Three Good Men Talk About Race Powerful perspectives from a senator, a surgeon and a police chief.

The best question from a journalist for the man and woman running for president is this: In the area of race relations, why can’t we get it right? All your life, Mr. Trump, all your life, Mrs. Clinton, we have been trying to solve what divides America. Why can’t we?

Give them time to breathe, space to answer. Don’t lean in with that reporter-face that signals, “You’ve got 18 seconds, and near the end I’ll interrupt to show how probing and alert I am.”

Don’t do that. Give them time. In that time they will be forced to think aloud. If they change the subject, that will say worlds. If they don’t have thoughts to share that will tell us a lot too.

Beyond that, even though everyone on media asks for a conversation about race, most of them don’t really mean it. They don’t want a conversation but a platform. They want to talk and for you to listen. And they want what’s said to be circumscribed—they want narrow barriers put on acceptable limits of thought and experience.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown

Dallas Police Chief David Brown

So people turn away and everyone simmers.

But three good men this week were having a conversation, not with each other but with the country. And they said three big things:

You don’t know what it is to be a black man.

You don’t know what you’re asking of the police.

And, I’m trying to process everything in my heart.

Tim Scott, 50, the first African-American U.S. senator from South Carolina, spoke on the floor of the Senate about what it is to be him, and black.

He was not looking to grind a political ax. He wanted to explain that what you hear about being treated differently because you’re a black man is true. He has felt the “humiliation that comes with feeling like you’re being targeted for nothing more than being just yourself.” During one of his six years on Capitol Hill he was stopped by law-enforcement officers seven times. “Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of the time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood. . . . I do not know many African-American men who do not have a very similar story to tell—no matter their profession, no matter their income, no matter their disposition in life.”

Last year a policeman stopped him on his way into a congressional office building, wearing his Senate pin on the lapel of his suit. “The officer looked at me with a little attitude and said, ‘The pin I know, you I don’t. Show me your ID.’ ” Was the assumption he was “impersonating a member of Congress, or what?”

That night he got a call from the officer’s supervisor, apologizing. Sen. Scott said it was the third such call he’d received since he entered the Senate in 2013.

He asked his fellow senators to “recognize that just because you do not feel the pain . . . does not mean it does not exist.” Ignoring the struggles of others “does not make them disappear. It simply leaves you blind and the American family very vulnerable.”

Thursday by phone I asked Mr. Scott what reaction he’d received. Colleagues were “very supportive.” “ Orrin Hatch came in and hugged me,” he laughed. Public reaction was “very positive,” though “a minor percentage” disapproved. “Some people asked me to leave the party. Some people feel, they’re white and have been discriminated against as well. My point is, exactly! All discrimination is bad.” Some blacks, he said, are offended that he is Republican.

“I wanted to uncover my own pain and become vulnerable in hopes that others, who may not have my microphone,” will take heart. “I wanted to validate people and their concerns.”

Much progress has been made, he emphasized: “I don’t want us to be mired in the idea we’re losing ground. We’ve made up so much ground in the past 50 years.” But “there are dark corners that need a little light.”

“The good Lord made me black, and he made me black on purpose,” Mr. Scott said. The country “is at a crossroads. . . . We have a chance to listen and not just talk.”

Another good man was at Parkland Memorial Hospital last week when victims of the Dallas shooter came in. Brian Williams, 47, was one of the trauma surgeons.

“This experience has been very personal for me and a turning point in my life,” Dr. Williams, who is black, told the press. They’re used to multiple gunshot victims at Parkland, “but the preceding days of more black men dying at the hands of police officers affected me. I think the reasons are obvious. I fit that demographic.” He too has been stopped by police over the years, once thrown “spread eagle” on the hood of a cruiser.

“But I abhor what has been done to these officers,” Dr. Williams said. He worked frantically to save them. Then he grieved.

At the end of that night, police officers lined up in the ambulance bay as the bodies of their colleagues were taken away. It was a line of honor. “I didn’t know if I belonged with them,” Dr. Williams said. He was a civilian, didn’t face their challenges. “But I was grieving with them. . . . And I wanted to show my respects.”

