Donald Trump comfortably defeated his Republican presidential rivals on Saturday in South Carolina’s GOP primary.
Trump’s resounding victory isn’t simply a boon to his prospects for winning the Republican presidential nomination, an outcome once thought impossible that is looking increasingly more plausible. It is also an embarrassing repudiation of conservative orthodoxy that has dominated Republican politics for decades. It suggests that the party’s intellectual leaders, who organized the base around the National Review/Weekly Standard consensus — small government, free trade, pro-Israel, deregulation, low taxes, social conservatism and an aggressive foreign policy — have been generals of a phantom army.
The troops, instead, are marching with Trump, who bested his rivals in South Carolina by campaigning against nearly everything the Bush family, the Republican Party and neoconservatives who supported military interventions advocated for. Among his many breaks with the elite consensus, Trump declared that former President George W. Bush had lied about weapons of mass destruction to march the country to war; blamed Bush for the 9/11 attacks, arguing that he ignored intelligence community warnings; defended Planned Parenthood; boasted that he was the only Republican who would not cut Social Security or Medicare; said he approved of the individual mandate in Obamacare; and promised to slap onerous tariffs on companies who outsource jobs.
And where Washington and New York-based GOP leaders pledge outreach to immigrants, moderate Muslims and other minorities, the reality TV star plays more overt racial politics than any national candidate since George Wallace. Trump’s brand of nativist, nationalist isolationism marked the path to victory. Rival candidate Jeb Bush is a dead man.