billion in armaments, insuring our commitment to continue being the policeman for the Middle East, allow private equity to be the middleman in our infrastructure program, garnering huge profits for Trump pal Stevie Schwartzmann, full employment for the cheapest labor possible(illegal immigrants)and toll roads for the rest of us, the continuance of private insurance raking in trillions in a health care system that can only be described as a big scam, second only to our defense industry as the primary reason our nation is declining as capital is spent not on things that produce a return for its citizens but rather policy that allows the bankers, multinationals and the army of politicians, lobbyists and lawyers that support this massive rip off to thrive. Incidentally, even the once hallowed(before3G)Warren Buffett expressed his view of the hugely negative impact our health care costs have on the nation. With respect to the infrastructure project why can't the government issue the bonds like Treasury bills or the War Bonds during the Second World War, there is a huge demand for yield with safety we don't need an army of bond salesman to sell this product. Better yet forget the tax cuts for the rich, return the tax rates to the Eisenhower era, everyone agrees it was Americas golden moment, it was for a reason, shared prosperity.
James Young (Seattle)
Let's stop it with the illegal alien hires for an infrastructure plan that will balloon the national debt that the GOP kept harping on. First off there aren't enough of them to hire to rebuild our infrastructure, that statement is just a regurgitation of the GOPs slop.

Congress has caused this divide amongst the population in an effort to cover up their shortcomings, their failures to work together for the common good, not for their self enriching ideals. Remember, the GOP was the party of no, now they are the party of no function, instead of stabilizing the ACA they work to undermine how well it's turning out. There will be a price the GOP will pay, the moderate republicans that voted along party lines, the see what's happening to our country, it's too bad those die hard Trumptards can't see his incompetence until it's too late.
mjohns (Bay Area CA)
When we elect someone with no concern for anything but his own fragile ego, in constant need of reassurance that he is wonderful, it should be no surprise that he looks for applause lines in whatever setting he finds himself, from "lock her up" in a rally, to "I get very good intelligence, here is what I know and you don't..." to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. He also needs to have people believe he is rich and smart, so using the presidency is just another tool, like bankruptcy to manipulate others to give him money.

He also hires based on loyalty first, and appearance second and ability not so much. He demands that those he hires use the same tests for their hires. One of the loyalty tests, apparently, is to be willing to publicly say things that are known by all to be false. Hiring people who put loyalty to Trump above their oath of office, or their self-respect, guarantees absolute incompetence throughout the organization.

We are replacing our executive branch with an "incompetence cannon" blasting in every direction.
JoanneN (Europe)
The 'elite' consensus, Mr Douthat, really? The non-elite consensus on gay right sis that we'd like people to have them. The non-elite consensus on abortion rights is that they should be available. The non-elite consensus on publicly-funded healthcare is 'yes please'.
There is no social issue, not one, on which the majority of Americans agree with the current Republican Party ideology.
That may even be one reason why the majority of voters did not vote for the Republican candidate.
Cavilov (New Jersey)
I think you, as well as most of the commenters, miss the point: Trump wasn't an insider to the oligarchs, one percenters, or corporate elite. Instead, he was (and is) a disrespected gaudy "wanna be". He won the election and now, by God, he's going to make them respect him.
Really (NY)
You'd have hoped that a paper like the NYT could do better with opinion writers than Douthat who apparently didn't understand the painfully obvious reality that Trump was never a populist, and actually a liar and opportunist, from the beginning.
[email protected] (Los Angeles)
anything that can be contrived to be spelled "t a x" makes life worse. it's in the Bible. you can look it up. it's near abortion and transgender bathrooms and the right of the mentally crippled to buy guns. and that part about baking cakes and setting up flowers; maybe it's in Second Corinthians or that verse about rich Corinthian leather.
Attilashrugs (CT)
Douthat is the House Republican at the Times. They tell him to write this and he does that!
Max Deitenbeck (East Texas)
Trump won because Republicans built a voter base out of racist morons who believed his lies.
susan mccall (old lyme ct.)
complete con job for his supporters.anyone who isn't stinking rich who voted for him will be absolutely screwed.why anyone who isn't rich would think he cares in the least for them has been conned.we need a far more informed electorate to keep sycophants like the trumpanoffs out of any position of power
N. Smith (New York City)
To begin with, Donald Trump isn't actually "governing" at all.
Not as a populist. And definitely not as a revolutionary.
It's all a bluff. And all those poor, working-class, disgruntled Americans bought into it, convinced that they had a new (white) savior in the White House, when that couldn't be any further from the truth.
Following the drumbeat of 24/7 right-conservative hate media, these people didn't see past the patina of Trump's well-constructed lies when he said: "I'm one of you".
At this point, the only amazing thing about that is how he got away with it, when most everyone else knew he wouldn't be able to ditch these folks fast enough, after securing their votes.
That's hardly "revolutionary".
In fact, it's just the opposite, because the country now finds itself in the grip of a dictatorship, where not only Republicans rule, but where they show no interest whatsover for preserving the Republic -- only themselves.
Whether it's repealing health care, levying higher taxes, destroying the environment, or out-and-out lying to Americans about questionable connections to a foreign adversarious government, this president and this Congress, after all their rants of "Drain the Swamp", have proven themselves to be nothing more than denizens of it.
Geoff S. (Los Angeles)
I so hate that you religious types have conflated religious liberty and gay rights. They are not and will ever, never be connected. You have the right to practice your beliefs. But, in public matters, you deal with them and bake the cake. Jesus won't be mad. I promise.
[email protected] (Los Angeles)
Trump: does this suit make me look fat?

A: it makes you look like a Nast characature of a robber baron. all you need to accessorize would be the cigar, the bag of $$, and the sparkler shirt studs. but as it is, the look works. it's YOU!
Casey (Memphis,TN)
It is not populism that won Trump so many votes. It is unabashed racism.
Kevin (Red Bank N.J.)
Trump got elected on mainly 2 topics. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, for the blue collar middle class workers who have watched their way of life move offshore and be destroyed. The second was Abortion for all the right wing evangelicals who want to force their beliefs on others. Then he topped this off with the Trump con-job 'I am the only one who can help you" what a lie. Trump only helps himself and he is much richer today then the day he took office.
[email protected] (Los Angeles)
is Gumby a Republican? Gumby and Pokey beat Trump and Pence every time - plus, Gumby is church-sanctioned.
[email protected] (Los Angeles)
sounds exactly as if you're channeling Nixon. when do we get to the part about the plain Republican cloth coat and Checkers, the dog? Helen Gehan Davis? Commies under the bed? is Brown pink?
[email protected] (Los Angeles)
that's why God puts ATMs in casinos.
Phyliss Dalmatian (Wichita, Kansas)
His supporters were, and are, " uneducated ". What's your excuse? Just asking.
"Trump's promised war with the establishment has been fizzling almost from day one".

Really, Mr. Douthit? Is that what reality looks like in the Mid Manhattan liberal bubble? Maybe you should subscribe to the NYT and read about the Establishment's War on Trump.

Here are some of the [non] combatants that are [not] laying siege to Trump.

The Democratic Political Establishment
The Republican Political Establishment
The Main Stream Media
The Intelligence [sic] Community
The Federal Judiciary Sinecurage
The Federal Bureaucracy
The Sanctuary City Alliance
Higher Education [sic]
Federal & State Unions
Etc Etc Etc

No Trump revolution in the first place, eh, Ross?

Sure. Just keep telling your Establishment stable mates that.

RESIST!!! NEVER TRUMP!!! The Establishment screams in a blood curdling elite non-"counterrevolution" cacophany.
short end (Outlander, Flyover Country)
Ross is on the right track....but he still suffers from tunnel vision.....He cant see the forrest for the trees.
The USA entered the fourth cycle of republics,,,,,during the catalytic events of Sept 11, 2001. Since that day, the USA has fought every attempt to enter the 21st Century....vehemently denying that the world had changed,,,,we give it lip service and then force everything to fit into the obsolete WW2/New Deal/FDR frame of reference.
The 2016 election cycle is the perfect example of this backwards looking election that boiled down to three candidates from yesteryear.....all over the age of 70!! Bernie(who seemed to think he was living in Russia 1905), Hillary(its 1968 all over again!) and Donald(Make America Great....AGAIN).
The only sane voice got ridiculed....Michelle Obama making a plea to "Make America the future".
So here we are for at least the next four years, trying to regain our lost "greatness" or "exceptionalism" or whatever political stupidity you wanna call it........
Not a single politician, or bureaucrat, or capitalist, or oil man, or general brave enough to actually CHANGE and position the American Republic for prosperity and success in the FUTURE.....everyone looking backwards.
Mark L (Seattle)
Fears of the 'deep state' are exaggerated, if not plain made up. Instead, follow the money, the deep and hidden millions that truly buy and shape all our policies and influence election outcomes.
Matthew Hall (Cincinnati, OH)
The one exception to all of this is immigration. That's what won him the presidency in the first place. It may be his one lasting accomplishment.
Meh (east coast)
Obama shipped illegal immigrants out in record numbers. Even trump said so.
There is only one political issue: The class warfare waged by the 1% on the 99%.

Every other 'issue' was invented by the 1% and exists solely to keep the 99% fighting among ourselves, so we never turn our attention to our real foes.
MisterM (Santa Fe)
Great column, Ross. You continue to amaze me with your courageous articles taking on your traditional constituency. We see the same from from David Brooks. But, for the life of me, I still cannot understand how so many Republicans (elected officials, journalists, and millions of Americans whose own interests are being destroyed by their vote last November) cannot have the same courage. We see shades of it peeking out from people like John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Lamar Alexender, Jeff Flake, and others), but they seem to just fade away at the last minute. And news outlets like the WSJ and Fox News need to wake up: an assault on the rights of a free press ultimately knows no boundaries. I agree with you: people need to start looking at the policies that are failing or the atrocious new ones being put in place, rather than at Donald Trump himself. In the end, that is why they voted the way they did. The only question is: are you getting what you wanted?
Brian Collins (Lake Grove, NY)
Mr. Douthat: The framing by conservative pundits and "intellectuals" of any number of serious matters of politics, science and society has failed to fit the facts since at least the 1990s. Why the sudden concern?
Lingonberry (Seattle, WA)
Trump is no outlier but his base thinks he is. Certain areas of America, districts in Kentucky for example, voted over 70% for him and think he has the ability to shake up the status quo. He is playing the ends against the middle. None of this, the greed of the wealthy, the blindness of his base or his rampaging ego are good for this country. I hope Trump has committed a crime serious enough to warrant an impeachment.
masquill (Austin, TX)
"The people who voted for our president do deserve a tribune" I think that's ridiculous. The people who voted for a president deserve exactly what they will get-less healthcare, less government assistance, less infrastructure, and less opportunity. If you thought this man is competent, if you thought this man was a true leader, if you thought this man is going to save your retirement, your job, your home, or your well-being, then, no, you don't deserve A seat at the table. What you should do, before you come to the table, is reexamine your thoughts and your opinions.
Rick B (Seattle)
Enough of the intellectual analysis of this president and whether or not he's following through on his campaign promises and to what contingency or class he is fulfilling those promises. The pathetic reality is that this scandal ridden, pathetic president has hoodwinked most of those that voted for him, and that being a miserable 26% of eligible voters! The rest of us, with the exception of the super wealthy, are getting the shaft. The greatest beneficiary of his election so far appears to be the previously crumbling fossil fuel industry. In the first days of this presidency, decades of effort and progress to improve the health of our air and water, are being undone. The GOP has turned a blind eye to the President's madness and are drunk with their sudden power and in a frenzy passing their wish list of bills. Bills to dismantle the clean air and water acts, and bills to strip women of their reproductive rights. Bills to please their fundamentalist constituency that want to turn back the clock to a dreamland of deluded memories of a beautiful time that only exists in their imaginations or on television shows like Ozzie and Harriet. Their burying logic, reason and science in exchange for short sighted greed. THIS is what's driving this president and his supporters. The rest of us are just along for this nightmare of a ride. Sadly, the long term damage to our resources and environment, may never recover.
LG (Brussels)
When a candidate for office appeals to the anger of Americans toward non-Americans (or to the anger of the French toward non-French), and chooses not to disavow Americans or French who, for example, swear Obama is a Muslim (and thus that a Muslim is a bad thing to be), or express views intolerant of Muslims or non-natives or non-whites, or indeed express an overtly white supremacist bent – in short, when the candidate appeals to those who blame “the other” -- the candidate becomes a representative and defender of their interests, of those who, to use a language everyone understands, blame others for their own problems. They scapegoat. Blaming others -- frustration transformed into anger and projected aggressively outward – becomes a rallying cry, a platform, a policy. Bar, ban, expel and build walls against the scapegoat. Thus the candidate comes not only to represent and defend intolerance, but to promote it.

The columnist who "entertains the case" of such a candidate not only legitimizes but appeases the candidate. The column is tone-deaf not only to its subject but to the its own demonstration that as long as a candidate and his or her constituents are historical holders of the power of privilege – however “left behind” or “forgotten” they feel – one can act, represent, defend and promote the morally indefensible, yet still be entertained. And even voted into power. A columnist should reveal such cases for what they are, not entertain them.
toom (Germany)
Don the Con fooled the rubes who voted for him. Soon the rubes will lose their health insurance and retirement. Too bad, but they should have thought of this.
Vicki (Boca Raton, Fl)
Let no one forget that Mr. Douthat would and will be very happy to see Trump gone and Pence our new president, even though Pence is in many respects far worse.
sdavidc9 (<br/>)
What religious conservatives want is for enough people to get religion for them to put things back the way God wants them -- gays back in the closet, women back in the kitchen, blacks out of mainstream culture (except as comic figures or sexual predators), businessmen back running things, and charity for the poor and sick and needy left to voluntary efforts rather than imposed through taxes and government programs. Since enough of these mass conversions never happen, they have to seek the power to put things back by any and every sales pitch that works.

But once they get power, things do not work; their positions are genuinely unpopular with many, and their attempts to impose these positions even more so. To spread Christian love, they have to paint their opponents not as people who seek to love their neighbors in different ways, but as monsters and madmen who for some reason hate the good and have sold their souls to the devil.
Anonymous (NY, NY)
Is this any surprise?
Garz (Mars)
The president's revolution has already evaporated. For YOU Ross, not for US!
Lewis (Austin, TX)
populism needs a seat at the table of power in the West, and the people who voted for our president do deserve a tribune -- absolute garbage.
East/West (Los Angeles)
Ross! You entertained the case for Marine Le Pen?

Bridget Aldaraca (Seattle)
When I read that I couldn't believe it. I have lost any respect I ever had for this columnist. Does no one care about Le Pen's Nazi associates, her anti-Semitism and fascist ideology. She has tried to clean herself up by tossing her father out but her efforts to sanitize her party are not successful.
Michael Paine (Marysville, CA)
That one decision for LaPen does you in.
David Sassoon (San Francisco, California)
Yes, that remark was rather surprising, n'est-ce pas?
Eric (Oregon)
I much prefer Maureen Dowd on Trump's typical Republican acts of governing : "Sucker"
Michael Kubara (Cochrane Alberta)
"...unelected “deep state” — bureaucrats, judges, former F.B.I. directors, the media..."

These are all legitimate aspects of checks and balances USA--checks on each branch of government, but also checks on tyranny of the majority--which can be prejudiced, phobic, information lacking.

The real "deep state" has been a hidden part of politics USA for over a century--its hidden plutocracy--camouflaged by whatever "prejudice of the moment works"--anti-abortion, god story myth, states rights, anti--education, anti Muslim.

Yes--mostly "anti" because that's cheap and easy--and has no implicates for anything "pro"--which winds up being pro-big money. Thus 1 % vs 99%--due to the perennial US Deep State--their march back to Feudalism.

The plutocrats use "deep state" to hide their deep state, just as they use "fake news" to cover for their fake news.
ChrisC (NY)
You just figured that out?
You believed him through 2016?
Come on, you are smarter than that!
How is it even remotely possible that, after the months of learning about Trump's personal history, of watching him on the campaign trail, and of seeing him "govern," anyone could have ever possibly thought that Donnie was authentically "populist"? From the get-go, he's been nothing more than a patent and blatant demagogue. Drain the swamp?? Forget the swamp; it's the sewer that needs flushing, and Trump's the sewer. Anyone who thought that this utterly self-absorbed brat would actually pursue any of the so-called populist agenda placed on him by wishful-thinking pundits ought to refrain from ever voting again; democracy simply can't survive participants who are so willfully ignorant and so divorced from reality. The fact that Douthat and his myopic colleagues are just now getting a glimpse of what has always been so glaringly obvious, so characteristically Trump, so defining of what he is, epitomizes their vacuous, effete political "insightfulness." The other (and more deeply disturbing) element of the "populist" discourse is that, for most conservatives, "populist" is just the new code language to cloak white entitlement. The fact that populist sentiment has been so routinely and so devastatingly manipulated by demagogues should be the handwriting on the wall for any would-be observer of politics. It's a marriage made in hell.
WMK (New York City)
I voted for Donald Trump and am still with him and am pleased with the accomplishments he has been able to implement. He has made tremendous strides in the relatively short time he has been in office. This is no easy feat with a combative media fighting him every step of the way. Not only has the media been against him but so have Democrats and those within his own party. If he is discouraged, he hides it very well. He has a lot to do correct the wrongs that were created by the Obama administration. He will be successful but it will take time considering the amount he must correct. He will persevere and he must know that he still has his supporters.
Fla Joe (South Florida)
Trump's cabinet is the establishment and the GOP hacks who run the swamp. He has attacked the Democrats from day 1, but never acknowledges he is President on a fluke and lost the popular vote by 3-million. O'connell and Ryan have also refused to reach over the line. Yet that is what Trymp promised that he could work with the Democrats. He can;t even work with the GOP. He;s a fraud, a phony and his policies will enrich the 1% and vastly increase the deficit for our children and grandchildren. Health care, education, infrsastructure are yet to be resolved. Trump is rplacing the swamp with quicksand and he may be the first victim. Inept and stupid does not get any agends passed.
Mike (Boise)
"I voted for Donald Trump and am still with him and am pleased with the accomplishments he has been able to implement"

... what accomplishments?
Uwe Schneider (Bartlett, NH)
Tremendous strides? Like what? Embarrassing behavior and actions that keep the anxiety level of Americans of all persuasions on edge?

The media is reporting the facts. Reporting FACTS is not being combative.

Try changing the channel.
Gerry G (Chapel Hill,NC)
There is much to criticize in this op ed piece but I want to focus only on one issue because it encapsulates a phony framing of the issue of religious liberty: "religious conservatives fearful of their liberties" and "religious liberty"

I have always understood that freedom of religion means the right to practice one's own religion or not to practice any religion. The Bill of Rights says nothing about invading the rights of others as so called religious conservatives often do.

Even the arch conservative Anthony Scalia wrote that no right is is absolute when it is unreasonably impinges on others. That view is found in a gun rights case. The great Oliver Wendell Holmes said that no one has a right to yell fire in a crowded theater.

You can not in the name of liberty dance around swinging your arms when you break your neighbor's nose in the process..

So let us not hear about religious liberty when there is an unreasonable effect on others.
Kim Corbin (Grosse Pointe, Michigan)
Rather than try to define "political elites" why don't we try to predict the next ridiculous word or term that old money has for confusing the electorate. In the 80's they gave us "liberal," "right to life," and "silent majority."
We are using "populist," though what it stands for is anybody's guess (or whim).
It confounds me that Americans oppose a national health care system, as if it would make life worse.
The only elites in Washington are those that laugh at the electorate, as they count their money.
Peter M Blankfield (Tucson AZ)
As a person who sees himself as a centrist, I truly appreciate critical thinking conservatives. Mr. Douthat's writing is that of a patriot who put country above politics. We would all do well to consider his writing here seriously and examine the situation open-mindedly. The unfortunate thing is that too many of the people who support Trump do not, have not, and will not pick up a copy of the NYT because they think it is the prime hotbed of liberalism. The message here needs to be transmitted over the airwaves of Fox News and conservative talk radio. If this message can be delivered to the masses, I think all of us, especially Trump, might see a definitive change in the support of this President.
Grove (California)
the election of Donald Trump was sort of a "hail Mary" on the part of the American people.
Most everything has been going to the the top 1% fo about as long as anyone can remember, whether under Democratic or Republican "leadership".
It was a gamble that was out of desperation- and the American people lost once again.
Meh (east coast)
Why would they pick a spoiled billionaire with a long history of lawbreaking and cheating the little man to be their populist champion?

That's utterly laughable.
Purple patriot (Denver)
It was always so obvious: Trump is no populist revolutionary. The very idea that such an entity could emerge from the GOP is beyond absurd. The fools who voted for him have been duped again.
ann (ca)
Trump is going to be in trouble in 2020 if the Rock runs. He's been making the talk show circuits 'exploring' the idea, and he's already polling better than Trump, despite the fact that no one knows his political views. Schwarzenegger, Sonny Bono, the little guy from the Love Boat... Republicans just vote for anyone who they've seen on TV and then make-up stories about how their celebrity is a good guy. Too bad they haven't made the connection between the as-seen-on-tv products that never live up to their infomercials, and their as-seen-on-tv politicians, that never live up to theirs.
craig80st (Columbus,Ohio)
Are you sure it is just Washington insiders who want to undo 45's election? Journalists from a wide variety of media have said and wrote recently that many of the unnamed sources are from the White House staff. It's not that they want to undo 45's election, it's being caught in a maelstrom and desiring to be rescued from impending danger. RMN was brought down by one "Deep Throat". 45 elicited many "Deep Throats". How does a whirl pool end?
TheraP (Midwest)
The right-wing media hate-machine functions like a tourist-trap, catering to an audience seeking entertainment, excitement, a rollercoaster ride for fun.

The right-wing politicians are enablers, pandering to the wealthy and powerful, while doing so through hypocrisy to its viewers of the tourist-trap media.

It galls me to see Pence lie so piously. It angers me to see Ryan mouth pieties which bastardize the AA prayer, as if AA tells people to ignore problems they can't control. Indeed, Ryan has a very powerful bully pulpit as "Speaker." And he totally fails to use it. He took an Oath to the Constitution himself and completely fails to address the fact that Trump keeps breaking that Oath! And Tillerson? Supine!

So all 3 people in line to take over the presidency, to my mind, are complicit in the crimes of Trump. They stand by as if simply waiting for the presidency to fall into their hands. And the right-wing media is complicit as well.

Down with the lot of them!
Dino Reno (Reno)
Finally a writer from the Times has zeroed in on the real problem with Trump.
He's not doing the nice things he promised his base. In fact, he's doing quite the opposite.

He's turned the economy over to Goldman Sachs and foreign policy over to the generals. The Beautiful Border Wall has gone from something Really Big to a metaphor for more security. Great Health Care is less health care. He's punted on infrastructure spending and his tax plan is a giveaway to corporate America. China is suddenly his BFF. And so on...

You would think the loyal opposition would be happy with this betrayal of his base knowing it sows the seeds of Trump destruction and their eventual return to power. But instead, they've inflicted far greater wounds on themselves with their hysterical call for Trump's impeachment every day and every way. In fact, they look more unhinged than Trump with their daily conspiracy theories.

They need to accept the fact that he is President and Chill. Trump's base remains loyal despite his betrayal because the attack by the opposition has been so senseless, mean spirited and, yes, a witch hunt. Stop making Trump a hero for the fighting for an office he's already won. The voters who elected see only a coup attempt to nullify their vote. They are not fighting to save Trump, they are fighting to save democracy. The opposition needs to turn down the rhetoric and let these voters see Trump acting and not reacting.
Meh (east coast)
The consensus isn't wrong, although wrong headed, in that it makes trump's base double-down even harder, even in the face of the truth.

Yeah, his opposition should say how great and wonderful he is, so his base can oppose them and, thus, trump.

A little reverse psychology is in order.
Jarrett (Cincinnati, OH)
What reality do you occupy where anyone has a doubt about who is president? We ALL know it is Trump... that is the problem!
SC (Oak View, CA)
Ross, when you said "elite consensus on gay and transgender rights" I believe you must have meant to say thoughtful and compassionate.
MT (Los Angeles)
Mr. Douthat says the conservatives "rising to [Trump's] defense need to recognize there is no elite 'counterrevolution' here for them to resist..."

Dose Mr. Douthout actually believe conservatives believe any of this malarkey? Does he actually think Fox is not the establishment and, like Trump, are more than happy to go along with the obviously transparently false narrative that he is an outsider cleaning the swamp?

No, Fox and its fellow establishment conservatives are happy to do their part to see that the real establishment conservative doctrine using government to suck as much money from the lower and middle classes for the benefit of the wealthy moves forward, employing what ever pretense works.
Jarrett (Cincinnati, OH)
Sounds about right.
Ricky Sedgwick (South Pasadena, CA)
Give Trump some time. He's already accomplished more in 5 months than Obama did in 8 years!
LESykora (Lake Carroll, IL)
Please list the accomplishments. Statements are not facts.
Meh (east coast)

What has he accomplished???
Michael (Kneebone)
Phyliss Dalmatian (Wichita, Kansas)
Populist: a fancy term for pandering to the " uneducated " to gain their votes, by stating what they want to hear, with absolutely no intention, or means, to deliver on your campaign promises. " Uneducated " : a polite term for the marks, and / or the stupid. Primed by the past decades of FOX and the GOP propaganda machine, the perfect audience for a masterful Conman. Trump Voters: Are YOU winning, yet??? Maybe you should " invest" in lottery tickets, probably better odds. Bigly.
Vincent Amato (Jackson Heights, NY)
The best and most cogent analysis of the Trump phenomenon yet printed in these pages. In fact, the only real anti-establishment figure to emerge out of the battles for the presidency was Bernie Sanders. Had he, by some political miracle managed to win the presidency, he would have been unlikely to so readily, as this headline suggests, sell out to the establishment. The prospect the country was treated to, a Jewish socialist from Brooklyn now representing a New England state in the U.S. Senate winning in state after state against the ultimate establishment candidate, especially after generations of demonizing of socialism and even New Deal values in this country, had to be the biggest political surprise in nearly a hundred years and a credit to the independent thinking of millions of Americans. The vote for Trump grew out of a need for Americans across the political spectrum to say no to rule by the one percent and to "teach them a lesson." Nothing that Trump has done so far has convinced many of these Americans that they would have been better off with a Clinton or Bush in the White House. Unless a new political party is formed that truly addresses the cries of the American people for economic and social justice, we will continue on the precipice of chaos and demoralization.
blueberryintomatosoup (Houston, TX)
The only one who truly cares about economic and social justice is Bernie Sanders. Those that gravitated towards Trump are worried about the economy and jobs, sure, but they gravitated to him instead of to Sanders because of white supremacy. These voters feel alienated because they no longer feel like they are at the top. In terms of equality and social justice, these people see every gain for minorities as something that is being taken away from them, instead of seeing it as a win for everybody.
Rich Patrock (Kingsville, TX)
I love it: " too lazy to figure out what policies he should champion and too incompetent and self-absorbed to fight for them."
John (Washington)
Democrats and other 'not Trump' activists don't seem to understand how politically dangerous he can still be. Even if he resigns or is otherwise removed from office up until that point he can still lead Republicans to essentially cement their current political strengths in place. A few programs like being able to provide affordable health care for all, including many of the 28 million that Obama Care didn’t cover, or providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants after a suitable vetting process, actually doing something to reduce the violence in low income urban neighborhoods around the country and otherwise improve their situation, address student debt, and most of all provide the decent jobs that are needed across the country. I don't expect that Trump or the Republicans would actually do such things, but it would be a disaster for Democrats. On the other hand Republicans might be forced to such programs if Trump appears to be dragging them down.
Jarrett (Cincinnati, OH)
Dream on John.
Dee (Los Angeles, CA)
Agreed. I might also add, the president really seems stupid. I hate to use that word but it describes him. He is a man with no understanding of government, history, healthcare, global economy, environment, and... leadership. Moreover, he doesn't seem to have the curiosity or the intelligence to want to learn about these issues. He just enjoys the accolades and the applause and -- of course -- the gold medal from the Saudis.
Ron B (Washington State)
Mr. Douthat and Mr. Brooks are fine spokesmen for the "Conservative" position in a news organ read primarily by intelligent left-tilting readers. I am grateful that you both pivoted away from being supportive of loopy Republican-sponsored ideas that history has shown to have failed time and again. I wondered how you both could have supported a string of increasingly incompetent Republican leaders in past years. It now seems clear that Mr. Trump is not as wealthy as he claimed and was financed primarily by Russian oligarchs. Our electorate seem to learn the hard way. I certainly wish that you could explain this to the readers of Murdoch-owned publications.
storm jecker (sebastopol, ca)
Ross, you are an "elite" writing about "elites" as if you stand apart from the group. A good start would be to define "elite", then move on to why you have a right to label others as that.

"(as I welcomed Brexit and entertained the case for Marin Le Pen)"
Pretty much says it all.......
jonathan (decatur)
storm jacket, Donald Trump has staffed his administration with so-called elites, several from Goldman Sachs whom he harangued during the administration for being too close to Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton. instead of deflecting by trying to label the author look at all of Trumps broken promises. he has backed away from his pledges to get Mexico to pay for the wall, to pull out of NAFTA, to label China a currency manipulator, to prosecute Hillary and to back a health care plan which would cover all Americans, IN every instance of broken promises, he moved away from his supporters" views towards Wall Street and conventional Republican elite views.
Matnik (New York)
What's the point of this? It was evident from the get go that Trump was a snake oil salesman. GOP needs to do the righ thing. Invoke section 4 of the 25th amendment and replace Trump with Pence. Not my tasse de the but much better.
Anthony (New York, NY)
I can't believe i'm saying this but Ross is spot on. Wow. Well done sir.
damon walton (clarksville, tn)
When folks on the Right going to realize that whether he is a public official or a private businessman, he only works on his own behalf. Everybody else from Pence on down to his Base are nothing more than toilet paper to him...use once then flush down the toilet. He merely told you want to hear and played upon your fears. Trump himself comes from an elite and moneyed background and will never be one of 'you', a faithful champion for the Right and their causes.
John F. McBride (Seattle)
Trump worked in his business because of the formulas of risk; he could lie, and produce results enough that at the rates he was charged by, exclusively, in the end, foreign creditors, money was made, regardless of legal entanglements, and there were plenty of those.

But his supporters watched him on reality TV and naively extrapolated that he could govern the same way.

Ya? When did that ever work in the past? When, ever, in the history of business or government, did a serial bully and abuser individual, 70% of whose statements in his campaign were lies, and a portion of the remained only partially true, and who continues to lie, get elected to government, and succeed?

Republicans created this perfect storm. Rather than go about the difficult work of revising their ideology with responsive ideas they've spent decades investing in the construction of an enterprise of lies, the "Reality NEWS" they create to rebut the data and stories bombarding us from around the nation and planet. Trump is merely the point of the spear of lying bloggers, websites, and media outlets.

I'm sorry for the nation and planet, but not for the GOP. This has been a long time in their making.

""They have planted the wind and will harvest the whirlwind. The stalks of grain wither and produce nothing to eat. And even if there is any grain, foreigners will eat it."
- Hosea, 8:7
W Marin (Ontario Canada)
Unfortunately the rest of America and many people in other counties will also inherit the whirlwind of disfunction that the GOP has created. But individually, most of these congressional Republican schemers and their wealthy enablers will not suffer. They are insulated by their wealth their gated communities and their security forces, both public and private.
John F. McBride (Seattle)
W Marin
I suggest what you state is an obvious consequence but one that the oligarch feels sufficiently insulated, and able to profit, from that they could care less, and control over which we have little leverage.
Dennis Speer (Santa cruz)
Trump's election was the final nail in the coffin of Class Warfare. His voters think his election means the working class has won while the well heeled know, and prove with every rolled back regulation, that Class War is over and they won.
Bitsy (Colorado)
Piling on with additional commentary on the man's breathtaking ineptitude and incompetence is like shooting fish in a barrel - hardly sporting - so, let's step back and see what, if anything, we may have learned from the nauseating experience of the last election.

First, vote. The anemic level of voter participation (54% or so) is simply not acceptable.

Second, vote for someone who has a chance to win. Registering your discontent by either not voting, or wasting your vote on a lost cause candidate, is precisely what got us into this mess. Think practically - the stakes are too high to do otherwise.

Third, get involved (and at least vote). If you don't, the outcome will be determined by a motivated minority. And we can see how well that's working.