So he walked forward and joined the line.

“The killing,” he said, “has to stop.”

And then of course, the great man whose presence in Dallas has seemed providential: Police Chief David Brown, 55. In a press conference Monday he took all comers, admitted he was “running on fumes” and didn’t know how he’d get through this week but would, “a testament to God’s grace and his sweet, tender mercies.”
More Declarations

Answering a question, he told a great and immediate truth: “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country.” They’re paying the price for every societal failure. “Not enough mental health funding? ‘Let the cop handle it.’ Not enough drug addiction funding? ‘Let’s give it to the cops.’ Here in Dallas we’ve got a loose dog problem. ‘Let’s have the cops chase loose dogs.’ Schools fail, ‘Give it to the cops.’ Seventy percent of the African-American community is being raised by single women—‘Let’s give it to the cops to solve that is well.’ ” Society, Chief Brown said, has to step up.

He invited protesters to become part of the solution. “We’re hiring,” he said. “Get off that protest line and put an application in. We’ll put you in your neighborhood and we’ll help you resolve some of the problems you’re protesting about.”

David Brown has become an American folk hero. Who wasn’t grateful he was there?

We have been going through a hard time in America. Once, 20 years ago, I wrote something I didn’t fully understand, but it came with the force of intuition and I knew it was true: “Young black men will save our country.”

I thought of it all this week.

These great men, 20 years ago, were young. I must have passed them on the street. All three this week helped save our country.

Comedy Wears Better Than Cynicism The contrast in theatrics is starting to make Trump look sympathetic.

Let’s start shallow and try to end deeper.

The shallow thought is about campaign theatrics, or, better, the mood with which candidates present themselves to the public.

Part of how Donald Trump connects with his audience, those in the hall and those watching at home, is that he tells them how he experiences things. It comes across as undefended, forthcoming—fresh. Hillary Clinton at this point would never say how she’s experiencing things. She doesn’t wing it because when she has in the past—from “I’m not sitting here like some little woman standing by my man, like Tammy Wynette” and “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies” right up to “We came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt”—she always came to regret impromptu remarks. A certain unconscious snobbery always seeped out, and repelled when she meant to attract.

Donald TrumpNo one has ever taken Mr. Trump for a snob, but that isn’t my point. Mrs. Clinton is heavily defended, mentally edits and re-edits every spontaneous comment, and has a tropism toward the unimaginative. Boring is a safe place to be in politics so I can’t imagine she sees it as anything but a trade-off. Better not to give them a memorable quote than to give them “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

Wednesday night in his speech in Cincinnati Mr. Trump was typically free-associative and talked too long, more than an hour. He doesn’t know when to stop because he doesn’t know when he’s made his point, or sometimes what his point was. But he unselfconsciously shares a lot of his internal dialogue, and how he’s experiencing things. “Baron draws stars all over the place.” “I hate mosquitoes.” “Have I been a good messenger?” “I said three times, bad, bad, bad,” of Saddam Hussein. The golf swing they showed on TV “actually looked good.” “This speech last night was good.” He mimicked newscasters, saying “They are liars, these are bad people,” and Mrs. Clinton, aping her speech patterns.

There is something scatty in this but also something interesting, possibly potent. There is no invisible scrim between him and the audience. He also has fun and is a comic. I realized he thinks he has to entertain; it’s part of his job to be informal, surprising, personal—to make jokes, even to step apart from himself and almost admit: Look, I don’t always get it right in interviews but I’m trying over here! Wednesday night as he spoke I thought of Jerry Lewis—“Hey, lady!”—and what was said of him, that a television camera was his full moon.

Anyway, this dynamic—that he personally connects and entertains, and she doesn’t—will continue, because he can’t stop it and she can’t do it.