Sadly, we did this to ourselves. Don't let that happen again.
Michael Mendelson (Toronto)
And yet the Republican candidate in the May 25th special election in Montana is campaigning as a Trump supporter saying that Trump is keeping his promises. I don't see how anyone could say this with a straight face, but it seems to be the accepted version of reality for Republicans. Why? How is a reasonable political debate possible in the face of fantasy?
Citizen (RI)
The reason Republicans are saying that is because most of their supporters are too stupid to know better. Never, ever underestimate the ignorance of the American electorate.

I see the interviews of Trumpy supporters and to a person they love "what he's accomplished," (although it's nothing), love how "he speaks his mind," (which is mostly filled with empty space), and "will make America great again," (as if it wasn't already).

Trumpy's supporters brought their anger into the voting booth with them and left reason at the door. That's what allowed them to live in a fantasy world that they can no longer perceive to be different from reality. No matter what happens or what Trumpy does, they will never, ever offer anything but accolades for him.
Failure to Deliver (Michigan)
"But Trump is not that figure. As a populist he’s a paper tiger, too lazy to figure out what policies he should champion and too incompetent and self-absorbed to fight for them."

Lazy. Incompetent. Self-absorbed. Yes, that pretty much sums it up. But everyone who's had their eyes open already knows this. The question is how will Trump's supporters respond when they realize they've been had?
theresa (<br/>)
They'll blame Obama, or Clinton, or the MSM, or the "intellectual elites." They won't blame Trump or themselves. They will wallow in their imagined grievances against "the Other," who they tell themselves have taken their jobs, their country, their lives that otherwise would have been so perfect. The Republican party that for years has told people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, take responsibility for their own lives, their "bad" choices, has now become the party of whiners led by the Whiner in Chief who always has someone else to blame when things don't go his way. Deplorable indeed.
mj (seattle)
I want to sincerely thank Donald Trump. He has unmasked Republicans revealing exactly what they really are and what they care about most. And I'm not talking about McConnell, Ryan, et al., or the stereotypical "poorly educated," Trump voters who have legitimate grievances and have been (and continue to be) ignored by both parties. I'm talking about the upper-middle class who voted to get tax cuts and who don't need the benefits or subsidies of Obamacare and the religious right who traded their souls for a Supreme Court seat. In Trump, they saw the perfect candidate - amoral but willing to be 100% transactional - vote for me and I'll give you exactly what you want. Wink, wink.
Donna Bondy (NY)
So much time is spent trying to define and understand Trump... the man, the President, his true intentions and his core beliefs. Yet it can all be summed up in one word. Inauthenticity. By its very definition, here's a few samplings of the meaning. "Not genuine, imitative". "Spurious". Intending to deceive", "imitating something superior", ( love that one), "counterfeit emotion", "counterfeit money", "lacking full reality and sincerity" and my personal favorite, a "counterfeit prince"! To define and understand Trump one only needs to check his dictionary. Done.
Chris (Louisville)
This is why I read the New York Times. One article after another about the President I voted for. Keeps him front and center including pictures. Wonderful. I get it that you don't like him but I really don't care what you think.
Citizen (RI)
Chris, it's not just that we don't like him, it's that he's dangerously incompetent. We know you don't understand that so we really don't care what you think either. But when the reckoning comes, and it will, I will say that I told you so, and often.
Zejee (Bronx)
You don't need health care; you need clean air or clean water; you don't need social security; you don't go to museums anyway, so who cares about the arts.
Independent (the South)
It is your children and grandchildren who will pay the price.

I am in high-tech and am going to be alright.

I am even willing to pay more taxes so others can have healthcare and job retraining.

Instead, I will pay less taxes with Trump as president.

It means more people going to emergency rooms, more heroin deaths.
Bob Aceti (Oakville Ontario)
Conservative intelligencia are looking inward and finding the truth: being 'conservative' is another brand label to cover-up self-interest. Anyone who is academically conservative lives in a creative world politic that prefers fiction over reality. Populism is an artifact of extreme right-wing demagouges who claim to be conservative but shed their thin skins to show disdain for those caught withn the voter's net come electoral victory. The nemisis of classic conservatism is infiltration by media savants who cultivate mega-million dollar franchises by stirring a pot of politically tainted christianity. Today's conservatives are far removed from Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley Jr. or David Frum. It is a matter of time before the economy begins its 'conservative' descent and the naive voters exploited in the Trump election turn their attention to the next demigod of 'prosperity-gospel' libertarianism who will, like Trump, continue the Big Lie - that, somehow, lowering taxes for the wealthy will help bring jobs back to America and everyone will be happy working at minimum wages without healthcare insurance.
concerned mother (new york, new york)
According to the editorial on impeachment by Neil Weiner the other day, offenses for impeachment do not have to be criminal or illegal. They need to be demonstrable proof that the President has lost the trust of the constituency. Weiner emphasized that impeachment isn't a legal proceeding: it's about confidence, and it's about whether, based on previous or current actions, the President is able in a coherent way to dispense the actions of his office. If this correct, all of this hairsplitting about whether or not he has obstructed justice in Comeygate is really moot. It is evident to clear thinking Americans that this President (whether or not we support some of his campaign promises) is unfit to be the representative of our nation. (The worst possible thought is that he is, but putting that aside....). Proof of this is that this columnist, who has steered well to the right, and with whom I at least seldom agree about anything (the 'case for Marine Le Pen? She'd be running the Vichy government if she could! Really?) agrees with me, and many others, on this.
Iglehart (MInnesota)
Voters who selected "anyone but Trump" are not surprised. I voted for Hillary Clinton, believing that it's long past time to put a woman in charge and because her depth and breadth of experience made her the best candidate.

I never for one moment thought that there was a chance that anyone but the rich would benefit from the current administration. To the extent that Trump could enrich himself without enriching another human on the planet, he would do so. He is without a soul, devoid of conscience and empathy. The point of the pathetic events we face daily is the greater glory of Donald J. Trump.

Our cozy little Midwestern life insulates us, for now. But the damage being done to the country and to those younger and less fortunate is heartbreaking. How the Republican leadership can sleep at night is beyond me.
Jon Harrison (Poultney, VT)
Exactly so. I would disagree on only one relatively minor point: it was obvious what kind of president Trump would be even before he was inaugurated. His cabinet picks told all. The current president is simply Mitt Romney with bad manners. I wish I could feel sorry for all the working class fools who voted for Trump, but they simply allowed themselves to be taken in. They need a tribune, perhaps, but Trump was never that man.
George Dietz (California)
"...he promised a new synthesis, a populist alternative, on domestic issues and foreign affairs alike."

No, he promised Christmas every day and so much pie in the sky it would blot out the sun. We were going to be tired of winning, and so rich, employed, happy, and great again, whatever that means.

GOP voters, notorious for voting against self interest, fell for it. Independents, rust-belt disaffected, alt-right, and the angry, white, male unemployed were hooked.

But establishment sellout, Trump isn't. He's every bit GOP in dissing women, dislike of union labor, kowtowing to the rich. The GOP dismantled and disappeared the middle class, Trump has no idea what it is. The party has been on an anti-immigrant frenzy for years and Trump is right with them. The party gerrymandered, cheated and stole, put the nation in hock, whatever it took to get elected and hold power. Trump just sues, files bankruptcy, or stiffs his workers, vendors and everybody else.

The GOP turned a blind eye or gleefully applauded when Trump repeatedly insulted president Obama and McConnell thwarted the constitution and refused to hear Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court.

Douthat wants us to believe that there is a difference between the GOP and their figurehead but it's too late to sell us that hokum. Trump may be extreme, a caricature, a vulgar, rough-edged, pathetic figurehead, but he's all GOP through and through and the party is stuck with him.
BoRegard (NYC)
To the Trump defenders like Hannity. Lets not forget that Hannity is a long time friend of Trumps. Which needs to be pointed out way more often by other news outlets. That in the media, in Fox/Faux News World, its "friends" of Trump doing all the apologizing and read between-the-lines reinterpretations, or those who wanna be friends. Maybe get a job when current staff start to resign or fired.

Plus, unlike other more credible news outlets, its now their job to support Trump. As Fox/Faux news is about the money, not about journalistic credibility. The Ailes Family, the sons might switch gears now that dad and O'Reilly are gone, but until they do, it must be remembered that Fox/Faux news is there to defend the legacy of Roger Ailes, and now that is all about defending Trump, and vilifying any matter how constitutionally sound and logical and legal that opposition will be.
Manuel Soto (Columbus, Ohio)
The GOP is "broken", not unlike the Democrats after the debacle of 1972. Why do Americans continue their benighted support of a political party that cares more about ideology than our Nation & its most vulnerable citizens?

The GOP has been commandeered by political ideologues & religious zealots. If anyone has any doubts, compare the GOP political platform of the 1956 election to their modern-day planks; one will see the answer there. They believe the wealthy will never have "enough", while simultaneously believing those in poverty have "too much" & have it "too easy".

Our Nation & its citizens have lost their way.
Steve Hunter (Seattle)
Ross the Republican Party since St. Reagan has done little for their country or the general population other than useless wars to enrich the military industrial complex, destruction of labor unions and pensions, tax cuts for the already too wealthy, climate change denial, and the Great Recession. Now you have given us the ultimate insult, trump. He doesn't know what page he is on not that it matters much given that he can barely read it anyway.

So far the Republican congress seems to only come up with more tax cuts for the wealthy and big multi national companies at the expense of the poor and shrinking middle class, my how novel of the GOP. Do us a favor please, if you can't govern for we the people at least get rid of this sad, miserable excuse of a so called president so we can sleep at night.
Diego (NYC)
Donald Trump is nothing. No beliefs, no convictions, no philosophy beyond his own self-preservation and advancement.

Setting aside for the moment the racism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc...Trump is like a character from Twain or Dickens. A dim con man who only thrives because there are an awful lot of people out there dim enough to believe in him.
Mixilplix (Santa Monica)
Your compelling argument falls on deaf ears with these Trumpers. They love him because he his a vessel for their hate and fear. Until the Red Nugents look at themselves, there will always be another Trump
tom carney (manhattan beach, ca.)
"Yes, Trump won in part because, unlike Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, he promised a new synthesis, a populist alternative, on domestic issues and foreign affairs alike."
Come on Ross, he won because of fraud and hijacking the electoral college election in 3 states. Clinton won the popular vote election because even thought she was only a half-way candidate, enough of us knew that she at least has a heart and could be worked with. I at least thought that she could be moved from halfway to at least three quarters.
What we got was a really dangerous psychopath.
If some way to get rid of him surfaces before the 2018 elections, that will be O.K. However, I think he is the best thing we have going for us interns of waking up the sleepers. 2018 is the battle cry of the People's Revolution.
"Antiwar conservatives".. what on earth is this?
"Trump’s promised war with the establishment" Duh! Trump is the Establishment, the .01%ers. He is their lackey, born and bred by their values. This is not clear to you?

"he behaves consistently erratically and inappropriately and dangerously, and perhaps criminally as well." At last, you got that right!
"He’s already been doing that to you." Who is the "you" here Ross. Look in the mirror.Thinking people were hip from the get go.
martyL (ny,ny)
What, Mr. Douthat, you didn't know that from the git-go? You didn't know he was a liar, a fraud, someone who cheated middle class merchants so he could put gold faucets in his airplane? You really believed he would put the coal miners back to work, build a 60 foot "beautiful" wall that Mexico would pay for, and that would solve the immigration and drug smuggling problem? Why would any sentient human being believe anything he said, on any subject? Health care? Did he ever utter one word about is health care plan other than it would be "better"? Defeat ISIS quickly? Reverse the balance of payments with China, Mexico, reduce taxes for the middle class, leap tall buildings in single bound?

Actually, I worry less about the carnival barker in the White House than I do about the minority of our voters who put him there.
David Forster (Pound Ridge, NY)
" I don't worry about things beyond my control", says Paul Ryan, when asked last week about Trump's problems. If that doesn't sum up the Republican's response to the train wreck in the White House, I don't know what does. It's not the GOP's eyesight, Ross, that's a problem. It's their spine!
jdoe212 (Florham Park NJ)
Trump makes Bernie Madoff look like Rebecca of SunnyBrook Farms. Madoff stole money from rich, very rich people. Trump stole hope from millions of Americans who believed he cared about them.
Gidon Eshel (Rhinebeck, NY)
why does populism axiomatically deserve a seat at that table? Do we not need to find out, case by painful case, if it's based on fanciful fantasies unencumbered by verifiable facts, like most of Trumps' and Le Pen's "ideas" are, or is actually even vaguely consistent with reality?

I heard you speak at Radcliffe in the winter (I am a fellow there now). You spoke eloquently about religion there, and it was utterly unconvincing, inspirational verbal gymnastics and all. This column is conformal with this pattern: beautifully worded and thoroughly unpersuasive.
Carolyn Chase (San Diego)
DOH! We love Homer Simpson but we don't need him as POTUS and we hate Mr Burns and we don't need him as POTUS either. Problem is we've got a sick hybrid and no Marge.
Karn Griffen (Riverside, CA)
Come on, let's face it. The man is a cowardly, over weight, draft dodging fraud who has a total lack of knowledge and understanding of this country, its history or its spirit.
Jim Gallagher (Petaluma)
Technically, he's not a sellout.
You're only a sellout if you actually believe what you're saying before you betray the people who believed you.
B. Rothman (NYC)
The GOP legislators will NEVER abandon Trump unless and until their own voters decide they've had enough and are willing to vote these jokers out of office. Several of Trump's behaviors are already sufficient for impeachment but not until his voters decide that, " Hey, killing that guy on Fifth Ave. really isn't what we want," will the Congress decide it's time for him to go.
It is not DT's administration that is in a downward spiral -- it is our democracy that is going down the tubes.
David Schoenbaum (Rockville, MD)
Even I, a Honda Fit driver, Trader Joe's shopper and Planned Parenthood supporter, who even enjoys the occasional bit of wine and cheese, read Ross Douthat for fun and profit.
But a welcome for Brexit and a case for Marine Le Pen "because populism needs a seat at the table..."?
Isn't this like the late but unforgotten Sen. Hruska of Nebraska saying of
a failed Nixon-era Supreme court candidate
" So what if he is mediocre? There are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they? We can't have all Brandeises, Cardozos, and Frankfurters and stuff like that there"?
damon walton (clarksville, tn)
The only thing or person whom got a seat at the table was a Con Artist in Chief.
CF (Massachusetts)
Trump has some savvy. He's savvy enough to know he can tell his base anything. Quick reminder: "I can shoot someone on Fifth Avenue...."

For the last five years, he mouthed off about stuff he knows zero about while demanding that Obama produce his birth certificate and stop playing golf and going on vacation. Fox News spent all day pumping their fists saying, yeah, show your birth certificate, Obama!

The imbeciles elect him. We get a grifter as president.

Right now he's in Saudi Arabia. Big arms deal with the country that sent us the 9/11 pilots. He's got other "tremendous deals" with them underway. I pause and wonder about Rex Tillerson's former ties to the oil industry, Saudi Arabia's significant oil producing capabilities as a member of OPEC, and the simple fact that a spike in oil prices would make Russia and Trump's pal Putin happy, our fossil fuel barons thrilled, Exxon/Mobil happy, you get the picture. I think about Tillerson mumbling that sometimes we have to set all those pesky human rights issues aside to make a buck for our pals. Well, he didn't say the 'pals' part.

Yeah, keep trying to figure it all out. There's nothing to figure out. You're getting what you wanted: billionaires making more money. And you got Gorsuch for your religious agenda. What more do you want?
damon walton (clarksville, tn)
Indeed, when one chases endless profit then one is willing to place pesky little things like human rights in the back seat. Instead of Jesus taking the wheel, its Greed and Profit sitting upfront.
tbs (detroit)
Conservatives are a card or two short of a full deck Ross, so your admonition, even if heard, won't be understood. That you grasp this situation is amazing in and of itself. Keep working on it and one day you might start thinking and become a liberal.
John (NYC)
Mr. Douthat, another great column. I'd take issue with two points: Sean Hannity is not conservative. He's an opportunistic and entirely dishonest carny. Second, the "fellow conservatives" to which you refer are not true conservatives. I have more of a liberal bent, and I remember when people we call conservatives were rational. They are few and far between.
Dr Pangloss (Utopia)
"But Trump is not that figure. As a populist he’s a paper tiger, too lazy to figure out what policies he should champion and too incompetent and self-absorbed to fight for them."

And the only reason he sometimes gets the moniker "populist" is because it is the only description of a grab bag group of policies based on rural, white working class rage. He is nothing and everything at all times. Thomas Nast would recognize his ilk instantly and likely craft the same patch work hot air ballon cartoon for this bloviating bag of hot air as he did for the Populist Party of the 1890s. Donald would likely enjoy the similarities of bling and martyrdom as he too hangs upon his "Cross of Gold".
theresa (<br/>)
Your Sunday morning dose of know-nothing analysis. Go back to bed, Ross, the rest of us figured this out a long time ago.
ChesBay (Maryland)
trump would sell his family to put money in his own pocket. He is monster, a dumb one.
Timberwolf999ds (Calgary, Alberta. Canada)
If Ross endorses Populism as an expression against the big state---thus explaining his support for Brexit and Le Pen---perhaps he should appreciate that the EU signifies a response to the horrors of the last century. The primary reason why the French rejected Populism while it's embraced in parts of the Anglosphere is this: the French, in contrast to Americans and the British, endured Nazi occupation.

While the appeal of Brexit emanated largely from a desire to resurrect the utopia of empire for many Brits, one could ask why are conservatives like Ross railing against American hegemony?
Petey Tonei (Ma)
The media frenzy is a phenomenon to behold! Look at all of you, from network talking heads to cable news to a proliferation of politico, dailykos, drudgereport, slate, salon, motherjones, buzzfeed and an alternate parallel universe of conservative and ultra conservative media! It's as though all those graduating with liberal arts education find a job as a "journalist" with specialty in all things politics! And if we are blonde, shapely, able to handle deep cleavage dresses then Tv viewers enjoy the endless repetition of useless news 25 hours a day, 7 days a week. Don't you guys have a job? Do we have to hear the same thing repeated by every network, trump said this, what trump said what!! Then we shove a microphone into a willling senator who loves to hear his or her own voice on TV. Goodness. America is a land of excesses and it's true for the media as well. Seriously, can you please Focus on Real News, NYT!
Brian (Toronto)
Blah, blah blah Douthat. You have got it right essentially but fizzle out on your ending exhortation with an anemic "it's time to throw this guy overboard...he is dangerous for the country". C'mon now.
BoRegard (NYC)
"But his legislative agenda has been standard establishment-Republican fare..."
Which anyone with one eye open would have known! The Repubs just wanted to win the WH, thats all they wanted, seeing as their sword of Arthur. That gaining the Oval would bring them all they needed, power of course, but also the imagination and guile needed to sell their cr/ppy proposals. Trump for some of them was the guy who could sell it. But he's not a true salesman's salesman - but rather a first line grifter, who gets the scam rolling then leaves the work to others.

Trump truly believed all he need do was win, occupy and the entirety of America would rally behind him. He believed, as do many voters, the lies of the GOP about their moral superiority and unmatched legislative prowess. That the GOP had all the right bills, and proposals ready on the table to go at first light of 1/21/17. That for all their talk the last 8 years, they had completed their homework and all he need do was sit back, actually hunch forward, and sign away.

And he believed that guys like Bannon, and Miller, and Flynn, et al, could run the rest of the stuff without his need to know whats going on. A simple one page memo everyday, and he'd be fully informed, leaving him free to wander around looking at historical artifacts learning that Lincoln was a Republican.

Trump,IMO, never thought he would have to work at and on the job. But could leave the real work to all is appointees, advisors and WH lackeys.
damon walton (clarksville, tn)
We use to say in the Army, "One can delegate authority, but one can't delegate responsibility."
betsyj26 (OH)
Trump will always have a base of people who adore him. Unforunately for the rest of us that base consists of people who have to look over their shoulders every time they tell a "joke."
William Park (LA)
As a marketer, tRump says whatever he thinks a particular audience wants to hear. He is not steered by any core values, morality, beliefs, integrity or convictions. He is simply a ruddlerless carnival barker.
dan (ny)
I hope we can soon move to the next phase of consensus, and agree to talk turkey about his voters and supporters. Sure, most are happy enough to take shots at the Repug slugs in the Congress (well, duh). But the voters themselves. These people have something wrong with them, and they are the cancer afflicting this country. The same flaw that made them pull that lever now prevents them from admitting what they did. And everyone (I'm talking to you, Sanders and Warren) is so quick to suck up to them, and run on about how justified their anger is. What we need to do is send them back under the rock they crawled out from under. Or worse. They did this to our country. And sure, they're dumb, but they're not *so* dumb that they can't tell they're putting a hurt on the rest of us. Indeed, that's precisely why they relish this so much, and why they cling to it. It's their big collective middle finger to us all. Well, that goes both ways, and we the sixty-plus percent should get on the same page about letting them know it. It's not just the right thing to do; it's how we'll win the politics. Because some carefully triangulated, dumbed-down, ethically bankrupt middle ground is not where I want to be. Not with those people.
AH (Houston)
Completely agree. You can add NPR to list helping to "justify" and "normalize" Trump / Republican voters. Where were all the Obama voter focus groups when the Republicans were stopping the agenda of a president who actually did have a mandate? They were non-existent.

But now that we have another unqualified, white male Republican as president, we have to give credence to these people? My answer is a resounding NO!!!

The Dems need to step up to plate and work at the grassroots to get progressives elected. Those that are unwilling to stand on principle, need to lose their jobs.

You can be a pro-life Dem all you want as long as you don't try to take away a woman's right to choose. I will give a Tim Kaine that one.

The Dems need to figure out a way to change the conversation from Trump's voters to their voters. Republicans own that space and have for a long time. Dems need to talk about their voters and not just policy. Most people don't seem able to make the connection.
YIO (Milford MI)
I stopped my pledge to NPR the day they spent some part of my money lobbing softballs at dimwitted apologists for the army of traitors that seized the Malheur wildlife refuge. Will someone please tell these western states they TAKE waaaay more from the federal government than they give? They are just as dependent as the Feds as the Others they so despise. That land belongs to the people who paid for it. American taxpayers. Proximity is not ownership, and you don't get to steal something just because you want it.
Ethan (California)
Et tu Ross Douthat? First we read from you this week that the establishment should invoke the 25th amendment on Trump, now that Trump is a sellout to that same establishment.
I get it that it must no be fun to have a guide to understand American politics built by 30 years of establishment politicians broken into pieces by Trump. Get over it. In the business world this happens all the time. IBM would love to have today the dominant position in information technology it had in the 1980s but those times are not going to come back. The same is true about the "politics as usual" era inaugurated by George H W Bush. These 30 years were a boon for politicians and lobbyists -as shown by the fortunes of the real state market that surrounds Washington DC; yet, they were built at the expense of sucking the wealth from the rest us, the American people who have to choice but to be taxed by these "all talk, do nothing" politicians.
The real circus in the last couple of weeks has been the hysterical reaction by people like you -the Republican NeverTrumpers-, the establishment Democrats, the establishment mainstream media -Anderson Cooper crossed the vulgarity line this week.
Those of us who supported Trump early on, love everything he is doing, particularly when he gets into the skin of people like you. It is going to be a long 8 years for you!
peter collier (southern california)
If he let's us live that long! "Anderson Cooper crossed the vulgarity line", really?
Careful who you love!
AH (Houston)
You know karma is a bitch. Spitting on your fellow citizens might feel good to you, but the country is being ruined. I hope for your sake that what Trump and the Republicans achieve doesn't hurt you and the people you love as it will mine.

But unless you are independently wealthy, it will hurt you. Perhaps, you feel, no pain, no gain. That is your prerogative. But. I will be doing what I can to stop this madness. And I am not alone, thankfully.
LS (Maine)
So sick of the easy demonization and corruption of the word "elite". As another commenter pointed out, there are a variety of "elites"; some of them might be "elite" because they actually KNOW something about what they are doing.

I'll take those "elites" in politics any day over those who appeal to Americans' desire for someone they can have a beer with. I don't need to be totally comfortable with them; I DO need them to be knowledgable, principled and competent.

Unlike anyone in this current administration.
ap (Oregon)
I don't understand why so many comments suggest that Trump is part of the "establishment." He isn't. Nor is he the populists Che Guevara. Trump is for Trump, plain and simple. He is the Peter principle on steroids. He has risen so far above his competency level he can't even see it through the clouds. Trump is struggling to stay afloat while enriching himself and his family even more. That's all he cares about.

In my opinion, Trump isn't the problem; though he is a symptom. No, the problem is the right wing pundits who, following the program laid out by Roger Ailes, are only interested in taking advantage of the extreme right to enrich themselves. The so-called conservative movement has been taken over by hucksters and con men. Y'all have been rolled, and you don't even know it.
Michael L Hays (Las Cruces, NM)
The entire concept suggested by the phrase "deep state" needs to be exposed to the light of reason, such as it is, as nothing more than the collection of interest groups which have existed before and since the founding of our constitutional government. Any institution or organization has interests, and, in a democracy, they as well as individuals have the right to operate according to them, within the limits of the law. All of this is, or should be, obvious, but I am afraid high school civics and American history, if they are still taught, is not teaching what is obvious.

(BTW, even Ross's columns need copyediting: "none are evident" should be "none is evident.")
Ross, what do you mean "religious conservatives fearful for their liberties".
There is religious freedom here in the US, What I see is religious conservatives trying to take freedoms away from everyone else. How about letting people just live in the way that they choose.
Cathy (Michigan)
Our conception of the establishment may change as we live through the Trump presidency. The inside stories that emerge show the importance of rules and traditions within the establishment. We have stories of people protecting the appropriate principles, such as Comey rejecting Trump's advances. We also have inappropriate rules, such as Ryan's insistence that his political family must never reveal the report that Putin pays Trump, and the leaker breaking that rule. People have to preserve the right rules and disobey the wrong ones. The establishment's rules overall look like a great antidote to Trump.
FunkyIrishman (This is what you voted for people (at least a minority of you))
The first ( and only ) mistake is thinking this is a ''revolution''

This administration barely squeaked in by 77k votes over 3 states in an antiquated electoral college system, where it did not even get the majority of votes overall.

It had a candidate that promised all things to all people to fit the narrative of the day at whatever campaign stop it was ~ and enough gullible people believed him. The overall message was one of native populism and a base denominator. People wanted to keep theirs at the expense of all else. Simple.

Now. people are realizing that even that most basic promise of being able to keep theirs, was a lie as well.

Linda and Michael (San Luis Obispo, CA)
It's taken awhile, but I'm glad to see you finally got it right. Trump campaigned -- sometimes -- like a populist, but it was just one of his unending stream of lies to people he wanted to vote for him. In office, he gives the Republican Congress free rein to cut benefits and lower taxes on the rich; in choosing his cabinet, he not only isn't draining the swamp, he's filling it with alligators from Wall Street and the extraction industries. Real populists want policies that actually benefit ordinary people. There is no populist revolution under Trump, just what we expected to get from a government controlled by Republicans.
gsteve (High Falls, NY)
I rarely agree with Mr. Douthat so it was refreshing to read a column that takes a non-dogmatic and clear-eyed look at the situation and objectively reports on it - thank you. We need more of this from GOP party loyalists who seem to put party over country at every turn thus far in the Trump Presidency.
John S (USA)
To Mark Hugh Miller;
Several Democrats, including Sen. Clinton, voted for Iraq war, as did most Republicans. During the campaign, one of Trumps strongest, anti Republican comments (in Republican debates) was chastising Bush 43 for Iraq invasion. So, is this a point for Trump? As just an ordinary citizen, I've seen how complicated issues are.
Selecting facts to buttress your arguments is just one of the problems in our country today, or perhaps has been, forever.
Gus (Silverton, Oregon)
"...In fact, the various outsider groups that cast their lot with him — from working-class ex-Democrats to antiwar conservatives to free-trade skeptics to build-the-wall immigration hawks to religious conservatives fearful for their liberties — have seen him pick very few difficult fights on their behalf..."

With Trump there is no their there.
Jim LoMonaco (CT)
Finally Ross you admit the truth: Trump is selling out the very people who elected him. 40 years into the destruction of the middle class by financial and corporate elites made the dispossessed make a long shot bet on a man who promised to put them first. But instead has put far right wing religious and corporatists in charge of every agency of the government.

To achieve something called "freedom." Freedom from ever being able to feed and educate their families. Freedom from ever being able to retire prior to dying. All while getting to watch McConnell, Ryan and the "Freedom Caucus " destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

There's no pleasure in watching the Trump voters "get theirs" since that means the rest of us get pushed off the cliff too
Rochelle (NJ)
Ross, you mischaracterize American attitudes about LGBT rights as "the elite consensus on gay and transgender rights". According to Pew, "[b]ased on polling in 2016, a majority of Americans (55%) support same-sex marriage, compared with 37% who oppose it."

So here’s your claim, corrected: “Trump doesn’t want to pick a fight with the MAJORITY consensus on gay and transgender rights”.
Daniel M Roy (League city TX)
By nature, the conservatives will never get it. They believed in flat earth, ignored Copernicus, silenced Galileo, hated Darwin (still do) fought lead regulation, subsidized tobacco, rejected social security and the civil right movement... The list is long. Now you can add the right to health care (seen on a par with equal protection under the law anywhere else in the developed world) and the global warming. No wonder they are waging a war on science. Science is about thinking more than believing, looking for better truths rather than repeating old litanies. Will they EVER learn? Don't bet on it. I believe that we must go to the roots of the evil. I recommend Richard Dawkins. Let there be light!
Mike Pod (Wilmington DE)
One can sympathize with the desire for a disrupter. And one can imagine such a legitimate disrupter who has a long track record of thought, writing and coherent plans for broad new contrarian policy directions. Instead...we got trumped by the worst inclinations of the basest incarnations of populism. God help us.
Paul (11211)
Well I tend to believe there is an "elite 'counterrevolution' here for them to resist". The "elites" and "dark state" are the 60%+ MAJORITY of this country that has the sense to understand how dangerous and disruptive this man is to democratic ideals here and abroad. Time to really drop this nebulous term that he Republicans have used forever to disparage people who actually know something. In this case the only "nefariousness" we have is a conspiracy of the majority over the tyranny of the minority.
Brunella (Brooklyn)
You lost me at "religious conservatives fearful for their liberties." Religious conservatives are as free to worship as anyone else, their liberties have never been in jeopardy. What they aren't free to do is impose their faith or religiously held convictions upon others or infringe upon the rights of others. Let's not turn those discriminating hypocrites into victims, they emphatically are not. It's offensive and inaccurate to assert that constitutional rights for LGBT citizens fall under your oddly perceived "elite consensus," Mr. Douthat. First Amendment rights protect all citizens. Love wins!
James (Portland)
Establishment Sellout - The ugly truth is that he knew he would make many tens of millions if not more by winning the presidency. He sold us all out for his benefit - that fact is often left off the table for discussion but is a primary motivator for his desire to be called president.
Jay Sands (Toronto, Canada)
I'm very pleased that you acknowledged that Sean Hannity is not serious.
Arthur Silen (Davis California)
I'll stick with the Establishment, thank you, because it operates mostly on the basis of collegiality, competency, negotiation, accommodation, and mutual respect. Whining and self-pity are alien to its culture. Bullying and gratuitous insult are unwelcome and shunned, mostly. Donald Trump's election was what some would call a 'six sigma event', that is to say, six standard deviations away from what is normally expected to occur in an election cycle. Trump's Russian connection, for many of us, is treasonous. An inchoate and inverted desire to improve relations with a long-time adversary is commendable. That was Richard Nixon in 1972. But Nixon, for all his other faults, always put his country first. Not so much with Trump. Trump's affinity for Vladimir Putin's Russia has much more to do with allegations of self-serving and money-parking that provide whatever financial buoyancy Trump's business interests have overseas. Trump's behavior betrays a criminal mindset, you know it; I know it. So, Ross, drop the idea that Trump is betraying 'conservative principles' because he has none. Trump suckered you and every other Trump voter.And not coincidentally, all of you are getting what you so richly deservedemonstrated. Trump's been in office just four months with nearly zero accomplishments, and people are already talking about impeachment, and with respected conservatives like David Fromm looking toward Vice President Mike Pence becoming President as soon as possible.
Sarah O'Leary (Dallas, Texas)
First and foremost, President Trump suffers from an acute case of Narcissist Personality Disorder. In layman's terms, this means he has to continuously soothe and protect his fragile ego. People with this mental health disorder cannot think beyond their own selves. They are addicted to their images, and will lie, cheat and steal to stay on top.

Trump lies about inauguration crowd sizes because he can't handle not being the most successful. He lies about election results and is trying to prove the unprovable because his mind cannot tolerate that he lost the popular vote. He bashes former President Obama because he is desperate to be the most popular president of all time. His disease makes it impossible for him to think of others. He demands loyalty because anyone standing up to him would be more than his psyche could handle.