A note on mainstream media antipathy to Trump. I suspect at the moment it’s starting to help him. More than half the country is willing to believe the media are essentially dishonest and mobby, that they function either consciously or not as Democratic operatives, that they don’t have to like Mrs. Clinton (and they don’t) to function in this way, and that they feel nothing but disrespect for Mr. Trump, his followers and everything they represent. But a lot of TV journalists are particularly upfront and out there now about their antipathy, in part because they’re honestly alarmed—this guy could really become president—and in part because it is not respectable not to hate him. But they are starting to make him look sympathetic.

His media foes should watch out for a boomerang effect.

On Mrs. Clinton and FBI Director James Comey’s decision to recommend against prosecution:

Mr. Comey looked to me both embarrassed and double-minded. He appeared to want to make clear that Mrs. Clinton was repeatedly untruthful in her public statements on her server and emails. He is a sophisticated man who surely knew people would take video clips of his announced findings and juxtapose them with video clips of her previous assertions. He was clear in his words and made that job easy, which he didn’t have to do. He could have spoken the horrible bureaucratic nonlanguage people in government revert to when they don’t want to be understood.

When you look at the tapes of Mrs. Clinton’s assertions, you see exactly what her face looks like and her voice sounds like when she is lying. That will do her no good!

But the story is now over. In politics when you don’t die, you are alive. Prosecution would likely have killed her presidential hopes. With no prosecution she moves forward as a member of the Undead.

The scandal will make Mrs. Clinton look worse to people who had doubts about her essential character, and to those who didn’t know they should have reservations. It made her look better to no one. At a certain point a central idea—that she decided to subvert government record-keeping requirements and freedom-of-information requests, and damn the repercussions—broke through. That point was the famous private-plane-on-the-Phoenix-tarmac meeting of Bill Clinton and the attorney general who would ultimately decide her case. People thought: Wow, that smells. It stinks. It was like a plot point in “House of Cards.” A saving grace of the Clintons is that they’re often too clever by half.

I add only that Mr. Comey’s decision, after the famous 3½-hour holiday-weekend interview with Mrs. Clinton, makes you wonder if they would have recommended prosecution only if she had confessed to wrongdoing. Maybe they were expecting a Perry Mason moment where she breaks down under questioning. “Of course I knew having a private server was wrong! Of course I knew it meant Putin was reading my emails! I’ll tell you something else, I was the man in the hat on the Grassy Knoll. I killed Mary Meyer on the C&O Canal and I’m proud of it!”

But that wouldn’t happen in real life, would it?

It is legitimately asked whether this is a government of laws or a government of men—of failed, flawed human beings. Are the rich and powerful always assumed now to have the decisive finger on the scales of justice?

Anything that increases public cynicism in America is, at this point, a very particular and damaging sin. It spreads an air of social defeatism. It saps the civic will. It makes earnest and trusting people feel like dopes and dupes. It makes trusting parents look clueless to their children.

Cynicism is also a virus. Once everyone knows nothing is on the square, as they used to say, they too become more corrupt just to maintain their position.

Cynicism doesn’t just make everything worse; it creates a new kind of bad. It kills, for instance, the idea of merit. You don’t rise through talent and effort; you rise through lies, connections, silence, the rules of the gang. That gives the young an unearned bitterness. That is a terrible thing for adults to do, to deprive the young of the idealism that helps them rise cleanly and with point.

A World in Crisis, and No Genius in Sight An old order is being swept away, and political leaders everywhere seem lost.

The leaders of the world aren’t a very impressive group right now. There’s a sense with some of them of playing out a historical or cultural string, that they’re placeholders in some way. Many are young, yet so much around them feels tired.

Which has me thinking, again, of the concept of the genius cluster. They happen in history and no one knows why. It was a genius cluster that invented America. Somehow Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Madison, Hamilton, Jay and Monroe came together in the same place at the same time and invented something new in the history of man. I asked a great historian about it once. How did that happen? He’d thought about it too. “Providence,” he guessed.

There was a small genius cluster in World War II—FDR, Churchill, de Gaulle. I should note I’m speaking of different kinds of political genius. There was a genius cluster in the 1980s— John Paul II, Reagan, Thatcher, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Lee Kuan Yew in his last decade of leadership in Singapore.