Thousands of behavioral health professionals have warned us, in writing, of the dangers of his mental heath disorder. Unfortunately, those around him (including Pence, the Cabinet and Congress) refuse to do anything about it.
Ciambella Collins (Third Coast Of Texas)
This is one of the most accurate and insightful opinion pieces written on Trump since his election. The most painful thing about reading it is the fact that so many of us knew that this is exactly what the Trump presidency would be. I generally disagree with Mr. Douthat, but he has demonstrated without a doubt in his writing the fact that Trump is an ego-driven Trojan horse who is completely loaded with regressive policies and favoritism toward the billionaire class.
MsPea (Seattle)
The problem with Sean Hannity and other pundits on the right is that even as they rail against "elites" they ignore that they are among them. Hannity is part of one of the largest media companies on the planet, yet he constantly complains about the media. Anyone with the clout and the connections to appear on a major network, who is pulling in millions of dollars a year in salary and benefits from a media company, yet still tries to pass himselve off as a critic of "the establishment" is a fraud and a liar. Hannity and his cronies are in no position to be critizing CNN. They are all part of the media establishment. "Populism" is a sham. Working class voters were conned into believing that a billionaire could be their champion, and they continue to be conned by establishment media figures on both the right and the left telling them what to do and how to believe.
V (Los Angeles)
Donald Trump never was and never will be a populist. He is a liar and a con man, running the ultimate con. Somehow the media managed to go along with his con for a year and a half and allowed him to pretend he was a populist.

The reality became real when Trump started putting his cabinet together. Trump has the wealthiest cabinet in the history of our country, with a net worth 50% higher than W Bush and 80% higher than Obama:

They are doing everything they can to destroy what's left of the safety net in this county.

Now the Republicans have fully embraced their ideology of lying with a new form of lying that is unheralded in our history, led by the professional liar, Trump. Ryan can actually go on TV and say, with a straight face, that taking nearly $1Trillion out of Medicaid and giving it to the rich as a tax cut will not hurt the poor. Meanwhile, Trump boasts that Obamacare is failing, and he is doing everything in his power to make sure it fails.

And yet, the Democrats have no united front against these offensive people. The Democrats might not even win the midterms, thanks to the Republican trifecta "strategy" of gerrymandering, voter suppression, Citizen's United.

It's beyond outrageous. It's beyond disgusting. There is no one word to describe the immoral, amoral, reprehensible, cynical, corrupt Trump and his Republican Party.
Bill P. (Naperville, IL)
Perhaps the biggest threat this president brings to the country is providing the needed distraction for the Republican establishment so they can undo the protections so many worked so hard over the past century for both citizen and planet. The media cannot stop talking about memos and tweats while the Republicans in Congress race to enrich their benefactors with tax cuts, elimination of environmental protections that impede their profits and roll back any legislation that levels the playing field for opposing views.
William Park (LA)
Bill, you are exactly right. tRump is the convenient smoke & mirrors sideshow for the GOP's heist.
Uzi Nogueira (Florianopolis, SC)
Americans hate any comparison, for obvious reasons, between the mighty US and third world-catholic-corrupt Latin Amerca.

In the political arena, however, one cannot ignore the striking similarities between North America of Donald Trump and Latin America.

In the US, the two mainstream political parties --Democrats and Republicans --became corrupt i.e., legislating in favor of the wealthy/powerful elite in detriment of the majority middle class and the poor. An exact reproduction of the Latin political model.

In the US, voters decided to elect an outsider/non-politician to shake down the political establishment. Trump is the North American version of a Latin strongman/savior, such as Vargas in Brazil and Peron in Argentina.

The election of a first non-politician president in the US, however, will certainly have a different outcome from those in Latin America.

Trump could fail do deliver key economic-prosperity promises made during the election cycle. He is not reelected and life goes on, as usual. The center holds.

In Latin America, a 21st-century version of a coup d'etat is the way out of populism as in the case of Brazil today. The system is still fragile by Congress removal of inept Dilma Rousseff from power.

However, carwash --a serious investigation of political corruption -- has led the country to a complex institutional situation. Not a single politician is found to be fit/qualified and morally sound to lead the nation.
Brian Haley (Oneonta, NY)
Ross asks Republicans to "open your eyes." This doesn't seem possible.

Consider: Despite two centuries of scholarship demonstrating otherwise, the GOP insists on blaming the poor for their poverty. The party is home to evolution deniers, including more voters than other parties who believe that blacks are a "less evolved" race. It is home to climate change deniers. It advocates for a demonstrably failed trickle down economic policy. The GOP includes the worst of those who haven't the faintest clue about the last half century of scholarship on everything LGBTQ, let alone the moral implications of those lessons. Douthat, himself, and the GOP more broadly, has never grasped the importance of low skill immigrants to the U.S. economy. And to give one last example, it is the party that believes defunding contraception and women's health will miraculously eliminate abortions.

Sure, the Dems sometimes seem to have only one eye open. But the Republicans seem to have no eyes at all.
BoRegard (NYC)
I would amend one point. This; " Douthat, himself, and the GOP more broadly, has never grasped the importance of low skill immigrants to the U.S. economy."

Oh they grasp it...and they support it, as long as "they" can get away with their abuses, and when it suits them, hire illegals. As long as it can be hidden they support it. They only dont support it, when its time to campaign, and then its the Dems progressive policies fault.
rhdelp (Ellicott City, MD)
I cry every morning at the frustrations I face in my search for psychiatric treatment for a mentally ill relative who had a breakdown due to the political and financial inequality in this country. It is with great bitterness I find Trump, Pence, Ryan and those who run the gears in all aspects of our lives by ineptness and greed to have the power to force their agendas on the majority of the citizens and decide my personal fate. Viewing the flag, representing liberty, freedom and equality instills fear and oppression. I cry more in frustration, what is worse the mental collapse of someone I love or the destruction of this nation?
bb (Washington DC)
"Populists" don't constitute an actual group. It's single issue voters, eg those against LGBTQ rights or other religious voters; people who disidentify with a black man as president, or a woman; people who are gulled into thinking their lost manufacturing job can return; all of them being used, for their vote, by Republican politicians purchased by a few super wealthy patrons, in pursuit of lowering taxes and allowing business to run amok. That's what is playing out here, and it is obvious. Newspapers print news, or the better ones do. Pundits, Ross, make lots of money telling Republican voters what to think, you and Hannity included. What is missing is either the sense of responsibility to reveal, or the capacity to know, the difference between a principled leader and an opportunist. And an opportunist pursuing what? The degradation of democracy, the way the Republicans do it? The Clintons' pursuit of power and wealth gives one pause, but she was competent. Trump CLEARLY was nothing but an empty blowhard from the start, but when tax reduction for the rich might just happen while the Republic is demolished, that's a bargain Republicans will make. I hope predictions of their demise in the next two election cycles comes true, and then, if any of the conservatives ideas are actually worth considering, then we can clearly consider them, rather than watch the party faithful be gulled yet again by people like Trump and Ryan. I hope I live long enough.
Pat Boice (Idaho Falls, ID)
Of all the reasons given variously for why Trump won - we keep forgetting that Trump won because of the archaic Electoral College and the Electors who didn't do their job by disqualifying him. It isn't insignificant that Trump "won" by losing 2.9 million votes! That's a lot of votes, folks!

And another thing, while I'm at it! In 2016 there were 231,556,622 eligible voters. 46.9% of them (or 108,600,055) didn't even vote! Yes, Democrats need to pay attention to the popularity and the good ideas of Bernie Sanders, but we also need to Get Out The Vote!
KHC (Merriweather, Michigan)
Mr. Douthat, you're correct about Donald Trump. But you still give Trump much too much credit for the national tragedy he embodies and the public embarrassment he is. And as for "the conservatives rising to his defense": they are not conservatives. They, like Trump, are egoists. And, as John Rawls put it: "An egoist is someone committed to the point of view of his own interests." These so-called but really self-labeled 'conservatives' could not care less about the interests of people (our fellow citizens) who really "do deserve a tribune." (And the jury is still out on so-called, self-styled 'liberals'.)
Tom Norris (Florida)
This article is decent summary of the Trump Administration so far. He's fallen short of many of his right-of-center, populist, campaign promises and policies-- such as they were.

What's most evident is his loose-cannon-on-the-deck-of-the-ship-of-state-behavior that distracts people from what he's doing, or not doing. He relentlessly pilots that ship into storms that he just as easily could have steered around.

One area where he has made good for his supporters is the wave of executive orders, the less known of which have turned back much of Barack Obama's efforts to improve the environment in the face of global warming, something about which Mr. Trump cares not one whit.
Allan T (NJ)
Your diagnosis is accurate, but it may not matter because Trump's angry populist base is still firmly supporting him despite his pivot to Goldman Sachs. Why? I suspect it's because they are energized by Trump's tough talk, which continues unabated in Tweets and Town Hall revival meetings even as his actions diverge from his message. Further, tribalism is running so high that necessary criticism of Trump's lack of fitness and questionable behavior -- around Russia, for example -- is reflexively attacked by the Trumpites without consideration. The irony is that Trump may actually be strengthening his hand with his base every time he is legitimately called out for violating Presidential norms or potentially engaging in illegal acts.
BoRegard (NYC)
The Trumplodites remain on his side much like cult members. They have vested a lot of energy, hope and pride in the campaign-Trump. He appeared like a messiah, a savior for them who could do what no insider would. To let that go, even in the light of his colorful ineptitude, and obvious conflicts of interests, is not easy for them. Yet.

Some die-hards will never let go, but there are those who voted for him simply because they couldn't vote for HRC. Or they truly believe an outsider can break the log jam...which might be true, but Trumps not that guy. He simply isnt that gifted a leader. His is a small mind, for a small world - that of real estate, and celebrity dinner circuits. Knee-jerk reactionaries, with zero leadership qualities, who can't produce (which is critical) are not suited for the Oval office. And the more he rants, the more he makes accusations without proof, the more he "teaches" his fan-base he's an empty suit.
Betsy Herring (Edmond, OK)
This very conservative writer nailed it for sure about the agenda of Trump, et al. He is nothing but a "figurehead" of sorts because this guy has never had a real job in his life. He has never risen to the alarm clock, put on his clothes. gone to a job where there was a time clock, spent 8 hours at boredom then turned around the next day waiting for more. He is not a populist, nationalists or socialist. He is too lazy to be anything but what he was born into and has created a façade with daddy's money that barely escapes the bankruptcy courts. He is one step from being Mr. Ponzi scheme like Madoff unless you consider this faux Presidency. Hope for release from this mess and threat to our, yes OUR, country.
Michael Esposito (Philadelphia, PA)
Mr. Douthat is being kind to Trump by limiting himself to saying that Trump is not really conservative, populist or anti-establishment, when he could have gone much deeper and talked about Trump's total inability to create even a semblance of a working government, or have a basic understanding of, or respect for, the system of government that our Founding Fathers created. I didn't expect him to heap vitriol on Trump the way that a liberal would do, but nonetheless Trump's total disdain for the rule of law should scare even the most ardent conservative. (Nonetheless, I can commend Douthat for not applauding the dismantling of our republic the way many Republicans in Congress are doing.) It's ironic that Trump is actually hurting the moneyed interests by causing the stock market to fall with his constant pratfalls.
Dave (Yucca Valley, California)
The "deep state" isn't anything nefarious. It's composed of all thinking Americans who see Trump for what he is, a danger to the Republic and the Constitution. The Founding Fathers are the deep state and anyone who opposes Trump follows in their footsteps.
Diana (South Dakota)
Yes yes and yes ... well said!!
George Goode (Lyon France)
Ross, Can you please tell all us all why your pure Conservative and Catholic values welcome the destruction of the EU and NATO by supporting Brexit and Nationalists like Marine Le Pen?

I find this point highly paradoxical, especially since you are, no bones about it, 1) a member of the Republican establishment and 2) on this one issue of American foreign policy also seem to be a wacko Conservative extremist. Makes no sense. Please take one column to explain to all of us Social Democrats, domestic and foreign.
WJG (Canada)
Or, American voters knew that Trump was a feckless goofball, and voted for him because that is what they wanted.
Trump supporters don't want affordable health care, they do want big tax cuts for the rich, they want to be a reliable ally of Russia, they want to keep the jobs that are based on foreign trade, they don't want government to do much.
So they got what they voted for.
EEE (1104)
... The field is WIDE open for someone with integrity and values.... who can speak to the concerns of both the right and the left... who appreciates and will defend real American values, and who understands the power of decorum....

Hey, where are you ???? Who are you ??? Step right this way !!!
Greg (Chicago, IL)
Another naive NYT reporter trying to understand DT. Too funny...
A (Bangkok)
The relatively few numbers of comments (low triple, not quadruple digits) to this piece suggests that readers are becoming weary of discussing the "deplorable" nature of the White House.

The NYT and its columnists should take note, and move on to impeachment and the aftermath.
blackmamba (IL)
Donald Trump ran for President in order to use the White House to enhance his personal, family and corporate wealth.

Having obtained his fortune the old-fashioned way by inheritance Trump is trying to add the White House to his real estate golfing hotel resort casino mass media entertainment empire. This is a Trump buy-out not a sellout.

But Trump has a puppet ventriloquist master named Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin to whom he has sold the heart, mind, body and soul of America's Constitutional divided limited power democratic republic.
sue jones (ny,ny)
Your unwillingness to fight against Trump with every breathe from the beginning of this whole election nightmare is what enabled his election, along with your fellow conservative Brooks.

It's too late for your overblown, high-minded analysis. Go get a job on Fox News.
LawDog (New York)
Yes, Ross Douthat is why Trump got elected...
Trump won on the white supremacist vote. THAT is the core ideology, and that base is perfectly satisfied.
Suzanne Cisek (Forest Hills)
So, the populist agenda Trump paid lip service to on the campaign trail has failed to materialize and you're shocked? Really? If you ever believed, even for a brief, hopeful moment, that Trump would act on ANYTHING he said on the trail then you need to take a break from submitting op/ed columns for the Times and take a quick refresher course in Thinking Like A Grownup. There may be more to this than just hating Obama and all things "progressive".

Sean Hannity is a "fellow conservative"? Ross, I hate to break this to you, but there isn't a conservative bone in Hannity's doughy body. He's an angry, bitter little man who was never welcome at the cool kids lunch table. This is the guy you align with? Well, as my mother always said "lay down with dogs, come up with fleas".

Time to move on. How many variations of the "we didn't know" columns can you and Brooks write in the next four years?
M. (Seattle)
You could easily have written the same column about Obama.
Carla (Brooklyn)
Ross: who did you vote for?
Gerard (PA)
Odd question "who did you vote for"
Which answer makes this column more credible?
RJ57 (NorCal)
Trump is nothing more than a slick salesman who exploited the naive, the angry and the bigoted to become President. To him, the presidency is all about the Trump brand, not the country or its people. He has and will use whatever narrative that suits the moment to sell himself, including notions of deep state, WDC swamp, Wall Street, illegals, unfair trade and radical Islamic terrorists. In doing so, he has and will irretrievably damage the country and the world.
CitizenTM (NYC)
Buyer's remorse, Mr. Douthat?
I suspect your buddies are not there yet.
WillyD (A future swamp in NJ)
Darn, Ross - are you coming around to the side of humanity?

You are most welcome.
Lenny (Pittsfield, MA)
Donald Trump: Thou Shalt Reveal Your Tax Returns To The American People!
And your Children, And Your Children's Children And Their Helpmates Who Are Administering With You Shalt Release Their Tax Returns To The American People!
Charles (Carmel, NY)
Ross, your audience for this is not NY Times readers, who didn't vote for Trump. Take it to right-wing talk radio; do a call-in. We over here don't care if he's an authentic populist or not. That now is a smalI issue compared to his wild behavior and despotic ignorance of how the US Constitution works, which threaten both America and the world.
Ed (Oklahoma City)
Oh, Ross, you do go on about the man currently holding your party's top job. He is certifiably awful (and mentally ill), but the GOP primary field he creamed was chock full of men and a woman, who were much like Mafia Don: mean-spirited liar/haters and phony Christians who railed against our government's very precious Democratic institutions, in an unbridled effort to grab as much cash and power as possible. Not since Eisenhower has the GOP had a distinguished and honest candidate run for president or assume the office.
Philo (Scarsdale NY)
Your admission to supporting Le Pen speaks volumes about your intellectual stance, your morals and your view of the world. Your come lately to the "trump is unfit for office' party is negated . We dont want you in the club - be banished to the woods of denial where you belong. And why so harsh a treatment towards you ? because you Sir , are the enabler , the false righteousness that you are standing up to the establishment. Embracing incompetence ( trump ) racist ( le Pen) does not make you a radical - it makes you a fool...or worse.
PE (Seattle)
I've heard people spin "deep state' like it's the real evil behind all this. The trouble with that argument is that the so-called "deep state" is so vast and amorphous no one is to blame. Is it an ameoba of elites, or is it a faction of the CIA? Is is mysterious mix of James Bond type oligarchs? Might as well blame the Illuminati.

The last enity propped up as real evil by Hannity types was the "mainstream media"-- namely CNN, The Washington Post and the New York Times. But these establishments have proven to be the truth-tellers against a government with no check and balances.

So since "mainstream media" didn't stick, the right wing spin doctors need a new excuse. Look out! It's the Deep State!!!
Linda Puzan (Brattleboro, VT)
Here is Trump's deep thinking process for the country: throw a pot of spaghetti on the wall and whatever sticks... que sera, sera.
Art123 (Germany)
"....populism needs a seat at the table of power in the West, and the people who voted for our president do deserve a tribune."

The Alt-Right nationalist, isolationist, racist, and regressive movement and its legions don't "deserve a tribune", they deserve what they've gotten: a glaring example of how badly things can go when you allow your darkest instincts to drive your public choices. We can all be thankful that—at least so far—the deliverer of this message has been so hopelessly inept he's caused little real damage. One hopes knee-jerk populism dies with his administration.
Daniel Hudson (Ridgefield, CT)
Who or what is a Populist? I guess Populists want affordable reliable healthcare - for themselves, but what about everyone else? Increasingly,it seems that for profit insurance companies and healthcare dispensers in so-called, but not really free markets subsidized by government which is allowed to pay but not negotiate prices, is just not going to do it. Will Populists adhere to the ideology of distrusting government and advocating free markets or accept the necessity of the single payer system? Probably the former. Populists are not going to get the return of jobs which technology and to a lesser extent environmental concerns have rendered outmoded. The environment has a relentless logic of its own if we decide not to take conservation and alternative energy measures.
Steve Bolger (New York City)
"Populists" are ostensibly only rabble-rousers who tell fools what they want to hear.
Steve S (Minnesota)
Trump is the rogue wave and the Republican congress is the S.S. Poseidon.
C.L.S. (MA)
Forget all the analyzing. You (those who advocated and voted for him) have put the true "nut job" in the White House. You figure out how to get him out. We'll certainly help.
Savage Syd (Woodside California)
Le Pen? Lying, fake Populism? Just what are you Conservatives conserving anyway - the values of jerks?
jbk (boston)
Trump is a dumb Russian stooge, owing them millions and laundering their dirty money. They own him. He's obstructed justice by trying to cover his criminal activities up. He's violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution multiple times. He's a grifter and a pathological liar. He's an embarrassment and not fit to be President. By rights he should be in jail.
Gazbo Fernandez (Tel Aviv, IL)
Facts please. Until I see them this is great fiction.
Tom Connor (Chicopee)
Trump, the indefatigable Russo-file and useful idiot, is actualizing the stark warning of Karl Marx who prophesied that kapital and state would ultimately meld to create yet another iteration of the rampant pauperism endemic to feudal society.

Putin is on the verge of taking down America without firing a shot. Similarly, Reagan is credited with toppling the Iron Curtain, but he ironically fulfilled Marx's dire warning by attacking even the mildest forms of socialism and by zealously ushering in the plutocratic state

No counterrevolution here. Just the same old same old counter-counterrevolution.
Thomas McFadden (Purgatory)
"We'll be fighting in the streets, with our children at our feat, and the morals that we worshiped, will be gone."....."Meet the new boss. Just the same as the old boss." Townsend/Daltry
morfuss5 (New York, NY)
Reepub pundits are sorta kinda coming around to what the average Democrat non-pundit knew two years ago. It's sorrowful to read, and I may try to stop, though Noonan is far worse. Mr. Douthat, where was your foresight? We needed it two years ago, but you and your dark-side comrades blew it and now you give us no-insight-hindsight?
ACJ (Chicago)
I am a native New Yorker, and we, as New Yorkers, knew who this guy was...the same guys that I went to high school with that are still hanging out at the local delicatessen -- same IQ, same emotional instability, and same jokes (a variant of always grabbing someone by the ____). And yet, those rust belt voters in the mid-west, wearing those red hats, bought into this neighborhood joke...
Not Amused (New England)
It is ridiculous to frame any debate regarding this President as being a situation in which elites (or anyone else) are not letting Donald Trump "govern".

Why?...because Donald Trump is so lazy...and so ignorant...and so erratic...and so volatile...that nobody could prevent him from "governing" - he does that himself, because he has no interest - ZERO - in the actual work involved in being President.

You can't stop a guy from "governing" who isn't trying...and it's not "serious" or "intellectual" to paint the picture portray a mythical America in which this tycoon actually has the ability or drive to "govern" is just not honest.

Trump's not at war with anything, and he's not actively selling out anyone to anything - he's a lazy slob, devoid of character, devoid of care. Don't read into him what isn't there...he's not competent enough to be selling anyone out...he is nothing more than a prime example of Shakespeare's idiot, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".
Jim LoMonaco (CT)
He is simply doing what he knows: Enriching himself and his family. Looking out only for his own interests.
C Malek (Texas)
As Mr. Douthat rightly points out, the 'facts' of the Hannity et. al. case are absurd. What they are accomplishing is to hold his base of support together. Trump won by in the campaign making the ignored feel like a team with a cause, facts be damned. They're still a team with an updated cause, facts be damned.
Andy (New York, NY)
I disagree with the last sentence of Mr. D's third paragraph, i.e., that Trump won because, in part, he promised a populist synthesis of policies. I think he won because he sounded, to borrow a praise from an old movie, mad as hell and was not gonna take it anymore. And his popularity among his supporters remains very strong, because he still sounds mad as hell. Maybe his supporters will give up on him when they realize the correctness of Mr. D's column, but Trump's anger shtick seems to be sufficient for his supporters, at least for now.
meloop (NYC)
Whenever one hears the zealots complain about the "deep state" one hears the echoes of late 19, early 20th century fascists and racists who gave Europe and the world the Nazi's and the US the "red scare" in the 20's.
Yet, in fact, they, too, depended on the regular production of electricity, clean water and gas and their supply through the almost invisible network of the "deep state" sometimes called it's bureaucracy. Our police and fire departments are a part of the bureaucracy, as well. We depend upon these representatives of our "deeply embedded state" to continue to run itself, even in the absence of a President or a Senate-which regularly go on vacation.
The next time the urge to blame the world's ills on the hidden, secret conspirators of a cleverly disguised , invisible and illicit deep state, ask yourself: Who would run the trains? and who ensures that gas leaks are repaired? Where will you get electricity for the lights on the street?, and who sends your social security check out? No modern nation can function without the faceless and nameless bureaucrats who keep the holes plugged and warn the rest of us if a heat wave is coming and what we can do to alleviate it's severity.
We are less than nothing without these hidden bureaucrats and their "deep state".
conesnail (east lansing)
Sean Hannity has been a total Shill for establishment republicanism since that enormous head emerged from the womb. He realizes that Trumpiness is the only way left to sell their bankrupt policies to their voters, so he'll hang on to that rotting corpse until the flesh releases from the bones, together with Paul Ryan and the rest of the Hee-Haw gang.
Mars &amp; Minerva (New Jersey)
All that is needed is for Trump and his treasonous administration to keep up the bumbling attempts at cover-up and leaking like a dirty diaper for another year or so.
Trump is going to deliver the entire government to Liberal/Progressive America on a platter. He can stay in office until 2020 as a toothless tiger,
Lkf (Nyc)
So what you are saying, I think is that despite all the whackadoodle stuff that Trump is doing, it isn't quite the RIGHT whackadoodle stuff?

Sorry you are disappointed! Is it because he hasn't outlawed abortion, rolled back transgender and gay rights or started delivering machine guns along with federal tax refunds--yet? Perhaps he hasn't yet gotten round to it what with all the winning he has been doing.

My problem with the right is that you guys just don't realize how whacked you really are. And you don't realize that if you let go of the whacked part of your agenda (and the base that goes with it) some of your ideas would be palatable to the center. Out of this compromise and real governance is possible.

You made Trump possible. You built this fraudulent Frankenstein by channeling lightning from the furthest right nether regions of your party. Don't complain now that he isn't a proper republican.
JRA (New Jersey)
Mr Douthat has finally got it right. Trump is nothing but a paper tiger - he's been a paper tiger most of his professional career and has now brought it to the Presidency. Just as he has accomplished little in his business life except screwing over the common people, so to will he accomplish little during his Presidency except screwing over the common people. The hypocrisy is so thick with this man that it blinds us all. Only when he finishes his term, will the public be able to step back, take a breath and assess the damage that this man will have done. Hopefully, we will as a nation will be able to repair it.
aholianmode (Vermont)
Perceptive column but I think you miss the point, Ross. What's really going on is that Hannity et al don't really buy into the populist stuff -- they are in this for the tax cuts for the wealthy, the dismantling of Obamacare, etc. Their decrying the deep state and all is just a front -- a way of rallying the base and diverting attention from Trump's faux pas. These Fox guys actually ARE the establishment and are totally complicit in this deceit.
Trumpophobe (Indian Land, SC)
Among the reasons Trump is president is because there are a lot of people who voted for him who are ignorant, gullible and masochistic. They are too busy railing against the "elites" inability to govern to notice that the "party of no" is at fault. So, what did they do? They gave the Republicans more power to wage economic war against them. They chose to believe that NAFTA was responsible for job losses despite the fact that those losses were largely due to automation and trade with China. They chose to believe the lies of a con man to bring back the coal industry. They like having health care but prefer to back Republicans who want to take it away. They believe that reducing taxes on the rich will help them out. They want religious freedom, but are against the Muslim religion. They claim to be Christians, but don't want to help Syrian refuges. Wow, not only are they deplorable, but they are also a bunch of airheads!
Steve Bolger (New York City)
Trump validates those who accept no responsibility for anything they do, and double down on every mistake they make.
Li'l Lil (Houston)
You say it well. Add to that, trump voters are mostly fox watchers and there fore have been brainwashed by fox lies and spins;fox is not news, its republican views, and started as republican news by Rove and Gingrich;the fox trick is to draw folks in on fake news and hammer them with republican lies, so you get the "deeply devout" wanting to vote republican again&again;you get the worst liars like Ryan and McDonnell re-elected, and an adulterous who is the 3rd wife of Gingrich as the ambassador to the Vatican;this is beyond the beyond&makes a mockery of catholics who sought annulments for actual reasons and were denied;the Atlanta Archdiocese is a sham;and yet the brainwashed will continue to vote republican which will embolden the corrupt republicans to lie more and until they end democracy and install the corporate fascist state they seek.
Dwight McFee (Toronto)
Trump is a supposed rich real estate developer and an American. Need I say any more!
Mark (Rocky River, OH)
We will "get" the only thing Republicans ever have delivered. There will be "socialism" for the rich and "capitalism" for the rest of us. Randian led social Darwinism. The folks that put Trump in office, won't notice the inflation that will actually take them backwards, or the health care voids that will shorten their lives. "Give me liberty or give me (slow) death." Ryan and Mitch the witch will deliver.
DLNYC (New York)
"There is no elite “counterrevolution” here for them to resist, because there is no Trump revolution in the first place." Wow! Nearly two years after Trump announced his candidacy and surrounded himself with the right-wing crowd that has been robbing America's working class for decades while pandering to them with social issue and racist distractions, congratulations on figuring that out.
Dave DiRoma (Long Island)
The religious right swallowed hard and pulled the lever for the candidate with no professed religious beliefs, twice divorced, fathered a child out of wedlock, amoral con man. Now they are shocked, shocked to find that he isn't their champion! Well, too bad suckers - you are just another in a long and growing queue of people who have been conned by Donald Trump.

Welcome to Trump World where winning is guaranteed so long as you are Donald.
William (Georgia)
It may be politically incorrect to say so but Trump won because of his immigration message. Period. It is the only thing that really matters at this point for most republicans (and many democrats as well).

The American people never asked for mass immigration from the third world. They don't understand why it's happening or whose responsible for it but at this point they will do ANYTHING to stop it.

Twenty years ago demographers started telling us that white people would be a minority in about forty years. Now that we are half way there every single white person in America is aware that they will become a minority in the next few decades.

They see the women in burkas covered head to toe pushing strollers past the old Methodist church. They wonder why they can't get some little league coaches who speak English for there kids t-ball team. These are the kinds of things that have millions of Americans concerned.

They believe that their country is being taken away from them against their wishes.

Trump is their savior...
Gabbyboy (Colorado)
The message was and is anti-immigration and it's not so much about those hourdes of third world people (the puritans perhaps?) invading and taking "our" jobs it's about hatred of people of color. Blaming Mexicans & Muslims for everything and nothing has become a blood sport under Trump. Meanwhile Russian "immigrants" are laughing all the way to the bank.
William (Georgia)
"it's about hatred of people of color"

Of course that is a big part of it but those "people of color" are also bringing their cultures and religions with them.

Most American's would argue that their culture and their religion are superior to those cultures and religions. They won't tell you that because they don't want to be called bigots. But how can a country function unless there is a basic foundation of "shared values"? Has any other country in history had such a drastic demographic change that occurred so rapidly and forcefully?
Mary (Mermaid)
Surely Douthat did not believe Trump would do all he was saying. Douthat is smarter that he is trying to let in here. Why would a billionaire whose only goal to ascend to the presidency is to enrich himself and his family wants to upset the apple cart? After criticizing Hillary for cozying up to the wall street, the first thing Donald did was to recruit everyone from wall street to work on his behalf. But you know what, Ross, I bet next time around in 2020 you would still going to vote for Trump again, and then write another column like this one. You want to have the cake and eat it too. Like Trump, you are speaking from both sides of your mouth. I know you. The only regret I have is that New York Time give you a piece of their prime real estate for you to do your verbal performance. Sad, indeed.
PDM (Dallas)
Mary, Douthat has been openly and consistently against Trump from the beginning. Perhaps you are confusing him with someone else?
SR (Bronx, NY)
Boss Tweet hasn't sold out to the establishment. He was a wholly-owned subsidiary of WellHeeledEstablishment LLC from birth, through his cozy-ups with real-estate regulators, to his run in and "against" the (never-were-)never-him GOP.

He is the movie villain with a thousand faces (with the Home Alone 2 role to match), the ever-present opposite to Joseph Campbell's Hero—at least in Hollywood—and as such a stock villain would say, "Everything's gone according to plan!"
Jonathan (Black Belt, AL)
"Trump is not that figure." All along during the election cycle I heard complaints from groups with serious and true issues. I knew what they wanted, what they yearned for, but I was horrified that they ever thought that Trump would help them. But the KKK. The fascist-inspired groups. I think they would say that Trump is that figure. He has certainly given them a place at the table denied to those who desperately and honestly needed it.
Debi (New York City)
@ Jonathan: "...I heard complaints from groups with serious and true issues. I knew what they wanted...but I was horrified that they ever thought that Trump would help them."

I had those same thoughts. And I'm still baffled as to why that constituency turned to Trump rather than Bernie Sanders. Bernie wasn't sexy enough? No trophy wife? Too old? No jet emblazoned with his name on the side? What? Those supporters dodged a bullet in retaining their ACA benefits, as the Ryan health care bill as currently written has no hope of survival in the Senate. I wish those folks well as this disastrous presidency burns itself out.
Beverly (Nyc)
Trump us a phony and a fraud. Just as he has always been.
Boo (East Lansing Michigan)
Donald Trump wouldn't let the average American on an elevator with him, let alone ride to the top with him. The top is reserved for his billionaire friends. Silly Trump supporters, you are being conned and you stubbornly refuse to acknowledge it.
Cowboy (Wichita)
So called president Trump is a snake oil salesman who sold worthless slogans and platitudes that fooled the Republican Party et al. but not the Bush Family which represents the real GOP Establishment. Trump didn't win the direct vote of the people; he's a Loser who was declared the winner. His public personae has been analysed by psychiatrists, psychologists, and pundits as common narcissist psychopathic personality disorder. I say he suffers from just being nuts. He's all hat and no cattle. A New York reality TV star.
He doesn't lie; he can't tell the difference between truth and boastfulness.
America has never had such a charlatan, surpassing even Nixon in outrageous nincompoopery and evil doing. But no political victory is permanent. To everything there is a season. He too shall pass.
reader (CT)
Wow, a billionaire from NY is not actually a populist. Who would have guessed?
Bryn (Brooklyn)
Well, Mike Bloomberg and George Soros might disagree!
Petey Tonei (Ma)
He hasn't made a billion yet.
lgh (Los Angeles, CA)
"Verified Commenters can leave comments on without initial moderation. Verified status is earned based on a history of quality comments."

Do you have any Trump supporters who have earned "Verified Commenters" status?
John Steadwell (Jersey City, NJ)
The verified Trump supporters can usually be found arguing their talking points in response to the more liberal editorials.
strangerq (ca)
The idea of Trump as the anti-establishment billionaire, or the blue collar billionaire - always required Orwellian double-think to begin with.

He's a silver spoon spoilt rich brat and ultimate symbol of self serving and selfish self entitlement.

Some Trump supporter tried to compare him once to JFK.

Kennedy.... a member of the greatest generationI and decorated hero of WWII!
Bob (North Bend, WA)
The Deal tTnat Made Trump Establishment:
Trump's chief of staff is Reince "Rancid" Priebus. Reince is close with Paul Ryan, the deeply serious House Speaker (aka "The Irish Undertaker"). Priebus brokered a deal: Ryan gives Trump what he wants (legitimacy, support, respect), while Trump gives Ryan what he wants (tax relief for oppressed billionaires). It's nothing more than a deal; so get off your high horse Mr. Douthat, and admire the Art of the Deal. You and your fellow NY Times "conservative" elitist op-ed authors -- RINOs with overrated writing skills -- are the very definition of Unfair, Elitist Media. So Unfair.
Jarrett (Cincinnati, OH)
Wow Bob!
KlankKlank (Mt)
All these columns and comments about Trump supporters think this or Trump supporters think that. Does anyone who writes these columns and comments really know any Trump supporters or is a Trump supporter just an older Christian white man who lives in a rural area?

Sometimes all this writing and comments, by both the Trump and anti-Trump people just seems like so much fantasy.
dEs joHnson (Forest Hills, NY)
So now we discover that Trump is to off-shore the building of Black Hawk helicopters to Saudi Arabia, and in return for their generosity in accepting such factories, Trump is to allow them to buy swathes of American highways, bridges and tunnels.

Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon: Trump is a hypocrite and a liar.
Aruna (New York)
"(some sort of wall-like structure will eventually go up, I assume)."

Well, actually Mexico has a fence on ITS southern border. Perhaps we can talk them into building a similar fence on OUR southern border?

It would be yet another outsourcing (smile).
A. Wagner (Concord, MA)
Trump voters and the Republican mainstream assailed Hillary Clinton for her use of an unsecured email server. Oh the horror! Lock her up! But the fact that this president didn't leak but outright GAVE classified information directly to the Russians—the RUSSIANS, for crying out loud—doesn't elicit so much as a yawn from them. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.
CB (California)
The server in the Clinton's home basement was set up and secured by the State Department's IT. Same equipment initially as used by Senstor Clinton but with additional security upgrades paid for by the Clintons. It wasn't hacked as the State Department's computer system was. The State Department got desktop computers when Powell became Secretary of State and discovered it wasn't computerized. A decade later, employees couldn't reliably print documents using State's network printers, so some emailed files home to print them. The classification of material varies by government departments so the fact that among thousands of emails a few had retroactively been classified or slipped by when aides were preparing internal background material can be attributed to a less than elegant or consistent categorization of classified material. Hillary preferred personal communication and diplomatic pouches.
A. Wagner (Concord, MA)
Thank you for the clarification. Makes the hypocrisy all the starker.
james (Philippines)
For stars ever tumble
But stripes never fade
In the land of the fleeced
And home of the blade
Kay Johnson (Colorado)
Is "the elite consensus on gay rights" the insistence on being considered human? Are you saying you are being "denied religious liberty" to discriminate against other Americans? This is your religion?

Just checking.
N Merton (WA)
A baby step away from the elitist bubble that appeared to have captivated you for a column or two. Fight more fiercely.
Lee Harrison (Albany/Kew Gardens)
In many ways the worst possible fate for the nation iwould be for Trump to end up as Chris Christie's dumber, more impulsive, kid brother ... loose in the Whitehouse candy store.

Chris is clearly smarter than Trump, clearly knew a great deal more relevant to governing. Like Trump he was vindictive, surrounded himself with B-team toadies, had a big mouth, did little, and what he did all turned into fiasco. And on top of that: Bridgegate.

The state bond downgrade, the pension fund fiasco, refusing to fund the ARC tunnel -- Christie left New Jersey in worse shape than it was, and Bridgegate made the state a laughing stock, and further poisoned bad politics there.

It will be a SAD! outcome for America if Trump manages to "pull a Christie:" endure 4 years mainly through having subordinates like Baroni and Kelly who do the dirty work of incompetent, corrupt government and then insulate their boss.

Christie's administration has been a disaster for the citizens of New Jersey ... but they couldn't impeach him. Think about it.
Ian MacFarlane (Philadelphia PA)
Death by a thousand cuts.
Manderine (Manhattan)
The so-called president is merely a reflection of those who put him in office.
They bought the promise he would make it better for them without researching who was making those promises.
All they will get now is no healthcare they can afford (better run to the ER with that) and no steel jobs coming back.
It's really a pity the electoral college ruined it for the rest of the nation ESPECIALLY since he lost the popular vote by 3 million!
Virginia Anderson (New Salisbury, Indiana)
'Bout time, boyo.

Anybody with half a brain knew from the moment he began his campaign (and before) that Trump cared nothing for ordinary people. I agree that there are many Americans who desperately needed a "tribune." Capitalism's trend is always toward oligarchy and autocracy; far from the kind of populism you espouse, real people needed a government more responsive to everyday concerns and less responsive to big business, a moderate socialism, in fact, in which we all contribute to the common good. A wall is not part of such an equation. But for his entire life, Trump has only cared about himself. Anyone even for a second not realizing this was living in dreamland. Desperate people may be forgiven for unwarranted hope in a selfish demagogue. You should have known better.
T. Peters (Houston)
Trump's incompetence has changed his plan from draining the swamp into illuminating the character of the swamp things. Not to imply that he actually had a plan or that he could foresee the result. We can now watch as some Republicans keep their head below the surface, and some Democrats jeer as they paddle along. Who is still standing on the sidelines? Who will rise from the swamp? We shall see, and we'll be better off for it.
Nancy Banks (Mass)
How much does the Trump empire need to gain as a result of his Presidency for conservatives to realize the level of his corruption? And to think conversations were in uproar when Bill Clinton rented out the Lincoln bedroom - how quaint? Now we have China giving the Trump family vital trademarks so they can expand business interests and suddenly China is our best friend, want to meet the President - buy a membership in one of his clubs, get some influence - host an expensive party at one of his properties. Trump has no interest in the American people - just his own wealth.
Jean Cleary (NH)
Trump is a welcomed distraction by the Establishment. In particular, the Republican Establishment. They can do their dirty work while the voters and the press pay attention to the next tweet or the next leak. Until McConnell, Ryan and the Cabinet destroy all that is good in government, they will not even try to reign him in. The only hope we have is that there is an actual investigation of consequence. And that the investigation will tie them all to not only Trump, but to a lot of corruption that the Republicans are responsible for. They have been selling our country down the river for a long time. Recall them all
Wayne Dawson (Tokyo, Japan)
Ross: I think you make a good point. I share your desire to see the institutions become better. I also can feel there are too many interests that seem like parasites. However, I think you still romanticize the notion of populism a little too much.

In fact, it is quite easy to dismantle, disrupt or destroy things. What is difficult is to actually build. In "building", even the very best of people can fail.
Observer (Backwoods California)
Trump' s playbook was right out of a fun little movie from the '80s, Used Cars, where a (yes) used car salesman running for office says, "I just want to tell the people what they want to hear."

Except that the movie was comedy and the reality is tragedy.
Lois (Michigan)
A nail-on-the-head column. Howard Stern, who's known Trump for a long time, turned out to be the most prescient about this presidency. Trump's presidency will be a disaster, he said. Trump wanted the attention more than anything else and he got it in those rallies -- more than even he could ever have dreamed -- and it fed a spirit inside of him that will never be sated. That's why the only trips he's made are to "re-election" rallies where he can put on a baseball cap and watch people cheer wildly at whatever silly lie comes out of his mouth.
When ill-informed people tell him he's King, just like his daddy did, he'll promise anything.
Indigo (Atlanta, GA)
Mr. Douthat has painted a very clear picture of the Trump presidency as it actually is. Clearly, this presidency is not what Trump promised.
Unfortunately, most of his electorate cannot or will not accept this fact and still cling to the original fantasy.
One wonders how much longer this will last.
Only in America.
manfred marcus (Bolivia)
Again, you do not fail to entertain amid an honest appraisal of an incompetent, and corrupt, liar-in-chief. And the stupid complicity of a sold-out republican party seeking relevance in all the wrong places, just because they have control (and abuse of) of the congress, totally (well, almost) subservient to a mirage of government (misrule may be a better word) intent in thrashing the last vestiges of 'law and order', and the constitution itself. Your 'happy' expression of Trump being 'consistently erratic' says it all. And Trump, as a true demagogue, continues to betray our trust by claiming victory while disregarding his promises to 'save' people's ambitions. Who said Trump's disregard for the truth, and the facts, weren't consistent?
Warren Kaplan" (New York)
As most commentators have written, Trump is a miserably incompetent narcissistic buffoon who by hook or by crook got elected. An election result nobody believed would happen.

Sure, the beaten down working class and others who felt betrayed by decades of politics as usual in Washington swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker that Trump dangled in front of them. They felt that the neophyte in politics Trump was worth the risk over what many considered "more of the same" Hillary.

We all should learn a lesson from this debacle. And "all" should include the powers that be in the Democratic Party. They anointed Hillary as the candidate because it was her time, even though they had to know so many people were "uneasy" about that choice. The obvious tip off came years earlier when again she was the shoe in for the democratic nomination and low and behold she couldn't beat a then virtually unknown black senator amongst primary voters in her own party!! The red flags were hoisted then and yet they pushed her candidacy hard this time around ignoring those flags.

I think one of the major reasons Trump won rests with the Democratic Party "forcing" the nomination to be given to someone with a lot of negative baggage perceived by a significant portion of the electorate. Almost anyone else would have beaten Trump in my view!
Christy (Blaine, WA)
So this Republican has at last discovered that Trump is a liar and a fraud? I suspect he knew it all along, just as many of the president's enablers and congressional "supporters" knew it long before they cynically cast their lot with this buffoon in the belief that he would sign whatever they put before him. Unfortunately for them, the non-stop scandals and complete erosion of presidential credibility have derailed the GOP agenda, for which we can all be thankful. What we are left with, however, is a so-called president who believes in nothing except personal enrichment and self-glorification. He is not a Christian, nor a conservative, he cares nothing for the Americans he made so many promises to, he has no foreign policy and no interest in learning about the world around him, he has no domestic policy except promoting Trump family businesses, he has no moral compass to guide him on what is right and what is wrong, and he doesn't even understand what our democracy is all about. He is an empty shell wrapped in a dictatorial mantle, worshipping himself and the allmighty dollar, surrounded by family members and sycophants who dare not tell him nay.
Dan (Sandy, UT)
"As a populist he’s a paper tiger, too lazy to figure out what policies he should champion and too incompetent and self-absorbed to fight for them.".
That pretty much sums it up.
Baddy Khan (San Francisco)
Criminal and impeachable are two distinct tracks. His behavior will "rise to the level" of impeachable offenses when Congress says so. And even if criminal, Congress can stall impeachment.

The Republican establishment needs to act. Ideally, this 70 year old misfit will see the writing on the wall for himself. It is noteworthy that Steve Bannon is traveling with Trump to the Mideast, which suggests that he is still being played.
Betsy (Portland)
Whatever made anyone think Bannon hadn't simply slipped to a less visible -- hence likely more dangerous -- position? The only ones being played are those for whom there is still not even a tiny crack of light coming though the dense denial that allowed this person to become president.
KStew (Twin Cities Metro)
Much of the dysfunction in government and our public discourse is reliance on parochial versions of semantics and the ignorant all-or-nothing posturing behind them. What "establishment" are we talking about? The establishment that is taking not only the U.S, but the entire world down is the established and growing disparity in monetary distribution between classes. And that's a marriage of Washington insiders and the unchecked capitalist billionaire class that dictates and rules.

What is an "elitist?" Until the word was hijacked to represent anyone finding truth in academic knowledge as opposed to belief systems, the word predominately defined the superrich and their inordinate amount of influence.

What has happened here is the that simpleton America adopted its own convoluted version of "establishment," and in a moment of remarkable stupidity and ignorance, voted in the exact epitome of the "establishment" they BELIEVED they were bringing down. The Drumpfian Swamp IS "the establishment," and by now if people don't SEE this a paltry 4 mos into the Regime's reign, then our country is doomed to ruin.
LS (Maine)
Who is surprised by this? He was, is and has always been a delusional con man. Anyone who was in NYC in the 80s had a front-row seat to the nastiness and venality that is Trump. Nothing has changed.
Gary Behun (Marion, Ohio)
The late great Tip O'Neil, in reference to Reagan's elderly supporters, admitted he never understood the voter mentality that still sticks up for the guy who hurt them the most.
Paul (NZ)
It is amazing how Trump supporters mistake their idol's primitive, crude and borderline-sociopathic behaviour for being "anti-establishment". If someone doesn't know how to use a knife and a fork, that doesn't automatically make them anti-steak; they will only subject us to a rather unpalatable view of eating as if they were a hyena devouring a carcass. This is what Trump is currently doing to our democracy: eating it raw. And his voters are still thinking they were invited to a gourmet meal.
jonr (Brooklyn)
Someone will have to explain to me how "religious liberty" means something other than the majority complaining that minority groups deny them the "freedom" to do anything they want to do.
Jimmie (Columbia MO)
I'm tired of all this "elites" nonsense. Such claptrap, it is. The folks the conservatives are referring to are those in positions that most Trumpistas have never and will never obtain. Those positions of higher education and training, those of greater experience, those of greater accomplishment. In other words, those people of greater MERIT. That's like a student complaining that their 72% is as good as 92% of someone else.

I will not submit to this revolt of the mediocre.
Greg Smith (San Francisco)
"An unelected deep state ....judges..." Huh? Ross, in case you forgot, the judiciary is a co-equal branch of government. God help us if it ever isn't.
michael kittle (<br/>)
Please, my fellow Americans, forget about the depressing litany of Trump news and treat yourself to a dream visit to France this summer.

France is celebrating the election of a young gracious new president, Emanuel Macron, who is inviting all Americans, in his fluent English, to visit LA Belle France as soon as possible.

As an expat American, I can assure you will find your own private dream in this summers vacation season.

Don't forget to buy your discount TGV tickets before you leave America.

ViveLA France!
Richard A. Petro (Connecticut)
"But open your eyes: He's already been doing that to you".
I would suggest a slight modification to your ending, Mr. Douthat. It's no "he", as in Trump, who is "doing it to them" but, rather, the people you have supported these many years, the REPUBLICANS.
They have been swallowed by the "Tea Party", have total loyalty to folks like the "Koch Brothers" and have the complete backing of the NRA (A chicken in every pot, a semi-auto in every hand).
These are YOUR people, my friend, and just because you don't like Mr. Trump doesn't change the fact that he:
a. Is a Republican
b. Was nominated by the Republicans
c. Won as a Republican.
The "gee, Trump's really bad" doesn't play very well when you and the others of your ilk still support the party that spawned him.
But relax; even if :Big Bird" is booted from the nest, a new, more insidious vulture waits in the wings, Mr. Pence and, I'm sure once Pence takes charge, everything will be just dandy for you and all other, so-called "conservatives".
Robert Eller (Portland, Oregon)
Oh, Trump is indeed selling us out to the establishment. But not just to the American establishment. He's also selling us out to the Russian establishment, the Turkish establishment, the Israeli/Zionist establishment, the Chinese establishment, the Saudi establishment. Et cetera.

And for what? Real estate deals. Branding licenses for himself and Ivanka.
georgiadem (Atlanta)
Roger Alies, the architect of the right wing lie machine, died in semi-disgrace this week. Maybe there is hope for our country if his lie machine "news" channel is starting to see the fruits of their deceptions as doing the harm that most of the country see it doing. Maybe, just maybe, the religious right can see what they elected as the carnival barker he is, just another shill for the billionaires. He was never anything more than a self serving billionaire nor will he ever be anything else. Ross longs for a theocracy with his bible ruling our laws. I long for a real democracy where one person one vote elects the president. We need to rid ourselves of an antiquated system where the electoral college decides who is president swaying the nation from the popular vote to letting a few thousand voters in a couple of states put the entire nation in jeopardy due to their lack of judgement.
Cdb (EDT)
Didn't you get the memo?

The election of Trump was just a route to get Pence as President.

Fortunately Trump never read Shakespeare.
Glenn Marston (Bushnell, Florida)
With his ill-considered actions, President Donald Trump makes matters worse and worse for the nation and himself, says the editorial “Trump’s Tower of Incompetence.” It adds, “At the least, Trump has demonstrated that he cannot handle himself around adversaries such as experienced Russian foreign officers.” More:
KO (Vancouver, Canada)
Ross, Has the wind changed direction? Will the rest of the spineless Republicans feel the heat in the kitchen? Are you all in over your head? The GOP is, and has been for a long time, one mixed-up metaphor.
Bob 81 (Reston, Va.)
I've read just about every pundit's opinion, most comments in the NYT and Wash. post on donald's analysis as a president. I then revert to one basic analysis is that the man is a deep seated narcissistic psychotic.
Google comments made by donald starting with his rage on Obama's place of birth, then follow everything he said to his latest blathering's. If this does not cause one to be in James Comey's words "mildly nauseous" it has to be assumed they are donald's supporters.
Despite the initial nausea suffered during the campaign and soon after taking office I was willing to give the man a reasonable chance at governing. That quickly proved to be a miscalculation.
donald revealed a deep fracture in this nation that even upon the ending of his presidency we are still left with a serious question as to who we are as a nation.
polymath (British Columbia)
"from Sean Hannity to more serious pundits and intellectuals"

Sean Hannity is neither serious nor an intellectual.
Alan R Brock (Richmond VA)
I didn't understand why the word "more" was used.
tom (boston)
And if you believe Trump is not part of "the Establishment," I have a 68-story tower on Fifth Avenue to sell you. It's made of real gold! Really. [Or glitering brass, anyway.]
Richard Head (<br/>)
He said what he was told to to get the white disappointed angry voters out. This worked.Now he can serve the real interests , his own establishment groups. Cut taxes, cut regulations , reverse the health care progress, allow the military industrial guys more contracts. Business as usual. Oh the debt"? that will be increased by trillions.
BigFootMN (Minneapolis)
In the fourth paragraph, Douthat could have just stopped at "Btu Trump is not actually governing..."
PeterKa (New York)
The Congressional Budget Office report on the costs of the new Trump-care health plan are scheduled to be released this Wednesday. The mind boggles at how the GOP will spin what will in all likelyhood be a grim check on reality for those elected officials who voted for this dreadful program. Republicans hijacked populism and turned it into a validation of ignorance for their lesser educated constituency. Repercussions are coming though because there really are "truths" in life and they really do matter, contrary to "populist"opinion.
lechrist (Southern California)
Trump is severely mentally ill. The way he gets through the day (and has for most of his life) is to pretend to listen to others and to tell them what he thinks they want to hear. If that doesn't work, he enacts revenge utilizing his money and bullying tactics his father taught him as a young boy.

This has worked very well for him, even getting him elected president, which he never expected to happen (thank-you, antiquated Electoral College). He ran mostly because people told him he should and because of revenge against Barack Obama.

Populist he is not (see first paragraph about telling people what they want to hear). Fascist he is, thanks to his complicated financial life, owing the Russians, racketeering and connecting himself to those who fund terrorists. Revenge and narcissism are his main drivers.

The Republicans are using him, too, though mostly unsuccessfully, except for all of those Executive Orders he signs but doesn't read.

For most of us, who consider ourselves supporters of common sense democracy, Trump is functioning currently as a firewall between Pence and all hell breaking loose. Yes, Trump has sold everybody out for his personal enrichment, but Pence is far worse, thanks to his slick exterior.

The only salvation would be for the tainted election result to be nullified due to foreign enemy intrusion. And there is plenty of evidence to back that up. What we really need is a new, unadulterated election for president/vice president. South Korea?
Rev. John Karrer (Sharonville, Ohio.)
Re. The Electoral College: I wonder how many people are actually aware that this throwback to our early days as a nation was something that allowed slave owners to count their chattel as " human beings " for the purpose of getting a leg up for voting purposes ? It is way past time for this monstrosity to get the old heave ho!
Steve Bolger (<br/>)
People who claim a personal relationship with God are the most dangerous agents of tyranny drawing breath.
David S. Brown (New York, NY)
You're not a sellout when you were a phony from the beginning.
Rocko World (Earth)
Oh Dross, you forgot about regulatory rollbacks designed to help traditional republican donor oil and gas, utility, and industrial interests who buy republicans to do exactly this. You went chasing after these profiteers because they wrapped themselves in your holy war on abortion. You helped create him, now you own him, you hypocrite.
Steve Bolger (<br/>)
There is so much money involved in letting them pollute that the bribes are lost in the flood.
Marcello Di Giulio (USA)
In other words Donald the "twit" is a complete fraud, left and right.
PogoWasRight (florida)
An old saying: "What you see is what you get......"
Red's Insight (USA)
Directionally you are on the mark, unfortunately, there is no rationale reason this man should have been selected by thoughtful voters of any stripe. The country, our way of life, and our people are at risk by this vacuous individual, and your ilk just keeps spinning rationales for your disgraceful vote. Shame on all of you.
Tom (California)
Entertained the case for the French lady fascist? She is in no way entertaining.
JAWS (New England)
I can't stop thinking how the Vanity Fair 1990 article stated that he had My New Order at his bedside for reading perhaps to learn to use propaganda as Hitler did to manipulate people.

Idea for comedic routine: Ask DT "What are you going to do about (fill in the blank?"
"We're" [notice his use of "we"] "going to make it better, the best, very good, very, very good, it will be great, I'm not sharing the details at this time" [because there are none]

and folks fell for that! Shame on them!
Louise (Alameda)
Ross - I know you are Catholic. Please do a column on Netflix The Keepers.
Bret Thoman (Italy)
I used to think Ross Douthat was NYT's attempt at being "fair and balanced"... Brooks never really had that dubious honor; it fell in the lap of the young Harvard-educated bad-boy catholic conservative ...

At any rate, after Ross's last two columns, it is apparent that the NYT has reneged on its promise, after 2 days of soul-searching last November 9-10, to attempt to "do a much better job of being on the road, out in the country, talking to different kinds of people than we talk to — especially if you happen to be a New York-based news organization — and remind ourselves that New York is not the real world,” Dean Baquet.
Paul (Washington, DC)
Well most of us had our eyes wide open (or should I say have had) on "conservatism" for a couple of decades. Please, someone tell me what that word means. It's mush, no that's for getting a husky to pull a sled. It is the meat in moron stew.
Paqueenie (Minnesota)
Cathy (Hopewell Junction)
"Whose side are you on? Are you with Donald Trump or the Washington insiders who want to undo his election? ....This is how the debate over Donald Trump's mounting difficulties is being framed..."

One thing the conservative punditry excels at - especially the Hannity type - is framing a narrative. Truth, facts, logic, reality don't apply. Just the narrative, a few cherry picked ideas, a lot of lies, and a whole lot more shouting, which apparently is the secret sauce for the alchemy which turns BS into gold.

Trump is being sauteed in his own incompetence, in the incompetence of his team. Given that most people Did. Not. Want. Him. in the White house and Did. Not. Vote. For. Him. the concept that he may be deeply unpopular is hardly surprising.

The calculus behind policy that is coming from the White House takes little skill or deep thought: -1(Obama)=Trump. The policy coming out of Congress will continue to hurt the average American, by concentrating wealth at the top and concentrating misery at the bottom, with insecurity and decline in between.

So the question for the conservatives pundits who support Trump, is why are you whining? You may ending up winning the lottery with a Congress that guts the American dream, and healthcare with it, and Mike Pence of the God Squad as President?

For me, a disaster. But for Hannity? Why is he yelling? It is Nirvana.
Gloria Utopia (Chas. SC)
Everything the conventional/liberal/rational media, everything they say about him in a realistic context, strengthens his base. People I know who voted for him, not very broad-minded people, true, say that the media is after him. It's Fake News, they refuse to read, listen to, or discuss anything but news from the right. Our embarrassment was voted into office by egregationists/racists, and some very intelligent people. Understanding his base is important, because it tells us about our DNA. The Bible-belt folk aren't thinking about the future, they're living in their religious principles, trying to maintain Bronze Age laws with any method to justify the ends. Besides, Jesus/God, forgave him, so that's settled and get over it. The country was great before integration, let's make it great again by keeping the scum out. Look, we had a Black president and he did nothing, loved the Muslims, hated America, and besides...he was Black. It brought out the worse in us. People here in the South would have called this Black man boy, a few decades ago, and now he was the most powerful man in the world. Stuck in the throat, the gut, it was galling. They took out the confederate flags, and flew them in anger. Maybe there's a sickness, deep in our bellies. Maybe, having many signers with seminary backgrounds gave us the beginnings with a concept of a Black person being 3/5 of a human, making slavery so palatable. Could the Bible be our menace, or is it just human nature?
Frustrated (somewhere)
Come on now Ross, give it up. You've been parroting these lines since before the election. No Trump voter will ever believe or for that matter even read your stories and you are unlikely to get charlie blow's "base" audience. Either way you never trumpers are pretty much, how should i say it, screwed?
RJC (Staten Island)
He is your boy - when you voted against Hillary he became your boy Ross - enjoy him....
Joseph C Bickford (Greensboro, NC)
I don't know why we always focus on Trump's "beliefs" and his "populism" when the real action is with Pence, McConnell, and Ryan who are advancing (if slowly) the most far right reactionary agenda in our Nation's history. Trump's cabinet, probably without any deep understanding from Trump. are likewise advancing an extreme reactionary agenda on environmental and fiscal deregulation. Even in education Betsy DeVoss is continuing an anti public school approach begun in the Reagan- Bush years. Trump is mainly an annoying and ill-informed distraction to his administration's agenda, just waiting to sign anything which he can somehow claim as a win. The media needs to focus on where the real problem with the trump presidency lies.
Steve Bolger (<br/>)
The US is in the midst of expanding its already suicidal endorsement of delusionals preaching what they believe God thinks.

These people are socially poisonous.
Steven Megannety (Ontario)
Absolutely right, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, I am the Great Oz".
Joseph Huben (Upstate NY)
So many converts from the GOP pundit class and so little support in the party? McConnell and Ryan and Graham and McCain press on with their sacred oath to cut taxes end healthcare reform and wage war for oil. Only a Putin fan could be more delighted. As the real world runs from hydrocarbon addiction and wars needed to sustain it, and global warming as the industrial world retools for tomorrow and devotes less to defense and more to National Security by educating the future and keeping them healthy, the GOP and Dems, cling to the monied class and turn their backs on our future. The biggest lie is still ignored. Sanders spoke to and for the future, he had the biggest rallies and has the only following that has the support of the future but we are being distracted by Trump and Russia and scandal instead of building a coalition for tomorrow that satisfies needs instead of the wants of the rich and complacent. Sanders still stands alone and Our children will not forget how they were betrayed by a deranged con man and a woman who could not recognize what America really needs. We need universal healthcare, free public education, renewable energy and clean transportation, and the end of war for profit and privilege.
Kayleigh73 (Raleigh)
Hillary Clinton supported "universal healthcare, free public education, renewable energy and clean transportation, and the end of war for profit and privilege." She just didn't do so with the evangalistic fervor of Sanders — a polarizing fervor much like Trump's. The problem is that we have swallowed the idea that everyone has a chance to become famous by winning the Powerball or the Presidency.
Steve Bolger (<br/>)
Too bad Bernie was really just a stooge floated by dark money to take down Hillary.
George (Iowa)
Until we take the profit out of politics the Privileged will continue to rule for for their gain and deny the people the ability to rule for the Common Good. This is what happens when you allow capitalism to rule instead of serve.
Hank Berry III (USA)
During the campaign, people were unable to understand that there were different levels of opposition to Trump. One was simply because people didn't like what he was saying and found him dangerous, but this was mainly a political opposition. Another, which could have existed totally apart from politics and ideology, was about Trump, the man, his highly unusual record in business (way up and way, way down), his questionable personal life (three marriages were just the start of "Trump, the sexual adventurer", a story in 54 (Studio 54) parts and his lack of study (or ability to study) and prepare to actually serve as president.

The same phenomenon continues. People now are for Trump because they believe the wrong people (dirty liberals!) are against him. They are waging a phantom battle to save a man who doesn't deserve saving, who is unworthy of the devotion of any sane person, who, no matter what might be accomplished in his name, will wreck more than he builds. Having failed to forcefully oppose him during the primaries, the moral bankrupt Republican leadership is stuck in the worst place, but Trump's supporters around the country are stuck there with them, unable to come to terms. (Being a voter means never having to say you are sorry.)

Sooner or later, Trump will exit. Normally, he gets tired of failure and starts something new! bigger! better! the best! We should begin the careful reconstruction of American democracy and polity now. No time to waste.
Bill (Massachsetts)
I am so tired of religious conservatives "fearful for their liberties". When they talk of "freedom of religion", they mean freedom to impose their extremist Christian religious beliefs on the rest of us. They cry about feeling their beliefs threatened, yet they've been pretty successful in getting those beliefs written into law, policy, and legal precedent. That Hobby Lobby guy should have been forcibly removed from the courtroom and fined millions for contempt for wasting the court's time.
Steve Bolger (<br/>)
And they are motivated to do all this because they believe it stores up Brownie points for a better billet in their next lives.

They are stark raving mad.
jz (CA)
It’s not about ideology or the so-called establishment, whatever that is. It’s about ratings. Whether it’s Hannity, or Limbaugh, or Trump, it’s about ratings. What they say on the air has no actual relationship with their intentions, or the truth, or facts. What the United States has finally managed to do is turn the government, in particular the WH, into the most addictive reality TV show on the air. It is entertainment at its best, starring Trump and featuring a host of co-stars and bit players each adding to the excitement. It combines the tragic qualities of a soap opera with the machinations of a semi-realistic survival show. It has the unpredictability of a great sporting event while being produced and scripted by the news media. Advertisers love it. It takes reality entertainment to a whole new level. The fact that we’ve elected a reality TV star and he’s been able, in a few short months, to turn his new show into his greatest hit is truly a masterful feat and something we should all be proud of.
Observer (Backwoods California)
"The Real President of Washington DC"
Steve Bolger (<br/>)
We're the fodder of the whole freak show.

Show me a place that believes itself chartered by God, and I will show you a raving malicious madhouse.
GTM (Austin TX)
The ONLY Populist candidate in the 2016 POTUS election process was Bernie Sanders. The Trump is but a vaporous shell of a man whom the GOP establishment hope to use as a front-man to pass off tax cuts to the rich and a shredding of the social safety net as policies that benefit the working classes. To paraphrase a former GOP Leader, "How is that change working for you?"
Steve Bolger (<br/>)
What is the difference between American "populism" and nihilism?
Because Trump is actually bad at everything except selling his name but thinks he is fantastic at literally everything, he needed the establishment Republicans to line up behind him so there could be a show at governing. Trump would sell, and the Republicans, in full control of the Legislative Branch, would give him things to sell.

Two problems: Trump promised to sell a raft of proposals anathema to the Republican Party, and, Congressional Republicans have forgotten how to legislate. So on top of an incompetent President, we also have an incompetent Congress.

This is what you get when for 30 years, your party's most demonstrable skill set is whipping up hysteria about Democratic Presidents.
4AverageJoe (Denver)
The problem is that the framing doesn't fit the facts. That's right. Sean Hannity, and more serious intellectuals on the right. They don't grasp what healthcare is, and are very happy with passing laws that repeal taxes on the very rich. Where did the fight for infrastructure go? Rebuilding America? Not from the right-- it never was. Most of these people on the right can't get beyond Ayn Rand's idea of rugged individualism, and they get fleeced by monied special interests. Collective bargaining for prescription medications? Why, that's socialism. Douthat is Brooks is Schields is-- apparatchiks for the very wealthy, or willing dupes for them.
cfbarry486 (Golden Valley, MN)
It was a con job.