Talking headsThe military genius cluster of World War II—Marshall, Eisenhower, Bradley, Montgomery, Patton, MacArthur, Nimitz, Bull Halsey, Stilwell—almost rivaled that of the Civil War—Grant, Lee, Stonewall, Sherman, Sheridan, Longstreet.

Obviously genius clusters require deep crises, otherwise their gifts are not revealed. Historic figures need historic circumstances. Also members of genius clusters tend to pursue shared goals.

We have those conditions now—the crises, and what should be shared goals.

Everything feels upended, the old order that has governed things for 70 years since World War II being swept away. Borders have disappeared before our eyes. Terrorism, waves of immigration transforming whole nations, Islam at war with itself and parts of it at war with the world. In the West, the epochal end of public faith in institutions, and a dreadful new tension between the leaders and the led. In both background and foreground is a technological revolution that has actually changed how people experience life.

It is a world crying out for bigness, wisdom, steady hands and steady eyes.

We could use a genius cluster.

I’m not quite seeing its members coming, are you? Maybe they’re off somewhere gaining strength. But the point we’re in feels more like what a Hollywood director said was the central tension at the heart of all great westerns: “The villain has arrived while the hero is evolving.”

Let’s hope some evolve soon.

This thought is inspired by the past week’s Brexit aftermath. To limit criticism to the political players, the European Union did not distinguish itself, the British government didn’t even create a contingency plan in case Leave won, and the victors actually scrammed while markets convulsed and the pound fell. When Leave leader Boris Johnson finally did speak, what he said was astonishing.

The vote was significant, he wrote in the Telegraph, but shouldn’t be misunderstood: “It is said that those who voted Leave were mainly driven by anxieties about immigration. I do not believe that is so.” Instead they had “a sense that British democracy was being undermined.” The public wanted to seize back some control.

Well, yes. But immigration was very much part of the seize-back-control story. It’s in all the polls.

Then: “And yet we who agreed with this majority verdict must accept that it was not entirely overwhelming.”

It was 52% to 48%, not huge but decisive enough. And wait a second, “we who agreed” with the verdict? He led the campaign! He didn’t “agree” with the outcome, he was its most prominent advocate!

Whatever changes come, he added, they “will not come in any great rush.”

There’s a line between calming markets and undermining your cause. He crossed it.

What a failure of nerve. It likely contributed to the restiveness that led the other main Leave proponent, Michael Gove, to bolt away from Mr. Johnson and announce he would run to replace Prime Minister David Cameron.

Contrast what Mr. Johnson wrote with the statement, days later, of Home Secretary Theresa May, who had been pro-Remain though relatively quietly, certainly relative to Mr. Johnson. “Brexit means Brexit,” she said. “The campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high and the public gave their verdict. There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door and no second referendum.”

“Politics,” she added, “isn’t a game.”

Thank you, madam, and well done.

Ms. May is a moderate conservative with a steady hand who is said to be somewhat ideologically opaque. But here she was blunt and clear. More, she seemed to intuit the damage to be done to the public’s trust if Parliament threw the decision back in its face. Part of politics is simply knowing what people need when they need it. In this case it was the unambiguous taking of a stand.

In the end, Mr. Johnson bowed out of the contest for party leader. He is a witty and clever man, a showman who may have more lives than a cat. But he won’t be part of a genius cluster anytime soon.

EU leadership since the referendum has been wholly lacking. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” purred European Council president Donald Tusk, quoting Nietzsche.

In this case what doesn’t kill you this time will likely kill you next, so you might want to wake up.

The EU should be supple now, not brittle and predictable, which is to say bureaucratically brutal. It should surprise the world and demonstrate some give. It should grant Britain a relatively smooth exit. Let people see the decency and constructiveness of it and come to doubt their own antipathy. You’re not such a bad lot. Strategic pliancy would actually be an assertion of strength. If the European Union is a prison, as Brexit supporters felt, it makes sense for the warden to make an example of Britain to keep the other inmates in line. But if the EU is a place of peaceful commerce it has an opportunity to show it. Take it. The Brits aren’t the only ones who hate you.