Trump sold low wage voters on the fact that they were not responsible for their predicament. Immigrants were at fault.

Trump promised to build the biggest wall to keep the immigrants out. That's not happening. Walls don't work. Suing employers that violate immigration laws would be more effective than walls.

Trump also promised high paying jobs to those of us in the Midwest. Of course he lied. He lied to people who desperately want to believe him. He'll save a a few jobs in Indiana by providing government funding. But high paying manufacturing jobs are just leaving to Mexico or Asian countries. For example, small passenger cars can't be made in the US at a profit.

The Republican primary in 2018 will show whether Trump can still con his voters.
Tom Cotner (Martha, OK)
People and the media keep referring to Mr. Trump as "populist". He is no more a populist than he is the man in the moon. He is, by all regards, a corporatist, and will, to the extent of his ability and cunning, govern through throwing tidbits to his corporate supporters.
If a particular idea or congressional bill offers either profit or tax relief to corporations and people of wealth (especially himself), he will support it. If it doesn't, and seems (to him, at least) that it caters to the general populace, he will not support it. That is not populist, no matter what the rhetoric.
I so wish those who report on him would get their language straight on this.
Populist, he aint!!!
Matt Boston (Tucson, AZ)
It is highly unfortunate that we have this man as the President of the United States. The concept that there is some slow-moving "coup" occurring, which will deprive Trump of the legitimately-bestowed prize awarded by the Electoral College (in a "landslide", as we all know), is simply preposterous. This egocentric, or rather egomaniacal, blowhard has brought an amazing amount of disrepute to the Office of the Presidency with his complete lack of competence at managing the affairs of state. From my seat in the peanut gallery, it is clear that all of his problems are generated by self-inflicted wounds, and he seems unable to accept any part of the responsibility for his own lack of preparation for this task.

I must concur with Mr. Douthat that Trump has sold out and moved on from being the populist representative that he promised to be. I doubt seriously that there is ever any thought that goes through this man's mind that isn't primarily associated with "what's in it for me?".
Paul (Phoenix, AZ)
"Are you with Donald Trump, or with the Washington insiders who want to undo his election?"

Conservatives in the age of Trump seem to always start their arguments with a false premise.

Washington insiders have fully, totally and completely accepted that Trump won the election; no one is trying to undo that.

Except maybe Trump, who is claiming massive voter fraud in an election he WON! State elections officers have stated they would not know how to address Trump's claims because never have they had the WINNER claim voter fraud.

If Douthat is referring to all the impeachment talk as elites trying to undo an election, well, why is that the fault of the elites? It is Trump's actions, actions that may be putting the nation at grave and gathering risk, that might result in his undoing.

Douthat takes a page from Kellyanne Conway's playbook that says Trump is right because the people elected him and so we should move on.
pjc (Cleveland)
With Trump, there is no there there.

But that is increasingly so with the Republicans in general. Other than upper bracket tax cuts, what directly does the party stand for?
Tom (Pa)
Doesn't the fact that Trump won the election tell all of you just how bad a candidate Hillary Clinton was? Don't blame all of this on the Republicans and Donald Trump. Look at the alternative the Democratic Party gave us. I held my nose and voted for her because I could see what a phony Trump was.
Doc in Chicago (Chicago, IL)
What does Mr. Trump stand for? Come on, Trump supporters, tell me you really believe now that he stands for the rights of the little guy (recall tax cuts for the wealthy and cutting social spending), cleaning up the swamp in Washington (his only legitimate advisors are long-time Washington insiders), health care being more affordable (Ha! His willingness to horse-trade any medical benefit to get the House's right-wing on his side was obvious), or jobs above all else (maybe for millionaires in big banks).

Perhaps his xenophobic, sometimes racist and often misogynist rhetoric attracted a following, but this does not a populist make.

Mr. Trump is as much of a populist as McCarthy was a socialist. He wants to cut regulations -- leaving our guarantees for clean water, safe food and drugs, and clean up up to private industry. He may soon suggest that the poor should not worry about their lack of clean water -- why do they not just drink champagne?
Barbara Fu (Pohang)
Having recently taught an ESL lesson on the Roman Republic, the line about the people who Trump appealed to needing a tribune really spoke to me. Absolutely they do. Maybe Bernie could have been that man, maybe not, but we ignore the ignorant at our peril.
Teg Laer (USA)
Populism does indeed need a seat at the table.

Unfortunately, the only populist candidate to vote for in recent years ran as a Democrat - Bernie Sanders.

Trump is no more a popoulist candidate than Marine Le Pen was. She is a fascist and Trump is a narcissist, both demagogues playing to the frustrations, anger and grievances of people hurt by the disastrous conservative economic policies of the last 30 years, in order to get elected to further their own ends.

The hypocrisy of both trying to pass themselves off as populists should have been apparent all along.

Populists should look for champions elsewhere, candidates who actually care about representing them, not their own selfish interests, an extreme right wing ideology masquerading as populism, or the very elite establishment that populists oppose so fiercely. For certain, they should look elsewhere than the Republican Party.
em (Toronto)
The Saudi trip will no doubt appease some detractors with a major arms deal to satisfy the industrial military complex, and infrastructure investment to appease most everyone. If Trump expands Medicaid, overnight, he will become an American hero.
SLBvt (Vt.)
Trump is an establishment sellout not necessarily on purpose: Trump wanted to be Presidential, not President, because that was his role in his failing businesses (who knew it would be so hard?). He showed up for the ribbon cutting, slapped his name on his buildings, and that's it--his minions did the actual work.

That is why he is totally impotent as President. He doesn't know how to do real work---inside the establishment, or outside.
flosfer (South Carolina)
You say, "he behaves consistently erratically and inappropriately and dangerously" like it's a bad thing. That is precisely what endears him to sullen, defeated, badly aging, male would-be autocrats. They don't want Trump to lead anywhere, because they don't want to go anywhere. They just want him to make some noise. Check. And anger all the people who use big words and make long arguments they can't understand. Check. Save them from being sold out? You call that entertainment?
Aubrey (Alabama)
It is easy to be rough on people with little real power -- immigrants, people with dark skins, muslims, and other "outsiders." Many of Trump's "low information" voters don't like these people and love to see him make life hard for them. Trump's good friend "little" Jeff Sessions followed this playbook during his years as a prosecutor. Make life hard for the weak and be solicitous for the strong and well connected. Many of Trump's supporters also love to hear him say hateful things about President Obama and his policies.

Of course, Trump would not dare buck the powerful -- big corporations, the big banks, etc. It should be obvious to anyone with any sense that Trump is a bully. That means run over and abuse people with little power while kowtowing to the powerful.
Auntie Hosebag (Juneau, AK)
All through the election circus, I wondered about the curious juxtaposition of Koch money and the buffoonery of Trump. He clearly wasn't going to be their stooge-I think DJT would vehemently agree, he is his own stooge--but the boys went to all that trouble to line up all that money, it just never settled with me that they might remain on the sidelines and allow such a cartoon to unfold without having some skin in the game, somewhere.

I'm guessing the Brothers Koch are in the room--even if Pumpkinhead is unaware of it--in the person of reptiles like Bannon, Miller, Preibus, Spicer, and yes, McMaster--but they are heavily invested in the long game. I would believe they have already covered their bases in the coming violent return swing of the political pendulum, positioning themselves, or their progeny, for absolute ascension sometime just before mid-century.

I'm rooting for the asteroids.
George (Iowa)
Pence is the Koch`s conduit into the White House and I believe this has been the plan all along. Pence was one of the top Governors on the Koch payroll and was about to lose his position in Indiana. Trump was at a point where he needed support, both financial and political. Pence was taken on board to bring both the evangelical vote and the additional money and power web of the Kochs into play. If Trump goes down Pence will show his skills as a puppet and the evangelicals and Kochs will show their skills as puppet masters of the Country.
Auntie Hosebag (Juneau, AK)
George, I hadn't considered Ponce, but what you say makes perfect sense. Trump has always been about using others' assets--their money, reputation, labor, airtime, political base--you name it. The idea that he wouldn't automatically gravitate toward a pile of cash--and network for raising more--the size of the Kochs' operation is silly.
wsmrer (chengbu)
Sir, it surely comes as no surprise to you that what politicians promise is not what they deliver when elected; but that fact is built into the system more that a condemnation.
What we are seeing is that America is not ‘There’ yet—‘There’ is a confutation with its problems and short-coming because the word is not out; not in the media, not in the schools or churches, and certainly not in the buzz of talking heads. It is the failing of what had become doctrine in both political parties – Neo-Liberalism and the doctrine of the Market and the Individual, and ‘Government is the problem’ sold by Reagan and followers An ideology cooked up internationally in the seventies and sold as the goods.
The short side of that argument is that had Hillary won we would just have a different take on the existing systems, Bill was a big fan. Bernie would have headed us in a different direction but would have been eaten by The System.
Some of this is showing in your argument; congratulations.
Andy (Currently In Europe)
There is nothing that a rational, informed and reasonably intellectual person could say to justify the ethno-centric, nationalist, retrograde retrenchment that is epitomized by Trump, Brexit or Le Pen.

The world is one. The human race is one. The old order does not exist anymore, and neither do we want it to exist anymore. The old order of nation-states, tribalism and ethno/religious supremacy only brought us endless wars, pointless bloodshed, cruel ethnic cleansing, borders, walls and divisions. Young people today do not see the world with these eyes anymore. I saw interviews with young Iranians at the polls the other day, and it struck me how these 20-somethings were just the same as the kids you might encounter in an American university campus - articulate, open-minded, smart and eager to engage with the wider world. And the same is true for most of the world's youth (which by the way, voted overwhelmingly against Brexit in the UK and against Le Pen in the French elections).

I find it appalling that a New York Times columnist would be given valuable editorial space to spout rubbish ideas about the return to a past that should be relegated to the dustbin of history. The phony idea of "populism" is nothing else but top-1% corporatism sprinkled with xenophobia and tribalism to appease the ignorant masses and make them digest the lies of the right-wing autocrats.
Aurace Rengifo (Miami Beach)
A paper tiger is so accurate. But visuals are key. Trump does not know that the only ones that bow to royalty are the nationals of the Royal's country and in the case of the United Kingdom also applies to nationals of the Commonwealth countries. Ask any junior diplomat in any embassy of any country around the world.

There goes Trump to Riyadh and bows to the King. America first and human rights last.
Mike (NYC)
Did anyone really expect Trump to these things overnight? The man has almost 4 years to go in his term. Let's see what happens.

This piece is years premature.
Jack (North Brunswick NJ)
So, Mr. Douthat, you have realized that Trump is a liar who sold all of his believers a toxic bill of goods. His pledge to "drain the swamp" actually meant "fire anyone who isn't my lackey."

Perhaps now you can turn your critical eye of reevaluation upon the Republican Congress. Every single one of their legislative efforts is always a contradiction of its name. The "American Health Care Act" is actually the "American Loss of Health Care Act," for instance. The consistently false advertising of GOP legislation always hides the same fact. Every piece of GOP legislation is a major handout to the 1%, usually in the form of massive tax cuts.

Tell the truth about the Long Con that the Republican Party has been pulling upon the American public ever since the Reagan tax cuts and their "trickle-down," "prime the corporate pump" phony promises.
SSC (Detroit)
I had this sort of thing come up at dinner tonight with a conservative gentleman. "They never leave him alone" was his defense of Trump - "they" being those politically correct liberals. It occurred to me that this gentleman has no ability to blame Trump's fate on Trump's ill mannered vulgarity and poor character, since he is unable to distinguish vulgarity from virtue in a person. Those who chanted "lock her up" truly have a blind spot caused by their own rejection of any standards of acceptable behavior. So they won't blame trump because they really don't get the link between one's personal character and leadership qualities.
Green Tea (Out There)
A Deep State and an entrenched bureaucracy are two VERY different things, so please quit confusing them. The Deep State is the behind the scenes oligarchs in the banking and fomerly-manufacturing-now-outsourcing world who steer the economy and, through it, have even more influence on our day to day lives than the government.
Bridget (Maryland)
Sean Hannity and the folks at Fox News have been lying to the public in the same way the president has been doing. They do not need to open their eyes - they know exactly what they are doing - defending the President (and thus tax cuts for the rich/repeal of Obamacare) by wrapping it in some noble war against the Washington elite.
KP (Connecticut)
It's worth distinguishing between Trump's narrowly presidential actions (his executive orders and nominations) and his legislative hopes. From the point of view his supporters, he's doing just fine, sadly, on the first score. He's proposed a Muslim travel ban (twice!), he's engineered a large increase in deportations (recently reported by the Times), and he's secured a Supreme Court seat for a judge who's likely to be pro-life, or at least not pro-choice. So he's fulfilled a fair number of his promises. Changes that require the support of Congress, and more support than Trump could ever meant muster from the people, are another matter, but his supporters can tell themselves he's tried, and that his way (so far) has been blocked by others.
Jeff Russell (Mt. Pleasant, SC)
"The people who voted for our president do deserve a tribune". Why? His character was on display for months, years even, clearly understood by anyone with enough intellectual capacity to vote, and they still chose him. They deserve exactly what they'll get for the votes they cast: nothing, but only if they're lucky.
Joanne (Montclair,NJ)
Trump, ideology and populism feels like too academic a discussion write about with the keystone kops kleptocracy in the White House.

At least he's crazy incompetent in addition to being corrupt - the GOP right wing dismantling of health care and the social safety net is taking longer than it would with a competent demagogue - so that's the glass half full view I guess. When Trump does focus he's an empty vessel for Grover Norquist's economics but doesn't really believe in anything - his working class supporters are like Trmp University students, scammed.

For another 4 years the country's greatest needs will go unattended. E.g. Infrastructure which can never happen with this Congress anyway. While the Chinese build their version of a Marshal Plan acrossAsia, we're left hoping for fewer derailments at Penn Station. But we will compete in the world on the Russian model - more money and power to rich people and arms sales to human rights abusers because soft power is apparently for softies. Putin hates the US state department and so does Trump.

Everyone, including Obama knew we needed corporate tax reform, but the GOP couldn't let him succeed at anything so we'll get some version that blows the deficit wide open. And whenever a competent government takes power - should it happen in time - the GOP will be back to it's phony fiscal discipline,
Raindog63 (Greenville, SC)
This is accurate, as far as it goes. But it ignores the most vital reason Trump actually won: white cultural anxiety. As long as Trump, from time to time, throws red meat to his white, culturally conservative base (and if he doesn't, Fox News will do it for him), the people who voted for him will continue to ignore his tweets, lies, historical ignorance and nepotism, for he is their chieftain. And to them, that's really all there is to it.
Jude Ryan (Florida)
While all pf the words in this article seem true, until conservatives reclaim some moral high ground they are just words. The moment Trump throws a bone to his followers, enablers, or conservative critics (see Freedom Caucus) they ravenously leap for it. I'm not buying any of this. Trump and his entire administration must be rooted out and taken to that famous conservative bath tub.
Terry McKenna (Dover, N.J.)
How have democratic elites failed to learn. Democratic policy ideas included a public option for health care, raising the minimum wage and so on. These ideas were crushed by Republicans.
Diana (<br/>)
A true populist would go over the heads of the elites, direct to the people, to show that a majority supports him enthusiastically. But he doesn't do that (except via tweet, which only makes him ridiculous) because he knows that only somewhere between 25 and 40 percent would respond. That they are distinctly a minority, almost all white and heavily Christianist, would become even more obvious. So he has nowhere to turn but to the elite. They will try to civilize him. Failing that, they'll put him in a box and nothing much--of American initiative--will happen during his presidency. The military will make their own decisions, free of his input. Padre Tillerson will sonorously recite his assigned lines. And the world will just get on with the future, without us.
JayK (CT)
"But Trump is not actually governing as a populist or revolutionary, and the rolling crises of his first four months are not really about resistance to an “America First” or “drain the swamp” agenda,..."

His intention was never to "govern", it was to line his pockets.

What ever happened to that heartfelt promise he made to Leslie Stahl that he wouldn't "even care" about his businesses once he became president, that this was so much more "important".


The White House is to Trump what Nakatomi Plaza was to Hans Gruber.

And don't think he won't pull every lever available to hang onto the power of the presidency, no matter what the investigation reveals. He will never step down unless he's impeached by the Senate and forcibly removed from office.

This is all about chaos, misdirection and distraction while he empties the vaults, it has nothing at all to do with governing, never did.

Oh, sure, he goes through the motions, flies on Air Force One, signs some executive orders. Just enough to make it look like he's performing some of the conventional duties of the office and is kinda taking the whole thing half seriously.

This is the greatest heist in the history of the world, and we have Roger Ailes and Donald Trump to thank.

Sadly and ironically, Mr. Ailes won't be joining us to watch Mr. Trump's presidency reach it's full fruition, but I have no doubt he was very proud of Donald, who made Mr. Ailes unique vision of conservatism a reality for all of us.
Sara (Oakland Ca)
The DeNiro version of Bernie Madoff raises striking similarities to Donald trump. Neither man really fully admits to the fraudulence & destruction of his business practice - rationalizing & self-justifying by calling the system 'rigged' and picking on him- the real victim. Both seemed blind to the consequence of his actions.
Trump's Ponzi scheme is his bankruptcy of leadership, shallow knowledge, intellectual incompetence, carelessness and sycophant advisors.
Madoff ripped off everyone who trusted him, decimating pensions, nest eggs- while blaming investors' greed. Trump and his minions insists he was elected to be a bull in a china shop.
Both cause havoc and never face their self-delusion.
Jim (Columbia, MO)
With Trump it's all hot air. What did he sellout? He frequently contradicts himself within the span of several minutes. His lies and ignorance have always been on full display for anyone who cares to listen to him or read his tweets. Anyone who believed what he said on the campaign trail and now complains that he's selling out is beyond gullible. Trump has no interest in public policy. He spent years harping on President Obama's birthplace... not discussing the nuances of how to make a health care system work for all Americans. C'mon Ross. He's president and he gets two scoops of ice cream to everyone else's one - that's the long and short of this travesty.
MIMA (heartsny)
When he picks a woman with no college degree in education for the Secretary of Education (Betsy DeVos) and a man who calls himself a doctor who despises Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA for Sevcretary of Health and Human Services (Tom Price) we must know we're doomed.

When a country cannot even stand up for the rights of children and the health of the disabled, we are the lowest of the low.

Donald Trump is there at the bottom.
Steve C (Bowie, MD)
All talk and no action . . . so far at any rate and I say "Thank God." However, right on the coat tail of my thanks is the painful realization that only five months have passed. Oh woe is America.
HJB (New York)
In short, Trump is a childish, self-absorbed, cowardly phoney, fake and fraud, who is disloyal even to those he has commissioned to defend him. He. will take even more out of the pockets and personal security of those he claimed to want to help, and put it in the pockets of people just like himself.

Ryan and McConnel are his chief enablers, and they deserve to be thrown out on their ears at the earliest possible point.

At this point, the only good thing about Trump is that his lack of intellect, integrity and self-control are becoming increasingly obvious to those who voted for him, thereby making it more certain he will be knocked out of office, in due course or earlier.
CK (Rye)
Conclusion: From the point of view of politics (the job he has is called politician") he's a natural genius, a force.

1. He says what needs to be said to crowds to get them to vote for him.
2. He holds & maintains the votes of people who vote against Democrats on principle.
3. He does nothing much to arouse serious opposition from his own party.

That's a winning combo.

He may do better next election, because he gathers both run-of-the-mill GOP votes, and those who need to hear anti-other vitriol too. Against that the Democrats (my side) will have to run an establishment figure again, because they can't create a consensus on a change agent. Enough Americans hate establishment Democrats to give away any Presidential election. The Obama case is not pertinent, because he had special cache (race, duh) as perceived change agent (although like Trump he was not) that does not rub off on regular (White) Democrats.
andy (whidbey island)
Trump is a great con man, talker, and entertainer. He ran his businesses. and life with lies, broken promises, and using other people's money to enrich his family. Corruption and incompetence works better in business than government.
Dan (NJ)
The "Deep State" is merely the latest incarnation of a whole class of conspiracy theories that propelled Donald Trump to power, beginning with the "birther" movement which still has a great number of Republicans under its spell. If by Deep State the Trump insurgents mean 'entrenched bureaucracy', then, of course, there is an element of truth in that. However, the constant drumbeat that government is the problem combined with right wing mysticism has given the term "Deep State" a sinister bend. We all know who has been beating the anti-government drum. Here's an obvious list of candidates: Fox News, the Tea Party, the Republican Party of No, Christian fundamentalists, nullificationists, neo-confederates, libertarian anarchists, unregulated militias preparing for the coming Armageddon, 2nd Amendment absolutists, alt-right white supremacists, etc. All of these various threads have come together in an unholy brew of resentment and finger-pointing. In Donald Trump, they found the embodiment of an end -times Cassandra warning the people of the spreading wasteland that is America, of a last stand before everything collapses around us.
Yeah, it's a big conspiracy alright. The only problem is that the big conspiracy is more hype than fact, more magic and myth than reasoned thought.
tbs (nyc)
trump hates conventional inside the beltway millionaire and billionaire politicians.

that's good enough for me. destroy all the nonsense.
DW (Philly)
Sure. Trump hates billionaires. Keep telling yourself that.
CitizenTM (NYC)
I just cannot believe the disconnect from the truth emanating from posts like this.
William O. Beeman (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Hey Ross,
Have you finally woken up to the fact that Trump built his campaign, and now his presidency on lies and empty promises? Perhaps as a conservative you can get through to the Trump voters who were sold a bill of goods by this inept, inadequate President. He doesn't know how to govern, and he has no imagination that would allow him to achieve his vacuous plans.

We are just going to have to muddle through this nightmare. We are getting no help from the Republicans, that is guaranteed.
Bob (Seattle)
I'm with Christine McM: I didn't vote for Trump but I am not "trying to get over the fact that Hillary lost..." because I don't like Hillary.

People are not upset about the election: we're upset about the bloviating incompetence in the White House, the hypocrisy of politicians, the lies, prevarication and half truths.

And does our America want anyone in the White House who wants to "burn down the administrative state?..."

Our democracy is in serious trouble and nobody seems to want to do much about it..
Kay Johnson (Colorado)
Number One- Sean Hannity has a high school education.
Number Two- the GOP mentality of capital V Victim as an answer to all their woes needs to stop yesterday.
Trump being a dunce is not foreordained and stuff he does has consequences.
Mike (Manhattan)
Hannity and the flacks at FOX may claim to be conservatives and to care about blue collar America, but they shill these positions so they can mask their pro-corporate, pro- 1% policies. So, Hannity doesn't defend Trump because this so-called tribune is under siege; rather, Hannity needs Trump to get rid of the Obamacare taxes and then sign a cut tax for the wealth.
Steve (Idaho)
The Times and many other media outlets would like us to believe that the focus is on Trump and that he conned American's into voting for him. The truth is his voters would vote for him again and again. They are him, he is them. He can break the country as much as he wants and they will continue to rally around and vote for him. It was obvious to everyone and anyone capable of rational thought how completely and totally unfit Donald Trump was for the Presidency from day one. This is absolutely the president they want and it is his bases view of how the country should run. He could literally shoot children in the street and his base would explain how it was necessary. This is a far, far deeper problem than Trump.
caveman007 (Grants Pass, OR)
I'm of the opinion that Trump's election was the result of our immigration crisis, and that the "sanctuary city" mess put him over the top. The American people know what is happening. They see the dealers peddling their wares. They see that there is little stopping them. They see the Democrats suffering from their own version of "Stockholm Syndrome". We have a slow motion civil war in progress. We just had our own version of James Buchanan for president. Now we have chaos.
Jan (NJ)
There has been enough drama on the entire situation. The man has been elected by the college of electoral votes. Let him govern and do his job. No one interfered with Obama and we paid the resulted consequences of nothing.
The American current problem is not Trump himself, but dealing with Trump literally while there is a complex secret agenda.
Lew (San Diego, CA)
From the start of his campaign, it was clear to those who disliked Trump that he was not an anti-establishment radical, not an agent of change or a champion of the unrepresented, and certainly not a principled conservative intellectual. It was always obvious that he was and is a self-absorbed and lazy incompetent. It was always obvious that the only thing he could actually succeed at was bringing down the republic.

The mystery has always been how resistant his supporters are to the reality of Trump. What buttons does he push in them and how do we unpush them now? Before we all go down the toilet, right? What does it take to open up the eyes of the starry-eyed believers?
wsmrer (chengbu)
Sir, it surely comes as no surprise to you that what politicians promise is not what they deliver when elected, you could have use Obama’s disconnect between promises and actions for that, or any number of other examples; but that fact is built into the system more that a condemnation.
What we are seeing is that America is not ‘There’ yet—‘There’ is a confutation with its problems and short-coming because the word is not out; not in the media, not in the schools or churches, and certainly not in the buzz of talking heads. It is the failing of what had become doctrine in both political parties – Neo-Liberalism and the doctrine of the Market and the Individual. And ‘Government is the problem’sole by Reagan and followers
An ideology cooked up internationally in the seventies as sold as The Goods. The short side of that argument is that has Hillary won we would just have a different take on the existing systems; Bernie would have headed us in a different direction but would have been eaten by the System.
Some of this is showing in your argument; congratulations.
Aunt Nancy Loves Reefer (Hillsborough, NJ)
Trump is a disgrace, a little over four months into his term and he has already earned the "Worst President Ever" title and accomplished little else.
But the ignorant lout isn't alone in the disgrace department. Paul Ryan, for one, has much to answer for as well. Paul Ryan and the other Republicans who have aided and abetted the disaster called Trump, who chose Party over Country when patriotism was called for.
They too have disgraced themselves.
glen (dayton)
It seems almost insane that you have to point such a thing out, Ross, but we live in insane times. Of course Donald Trump isn't a populist. He doesn't care a whit about the "forgotten Americans" or the "little guy". Nor is he a conservative in any sense of the word. If he thought he had a chance to win the presidency as a Democrat he could easily have pivoted that way. And he's not even any good at the long con. Witness his imploding presidency a mere four months in. What he did do was sucker enough people into voting for him. Some now regret it, realizing they were fooled. Others haven't copped to it YET, and many, many others never will. They're not deplorable. They're tribal and they're ignorant. They think this is a professional wrestling match. Nothing will change them.
Snaggle Paws (Home of the Brave)
Spot on, Ross! Trump does have the exact same leopard spots as the so-called "establishment". It's all about the treasure. Trump divvying up the treasure is going to be the lasting impression, despite all of the revolution mumbo jumbo that you hear from Friends speaking for Trumpkins.
Don Shipp, (Homestead Florida)
Trump won because supporting him was like scratching a political itch. It felt good. Now that the itch is gone the American people are left with an infection of policy ignorance and historic incompetence. The momentary satisfaction has been replaced with a festering political sore that is the egregious conduct of Donald Trump.
Ruth L (Johnstown, NY)
Too true. The 'regular' folks who voted for Trump will be most hurt by him. The wealthy and powerful will win (as they always do). But the pay onky watch FoxNews so they will never know and continue to blame the Liberal media and continue to lose. Elections matter, people's votes matter. Trump is exactly as he was before the election - entire unsuitable to be President.
SPW (London)
Agree with most of that, BUT Le Pen? Really? ...and Brexit was an ill considered leap in the dark with few immediate/obvious tangible benefits and huge dollops of hopeful assumptions from the Leave political and media leaders, who even now are lining up the "unpatriotic" Remainers to take the fall if things go badly.

We all got our own problems eh?
Two Cents (Chicago IL)
Let's not complicate things.
Can we simply agree that the president has no agenda.
That would require work.
He wants to be adored, even if only by 'the lest informed among us.'
He's ignorant and makes no effort to be otherwise, despite holding the most important position in the world.
Is any of this even debatable?
Rachel Hoffman (Portland OR)
Mr. Douthat is (not alone in) preaching to the choir. Want to do something that might make a difference? How about buying space in Trump-voting small town newspapers, and placing your editorials where those who need to expand their political horizons might actually read your words.
lurap (Atlanta GA)
Trump's populism rested on bigotry. That's where he connected with the white masses. All those promises to bring in jobs, punish corporations from outsourcing, punish China for currency manipulation and outsmarting America in trade--those promises and slogans all sounded good to him at the moment so he said them. Trump' s talk Is very cheap but the gullible (and bigoted) working class believed him. He promised to take a wrecking ball to business as usual. It seems the wrecking ball has swing around out of control and is striking down his administration. There is a God.
Rw (canada)
"Are you going to let a counterrevolution by elites bring down a man who was elevated to the White House precisely because the country knows that its elite is no longer fit to govern?"
It isn't just your conservative friends and Sean Hannity. I spent a couple of hours on facebook today at "progressive" sites....they're deep into the "deep state" being responsible for taking down trump...and, of course, it's the democrats fault.
It was a pretty disheartening, discouraging experience.
zb (bc)
Talk about helping the establishment, that 110 billion dollar Saudi Deal (most of which was already in place under Obama) now means the US will have to spend at least that much and more to provide even better arms to Israel.

That should make American Taxpayers pretty mad since they will be the ones having to pay for the Israeli weapons but the establishment insiders like Lockheed and Boeing will be ecstatic with a the new Trump fueled arms race.
Ralph Averill (New Preston, Ct)
One wonders how long it will take, how deep must it go, before a significant number of Trump believers arrive at the realization that Trump has done to them what he has done to so many of his investors, contractors, and employees; used them and then left them holding the bag.
Trump never believed in any of his campaign proposals. They were a means to an end, a way to close the deal. They fade on the horizon as Trump's relatives, in-laws, and various minions travel the world garnering millions with promises of green cards and other presidential favors from a wonderful new international market of suckers.
You stick with what works. Right, Donny boy?
jdh (ny)
Trump is in way over his head. The low level con man slid into the the big con that the Repubs have been running for years with their voters and this country and they couldn't stop him. He has no real depth or ability to work the con with any skill and is unable to play with the big boys. His actions have reflected his total ineptness and the re pubs reactions have shown their true colors. They have dropped any pretense they were doing their jobs working in the best interest of their voters by their silence. The jig is up and he ls reacting like the low level schiester he has always been. Sad.
Steve Burton (Staunton, VA)
Virtually everyone who lived in the NY region for any time became knowledgable of "the Donald" and his antics. They all considered it laughable that such a fraud could ever be elected President. He was a clown; yet his awkward and incompetent representations as a populist, a man of the people, were devoured by those yearning for change or simply enjoyed the seeds of hatred he spread. I know it is difficult for some (Douthat) to admit that they were simply and not so elegantly conned. Everyone knows Trump is a fraud.... always has been, always will be He represents greed and sloth, so please, lets move on. Pieces such as these simply perpetuate the myth that he had any positive substance in the first place.
Jack Mahoney (Brunswick, Maine)
Trump is that big ad on 95 South touting real estate bargains in Florida.

Every Republican, it appears, has some fetish, be it the right to demean gay people, punish twenty-year residents who immigrated illegally, or make it life-threatening to get an abortion. No matter how sincere and vehement they are, however, they end up voting for lower taxes for the rich and fewer regulations to constrain those who would poison them to save a buck.

Faux populism has become a prerequisite among Republican presidential candidates. GWB had it over McCain; Palin had it in spades; can you believe that the GOP seriously considered nominating Rick Perry?

Rather than an original that broke new ground, Trump's campaign was an amalgamated pastiche of every trigger that causes the Republican faithful to wag its tail and howl. Remember when Trump satirized the developmentally disabled reporter? If it's hard to imagine how such a bullying act might play well with any group of people who consider themselves moral, remember only a few years ago how the audience at a GOP debate booed an American soldier fighting in Iraq because that soldier was gay.

As Dexter might say, Ross, you have taken on a Dark Passenger in your quest to rid America of secular rule. It's time to say you're sorry.
Susan (Maine)
Just look at the patched together mess that Trumpcare is--this is Trump's style of winning: an unworkable bill whose only merit is that it goes in the WIN column for Trump. For us, it's sole result is to unsettle the insurance markets for which we all will pay increased premiums going forward.

The sole consistency of Trump is that he lies--to everyone: to Congress, to his supporters, to meeting groups--lies....lies....lies.

If change comes thru Trump it is unguided and more likely to be bad than good---and it brings governance to a halt.
LDK (Vancouver)
By "deep state" do you mean people who have spent years building good working relationships? YES I favour that.
Demosthenes (Chicago)
President Obama characterizes Trump cogently: "he's a bullshi--er". That's how Trump won the votes of many. He promised populism to them and is delivering to his supporters (possibly) tax cuts for the rich funded by stripping many millions of health insurance, massive corruption and enrichment of the Trump family, pollution, worse air, and unsafe water. Will his voters ever notice they have been conned?
Tim C (Hartford, CT)
"... he behaves consistently erratically and inappropriately and dangerously..."

And the other consistently dependable fact is that the one-third of Americans who comprise his "base" will stick with him until the day he actually does shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue. I don't care about Trump. I want to know how these supporters came to hate America so much.
Stuart (New York, NY)
The conservatives rising to his defense long ago sold out to the establishment. And if they can keep on deceiving his so-called "base" of deplorables and win a few more elections, the Hannitys of this world are likely to come out on top. So it might be more candid to just call them hypocrites now instead of pretending anyone's rising to anyone's defense. For a guy who claims to be guided by your religion, you let an awful lot of outright liars off the hook.
sjs (bridgeport, ct)
Trump makes the case for judging a man by his deeds and not his words. Look at his life, look at his deeds, look at his actions and his choices and know him for the lying, cheating, con man that he is. Anybody who believed him and believed in him was a fool.
Clark Landrum (Near the swamp.)
The rest of us outnumber the elite 1% by 99 times but the elites still win. A lot of somebodies don't get it.
Paul (Bellerose Terrace)
Trump is in the process of "draining the swamp," and refilling it with benzene and petrochemicals.®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news
I hope when there is no more potable water in Wyoming that they don't come crying to we blue staters.
Joe Gilkey (Seattle)
It was Donald, now President Trump who raised his sails in these strong winds of change whileall the other captains sat in the lounge while their vessels remained tied down in the marina. Say what you want about the man, but he does do his sailing on the water, and the office of the presidency now sits as the centerpiece of his trophies on the mantle. Maybe his role was to inspire more adventure in the rest of us, to encourage us to bring out our best in this time of unprecedented opportunity. Like the opinion writer Douthat, out there on the water now, with all his sails up, and in a wind that shows no sign of subsiding.

Trump the establishment sell out, not so sure about that, because hallowed is this man's name, like my Gemini girlfriend, much to smart for me to figure out just exactly what she is going do next.
elvislevel (tokyo)
"the people who voted for our president" deserve a whack in the face with a shovel. There is not a mainstream Republican policy proposal that will not make the lives of working class Trump supporters more economically precarious while advancing interests of the wealthy. But then we get the inane claim that Democrats are "deaf" to the interests of the working class. That's right, the party that pushed through every working class social program in America and then protected them against constant efforts by Republicans to destroy them, is now all about bankers and transsexuals.

In a country dense enough to consider this a plausible narrative the election of Donald Trump is not so much a surprise as a logical conclusion.
Alex Hickx (Atlanta)
Ross well argues an interesting these; but the 'm as t sentence of his sixth paragraph is unclear. Okay, on steed of infrastructural and improved health care -- always a Trump and GOP red herring-- we get tax extremely regressive tax cuts and spending cuts (especially health care cuts) to pay for them. But what does "rinse and repeat" mean, its merely alliterative relation to "repeal a replace" aside? A sloppy gap in Ross's thought?
Robert Cohen (Atlanta-Athens GA area)
This is an essay that needed to be composed.

DJT did campaign pitching populism, and enough good folks are apparently still buying the babble.

Folks are flawed human beings whom were/are conned as surely everybody else about one thing or the other.

Our great nation again feels divided, but when have we not been?

Even during that "good" WW II, as I read yesterday in the TIMES or GLOBE or somewhere about the Bond of Long Island, and last week (?) more about FDR's emergency imprisoning of the Nisi by way of another imperfect mortal California Attorney-General Earl Warren.

We are not all sycophants all the time.
Warren Kaplan" (New York)
Hardly surprising that Trump has not made good on any off his "promises" that got him thunderous applause at campaign rally after campaign rally. It's the applause for him that he was after, that's all.

First, last and always, Trump is about Trump!! And it will never change because there is no room for anything else in that swelled head of his!!
Edward Calabrese (Palm Beach Fl.)
Even the more credible conservatives must stop making excuses for the worst ever occupant of the White House. His campaign, riddled with bigotry and impossible to accomplish lies, has him believing that the same dialogue is appropriate for the Chief Executive.
This man has the tenacity of a shoe salesman wit none of the charm.
Stop trying to make his charade of a presidency legitimate
Walker (New York)
Trump asked Comey whether it would be possible to imprison journalists who publish leaked classified information. In his own mind, Trump has already broached those abuses which define authoritarian regimes.

First jailing journalists who publish classified information, Trump will arrest journalists who criticize him, then anyone who opposes him in any way. Welcome to the Gulag State!
Binx Bolling (Palookaville)
We are past all of this.
We need to pull together.
We are on the brink of an unprecedented crisis:

"This investigation is about a Russian espionage conspiracy that compromised the highest levels of U.S. government, penetrating the White House"
leeserannie (Woodstock)
Those who can afford to play on his private golf courses are the only people Trump really cares about and serves. Your fellow conservatives who are framing the false debate know this very well, Ross. They're just banking on the liberal-hating, anti-establishment base not noticing where the fake news is really coming from.
caveman007 (Grants Pass, OR)
Everyone involved in this mess is going to be trashed in the history books, if there are any. Even Obama, (who is beginning to resemble Buchanan). And to think that Memorial day is just around the corner.

So, what did those guys fight for?
merc (east amherst, ny)
As the adage goes, "You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time." So, stick a fork in Trump, although it's early, he's done. Just hope the Democrats can hold back as much of the damage this megalomaniac wants to do as they can. And you can start by donating $$$ to Democratic candidates running in 2018.
Thomas Renner (New York)
I share your opinion of this "president". I am a DEM but I liked trumps foreign policy however he is doing nothing he spoke of. Seems he is using his position to enrich his family and him.
Believeinbalance (Vermont)
Donald Trump drew up a list of what everyone except liberals wanted and offered it up to them. He recognized that those folks were so eager to be told what they wanted to hear they would ignore all else. He also knew they would not cross-reference his offerings for conflicts because they were only focused on what THEY wanted. All those people are as selfish as he is. They are as racist and economic malcontents as he is. So they took the opportunity to say and do what they have wanted to say and do their whole lives, and he gave them cover by shredding the "niceties" of society. In all of that, he had absolutely no intent to actually deliver anything to them. First, he was intent on punishing President Obama for that Washington Correspondents dinner. Then, being the malicious and mean-spirited individual that he is, he is intent on taking advantage and punishing all those LOSERS who eagerly accepted his lies in their selfish zeal. Now we all get to pay for all being the wrong persons to take on such a loathsome candidate and his Russian help. Now we have the vengeful, selfish, slothful elite ruling us. You can see it in their faces. Line them up and take a look at their mugs, both men and women. They are always angry, always grimacing, always smacking their lips,never sunny (even Ryan has these features behind his feigned happiness). Ugly isn't it? That we failed to notice, or decided to ignore them is our fault. Now that we have we have to fix it.
rawebb1 (LR, AR)
As a charter member of the intellectual elite--both Yale and Harvard on my CV--I hold deplorable Trump voters in utter contempt. The notion that a psychopathic hereditary billionaire would represent the interests of abused lower middle class blue collar voters is beyond belief. Will these voters ever figure out that no Republican is ever going to do anything for them? If I did not have grandchildren, I'd be laughing out loud.
Fire Captain (West Coast)
The right has empowered the more radical elements of their party. Fox news allows this alternate factual universe to exist. This has given us someone without the integrity, experience or intellect to be president.
Independent DC (Washington DC)
I think most of us are not on either "side". I for one am on the side of our country. I am tired of Trump but I am equally tired of the Democrats who never seem to have a plan....all they do is hate Trump and feed innuendo into every narrative. The media for the most part lives for unnamed sources and leaks reported by inside Dems. How about some real reporting that actually includes a named source?
Bravo David (New York City)
"I welcomed Brexit and entertained the case for Marine Le Pen), because populism needs a seat at the table of power in the West, and the people who voted for our president do deserve a tribune." Ross, this nugget from your column tells me how far you are from our founder's original intent. They didn't trust the populist appeal and resisted a powerful tribune. Ironically, that was the whole idea behind the Electoral College (the populist majority is usually too unwashed and stupid to make big decisions) and their experience with King George III showed them what a lunatic despot could do to upset the peace and security of the world. They turned out to be off the mark on what the Electoral College could prevent but right on the spot with a balance of power so effective that it constrains our "lunatic king" and drives him crazy...or crazier as the case may be. Fortunately, the French have rescued Europe and Mueller may rescue the United States. The only question remaining is will 40% of the the populist electorate continue to support their lunatic tribune or do we get back to a more "established" original intent?
Jonathan (Portland)
"President Trump...that will be HUGE for my brand."

This, is literally as far as the Donald got into thinking through the hair-graying task of leading the free world. By the time he's finished, the empire will be but a memory.
Nikki S. (Princeton)
The GOP willed Trump to be something he never could be: an intellectually rigorous, morally principled conservative champion of the working people. Some pundits are waking up to the reality of the incompetent narcissist. His rabid base may never do so.
Tony Mendoza (Tucson Arizona)
This is incredibly funny. Poor people in the middle of the country elect a billionaire New York businessman to defend their interests? They elect a member of the Coastal Elite to defend themselves from the Coastal Elite? I mean LOL. This is truly the Golden Age of satire. You couldn't make this stuff up.
paula (phx,az)
I am sad for all americans...thou I was not a trump supporter I wanted to give him a chance to prove me i find myself turning the TV so i do not have to look at his face. He disgusts me and for that I am ashamed....because my parents and grandparents brought myself and my siblings to be trustworthy and to be fair. he has taken all of that away. Its impossible to tell his lies from his truths and that is why i do not look at Mr. Trump to be my president. that is why i am disheartened
Tim (Wetumpka, AL)
How can one be anti-elitist when one is a member of that class to begin with?

Bernie woulda won.
CitizenTM (NYC)
And that is the crux of it: the evil Wendy Wasserstein has gifted us with the evil Donald Trumpster.
Len Charlap (Princeton, NJ)
Populism is Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, NOT Donald Trump and Paul Ryan.
John in PA (PA)
I hate say it, but Trump's greatest strength with his 40-percenters is not his anti-establishmentism but his thugish disdain for the elite (despite his own elitism and complete cop-out to them). His supporters love him because he epitomizes their us vs. them mentality. They feel judged and looked down upon and this inferiority complex outwieghs everything else. And so, given the choice between getting what they need, and giving it to those they believe are elites, his supporters will sacrafice everything to get their comeuppance.
CitizenTM (NYC)
You are so right. The endgame of democracy without education is the dumb vote into office one of their own.

As the much quoted Mencken said:

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." ~H.L. Mencken, The Evening Sun, July 26, 1920.
Jack (Michigan)
Conservatives will bail on Trump only if he fails to deliver on tax cuts. That is the beginning, middle, and end of conservative ideology. All the rest: dog whistle racism, climate change denial, more drug war for privatized prisons, abortion prohibition, et. al. is solely to gain power. So the con game party got conned and are now crying in their beer. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of hypocrites.
John (Hartford)
Trump got mugged by reality to the extent he appreciated what reality is. Did anyone with a dime's worth of common sense expect him to tear up NAFTA: break up the big banks: launch a trade war with China: tear up the Iran deal; shut down the Ex I'm bank; spend tens of billions on a wall; walk away from NATO; materially change the military balance in Iraq/Afghanistan; drain the swamp? His promises were worthless and have ultimately been reduced to the traditional Republican agenda of trying to take health insurance off millions; eliminating various worker, consumer and environmental protections; and trying to give huge tax cuts to the wealthy funded either by deficits or cuts in programs that support most of the country.
Beverly (Nyc)
...because he's a phony and a fraud who is long on sales and short on delivery.
tom (pittsburgh)
It is amazing that Republicans crying wolf while fully defending the wolf. Of course he is the tool of the Republican extremists now in control. The pretending to be concerned for the middle class, the Christian right, the single issue abortion, while doing the bidding of the money class has been the mantra of Republicans since Reagan. The Hannity type will continue to fool us.
Frank (Durham)
I am not sure to whom we refer when we talk about elite. There are intellectual elite, those who have studied and reflect on social and human conditions. There are the social elite, the wealthy, urban denizens. There are the political elite, the powerful who may or may not be intellectuals, or even well-educated.
There are the business elite, those who make millions and think that their wealth entitles them to promote favorite social changes. In other words, the people who for good or evil give direction to countries. Trump promised to get rid of them, to clear the swamp. The trouble is that he is the least competent, the least prepared, the least knowledgeable person to undertake this task, where it really possible. A response to populism implies that the needs of the people will be met and that, automatically, means government interventions in their favor, i.e. social
programs, the very measures that Republicans abhor. Trump has put in charge
off his administration millionaire, bankers, the military, the super-rich, the very types that people political swamps. Republicans will get either a travesty of their idealized social order or its total rupture. The sooner they realize this, the better off they will be.
Doodle (Fort Myers)
A conservative populist like Douthat has come to realize that Trump is thoroughly fake as far as conservatism or populism is concerned. And an incompetent narcissist at that. The only thing Trump has done successful so far is self dealing -- increased profit at Trump businesses with an elevated "Trump" brand. I see Douthat's heartache, but I don't sympathize.

Because to the progressives like myself, Trump is a double jeopardy of corrupt narcissist combined with the worst elements of conservatism. Instead of Republican Congress rubber stamping Trump, it is really the other way round, and the only reason why they are still with him. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are waiting for their payday of tax cut for the rich and budget cut for the poor. Any mention of "American people" is simply a masquerade.

I appreciate that Douthat has the courage and clarity to write this clear eye piece. But he does not get to cry victim. He, as part of the conservative political apparatus, has ruined the democratic dialogue of this country. He is essentially too late, to persuade his fellow Republicans who have stopped thinking, react emotionally without facts, and adulate the Republican talking points blindly.

To me, the damage they inflicted to our democratic system is the worst sin; especially when we our daughters and sons are risking their lives in the Middle East to enact democracy there.

Trump's worst week this past week was OUR worst week.
Al Miller (Ca)
If anyone can explain to me what exactly Donald Trump actually promised during the campaign I would love to see hear it. because the truth is, Trump promised everything then reversed himself only to follow that with even more promises. Even in the rare case in which Trump was consistent, the WALL for example, he had no idea how he would make it happen or how it would be paid for (Mexico apparently was convinced it was a good idea).

And that is one of the defining traits of the Trumpet. Where other politicians are reluctant to over promise and under deliver, Trump couldn't care less. This was often characterized by the media as "refreshing" and "straight talk."

But it was none of these things. It was pure delusion.

I think it iis fair to say now that Donald Trump was not lying when he made all of those promises. The left, it turns out that he was too smart to make such preposterous pledges. Trump they believed was willfully lying his way to the Whitehouse.

Perhaps in part, but the truth is, Donald Trump is shockingly ignorant ("Who knew healthcare was so complicated?"). Despite all the evidence to the contrary, he is utterly convinced that he is a genius capable of doing all things. Reality plays no part in Trump's grand delusion.

In this one instance, I agree with his fringe supporters. The man was freely and fairly elected. I would prefer to leave the Oval Office vacant for 4 years (i.e. keep Trump there) than impeach him. "Fabulous reality TV!"
Donut (Southampton)
Right on Russ. Trump is a liar and a fraud.

But at least he knew what to lie about in the campaign.

What drives me to despair is that he was elected (for the most part) in spite of his idiotic spoutings, not because of them, and yet the establishment smarties keep thinking that calling him (mostly accurately) a childish nitwit while maintaining the same policy positions is a winning strategy.


Had there been a normal, coherent candidate who said "I will protect social security," I suspect people would have listened. But there wasn't.

Clinton did not say that. Indeed, she thought Obama's offer to cut Social Security was perfectly reasonable. And most of the Republicans Trump vanquished have slavered after entitlements for years.

Lower middle class Americans are scared. They are being ignored and they are hurting. They are dying younger. They can't get jobs. It seems to me that they don't even know HOW to succeed in our current economy. They know the system is rigged and that the elites rigged it. They know more of the same won't help.

Trump understood this. He addressed this, honestly or not. Most folks knew that it was unlikely that he would deliver. But that was better than Clinton's promise of another two terms of Obama's economic policies.

Clinton didn't get this. Democrats still seem to not get it. When the options are an awful status quo or change, change, no matter how reckless or insane, seems appealing.

Time for a course change. Please.
Philly Girl (Philadelphia)
I see the media and DNC really did its job well. You didn't even mention Bernie Sanders who many times openly said he would not only sag social security, h e would strengthen it. He would have increased the less than paltry minimum wage to a nearly livable $15 an hour. Yet you totally neglected to discuss that in your comment.

In fact, Bernie is still one of the very few who is still fighting for the rights of Americans.
Mytwocents (New York)
Donald Trump doesn't govern as a populist or revolutionary because he can't pass the laws, and the Congress is made of a bunch of self-interested, vision-less, and debt-enslaved (to lobby money) Congressmen and Congresswomen.
The Republican party will now allow him to do the things that Trump promised and we voted for.
Matt (Saratoga Springs)
Please stop me before I vote again. Who knew? Before we voted last November, how were we supposed to know that Trump was cruel, illiterate, selfish and incompetent?

The GOP and the "conservatives' movement own this one lock, stock and barrel. Turn on Fox News and 'serious' conservative pundits are still defending him. Trump's misogyny, cruelty and ignorance, on display for decades, were seen by the GOP as the vehicle that would take them to their tax free, coal burning, gun toting nirvana. They have dumbed down every important and complex issue facing this country whether it be gun rights, health care, women's rights, climate change or LGBTQ rights, to name just a few. They knew perfectly well that by pandering to our base instincts and emphasizing false divisions in our society they could create a message that would resonate with many Americans who have been negatively affected by economic or other societal changes thus opening the door to a candidate like Trump. (If you don't believe me ask Roger Ailes, oops too late). Conservatives leaders and columnists can feel a lot of emotions right now but not surprise.

The worst part of this is that the 'conservative movement' has sold out the lower middle class voters that is used to get Trump elected. Their ongoing campaign to destroy affordable health care, incarcerate non-violent drug offenders and cut taxes for the wealthiest will disproportionately harm these people.
Joseph (Fayetteville, AR)
Except what Trump supporters know (and they think we don't, har, har) is that Trump provides congressional republicans with cover--not to pursue a conservative agenda but to get reelected. As one of your fellow op-ed writers pointed out, it isn't about conservatism but anti-liberalism. It isn't an agenda, it's a platform.
FlyOverLiberal (Indianapolis In)
Trump has not, does not, and will not ever have an ideology beyond Trump. I am so tired of writers in the opinion papers, pundits, and fools attempting to find consistency, a plan, or an ideology beyond his own self-interest.
There never was a plan. Trump said whatever he thought sounded good at the time that he thought might get him elected. The press took him seriously, as one should take a presidential candidate, and trumpeted his statements all over the front pages and the news feeds. Confoundingly he won. He won because people don't have the sense to dig deeper and see what has been so obvious to so many of us for the last two years: Trump is in this for Trump. Please, please stop trying to find some deeper meaning to this. It is just not there.
Robert (Seattle)
Well put, Ross--

As for populism, much of what we saw along those lines during the election was its wicked cousin. Telling people what they want to hear whether or not it is true or ethical or feasible. No, immigrants are not all rapists. No, canceling the trade pacts would not bring back the jobs. Etc.
Dadof2 (New Jersey)
So why don't the "true" conservatives in the House impeach him? They already know that the Dems will support reasonable charges, currently 193, and hopefully soon 195 votes. Takes 218 with a full House. That's just 23 Republicans.
Conviction by the Senate takes 67 votes and the Dems are 48 of those, needing just 19 more.

So why can't they even begin?
Because Trump is a symptom of what's wrong with the GOP and the nation, not the disease itself. The high fever is the symptom of the pneumonia.
Ann (Phoenix)
If trump was running for office right now he would lose. Voters are afraid of him. He may have promised all kinds of things like draining the swamp and shaking up the establishment, but he had no idea what that really meant or how to do it. He was simply an empty suit looking to stroke his over-sized ego. The repubs have created this monster and will hopefully pay the price for their selfishness in 2018 & 2020. They DO NOT care about us, average Americans!
Joshua Schwartz (Ramat-Gan)
"because there is no Trump revolution in the first place."

The Trump phenomenon might be more aptly described along the lines of the phrase attributed (probably mistakenly) to the great 19th century showman P.T. Barnum: there's a sucker born every minute.

Mr. Barnum,, though, was only selling circus tickets and he did sell "the best show in town".

As for Mr. Trump, perhaps he is selling a circus. And in all fairness, he does provide a good show.
Thomas (Washington DC)
Most of the wounds inflicted on him have been by insider leaks, presumably Republican political appointees who would gladly have been loyal foot soldiers had they not been appalled by what's been happening in the White House.
Dan Welch (East Lyme, CT)
As you aptly explain, conservative defenders of Donald Trump are reflexively focusing on the elites who are out to get him, just as he did on those immigrants and other bad guys who were making things awful. There is not a shred of substance in the conversation. What I wonder is if you have falsely labeled his defenders as conservative. Conservatism historically was a substantive set of premises and policies, and conservatives engaged in substantive debate with the other side to forge a pathway forward.
Rocko World (Earth)
For almost 40 years, repugnant-cans have been anything but conservative, driven to win elections on abortion and fiscal policy betrayal of conservative values of individual liberty free from government interference, and, fiscal conservatism. Taking away the choice of when and with whom you procreate, and running up staggering deficits, and failing to conserve the planet from industrial polluters is anything but conservative, and its hypocrites like Dross that give these lies a veneer of respectability.
Matt (DC)
Trump can easily be dismissed as a con man who sold people a bill of goods.

What cannot be dismissed is a key factor in his rise: an economic system that fails to work for most Americans and the lingering appeal of misogyny, racism and xenophobia among a substantial percentage of Americans. The latter isn't something we can do a whole lot about except waiting for people to die off, but it's a minority of the voters. What we have to do something about and what we can do something about is building an economic system that works for more people. We can debate the particulars, but the Republican trickle-down model has failed and too many Americans are stuck with stagnant wages and continuous economic insecurity.
Thomas (Washington, DC)
As much as I appreciate Mr. Douthat's awareness of Trump's failings, that is after all a pretty easy lift. Rather telling is his observation that "There is a Republican establishment (well, of sorts), a media-industrial complex", but nary a mention of the military industrial complex, or the staggering amount of money spent by uber wealthy Republican right-wing special interests focused solely on their own financial well-being. It remains a mystery how conservatives will bemoan the unfair advantage and persistent strength of David, while portraying their own Goliath as some put upon weakling trying desperately just to survive in a hostile and unforgiving world. As Joe would say, " malarkey".
GodzillaDeTukwilla (Carencro, LA)
Trump has been more effective than you realize. While we are distracted by his antics, his appointments are going about the business of gutting the EPA, opening up federal lands, even 'protected ' lands to industrial exploitation. Meanwhile, the Senate and House are moving forward to remove civil service protection and due process protections from VA workers. The stated goal is better service. The long term goal is to move patronage jobs from the top level positions down to the rank and file. I could go on, but the fact is Trump is a useful distraction while conservative apparatchiks are carrying out the radical right wing agenda. The conservative movement is winning the long game. We're just to busy watching Trump notice.
Robert (NYC)
And yet his support remains solid, dipping only a few points (3-4) this week on the basis of a steady drip of unproven claims (seemingly scheduled so as to maximize damage).

Why is that, if Trump is not meeting his voters' expectations? Perhaps because he is actually following through, at least partially, on some of the most significant issues: tightening border security, to considerable effect (though the failure to build a wall threatens the permanence of this progress should Trump's successor prove more lax); appointing conservative judges to the courts; and reorienting American foreign policy after the perversely apologetic attitude and backwards loyalties of the Obama years (i.e. privileging a Shia revolutionary government over our Sunni allies in the Middle East, antagonizing Israel, the Russia reset and promise of a free hand after reelection, clearing the path for the invasion of Crimea, etc.) The Obama years were a series of humiliations, from the misspelled "reset" button to massive intelligence breaches (today we learn that many of our CIA agents were killed by the Chinese between 2010-12). While Trump's itchy id inspires little confidence, he has appointed a first rate team to conduct his foreign policy. I get it Mr. Douthat, three of them are generals -- but so what?

Things could be better, but could also be a lot worse -- you have only to imagine the collapse of this presidency, the entrenchment of the GOP establishment, and the Democrats' return to power.
Philly Girl (Philadelphia)
Yeah, his ratings email solid. Solidly dismal.
larry cardy (denver)
trump does not have a foreign policy nor a domestic policy or any other kind of policy. the only policy he has is of himself for personal enrichment and self glory. why or how he thinks he is so smart and knowledgeable is beyond the scope of an average 6 year old. he has no clue on how the constitution or the safe guards the founding fathers enacted work. he has worried everyone of our long standing allies and praised total despots. what ever pops into his shallow mind just spews out without any rational thinking or the understanding that when a president of the US says something the whole world hears and judges the meaning and intent of what was said. when you insult or demean foreign allies leaders their are percussion's. his attention span is so short he cannot stay focused long enough to even attempt to move his agenda and vision forward. such a sad person to have as POTUS
just Robert (Colorado)
With Trump no one gets what they wanted except those who desire chaos and the ultimate destruction of our system of government. He is the realization of the tea party goal of upsetting our government, but in the end even they will realize that Trump and the Republican Party are a threat to their Medicare and Social Security. Our system depends on concepts such as trust of our leaders and ideas such as law and order that Trump undermines with every breath. Without these we only have a dead husk that will crumble under the pressure of further corruption.
Rick Gage (Mt Dora)
"You don't want to sell him out to the establishment...But open your eyes: He's already doing that to you." Welcome to the biggest political problem the Democrats have ever had to face. The Democrats are, have been and always be the working man's party. The populist party if you will. Minimum wage, overtime pay, worker's rights, healthcare, unemployment, social security, welfare, medicaid, all passed over the objections of Republicans and any improvements to these laws obstructed by Republicans for the last 8 years. The problem isn't that Trump supporters won't open their eyes, It's that they are blind, even when they do.
Lkf (Nyc)
Little about the Trump administration is surprising to anyone more sentient than a rock. All of what has happened so far was foreseeable in broad outline to anyone not blinded by ideology or avarice. That Trump hasn't nearly the gifts required is painfully obvious and has always been so.

Trump is a reality TV star (not anything more or less.) He is willing to explore the preposterous to insure that his audience returns day after day. When a TV show 'jumps the shark' (which is a 'Happy Days' reference but means that the plot has lost any meaning and the show is toast) all of the actors simply go home. Not the same thing when we are talking about the most powerful nation on earth and a simpleton who is playing what he believes is a role.

The right has great disdain for government. Sara Palin was a preposterous choice to sit next in line to McCain. Trump is the republican finger in the eye to all things American.

For Ross to complain that this was somehow not intended or foreseeable and that somehow Trump is aberrant is mere duplicity or perhaps sophistry.
Assay (New York)
Too little introspection too late Mr. Douthat.

If republicans (politicians and the voters alike) had their eyes and minds open during the election cycle, they would have known that Trump is neither a republican nor a democrat for he has no value system that he lives by. They would have also seen that choosing anyone but Trump would have been a "survivalist" choice whether or not as a voter you agreed with the other candidate or not.
Jonathan (Brooklyn)
The problem with trying to fit Trump to some political characterization - populist, anarchist, authoritarian, establishment, whatever - is that doing so presupposes a meta-structure for his thoughts and actions. But clearly there is no such structure. There's only an internal and insatiable urge toward self-aggrandizement. He's not Chance the Gardener but he is simple. He's simply a snake-oil salesman, and nothing more.
Brian (New Orleans)
Which side am I on? I'm on the "I don't like being lied to" side. I'm on the "I expect our president to know policy and have sound policy goals" side. I'm on the "I expect our president to not be sold to a foreign power and not obstruct justice" side. I'm on the "I expect our president to act more mature than a college freshman" side.

These expectations put me on the side opposite from 39% of the country.
dad2rosco (south florida)
Ross, many of Trump's voters who're still sticking to their failed man thinking their messiah will somehow find a way out of this mess that Trump dug in through his self-inflicted wounds.

They wake up early in the morning to catch the first tweet from their 'guru' who tweets his way to keep his 23 + millions of twitter followers, mostly to rant and rage at the Democrats first.
Then his own party establishment who actually had been pretty good to him by not showing any signs of bringing up any impeachment bill on the floor despite the fact that Trump himself has shown the same signs of anxiety that Nixon had shown in his last two years beginning with the summer of 1973.

I think that is the main reason why his followers whose numbers might in the range of 50+ millions should look inwards instead of gazing their eyes at Trump's movements,because with Trump 'there is no there there' as described by Bush's defense secretary Ramsfield.

With the Ex-F.B.I. Director Mr. Comey, whom Trump fired only because he won't let go of Mike Flynn's inquiry, coming to an open hearing in the Senate,Trump and his supporters should really be worried and concerned about how much and what he'll reveal to the American people about what he knew in June of last year and how much he remembers now about Trump's pleading to him to forget Mr. Flynn at his dinner at the W.H.

My bet he can bring down Trump's presidency by his own strength just like he destroyed Hillary's campaign through his weaknesses.
John Kellum (Richmond Virginia)
The counter argument to this Douthat piece, it that Trump is teachable. He has turned economic policy over to Treasury Secretary Mnuchen, who's is hopefully working on a compromise for tax cuts, so that most of the tax cuts are meant for the Middle Class only. Such a compromise might attract some Democrat support and would be consistent with Paul Ryan deficit hawk position. I see no chance of an impeachment if such policies are passed. The obstructionists like Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will never support any proposal by President Trump no matter how good. As far as his Russian controversy, it would be a good compromise if Russia joins the fight against radical Islamic terrorism, as predicted centuries ago by Nostradamus.
Ron (Florida)
The last line in this comment undermines everything else the commentator says. What rational person bases anything on a Nostradamus prediction?
Randall B (NYC)
Nostradamus? Are you serious?
John Kellum (Richmond Virginia)
My comment was "as Nostradamus predicted," and is not based on that prediction. NY Times readers, like you, are like lemmings, following the liberal ideological line. While I am a conservative, I do read the Times to understand the other point of view.
MissyR (Westport, CT)
The idea of a Liberal Elite is a conservative construct. Look who's running the federal branches of government, and it sure as heck isn't a liberal majority.

Republicans are adept at getting the vote of struggling Americans who continue to vote against their own interests. Why else would a factory worker vote the same way as the CEO of their company? Does that worker stand to benefit or even have the same stock options sending their jobs overseas or into automation would bring? Of course not. The GOP and their benefactors have more to gain financially by being in power and letting the underclass think the other (liberal) side stands against them. It's a deftly told message.
Jeff Atkinson (Gainesville, GA)
These days the ideological "conservatives" are concerned with only one thing: tax cuts for the rich. As long as Mr. Trump signals that he's willing to go along with that, they're willing to trade off pretty much everything else. They are his.
Rocko World (Earth)
And abortion.
DW (Philly)
None of them are concerned with abortion for a millisecond. They're concerned with tossing this bone of piety to their evangelical admirers, who either are too stupid to understand the con being played on them, or who personally don't care what happens to the rest of the inhabitants of this planet as long as the precious fetuses are saved.