The EU was founded for one great reason: to redirect the energies of a continent twice convulsed by world war and turn them to peaceful pursuits—trading goods, making money, each nation knowing the other in a context of constructiveness. It succeeded! But in the past 30 years it expanded, took on more power and authority, made more demands, fell too in love with its ability to apply limits. Even during the Brexit debate the EU’s conversation was not of devolving power to member states but taking more to Brussels. As Boris Johnson noted in March, when he seemed to remember such things, the result, in Britain, was public alienation, which contributed to a sense of “disengagement,” which has contributed to “the rise of extremist parties.”

That was an accurate diagnosis. I add only that the EU inculcated in its officials and apparatchiks an outrageous and insular snobbery that left them incapable of seeing critics as anything but ignorant, racist knuckle-draggers. They noticed, didn’t like it, and rebelled when they could.

Here’s to rebellion. Happy 4th.

Donald Trump Is No Ronald Reagan His supporters ought to stop saying he is, which comes off as desperate and historically illiterate.

It was at dinner a month ago in a Manhattan restaurant. Old friends who live far apart had come together on a leisurely spring night. But it turned testy fast.

I note here that the style of anti-Trumpers is often highhanded and manipulative, while the style of pro-Trumpers can be brutalist and patronizing. One couple, my old friends, had been for Marco Rubio and then John Kasich and were now enthusiastically for Donald Trump. Last year they hadn’t liked him, but now they thought wait, he’s the donkey we need to knock over the barn.

There was another couple, intellectuals, also pro-Trump but from early on, and with a certain edge. The lady of that couple, disliking recent criticism of Mr. Trump in these columns, was not jolly but defensive. She leaned in and said that what I didn’t understand was that Donald Trump is Ronald Reagan—an outsider, disliked by the elites, looked down on, a TV star. And yet he became . . . Reagan.

I hear this a lot, mostly from idiots, but this time I engaged.

Trump is not ReaganLook, Mr. Trump is not Ronald Reagan, I said. Reagan served two full terms as the governor of a state so vast that if it were a country it would have been one of the important economies in the world. He was a union president who served seven terms during the most fraught time in Hollywood’s history and emerged respected by all sides. He was no novice.

He was the leader of an entire political movement (however nascent) for more than a decade before taking the White House. Yes he had been an entertainer, an actor, and had loved it and seen himself as an artist. And it is true that he was looked down on by liberal elites. But it is not true that nobody respected him. The people elected him in landslides.

She moved her mouth in the way people do when they’re reminding themselves it isn’t polite to bite people in restaurants.

“Reagan wasn’t Reagan in 1980,” she explained.

“That is exactly who he was,” I said.

No, she replied: He hadn’t had his triumphs yet. People didn’t know he would go on to be who he was.

I said that they knew who he was based on his history and previous accomplishments which is why they felt free to make him president.

We went round and round, and in the end resolved nothing.

But what I thought for weeks afterward was: Trump supporters, please stop this. The man you back has never held office and has not proved himself as a leader of men. You have to include that in your arguments.

It is probably the case this year that most voters see the issue of character as null and void—neither candidate is admirable in that area. As for personality, I suppose it’s a matter of taste. But it must be noted that the most consequential decision of Reagan’s young presidency, when he fired the striking air-traffic controllers, was determined wholly by Reagan’s character—by his guts and willingness to gamble for what he was certain was right.

Trump supporters should be able to make an affirmative case for their candidate without diminishing Reagan or anyone else. You shouldn’t cut down a man you know was great to make him fit your candidate’s size. It is poor political etiquette. It’s also historical parallelism gone mad. Mr. Trump isn’t Reagan, and he isn’t Andrew Jackson either. He’s Mr. Trump. Take him on his terms and make the case.