Personally, Republicans could not generally give a flip who has an abortion. All their mistresses have them whenever necessary.
Alison (Colebrook, CT)
"But his legislative agenda has been standard establishment-Republican fare — spending cuts to pay for upper-bracket tax cuts, rinse, repeat." Trump is out for himself which really is what the Republican establishment understands. Republican policy can be stated simply as "Taking from the poor and middle class to give to the very rich."
Tom Wolpert (West Chester PA)
Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal recently wrote an op-ed with considerably more sensitivity to the problems posed by Trump as well as the problems posed by the attempts to institute a shallow 'Watergate impeachment redux' effort to remove him from office. Dothan appears to disregard entirely the fact that Trump was elected; that he holds office through the same electoral process that has elected every previous president, and that millions of people think that their vote for him is intended to mean something. Whether or not he is at war with the institutions around him, he is President for a reason. Millions of people, starting with the Republican voters who enabled him to be the Republican candidate, are weary of the institutions of Washington and think those institutions are totally useless for improving their lives. The institution of the Presidency was established by the Constitution and does not topple over because the President is inept in the eyes of his critics. There may not be a Trump revolution in Douthat's eyes, but much of America disagrees. Douthat gives evidence of the elitism he declares does not exist.
Charles (Tecumseh, Michigan)
I did not vote for Trump, but I did not vote for Clinton either, because I never really feared Trump's presidency and I am a conservative who would never vote for either of the sleazy Clintons. The Trump Presidency is playing out just as I expected it would, except that most of his appointments are not as bad as they could have been (see Mattis and Gorsuch). I always believed that the powers that be, the elites, the "deep state," whatever you want to call it would hold him in check. I don't agree with all of the "elite bipartisan consensus," but some of Trump's populism is scary and needs to be stopped. Nevertheless, Trump is not a threat to our republic. The fact that our republic continues to hum along within the framework of our constitution, despite the profound incompetence and bizarre communications of the chief executive speaks to how strong our institutions are. Trump is an manageable aberration, not a crisis.
Jeffrey Lewis (Vermont)
It appears that the Republican establishment (Douthat, Noonan, Coulter but not elected officials) have recognized that their fantasy is not practical. This seems pretty much par for the Republican course: going too far, finding that the bridge is a plank. I'm discouraged to see the term 'deep state' occur in articles like this. The level of hatred that would condemn the bureaucracy we have built that delivers service, cares for the environment and defends the country is terrible. What, you wonder, would that 'great thinker' Steve Bannon, replace it with? An ad hoc Manpower staffed cleaning crew? We have learned what it means to hand the government over to amateurs and thin thinkers; nothing serious gets done and there are sore elbows from back patting.
Then the opinionate abandons ship assuming that will insulate them from responsibility when all crashes down. What do they think is good to do? Who can meet their standards of irresponsibility, bad policy, no taxes, and safety? Plus, I suspect they'd like someone who appreciate good food and doesn't decorate with gold. There is the matter of taste it appears and DJT is 'not our kind'.
Richard Luettgen (New Jersey)
My support of Trump isn’t premised on an expectation that he would personally lead us to effectiveness in governance. If Republicans get their acts together sufficiently to pass legislation that Trump will sign, and pull in enough Democrats to give the process a bipartisan cast, then Trump will have served his purpose -- even if it is done by elites of both sides combined solely to resist HIM.

In other words, “nice guys”, or traditional elitists who spout political theory while distancing themselves from a majority of the people and accomplishing nothing meaningful for years … finish last, without accomplishing anything material. Back in the days when the election likely was going to elevate either HRC or Jeb, it should have been evident that neither of them was capable of breaking the cycle of ideological gridlock that so afflicts us.

Trump may not do that either, but he also may: possibly by forcing deadly enemies to cahoot in opposing him. Certainly with HRC, and probably with Jeb, all we would have gotten was four more years of ineffectiveness and invective. We still have the invective, but under Trump we may get effectiveness. It was a better bet than the alternatives available to us.

“Establishment sellout”? You bet: our establishments beg to be sold out. They’ve become useless to us, dedicated solely to standing on their hind legs and baying at the moon. Ross actually believes that there’s something worthy and valuable to be gained in defending them. There isn’t.
Glen (Texas)
Putting Richard's Trump apologia in terms of disease, we could have been burdened with chronic and advanced diabetes (JEB) or renal failure (HRC). But lucky us, we got Ebola.
Anne (New York)
Respectfully, for months you've been commenting that Trump alone was going to turn things around. Now it's not about him anymore but what Congress will do?

How are they going to get anything done if he keeps tweeting nonsense or saying things in interviews that makes no sense. $15 monthly premiums for healthcare for everyone?

Rexnord is still moving its plant to Mexico and laid off 200 of its 300 employees in Indianapolis. Had their Mexican employees come up to learn operations for the new plant. What's Trump doing about that besides tweeting vague threats a month ago?

So you love his personality, but so what? How does that get you that tax break you're hoping for? Does it matter to you if he is patriotic? Loves America and all the people he serves? Or is that not a conservative value anymore?
Martin (New York)
Richard, you don't make a coherent argument, only a kind of vague wishful thinking. Nevertheless, on 1 specific point both you and Mr. Douthat are under the same illusion. In the important sense, Mr. Trump was never anything but an "establishment politician;" he (you will forgive the sacrilege if I don't adopt your reverential capitalizations) embodies, granted in extreme form, all the things that make you (and I) say that politics is broken: dishonesty, self-interest above the common good, entertainment as politics, ideological rigidity, and an addiction to fake "news" whose only purpose is to confirm him in his prejudices & illusions.
Jerry Hough (Durham, NC)
Trump came to power in a Goldwater party. He clearly is flawed, but it is just stupid or dishonest to say that he should have been an FDR in his first 100 days when he needed 95% of the votes of the Goldwaterite-Eisenhowerites in his own party when he would get not one vote from the supposedly left-wing party. I think he has made major changes in foreign policy with sophisticated steps those like Douhat were supposed not to see--and, indeed, are blind too--, but we will see what he achieves in the Senate on his domestic policy. The man does want to get re-elected and that will affect where he ends up.
Jerry Hough (Durham, NC)
Serious readers should go through all the comments. They demonstrate that Douhat must be wrong. The commenters are essentially affluent readers of the NYT Times. They are doing nothing but emotionally venting. Most of them want the Obama-CitiGroup-Westchester policy. If they really thought Trump would be so pro-Establishment, they would not be so hysterical.
Anne (New York)
This serious reader is quite concerned that Trump is not patriotic and does not have conservative values such as love of the constitution. Taxpayers are funding his businesses and his family is using their new roles to market their businesses which he financially benefits from.

Telling the Russians Comey is a crackpot is not patriotic either. Let's be clear that many Americans are concerned that Trump's one and only interest is himself not his country. That shouldn't be something just liberals are concerned about.
John Stroughair (London)
I think Douthat makes an excellent point. One of the longer term tragic elements of the current farce is that Trump's populist ideas won't be given a fair chance to succeed. So in future, populists will be able to claim they failed because of poor implementation- just like The German army didn't lose WWI.
To be clear, I despise Trump's ideas but they won't go away based on pious liberal arguments. Pious liberal arguments against these ideas are the main reason Trump's voters support them. But with Trump we had a chance to put these ideas into practice and see them fail spectacularly. Then maybe we had a chance to show everyone that voting in a democracy has consequences- it is not like voting in a game show.
Gerard (PA)
The issue is not whether his ideas are given a chance, it is that either his ideas are illegal or they have nothing to do with what he promised. Many opposed him precisely because they saw his bait and switch coming long before the election - and the I told you so has no satisfaction since the conned are still conned and refuse to panic as we all should. The wealthy and the fundamentalist-Christian factions have combined to take over the government; panic is the only sane response.
goofnoff (Glen Burnie, MD)
Trump's populism is thinly veiled fascism. The failure of his ideas would be accompanied by the collapse of our remaining democratic institutions. That may happen anyway.

Friends and I have discussed allowing the "populists" to stew in their own juice. After thirty years of the failure of voodoo economics there is no reason to believe further failure will offer any instruction.

I would recommend strongly reading "On Tyranny". These are not normal times.
Jamie Nichols (Santa Barbara)
The problem with this comment is that Trump's ideas would have serious and harmful consequences for the poor, minorities and powerless everywhere, and the environment. It is mainly "pious liberal arguments" that serve to protect against Trump's ideas and those potential consequences. I can't see how anyone who genuinely cares about humanity or the other fauna and the flora of this planet would feel it's too bad Trump's ideas are not given a "fair chance to succeed". I, for one, hope they fail, whether by fair or unfair means!
Will (NYC)
Trump is a salesman. That's it. All he ever was. Want a condo? He'll tell you how absolutely fabulous his is, even though the actual workers were stiffed, the wallboard was made in China and the 75th floor is actually only on the 45th floor. His buyers were gullible rich foreigners.

He saw a gullible crowd out in America who believe the claims of late night infomercials and went in for the kill. Everything will be great! Details to follow.

He made the sale. He's done.
peg (VA)
Well said...nobody knows Donald Trump better than a New Yorker!
Heather Bradley (Guilford, CT)
I find Douthat's comment, "the elite consensus on gay and transgender rights" to be offensive. As if in 2017 the only people who believe that gay and transgendered people deserve the same civil rights are elites. There are some working class heterosexual people, myself included, who believe that everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Douthat, and others, need to stop hiding behind the idea of 'elites' to mask their bigotry.
Jean Kennedy (Newmarket, NH)
I totally agree. Human rights are exactly as stated-- human rights for all---not just a chosen few.
Katherine Cagle (Winston-Salem, NC)
Yes, I would like for Mr. Douthat to explain who he thinks is an elitist! Is it anyone who is educated? I presume he is among those, so he must be an elitist. I think he truly means those who aren't super conservative. Come on, Mr. Douthat, give us a clue!
B. Rothman (NYC)
Say, are you including the SCOTUS right wing judges? If not, you should. These guys hide behind the law that they make up as they go along!
arbitrot (Paris)
One can only imagine what it took for Ross Douthat, a principled conservative, to write:

"some of my fellow conservatives, from Sean Hannity ..."

Why would anyone include Sean Hannity in any kind of fellowship?
goofnoff (Glen Burnie, MD)
Why would anyone in the known universe think Trump actually believed in or intended to promote anything he promised. Historically, for President, we've elected people with political track records we could evaluate, or proven great character in the public sphere. With Trump we elected a cheap carnival barker, with endless shady business deals in his past, who bragged about his sexual perversions. He claimed great religious piety despite the fact no one remembers seeing him in a church in his adult life.

Douthat is disillusioned???? Can you provide me with Mr. Douthat's contact information, please. I have a bridge to sell him, or more appropriately, Mexican condos and "university" programs.
ricodechef (Portland OR)
Yes, but will any Republicans listen?
No one should ever kid themselves into believing there aren't conservative elites. If you think there aren't look around you and stop being stupid.

As for the point of a liberal elite isn't fit to lead - ha! A liberal elite isn't but a pure ignoramus is? Seriously, there's never been a less informed president in the history of this country.
DW (Philly)
"No one should ever kid themselves into believing there aren't conservative elites."

Yes, that was one of this column's sillier propositions.
Phil (Florida)
"He promised a new synthesis, a populist alternative, on domestic issues and foreign affairs alike." He has no idea what synthesis even means. Trump showed from the very beginning, with his infantile insults and obvious pandering to his "poorly-educated" that he was a cynical joke, a vehicle for the fears of those afraid of change. The irony of Americans, those born under the premise that we're all created equal, fawning over the worst we have to offer just because he is rich, is almost too rich to bear. This election was the biggest con in our history, and even if we survive, if we don't learn a very big lesson we're doomed. He promised a "new synthesis"? Don't make me laugh.
Janna (Alaska)
We all know what a dangerous, selfish, arrogant, uninformed, corrupt fool he is. Even those who can't yet admit it have to know that. So what is it going to take to take him down?
RogerJ (McKinney, TX)
It's going to take people going to the ballot box in 2018 and especially in 2020. It's going to take a Democrat who can connect with the voters and withstand Republican lies and smears.
Terri Smith (USA)
The GOP need to go down with Trump. It was their relentless propaganda from FOX and right wing hate radio that the GOP have been hoisting on Americans for decades.
Robert (Edgewater, NJ)
A resignation would be the cleanest and quickest cut. I see a deathlike tiredness in his photos taken this week, a morose sadness I can't imagine that he can live with. My speculation is that he'll leave office, whining that he's being treated unfairly, as he always does.
Gurbie (SoCal)
Another in a growing series of Op-Eds by "serious" conservative pundits. I call it the "It was worth a try" cop out. It goes: "Hey, it was worth a try. Who could have known the guy was actually crazy? How were we to know a guy who lives in a gold-plated tower, who is on record for never doing a selfless act, wasn't a populist after all? Boy we fooled! Those poor voters deserved better!"

This is Douthat's effort. Noonen's was yesterday.
Kingfish52 (Rocky Mountains)
You're right Ross, that Trump is as much an "insider" as those he campaigned against, and his promises were as sincere as a snake oil salesman - although perhaps I demean snake oil purveyors since they at least gave their marks SOMETHING.

But all the logic in the world, whether it comes from a certified conservative such as yourself, or the most flaming liberal, will not penetrate the wall of denial erected by the Trump faithful. In fact, if Trump wants to build a wall, perhaps all he need do is to figure out what impregnable substance his believers use to repel any perceived attacks on their hero. The ONLY thing they care about is that he's anti-government. If he's massively incompetent, so what? If his decisions and actions threaten to bring down long-standing institutions, GREAT! That's why they voted for him. If you were to scratch the surface of their beliefs you would find the ideology of secessionists. So, whatever harm anyone predicts coming from Trump is red meat to his base.

That said, it is important that Republicans and conservatives who care for our republic begin to speak out and expose Trump for the danger that he represents. So keep fighting the good fight Ross, as they say, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend".
Nora_01 (New England)
Don't for a moment doubt that the wealthy who are feeding at the pig trough with Trump are also secessionists who would sell us out for one dollar less in taxes.
Abe (Lincoln)
He'll be just fine, after he gets his straight jacket and padded cell. This guy is nuts, and we all know it.
Liz McDougall (Calgary, Canada)
His utter incompetence is the issue. Put partisan politics aside - he is really having trouble managing himself let alone the country.
LT (Chicago,IL)
"... the people who voted for our president do deserve a tribune."

No, they do not.

If Trump supporters wanted a populist, they should have voted for a populist. If they wanted a conservative , they should have voted for a conservative. If they wanted a policy wonk, the should have voted for a policy wonk.

Instead they knowingly voted for a profoundly ignorant, obvious con man, with no interest in policy simply because he said nasty things about the "establishment"

If you’re in a con game and you don’t know who the mark is … you’re the mark.

The establishment knew from day 1 who was the mark. Trump voters will find out.
Peter (CT)
No, they didn't know they were voting for a con-man, and they deserve representation by someone legitimate.
Michael (El Cerrito, CA)
The Birther Prince need only say the opposite of what his predecessor did, you know, the Brown one, and Republicans will love him unto death. Tax cuts for the rich? Well, the Jesus always rewards those on earth who pretend to follow him.
EB (Earth)
Ross, the consensus that gay and transgender people should have equal rights is not one of the elites but of a large majority of Americans--a majority that will continue to grow as the older generation dies off and the younger generation, which almost unanimously accepts gay/LGBT rights, becomes the majority. There is nothing "elite" about any of that.

Conservatives have permanently lost that battle, Ross.
Jefflz (San Franciso)
Trump has turned our government over to his children while he slogs around Mar-a-Lago playing golf. He is not in the Oval Office mentally or physically. Trump is a non-president who wouldn't know the military-industrial complex from a shopping mall. The word policy in the same sentence as Trump is an oxymoron.

After 100 days of gross incompetence as so-called president, Trump voters cannot honestly claim Trump fights for the little guy. Those who do remain Trump supporters suffer from "voter masochism". They continue to harm themselves by backing a man who wants to take away their health care, their Social Security, and engages in self-dealing in broad daylight. Even his current foreign travels are very much against his own wishes - its too much like work.

Hannity, Limbaugh, Breitbart - the Big Lie propagandists - they will continue to laud and defend Trump. They created him and It serves their own purposes to keep him around .

As for Ryan, McConnell and the rest of the GOP, they prefer to see our nation disgraced day in and day out so they can slash taxes for the super-rich and "deconstruct" all forms social progress such as Medicare, Social Security, environmental protection - even Big Bird and Sesame Street are threatened.

There is only one way out of the current political nightmare that fills every single news day: Trump and his Republican backers must be forced from office by "we ,the people", sooner rather than later.
Susan (Paris)
"As a populist he's a paper tiger, too lazy to figure out what policies he should champion and too incompetent and self-absorbed to fight for them."

Once you take away the "birther" scam, the incessant attacks on Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, the "demon" press, James Comey, ad nauseum, there really is nothing left of Donald Trump but an empty shell or "paper tiger" as Ross says. One can only imagine how much he must loathe being out of his comfort zone at the moment, surrounded by advisors and "foreigners" he is expected to show an interest in. His iignorance, incompetence and boorishness are now on display for an international audience and bring only shame on America that we could have elected such a man.
Pat f (Naples)
And the worst thing is trump will miss several important golf games while on that stupid trip abroad.
Opeteht (Lebanon, nH)
I would like to get an explanation for why populism needs a seat at the table in a Western power. Never in history has populism contributed constructively to the advancement of the human cause. Why would it now? What good is Brexit doing for the people who voted for it? The French were smarter than our NYT columnist. They knew that electing Marine LePen would have let to a catastrophic collapse of the post war order and peace in Europe. No, populism has no place in any self-respecting democracy.
Glen (Texas)
No, Ross, Trump isn't doing any of the things he promised he would. He is sticking to his tried and true business modus operandi: Bankrupt the sucker, write it off on his taxes, then look for another "project."
William (Minnesota)
So long as conservative leaders view Trump as a useful tool to advance their agenda, they will help keep him afloat. But once they sense his political impotence, they will cast admiring glances at the calm and smiling, ever-ready Mr. Pence.
Eric Caine (Modesto, CA)
Platforms and positions for Trump are disposable tactics, subject to change whenever he thinks he needs a new distraction. Anything accomplished on his watch will be the result of a Republican Congress eager to grab all it can while all eyes are on the Orange Spectacle. Trump himself is stuffing his pockets as fast as possible and learning it's harder to do than he thought because so many people are actually treating him as something more than a sideshow. The "conservatives rising to his defense" are battling their own hallucinatory visions and will continue to do so no matter who's in the White House.
Alex Dersh (Palo Alto, California)
If Republicans don't throw Trump overboard post-haste they will suffer mighty in 2018 and 2020. It's not like ditching Trump means President Hillary. It means a President Pence and while I don't care for his Christian fundamentalism at least he's emotionally and mentally stable unlike the man-child currently occupying the Oval Office.
Mike Marks (Cape Cod)
As much as I despise the man, every fiber his being from the tips of his toenails to the ends of the ends of his orange hair and every self serving thought in his head, I had hoped that he would actually champion the needs of the people who put him in office. He had the opportunity to be a genuinely transformative President who could have changed our political culture and the trajectory of our nation for the better. I would have been angry about many of his policy prescriptions, but on others I was prepared to applaud. Instead, we have a man who is embarrassing our nation in the eyes of the world, disrespecting the core foundations of our democracy and putting our nation and the world in danger.
DW (Philly)
I simply don't understand posts like this.

"I had hoped that he would actually champion the needs of the people who put him in office"

On what basis did you hope this? It makes no sense. Not a single proposal he made was unaccompanied by an obvious smirk. There's never been so obvious a con man. In a TV movie about a grifter, his falseness would be clear to the audience. Somehow encountering the same person in real life, many fell for it.

"I would have been angry about many of his policy prescriptions, but on others I was prepared to applaud."

Which ones? There wasn't a single thing he proposed that was admirable, except perhaps some vague mumblings about infrastructure.
Tom Boyd (Illinois)
Here's an example of the way in which Trump could help the "hard working middle class:" Trump could weigh in on the infrastructure bill (if it ever gets any traction) and oppose Republican legislative plans to do away with the Davis-Bacon labor protections for federally funded projects. That would help the thousands of workers that would be needed to repair our crumbling infrastructure. But the donor class of the Republican party would also weigh in and I doubt Trump would be at odds with his fellow billionaires. Bottom line, Trump won't side with the "hard working, 'forgotten' middle class."
jprfrog (New York NY) was evident from the start (or at least since trump became birther-in-chief) that trump was a grifter, a charlatan, a hopelessly malignant narcissist, and anyone with brains and a modicum of human experience would have known that. The only surprise has been the rapidity of the disintegration of the con, proceeding at warp speed (compared to, say, Watergate) largely due to trump's utter lack of self-control when he opens his twitter account at 3 AM (when does he sleep?). But trump did not just pop into existence out of nowhere --- decades of Fox News and the bad faith of so-called conservatives (really reactionaries) have prepared a way for him, and the rough beast is no long slouching toward Washington --- he has arrived.

It is too bad that those of us who were on to him from the start will suffer the consequences all along with the souls who bought into his smarmy shtick --- and as they cannot admit that they were gulled, will go down in flames with him. Or as with Jim Jones, with a Kool-aid cocktail.
nickwatters (cky)
Amazing. Next Douthat will be telling us that Pro Wrestling is fixed.
DW (Philly)
"Trump doesn’t want to pick a fight with the elite consensus on gay and transgender rights."

Whaaaa... ? First time I've heard that claim. How very peculiar.

"some sort of wall-like structure will eventually go up, I assume"

You've got to be kidding. I keep thinking maybe you're starting to see the light, Mr. Douthat, but if you honestly believe there will ever be a wall or a wall-like structure, I can't help you.

"he’s at war with the institutions that surround him because he behaves consistently erratically and inappropriately and dangerously, and perhaps criminally as well."

You've got that part right.
michaelslevinson (St Petersburg, Florida)
With each passing day, Trump's support diminishes. People believe Trumpster less and less. Mr "believe me" is unbelievable.

With the Saudi Prince standing near, Trump announced, for American consumption, the Saudi's intent on investing in America to the tune of billions upon billions of dollars and that, (I've been paraphrasing Trump) was going to be "jobs, jobs, jobs."

So Trump proclaimed. Trump is wrong through no fault of his own stupidity.

The Saudi investment is going to the Pentagon, from there spread out among a couple three hundred military sub-contractors.

We, "Amedica," is not getting "Jobs, jobs, jobs." We, explicitly the military supply sub-contractors, are getting hours, hours, hours.
stan continople (brooklyn)
What I still cannot figure out about Trump is how such an obvious dunce knew exactly what to say to gain the nomination and the Presidency. Was it just from watching Fox News or his "Apprentice" success? From his rabble-resistant Fifth Avenue perch, he somehow had his tiny fingers on the pulse of the electorate yet seems absolutely clueless as to how to act like a "real" demagogue, which means not just spewing venom, but fulfilling at least some big-buck promises to retain his follower's loyalty. Even cynically proposing a massive infrastructure bill, knowing full well that it would be quickly buried by Turtle McConnell, would have done him a world of good but he can't even go through the motions. Eventually, all but a small, obdurate percentage of his faithful numbskulls will catch on but it will still take time.
Bob B (Boston)
Please leave the man alone. The alternative, presumably, would be Pence (unless he could be tied to any of the many things that could bring down Trump). Besides, Trump is endlessly entertaining.
PatB (Blue Bell)
His support isn't monolithic. There are the upper income types, whose earnings are heavily slated to investment v work- they don't care to look beyond his promises of lower taxes. There are the disillusioned former Democrats who are so frustrated with things that are more perception than reality, that they were ready to go scorched earth... and used the election to that end. Then there are the deplorables- those that despise Obama with a ferocity that's not explicable even if you didn't agree with all of his policies- until you account for racism. Accepting that people of color, immigrants, gays are the enemy gives them somewhere to focus their rage. It's religion over country, and every culture clash is a fight to the death.

The problem is that our Congress is largely comprised of the first group: Establishment insiders thankful that he's a paper tiger in terms of populist causes. They want to keep him in check long enough to lower their taxes, remove any and all health and safety regulations, unleash the worst excesses of capitalism on hapless, hard-working Americans and assume everyone will turn to 'prayer' v medicine when they get that next bad diagnosis. I can almost forgive the 'have nots' who are frustrated by the relentless push to eliminate the middle class; but I will never forget this House of Representatives in my life. I re-registered as a Democrat once Trump was nominated and will never vote Republican again.
PatB (Blue Bell)
Hysterical... and they don't think that Rupert Murdoch and his multi-billion dollar collection of media properties isn't part of the 'establishment?' What dupes...
L’Osservatore (Fair Verona where we lay our scene)
The story of the last election is that not one loud-enough person in the Democratic Party and not a carload in the GOP had the first clue what the majority of voters wanted to hear.

That degree of closed-minded cluelessness is as frightening a realization as the certainty that the currency will eventually collapse due to reckless overspending, and the populous part of the North American continent will have to go back to Square One and start over after a decade or so of time to let the dust settle.
Our prayers would have to go to the disabled people and their families at that time.
Timbuk (undefined)
Trump University playbook on full display. In your face.
Joan (formerly NYC)
Two asides Ross:

While I can understand Brexit as (among other things) a populist rebellion, that is not a reason to "welcome" it. Brexit means long term economic decline for the UK, and unlike the election of a President, it isn't term limited.

"All of this may still not rise to the level of impeachable offenses." Well, the bar has been set pretty low for impeachment.
Christine Bunz (San Jose CA)
Trump is the devil-child of the Conservatives, which includes you Ross. He was spawned in the swamp of mean, conservative, money for the rich white men only atmosphere. His daddies are Rush, Hannity, and the recently departed Ailes. He has no mother, he hatched from the fetid lies of Ryan and McConnell. You are all responsible.
northlander (michigan)
Folks here say, "that's just how New Yorkers act." Sobering?
Hedge (Minnesota)
No, that's just how Trump acts. If New Yorkers acted that way, why would they reject him by giving Hillary Clinton 79% of their votes (vs. 19% for Trump)?
Robert (San Diego)
His supporters wanted change, I get that, but this president doesn't have the grey matter to both lift the left behind, and satisfy his tax cut obligations.
Trump is self destructing, digging a deeper and deeper hole faster than Spicer can hand him ladders.
karp (NC)
One of the strangest developments in conservative politics is the heuristic that "the establishment is bad." Not only is it inherently anti-conservative, it's ambiguous and ill-defined to the point of being useless. What even IS "the establishment," and why do they hate it so much?

"The establishment" is liberals, obviously: that and nothing else. They hate it because Rush Limbaugh has been telling them for decades how liberals are literally destroying the country. There IS no real establishment: it's just called that because of how galvanizing it is to paint your own side as righteous underdogs.

So they will never see Trump as "selling out to the establishment," because look how mad liberals are at him! That's all it takes, because that's all this issue ever was. It's not real. It's a figure of speech.
DW (Philly)
"What even IS 'the establishment,' and why do they hate it so much?"

This is a con. Don't people get that? The establishment is white, rich, and male. When one of its own blathers about "getting rid of the establishment" .......... *it's a con*. Another phrase for this is The Big Lie. When someone makes a claim so preposterous on the face of it, some people are more prepared to accept it than they might have been a smaller lie.
Ned Flarbus (Berkeley CA)
I'm afraid his supporters in the electorate don't care. They just like him because He's a rich arrogant jerk and he's living their fantasy.
michael reynolds (tiburon)
You know, it's starting to look as if the decision to elect a narcissistic, lazy, dim-witted, profoundly ignorant and emotionally unstable buffoon to run the world's only superpower was not terribly clever.

I mean, I don't want to jump to conclusions here, but how deep in denial does one have to be to miss the screamingly obvious fact that none of this is working?
Decebal (La La Land)
Too bad he is a Titanic disaster already and doesn't have 2-3 years of economic policies under his belt that surely would have devastated his base.

Unfortunately, based on FOX News coverage, all is a conspiracy and he is a victim who will never get a chance to make them all rich and powerful.

His base has every right to howl at the injustice of being left for dead by corporations who only care about the bottom dollar. Where they loose me is in their choice of an ignorant buffoon to turn things around.
cbarber (San Pedro)
Well written Mr. Douthat, I was willing to give the guy a chance( I didn't vote for
him) but in your words " he behaves erratically and inappropriately, and
dangerously............" is exactly the reason Mr. Trump turns me off plus the
the untruths he spouts off everyday. And the conservatives rising to his defense?
These men and women are all provincials, true thoughtful conservatism is
is in hibernation.
Len Charlap (Princeton, NJ)
"thoughtful conservatism" does not exist. Here are some myths conservatives had flogged throughout my 78 years:

1. Significantly (say, no deficits for more than 4 years) paying down the federal debt has usually been good for the economy.

2. The single payer health care systems of other developed countries produce no better results at not much lower costs.

3. The very high top tax rates after WWII combined with high real (ratio of taxes actually paid to GDP) corporate taxes stifled economic growth.

4. The devastation of WWII caused the output of Europe to stay low for many (>10) years.

5. A small ratio of federal debt to GDP has always insured prosperity.

6. Inequality such as we have today (Gini about 0.50) has usually encouraged entrepreneurship thus helping the economy.

7. Our ratio of our corporate taxes actually paid to GDP is among the highest of all developed countries.

8. Since WWI, the cause of severe inflation in developed countries has usually been the printing of money.

9. As a percentage of GDP, today's federal debt service is the highest in many years.

10. Inequality such as we have today is an aberration; the history of capitalism has shown that periods like 1946 - 1973 with low inequality are the norm.
V (Los Angeles)
Mr. Douthat,

Trump was never a populist. It made me sick that the Republicans suddenly, cynically, embraced populism in order to sway, no, actually it was to con, middle America into voting for the ultimate con man.

When was the last time Republicans did something decent for the middle class, something that was actually populist? You, Fox News, McConnell and Ryan have done such a fabulous job of perfecting the shell game that I have bizarre encounters, constantly, with delusional voters.

Yesterday I spoke to a small business owner who went off on Obama for not reforming our healthcare system with single payer. When I pointed out that the Republicans, and Joe Lieberman, did everything in their power to stop that from happening, he was shocked. When I asked him who stopped the government from negotiating drug prices, he had no clue.

Republicans are the geniuses who came up with the Hastert Rule that says you have to have a majority of Republicans pass a bill in the House. The Republicans keep peddling the same trickle-down garbage. They keep aligning themselves with the Christian Right. They keep fighting for the 1%, even though we are living in a bigger Gilded Age than the one in the 1920's.

Republicans are the ones who gave us W Bush, Palin and now Trump.

Keep gerrymandering to hold onto power with your phony "populism." All you have is a pyrrhic victory, that and an electoral college victory, twice now in the last 5 elections.

Trump is just the tip of the iceberg.
toiyabe (Idaho)
Perhaps one can resonably write the phrase, "alleged President." When and if his name is cleared of all the allegations, he might graduate to merely "incompetent President" but trailed by all his many defects of character, and his misconceptions about how to govern and what is a democracy.
Old Mountain Man (New England)
...and their electoral college "victory" in 2000 was due to a compliant, Republican-dominated Supreme Court interfering prematurely with the state courts in Florida who were already doing their jobs well. Justice O'Connor later admitted that it was a mistake.
historyRepeated (Massachusetts)
One thing Trump (or Bannon, really) is doing is letting the billionaire club (including himself) have an easier time of it making money off our backs and our natural national treasure. Pence "the Christian" is along for the ride.

Anything else is just to keep his base cheering for him whether they realize he's hurting them or not.
Ronald Stephens (FT Pierce, Fl.)
President Trump is incompetent and self-aggrandizing, but he is not a complete ignoramus. Were I a betting person, all that I could beg-borrow-steal would wager that he knows he is in the wrong position, and that nobody or institution will remove him from that position. Talk of "impeachment" is nonsensical, as is any talk of the 25th Amendment. No, Trump will leave office when he is ready and wealthy enough. Consider: He retains the contracted ability with NBC to produce an alternative reality show called "I quit when I am ready."
Tom Sullivan (Encinitas, CA)
The notion that Donald J. Trump stands in opposition to "Washington insiders," the "deep state," the "mainstream media" or any other real or fictitious entity on behalf of "forgotten Americans" is absurd.

Look at the man's career. Listen to what he's said (and heaven help us, "Tweeted") throughout the ugly spectacle of his public life. Listen to the people who know him for what he is.

Trump stands first, last and always for Trump. Full stop.

The man is a gold-plated, diamond-encrusted Narcissist.

That is what they do.
Ben (San Antonio Texas)
Rubio's and Republicans' double standard is indefensible. Rubio wants the country to pay less attention to Russia. Benghazi created mass hysteria for the alt-right, Republican party. Investigation after investigation was conducted by Republican policticians, leaking information and innuendo. Moral blame was placed upon Hillary Clinton, even after Republican leaders admitted it was designed to hurt her in the run up to the elections. Clinton's choices, actions, or control pre and post attack were either limited or non-existent. Moreoer, the attackers were exogenous forces that no one could have controlled.

Whereas Trump and his cronies have deliberately, repeatedly, and chronically engaged with the Russians. Trump has been duplicitous with the public about Russia and about the reasons for firing Comey. Thus, Rubio's attempts to deflect interest in Russia is unsound.
ed connor (camp springs, md)
"To working class voters he promised ...better health insurance than Obamacare. But his legislative agenda has been...spending cuts to pay for upper bracket tax cuts..."

To healthy young people or to nuns required to purchase contraceptive care, or to self-employed individuals who have seen their premiums skyrocket (assuming an Obamacare insurer is still writing policies in their state), upper bracket tax cuts have nothing to do with it.
The young are being told to pay large premiums to support the sick elderly, who have much more net worth. The self employed can't economize by buying a high deductible major medical policy, and can't afford the de luxe Obamacare policies. Class envy plays no part; these people simply need a health insurance option that fits their current economic status.
And why does keeping more of what I have earned constitute "an upper bracket tax cut?" Shouldn't I have the right to spend as much, or as little, as I deem appropriate for my health coverage? When did Pelosi, Obama, et. al. become my parents?
Len Charlap (Princeton, NJ)
ed - Shouldn't I have the right to spend as much, or as little, as I deem appropriate for my police and fire coverage, my militarily defense, my roads and bridges, education for my children, etc., etc., etc.?
Randall B (NYC)
Ignorance is your friend.
Erich (VT)
Ed, cutting off healthcare to pay for a trillion dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy - which is what these tax cuts are - has everything to do with it. And that's cute - you want to be able to choose not to buy healthcare, so that you can end up bankrupted in the hospital with the rest of us covering whatever it is that happened to you.

Oh, no - I know I've got that all wrong and that when you exercise that delicious liberty to forego your health insurance, and then come down with some chronic illness you can't possibly afford, that you'll just go crawl out under a rock and die with the rest of the bankrupt and destitute the way you deserve. Right?
Jack Nargundkar (Germantown, MD)
Before the midterm elections next year, the Trump base is going to come to the realization that their guy sold them a bill of goods. There is going to be no “big, beautiful wall” and whatever additional structures go up along the border will be minimal and Mexico won’t pay for them. NAFTA, the Paris climate accords, the Iran deal and even Obamacare will largely survive because Republican Congressmen will be more interested in hanging on to their jobs than pleasing an increasingly unpopular president.

Of course, all this becomes moot, if Trump is unable to hang on to the presidency until then? With a President Pence in charge, the establishment will then be firmly back in the saddle and the American republic will have undergone a John Lennon-style “lost weekend.” The question is will Pence and the establishment be then able to deliver a “Double Fantasy” string of legislative hits in the Trump aftermath or will a Democratic Congress take over to bring us all back to a singular reality?
Katherine Cagle (Winston-Salem, NC)
LePen? Really! She would have been an unmitigated disaster just as our so-called President is. Congressional Republicans and members of the administration are defending this poor excuse of a President by lying to the people. And Trump voters have been blinded by their loyalty to a man who never intended to honor his promises to the people.
Larry Barnowsky M.D. (Cooperstown NY)
He has proven himself inept and unfit for office. He has abused power, obstructed justice, engaged in nepotism, used his office to spread proveable lies, insulted allies, and became chummy with dictators.
sapere aude (Maryland)
That may be true in the elite reality you are part of Ross. But out there in the alternative reality of the battleground states people cheer while losing their health care. Now that's a counterrevolution.
Tim Garibaldi (Orlando)
Trump has always been the master of superficial glam and glitter with no substance his entire adult life. So, no surprise most of what he does is posting for his base with very little substance (except where it comes to making the swamp muckier by bringing in enemies off institutions to run them). The question is, will his voters hold him to account when he produced nothing of substance on their behalf, or will they simply swallow the Fox and Twitter bate hook, line and sinker? Other big question is when will Republican congressmen put country ahead of party?
PJ (Northern NJ)
Ross, I commented on your last column that you, in your way, contributed to Trump's election. This piece nails it down. Brexit? You got your wish on that one. Marine le Pen? Perish the thought, and thank heaven the French didn't venture down that path.
cherrylog754 (Atlanta, GA)
The Republican Establishment is assumed to be those politicians in D.C., the super wealthy, and the media-industrial complex, i.e., Fox News, Limbaugh, etc. That’s the way is “was”, but not anymore. The new Republican Establishment are those 60+ million that voted for Trump. Trump did not make it to the White House with the “old guard” paving the way. Jeb Bush is the best example of that. No the coal miners, rust belters, alt-rights and a slew of unbending Republican voters got him there. Oh and a broken Electoral College. Can’t forget that.

Trump would have delivered on his promises if he could, but really didn’t care either way. He just wanted adulation, look important, and play golf. He’s wrapped up in a Russian investigation because there “is” something there, and it’s very serious. Otherwise the FBI wouldn’t be so vigilant in pursuing it. It has nothing to do with the Elites trying to bring him down. It’s the “Law” in motion. Trump won’t deliver on anything because he just doesn’t want to spend the time and energy required. Why he’s in the Mideast right now receiving a big shiny gold medal from the Saudi’s. Remarkable, since their one of those Muslim countries he was always attacking.

Donald Trump has sold out the new Republican Establishment all 60+ million of them. And they deserve it!
Trump campaigned as the only person who could "drain the swamp," arguing that because he was not a career politician, he would govern differently.
Well, the swamp has not only failed to evacuate, it is even murkier under Trump. No surprise. Without either an ethical compass to orient him, or enough political sophistication to pave the way, Trump's administration is mired in the very cynicism he pretended he would fight.
Justice Holmes (Charleston)
He has he an infrastructure plan....sell the roads and bridges to the Chinese and the Saudis! No women allowed on the roads! Trump will sell this country, its public assets and its people to anyone. The Russians, the Saudis and the Chinese. What does he want money, praise and power....he wants to be pandered to and paid.

Ross , you and your buddies on the right are largely to blame for Trump but the Corporatists in the Democratic Party bear some responsibility also. They had a candidate who was really interested in the working class and the middle class and the needs of the humans in this country and has been for 40 years or more but they chose the corporatist.

It is time for a change...a real change. Trump is giving our country away and what can't be sold is destroyed by the congress and the rest of the gang. It's sad and disturbing.
Avatar (New York)
"But Trump is not actually governing as a populist or revolutionary." Actually, Trump isn't governing at all! He is too lazy, ignorant, incurious and self-absorbed to bother with his day job. He is a profound disgrace and will surely be the eponym for fraud and failure embellished with narcissism, greed and ignorance.
LNW (Portland)
I was halfway through this essay on my phone and I actually scrolled back to the beginning to see if I had accidentally chosen an essay by Krugman or Friedman or Kristof. Welcome to the "liberal elite" Douthat, otherwise known by such derogatory terms as: rational, informed, knowledgeable, reasoning and respectful of intelligence.
European Liberal (Atlanta)
"Rational, informed, etc.? I, as a European, was actually furious as Mr Douthat, in a previous essay, tried to make the case for the semi-fascist Marine Le Pen, the leader of a French "opposition" party with long roots into collaboration with the Nazis, Vichy and anti-semitism. Here he mentions her again. I myself have lost all respect for Mr Douthat, and I wonder why the NY Times employs a man with such poor insight, and what's worse, lack of moral principles and values. All of us who feel that there is no place in the NY Times for apologists for fascists-and I don't use that term lightly-should let this newspaper know how we feel.
Meredith (NYC)
Gosh, Trump isn’t living up to his ‘promises’? Imagine that.
The Times conservatives columnists -- now expanded with Stephens—now turn on Trump, after they pushed Gop policies for years.
Stephens’ lurid phrase is ‘deformed personality’. Douthat --- he ‘behaves consistently erratically, inappropriately, dangerously, and perhaps criminally.’

The Times’ conservatives rationalized the Gop turn to rw extremism --- thus they prepared the soil for the Trump poison to infect our politics. Now, what’s the antidote to the poison?

Here's a NYT headline from back in June 2016:
“Donald Trump Could Threaten U.S. Rule of Law, Scholars Say” That included conservatives, quoted in article:

…. “ Trump’s blustery attacks on the press, complaints about the judicial system and bold claims of presidential power collectively sketch out a constitutional worldview that shows contempt for the First Amendment, the separation of powers and the rule of law, legal experts across the political spectrum say.”

Contempt is the word. He’s fulfilling those predictions.

Now Savage, Podhoretz, Coulter--- all excuse makers for the rw extremists are coming out of the woodwork, competing to trash the Trump so the Dems don’t get all the advantage from this atrocious presidency. Trump’s reaction to critics is to intensify. With his ever worsening daily moves, the Dems don’t have to do much to look better. There are many aspects to Trump’s damage.
Susan (MD)
Apparently his support comes from Republicans who want tax cuts for the very rich and the white people who want to believe they are superior to those who have darker skins. I can understand these voters because at least they are acting in their own self interest. What I cannot understand are his supporters who are so blind to his lies about the jobs he's creating, the coal mines he will open, and the healthcare he will give them. At some point grown ups stop believing in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, don't they?
Gerard (PA)
The insiders, the insurgent, who wish to clip his wings, they see that his exuberant ignorance is a danger to the country. Not ideology, not political, just plain running with scissors dangerous.
Marilyn Hutton (Woodbury)
Polltical labels are irrelevant both to Donald Trump and to his supporters. Trump doesn't have the intellectual capacity to identify with a political consciousness, and his "base" as we keep calling them are the people who in the 1790s roared with delight as the guillotine fell first on the French nobility and then increasingly on anyone who didn't agree with Robespierre.
sophia (bangor, maine)
The conservatives need to understand that right now, today, TODAY! they have to pick a side. He's shown the world who he is. Rational, clear-minded people can no longer defend him with any honesty at all in their heart.

So, conservatives? What say you? What say you, Susan Collins? Are you going to pick the correct side of history? Or are you going to go down in history complicit with this treasonous, dangerous man.

He ruins everything he touches. And comes out unscathed. He's done this his entire life. And now he's doing it to the United States of America.

Conservatives? Is that what you want? Step forward now and stop this madness.
98_6 (California)
Trump may well have won because he promised a new synthesis. I seem to recall that Obama promised the same thing. Obama at least tried, but was cut off at the knees by the Republicans ("Make him fail" McConnell) and to some extent by his own party's desire to implement one-payer health care.

The real difference (racial issues aside) between our last two presidents is that it was clear from the outset that Trump is, and always has been, nothing but a con man. Anyone who supported him deserves what they get. The rest of us, not so much. And anyone who calls themselves a professional politician, or fashions themselves to be a leader, and supports Trump, has demonstrated beyond doubt their inherent lack of ability to hold any position of authority by their utter failure to measure the man's lack of morals and intellectual capability to carry out the duties of the Presidency.

That is, or should be, the issue in the next election.
John Brews ✅__[•¥•]__✅ (Reno, NV)
Trump has been doing nothing. He is not driving the limo. He is an old man in decline, unable to focus, unable to plan, unable to organize, unable to read bills and executive orders, unable, period. The Trump administration is run by a few billionaires like the Mercers with a program of emasculating government, removing restrictions (except those with theological implications), lowering taxes. They run Trump. They suggest inappropriate appointees who are opposed to the agencies they head, and the reversal of reasonable regulations.

So if there is any query about the Trump administration it is: "Where did these looney-tune billionaires pick up their bizarre ideology, and what's wrong with them?"
Steve (San Diego)
"Religious leaders aren't getting anything but symbolism on religious liberty because Trump doesn't want to pick a fight with the elite consensus on gay and transgender rights?" What? That sounds like it means that religious liberty is defined as the ability to restrict gay and transgender rights. In that case, put me on the side of the elites.

I was brought up by a religious mom and we read the bible out loud every night for half an hour - cover to cover. The savior I read about loved all people, associated with lepers, and never said a word against homosexuality (although he said plenty about helping poor and sick people that is conveniently ignored by most religious right people).

I'm a straight white male over 60 years old, but I have two gay nephews - wonderful young men, smart, educated, thoughtful. Any religious effort to demonize these people will never, ever, gain my support.

And religious conservatives would do well to carefully read the sections of Leviticus that form most of the basis for their homophobia. Because these same sections also tell you not to eat pork, how to prepare animal sacrifices, that you can't have tattoos, and that you shouldn't drink alcohol in holy places (which kind of conflicts with the whole communion idea). One thing Leviticus doesn't say is that it's an a la carte menu - you don't get to pick the rules you like and ignore the rest. You either buy the idea that you need to follow it to be saved, or you don't. I don't.
Len Charlap (Princeton, NJ)
From a letter to Tony Perkins (I lost the author):

"1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her? She is 6 years old, healthy, and very smart. She doesn't want to be a slave, so that might be a problem.

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness - Lev.15: 19 24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?
Tom Boyd (Illinois)
Here's one for the religious conservatives:
Leviticus Chapter 19 , verses 33 and 34 which in effect says to welcome the alien in to your own land, do not denigrate him, for you were once aliens. sayeth the Lord.
Look it up for the exact biblical language and it won't comport with the agenda of the "build the wall" and "deport'em all " crowd.
stu freeman (brooklyn)
Mr. Douthat should be informed that Trump's brand of populism isn't populism at all: it's fascism. True populists stand up for the poor and the working class and discourage the latter from thinking of the former as their enemy. (There but for the grace of God and an unexpected pink slip go you.) Progressives need to understand that the problem that unites us (well, 99% of us) is the problem of income inequality. Virtually all of our other problems- i.e., those that affect one demographic or another- are a consequence of misplaced fear, envy and resentment. Let the (increased) tax revenues of the affluent be used to fund the programs and the cash/medical assistance that keep the poor from drowning in a pool of misery not of their own making. Let the revenues of the working class be used primarily for the their own needs (i.e., the ones that only a responsible government can fill). The rich will continue to be rich even after such an income adjustment is made. Trump, a billionaire who disdains paying taxes and games the system to avoid having to do so, is the furthest thing from a true populist. His concern is only with the man whose face he sees in the mirror.
Michael Morrissey (Orlando)
That sums it up - Thanks - Mike
HapinOregon (Southwest corner of Oregon)
An on-going issue: There is a difference between a conservative and a reactionary.

Either may be a "populist" (but usually isn't) but so may a progressive.

The essential Trump is a reactionary plutocrat.
james (Philippines)
But so is the DNC lol!
wm coffman (San Jose, CA)
Mr Trump seems to be, in many ways, a typical representative of those who voted for him. Angry. Feeling betrayed by their own leadership. Feeling that no one represents their interests. But also, without a lot of understanding of what is happening, how, and why. There's a lot of name calling and finger pointing, but not much in the way of solution proposals.

During the election, one could ask Trump supporters why they were voting for him, but the answers all took on the character of "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". He seemed to hate everyone that they did.

So, what did they think he would accomplish? I am not sure that anyone really thought that through, anyway.
Alex Hickx (Atlanta)
This, is a nice comment on those crucial voters who voted for Trump but weren't simply voting on lockstep for the GOP. However, let's not forget that most of Trumps vote was just rote Republican voters voting in lockstep, not any new sort of "populists."
Felix Michael Mosca (Sarasota, Fla.)
Is there a single constituency of more than, say, a million people who have, or are likely, to benefit from Trump's presidency? In fact, many of them are far worse off or sick and dying or incarcerated; conditions far worse than they faced before the election. We should not move forward politically until we know we can do so lawfully. It is impossible and unwise to ignore Mr. Trump's monarchical and authoritarian propensities. He is not offering a populist alternative to the establishment. He is offering the American people an alternative to constitutional democracy. From the time I was 10 years old and my father, who never finished high school and who learned about life and death on the battlefields of Europe, first explained to me why in our country we believe that it's better for a hundred guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to go to prison; all the way through my years teaching American history to high school kids, through law school and a 30 year career as a trial lawyer for the poor, dispossessed and criminally accused, and every day since, I have believed in a country that is nearly the opposite of the one looming in Trump's shadow. We have reached a historical crossroad that, frankly, I never would have thought possible in our country: the showdown between the rule of law and the cult of personality. In the words of Rep. Cummings, "We can't lose this one."
Jonathan (Brooklyn)
Mr. Mosca - If you're looking for the constituency that stands to benefit from Trump's presidency, I suggest starting with the membership roster at Mar-a-Lago.
Mark Mulligan (San Diego)
Felix.that was a pitiful response." In fact, many of them are far worse off or sick and dying or incarcerated; conditions far worse than they faced before the election".get a life and stop with the talking points.
How about one fact to support your comment. Record unemployment, record stock mkt (helps ppl retire)..Israel is now supported by the US, coal workers working, pipelines to make us energy indept., trade deals happening ($350B deal with Saudies) getting rid of the worst legislation ever passed -Obamacare wherel the exchanges are collapsing and insurance companies are pulling out.A military that is now proud to serve.We're close on tax reform.You must be having a hissy-fit over Comey being called a "nut job".He was, he lost the faith of most Americans, Dems and Rep-He had to go,Were your "feelings hurt..?
Things are only worst because the left has taken to violence and shout downs to shut down progress and debate...hahaha Tolerance something of the past...what TRUMP has done in 4 months towers over OBOMAS 8 years.Poor you, no infrastructure or wall, yet!.Wait for the This presidents budget in Sept..wall, infrastructure and Planned Parenthood will be addressed.Obama was a laughing stock...he destroyed our military, lit up the Middle east, gave Israel the middle finger, made race relations worse now than in the last 30 years, did absolutely nothing for the middle class..he is makking himself rich with huge book deals, now speeches.Felix you dont get it YOU GOT USED..
james (Philippines)
Read Christopher Lasch's "On Narcicissm" (1979). The cultural decadence has been a long time coming. And btw, it's an oligarchy, not a democracy.
For stars ever tumble
But stripes never fade
In the land of the fleeced
And home of the blade!
Andrew G. Bjelland, Sr. (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Trump is a pseudo-populist and an establishment sell-out--as are so many self-styled GOP populists.

Far worse, by failing to demand that Trump adhere to the norms that undergird "republican virtues" (George Washington's term), his GOP enablers and supporters besmirch the ideals of American democracy.

Our Constitution assures that there are certain fundamental legal principles--now accepted and recognized in all mature democracies--which limit and control the effect of any decisions made by government officials. The rule of law requires courts to uphold these principles and to protect the rights they articulate. In a rights-based constitutional democracy, checks and balances are in place to guarantee that no person's decision or action is above the rule of law.

Our political institutions are designed to protect individuals against the authoritarian and demagogic potential inherent to majoritarian rule: bias against and scapegoating of minorities, neglect of the vulnerable, rank political opportunism, consolidation of anti-democratic power, xenophobia, jingoism, abuse of power by governmental and economic elites, and conflicts of interest on the part of elected officials.

President Trump disdains these ideals. His GOP enablers and supporters besmirch them--as was evident in the GOP's strategy for replacing Justice Scalia and in so many of their pro-plutocracy and anti-democracy tactics and policies.

With Trump and his GOP, American democracy is on the skids.
Diana (Centennial)
Good column Mr. Douthat. Trump is the establishment writ large, make that bigly, he told his supporters what they wanted to hear being the entertainer he is, and made them believe his promises to make their lives better. Truth is, Mr. Trump never cared about them nor anyone else but himself. Winning the Presidency was winning a popularity contest to him, ergo all the narcissistic braggadocio about his electoral college win at every opportunity, regardless of the appropriateness of the context of the remarks.
For all the disfunction we are witnessing, Trump has still managed to roll back environmental and banking regulations of all sorts to the applause of his supporters and most in the GOP. For most of we who voted for Clinton, this is disastrous, and there is little we can do to countermand what he has done.
The last week has been shocking to say the very least, and whether any of what is found by Mr. Mueller will rise to Trump being impeached is anyone's guess. Upon reflection, I have asked myself what impeachment would mean.
It would mean that we will still get an ultraconservative Republican no matter if Pence is caught up in the mire. In fact, there will be more of a chance of the ACA being completely dismantled, along with the shredding of our social safety nets. We might gain a person who passes for sane and maybe the world will be less threatened, but this country will still lose, along with Trump's ardent supporters, whom he is already ignoring. Not optimistic.
james (Philippines)
There is no fundamental, essential moral difference between a Trump and a Clinton, sorry
walkman (LA county)
Best comment. Most cogent.
MJ2G (Canada)
And guess who's next in line after Pence? Lyin' Ryan, that's who. There is no happily-ever-after with this disaster movie.
Jb (Ok)
Fine, yes, make a list of the things Mr. Trump hasn't done for his adoring acolytes. But it's hardly news, sir. Mr.. Trump has made a very long career out of promising things he doesn't do, and arguably (not very arguably) had no intention of doing, from promises of life-long spousal devotion to pitches for investors to visions of future wealth to students--well, the list could go on, but why? This is what the man does, and if he had not started with money and a binder full of lawyers, we would never have heard of him. Now there's a dream worth dreaming.
Martin (New York)
The GOP has been a phony populist party for most of my life. Since Ronald Reagan, the advertising slogan for the party has been one or another version of "government is the problem." It's a an inherently anti-establishment slogan, but it's only a slogan. Like the enormous right-wing media industry that spends half of its time railing against "the media," it's a con.

Mr. Trump is perfect for this GOP--a corrupt billionaire whose combination of unshakeable self-confidence and utter incompetence make him a kind of ultimate "outsider," an outsider to reality. Whose pathological dishonesty meshes with a virtually complete ignorance of the world to create a sort of "honest" con-artist. Such is the privilege of the powerful, to blame reality for not conforming to his narcissism, to blame the truth on the messenger, to blame the limits to his own wealth on the poor. Mr Trump is incapable of "selling out." Like the GOP establishment, but perhaps more honestly, "selling out" is the bedrock principle for which he stands.
Dean Fox (California)
One of the most oversold but fallacious themes of Trump's campaign, that he is a successful businessman and deal-maker, is demonstrably false. Most CEOs of public corporations have worked their way up to the corner office, learning to collaborate and compromise with others, successfully communicate their vision to others, and lead by example. As CEOs, they must report to a board of directors, deal with competition, and respond to criticism from shareholders and press. Trump inherited a private family business, where he had the freedom and privacy to do exactly as he wanted, often with disastrous results.
H Schiffman (New York City)
"As a populist he’s a paper tiger, too lazy to figure out what policies he should champion and too incompetent and self-absorbed to fight for them."

His forte is salesmanship. He has sold his constituents a bill of goods.

Not that I'm complaining about that essential truth, but I am concerned that he has some control on steering the ship of state. He would take us full speed ahead into icebergs. Confidence and incompetence are a deadly duo.
Betsy S (Upstate NY)
What is Donald Trump? People keep asking. The answers are sometimes foolish; he's somehow behaving so strangely because he wants to make Republicans and Democrats work together. Sometimes, just partisan. Trump ran as a Republican, therefore he must be a good guy.
I think the core reality is that Donald Trump represents a failure of our electoral system. We can argue about why that's true, but there's no arguing with the fact that Donald Trump does not represent the majority opinions of this nation. His low approval ratings from the very first reflect his status as an outlier. He lost the popular vote and, contrary to his boasting, the electoral college was determined by less than 100,000 votes.
The primary system that confirmed his nomination is also faulty. It's ironic, but a system that was established to make nominations more democratic have been pushing Republicans to the right.
The DNC seems to have tried very hard to follow the example of Bill Clinton and triangulate. The results have been an echo of Republican principles more than a progressive choice. It took Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, to make it permissible to call oneself a liberal again.
Don't blame Donald Trump. Conservatives fell into line because they hoped to implement that "agenda." The Republican party laid the groundwork by pandering to prejudice and fear. And, yes, Democrats helped by trying to be Republican-lite.
Mike A (Utah)
The problem with our "democracy" at this point is the lack of participation. 50% of the electorate voted for president. If that 24% voted for Trump and 25 odd % voted for Clinton. Yet an equal number did not vote. Trump's mandate was 24%. His base is still the same 24%. What failed in this election was We the People. What if another 30% had voted for who they really wanted? Would Bernie have won? Before we complain or change anything, we need to show up with 79 or 80% of the electorate. If France can do that, why can't we?
james (Philippines)
Agreed. But pandering to fear works. That's why we have Russia.(again). Americans need an enemy to explain to themselves that palpable paranoia even DeToqueville noticed in 1830!
Paul Wortman (East Setauket, NY)
For once, I agree. Trump is an unstable autocrat who is trampling on the Constitution with the cooperation and collusion of the Republican Congress. He"s never been a populist. He's a 21st century Robber Baron whose establishment agenda of enhancing his own wealth is consistent with what left of conservatism-'tax cuts for the wealthy. Unfortunately, Republicans have made a Faustian bargain with a ruthless narcissist who will turn on them as well to achieve total authoritarian rule.
David Paquette (Cerritos, CA)
As a liberal, I couldn't agree more. Trump is not actually delivering on his campaign promises, but not quite for the reason given. Specifically, Trump is not "too lazy to figure out what policies he should champion". The real answer is that he doesn't have the mental capacity. Everything is SOOO complicated. His attention span extends only to a full 2 minutes only if the material provides accolades of the Trump electoral victory and early accomplishments. There is actually no indication whatsoever that he has ever had any fully detailed comprehension of detailed strategies for anything. He's content to let Paul Ryan run the show, not because he trusts Ryan but because all the details are way too complicated for him to understand.
Betsy (Portland)
Way too complicated, and perhaps more to the point, way to boring . . .
Timberwolf999ds (Calgary, Alberta. Canada)
Donald Trump was elected last autumn because many were fatigued with politicians such as Hillary Clinton. While understandable, Trump is a classic example of the old saying, "Careful what you wish for.". The true populist was Bernie Sanders, but the Democrats last year were more content with losing with Hillary than winning with him. At present, we have a false savior to many for president. Regarding "Revolution", we might witness something in 2020 which will involve significant change neither pertaining to the likes of Trump or Chelsea Clinton, for that matter.
Betsy (Portland)
HRC may have won the popular vote, but let's not kid ourselves that that was because she was popular.

People like me, who have little regard for Hilary and much of the neolib agenda, feared her far less (and for good reasons) than we feared Trump. But be clear: we didn't vote FOR her, we desperately voted for anyone-but-Trump. When the Dem leadership decided to cut off the candidate we truly and energetically supported -- especially the youth of the country! -- and threw him to the fish, they effectively showed their colors and threw all of us out of their calcifying, outdated, dinosaur party.

The DNC's unscrupulous betrayal of their own supposedly "democratic" principles in their treatment of Bernie was a keenly felt betrayal of tens of millions of Americans who were excited about his vision and the real change it represented. The DNC likely dealt a death blow to their own party.

Perhaps the over-due death of the twin dinosaurs of the American electoral system will be the real legacy of 2016 election.
Bonnie (Mass.)
I don't know who started the myth that Trump is a populist. The dictionary defines populist as a member of a political party or organization that seeks to help ordinary people. Trump has consistently sought to help himself, carrying on the family business and literally living in a gold plated tower. An insecure, self-centered man, he somehow got the idea he could be president of the US. Strangely enough, it came to pass. But he never had substantive, realistic ideas for solving problems that trouble his voters; he just used the lines that got the best audience response. He is not a conservative or a Republican, but the GOP was happy to use him in service of their dream of massive tax cuts for the rich and removal of business regulations. Neither Trump or the GOP are actually addressing the problems of Trump voters. The Democrats have not, so far, convinced the country that they have good plans to deal with global competition for jobs, immigration issues, etc. We need a leader to organize solutions for the country, not a demagogue or showman, which is what Trump is.
Bruce Glesby (Santa Barbara.)
Most Trump voters are so blinded by his con that they remain loyal, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of his vacuous incompetence and the threat he poses to our collective well-being. No infrastructure plan, a doomed health care tax give away to the rich and take away from the poor, no payroll tax reduction proposal, and still his forgotten base adores him. They can't be reached; but hopefully a significant percentage of the 90 million people who didn't bother to vote have awoken, and they will soon march to the polls and right this horrible wrong. If they don't, we'll be a nation in very rapid decline.
james (Philippines)
We've been a nation in decline for a generation. People are used to it and really are too in denial and demoralized to care. That was Hillary's campaign strategy.
Steve (Idaho)
They are not blinded by his con! They agree with him fully.
TinyPriest (San Jose, CA)
I'm not sure why anyone feels it necessary to write the obvious, over and over, that Trump is not only letting down those who elected him, but is also not going to be toppled by an establishment elite that might feel threatened by him. First of all, it is just as nonsensical to believe that the elites feel threatened (since they will always emerge victorious in the long run) as it is to believe that Trump is leading a populist revolution. These are simply the usual straw-dog constructs of Conservative commentators who are hardly going to frame the problem to be at cross-purposes to modern American Conservatism.

Whether that framing of the problem of the Donald Trump presidency makes any actual sense is, and has always been, irrelevant to most current Conservative commentators. It looks as if Mr. Douthat finds himself in a quandary, because he is unable to take one of these sides himself, as he usually does, given the complete mess of a president that Donald Trump is turning out to be.

It is, instead, a time to apply real moral fortitude, with expectations of ethical actions by those who exist to protect American society and democracy. As such, it actually seems that Mr. Douthat is having a hard time swallowing that what he's really feeling is what it means to be a liberal.
blaine (southern california)
Trump is a gifted campaigner, but that doesn't imply an ability to govern. Campaigning and governing involve different skills.

No, Trump is not smooth, nor does he seem to have much of a policy agenda. There is a certain shallowness, and a frequent reversion to campaign mode which is his comfort zone. Policies had to be borrowed from somewhere, hence the influence of the Republican establishment, since where else is Trump going to turn to for policies when he needs some.

I still do not know how I feel about all the 'bull in a china shop' stuff. He operates as a businessman who works out deals with cronies and is totally unused to operating with the delicate political sensitivities and traditional protocols that government officials are accustomed to follow.

I acknowledge though, that the strait-jacketed kabuki dance that politicians normally engage in was the primary argument for electing Trump. That being questioned and torn up a bit is a good thing.

What's important is whether the democracy is solidly built, whether the checks and balances work. If they do, then Trump can make a big mess without being some kind of existential threat to us all.

I remain convinced that the Republic will remain standing on its own two feet after all the smoke clears. And if politicians emerge in the future who are not completely made of plastic, then we may yet grudgingly acknowledge a debt owed to Donald Trump.
james (Philippines)
Hoho! Trump is just the precursor baby. A dry run. For every Caligula there's a Nero.
dEs joHnson (Forest Hills, NY)
Douthat's first paragraph gives us in stark outline the poverty of current conservative "thought." There is much other good stuff here, but Ross ducks a serious issue. He mentions religious conservatives who are fearful for the liberties. Rubbish. The liberty that want is to tell me and all Americans what to do. In particular, they want to exercise strict authority over women's reproductive rights (not men's, though). This confusion about what the religious right and other myth weavers want includes the reasons the Pilgrims came here. They didn't flee religious persecution just to be free. They came so that they could impose their own tyranny in their new home.
Bonnie (Mass.)
I don't know who started the myth that Trump is a populist. The dictionary defines populist as a member of a political party or organization that seeks to help ordinary people. Trump has consistently sought to help himself, carrying on the family business and literally living in a gold plated tower. An insecure, self-centered man, he somehow got the idea he should be president of the US. Strangely enough, it came to pass. But he never had substantive, realistic ideas for solving problems that trouble his voters; he just used the lines that got the best audience response. He is not a conservative or a Republican, but the GOP was happy to use him in service of their dream of massive tax cuts for the rich and removal of business regulations. Neither Trump or the GOP are actually addressing the problems of Trump voters. The Democrats have not, so far, convinced the country that they have good plans to deal with global competition for jobs, immigration issues, etc. We need a leader to organize solutions for the country, not a demagogue, which is what Trump is.
Occupy Government (Oakland)
When Donald was an untested candidate with no experience in government, he made promises that reflected his profound lack of understanding.

All that is surely better now that he has all the resources in the world at hand. Surely.
Woodwork Man (Psychic Home)
Regardless of one's views on populism, it's right-wing variety, or whether donald trump has any chance of being a conduit of that tradition, if his presidency is destroyed by anonymous officials without having his base becoming thoroughly disillusioned first, there will be an immense backlash. People will believe that the election was nullified by other means, and may reject the democratic process in its entirety.
Diogenes (Belmont MA)
Trump, so far, has not been an effective president. Maybe he will learn. His populism, as Mr. Douthat has pointed out, has been a fig-leaf. What he has done is to support the Establishment Republican agenda: repealing Obamacare, large tax cuts, and infrastructure projects--airport expansion and renovation, road building--financed tax incentives.

The only thing anti-Republican about this is that if successful, it would drive up the deficit, raise interest rates, and depress economic growth. The Republican leaders seem to have jettisoned controlling the deficit in favor of their other goals
Joan (formerly NYC)
Trump doesn't actually seem to want to "govern" at all. He just wants to be President, with the Presidential pomp and deference that comes with it.

He may have political beliefs but he is happy to let the others do the actual policy.

Meanwhile he has his own interests to look after, and his family to help him with that.
Jim H (Orlando, Fl)
Trump should have peaked at the first debate in the Republican primaries when he refused to automatically support whomever became the eventual nominee. But then, he got a big assist from Ms. Clinton and Mr. Comey regarding the classified materials fiasco.

So, he and won the Electoral vote by winning a few swing states The American people will pay the price.