You can say that the old standards have been swept away, that when it comes to character we’re a changed nation, that Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton are the result of that decline, and that you pick from among the candidates on offer.
More Declarations

Hillary’s Gift and Britain’s Choice June 17, 2016
A Party Divided, and None Too Soon June 2, 2016
Clinton Embodies Washington’s Decadence May 27, 2016
Clinton-Sanders: Maybe That’s the Ticket May 19, 2016

You can argue, if you see it this way, that you detect in Mr. Trump a vein of old-fashioned America-loving patriotism. Maybe you suspect, or at least hope, that after a long career serving only himself—getting rich, chasing glamour—he wants to apply his last energies to serving the country that made him possible, and in which his children will live.

You can argue that Mr. Trump is the kind of electric figure who will give Washington a jolt—maybe he represents more current than the system can tolerate, maybe he’ll blow all the circuits, but maybe he’ll force a helpful reset of the grid.

You can say of Mr. Trump, as one of his supporters did, that the body politic is sick and he is the enema Washington needs.

You can argue that the Republican party was frozen by accepted wisdom and beholden to donors, but now, in a stroke, new thinking on immigration, trade and entitlement spending is ascendant. You can argue that Trump, just by showing up, has begun to break the policy logjam between the party and half its base. He has broken a brain-dead consensus.

You can argue what Franklin Roosevelt is said to have remarked when he appointed Joe Kennedy as first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission: that it takes a thief to catch a thief.

You can say, as a veteran Manhattan media leader, not known as a conservative, recently did, that Hillary will do nothing good but Donald might, if even by accident. He intends to vote for Mr. Trump, but adds: “It will all end in tears.”

You can begin a case, an argument, in all these areas.

But you can’t say that Mr. Trump is Ronald Reagan, because he is not, and you sound desperate and historically illiterate when you insist he is.

Stop trying to paint Reagan’s portrait into Mr. Trump.

Paint Mr. Trump.

*   *   *

I close with Trump cooties.

Donald Trump needs serious, substantive people to help with his campaign and advise him in foreign and domestic policy. But some will not join him because they don’t want to get Trump cooties. They don’t want the stigma of working with him.

Some are sincere—they don’t approve of him. But many fear having their careers associated with him and with what they expect will be his inevitable failure either in the White House or on the way there.

Those fears might be lessened if Mr. Trump took the moral advice offered by Hugh Hewitt this Thursday on his radio show. Mr. Hewitt told Mr. Trump to “rebuke the crazy one percent” who are Trump supporters but also anti-Semitic and racist.

Mr. Trump indicated that he understood and said he has rejected them “so strongly and so harshly.” He felt he hadn’t been given credit for this.

So we’ll go back to Reagan. When he was running for governor he was criticized after the John Birch Society, which had accused Dwight Eisenhower of being a communist, came out for him. Reagan said, as I recall, that the Birchers were buying his philosophy, not the other way around.

Clear enough and did the job.

Maybe if Trump wants to be compared to Reagan he should act more like him.

Hillary’s Gift and Britain’s Choice On both sides of the Atlantic, voters weigh risks and opportunities.

London

Quickly on the presidential race, then to Brexit.

Hillary Clinton has been given a great gift by Donald Trump. She hadn’t been able to explain the purpose or meaning of her candidacy. She tried out various themes and slogans, but nothing ever took or seemed real. Everything came down to I’m Hillary and I deserve it. But now she has it, in only three words: “I’m not Trump.” I may have narcissistic personality disorder, but he’s got it worse and in spades. If I’m corrupt, he’s more corrupt. I have poor judgment? Everything he says is poor judgment. He endangers us!

Not long ago Mr. Trump was a phenomenon the Clinton campaign couldn’t quite grok. When she slammed him on women, her campaign was shocked that he came back harder and rougher. But he’s made himself predictable. His first response to the Orlando attack, while blood is still warm on the floor, is to note that people are congratulating him for being right about radical Islam. Mrs. Clinton knows exactly how to play it from there: calm, saddened, temperate.

Vote LeaveHe has righted her ship, too, by providing her with a new self-understanding. She’s not entitled and endlessly self-aggrandizing; she is on a mission for her country: Keep That Man Out of the White House.

Listless supporters are newly revitalized. They too have a mission. It is no longer “I must pull the lever for a woman even I find untrustworthy and corrupt”; it is “I will work for the one person who can keep an actual mental case out of the White House.”

From the Judge Curiel gaffe, if that’s the word, through Orlando, Mr. Trump has comported himself with the art and deftness of Broderick Crawford in “Born Yesterday.” I wonder if his supporters understand how much he is letting them, and their issues, down.

Washington Republicans have PTSD, Post Trump Stress Disorder. They don’t understand why he doesn’t broaden his reach, move on from what makes his rallies cheer, and start to persuade and reassure others. He needs to show maturity. Instead of reaching out, he’s doubling down. To political professionals this looks like political malpractice. Their new fear is not that Mr. Trump will not change but that he cannot change—doesn’t know how to, doesn’t have any sense of how a mature candidate would act.

Something tells me this story isn’t over—there will be more movement and action at the convention than we expect.

To Brexit. The question of whether Britain will leave the European Union, to be decided next Thursday in a referendum, is a political moment of the first order. It has been sharpened and made tragic by the apparent assassination of a member of Parliament.

My conclusion from four days in London talking to both sides, Leave and Remain, is that in spite of recent polls showing gains for Leave, no one knows what’s going to happen. Everyone has the eye-twitching expectation the voters will deliver a surprise, they just don’t know which one. My anecdote is that a London cabbie told me that for eight days he’s been asking his passengers where they stand: “37 Leave, 18 Remain.” That didn’t make sense—London is assumed to be heavily pro-Remain—but he showed me the yellow notepad on which he kept score.

No one knows what clichés will hold. The old are said to be for Leave because they knew Britain before it joined Europe in 1973, know it can exist without it, and know what was gained—and lost—in joining. The young are said to be pro-Remain because being in the EU is all they’ve ever known, and they like what they’ve known and fear change. So if as a child you screamed for the Beatles you’re the rebel, and if you’re all about Kanye you’re the staid and prudent one.

The Leave forces believe the EU no longer works for Britain, if it ever did, and robs its sovereignty. They argue the EU’s reach and overbearing busybodyness damage both the idea and reality of democracy. There is a famous class element. Leave voters despise a high-handed Brussels elite. Remain forces argue that leaving after 40 years is a costly gamble with unknowable impact. As Matthew Parris argued in the Spectator, Remain is “the unexciting option,” Leave “a mystery door behind which lies a choice between many mystery doors.” If Britain votes Leave, the EU will set the terms of the departure. It is generally assumed the EU will be somewhat punitive, which gives the whole drama the feel of a jailbreak, with a vengeful warden punishing Britain to set an example for the other prisoners. Free advice to the EU: If Britain leaves, grit your teeth and fake graciousness. This would be statesmanlike and project a benign air. Also it would undermine the widespread impression of the EU as bullying, imperious and driven by self-interest.

It is rightly noted that the Remain campaign did a lot wrong, using dodgy claims to frighten voters. When the claims became increasingly hysterical—leaving might lead to war!—and their financial assertions came under scrutiny, they had nothing left. Leave’s numbers have been questioned, too, but they still have something—the argument that Leave is a vote to help and protect the country you love. No one loves a geopolitical landmass called Europe, and no one feels a special loyalty to it. Last week I heard an EU supporter make a sincere reference to the “European heart.” I thought: That’s wrong. There is an Irish heart, a Spanish soul, British guts. People do not emotionally affiliate with a Continentwide bureaucracy, they are loyal to their country. (I’d vote Leave if I were British.) Michael Gove, a member of Parliament who fully emerged as a Conservative leader in the debate, showed he understood this when he offered the testimony of his father, an Aberdeen fisherman who saw his industry almost collapse under EU directives and restrictions.

President Obama’s insertion of himself in the debate was, as they say, worse than a crime, it was a blunder. Visiting London in April, he warned Britain it would suffer in terms of future trade deals with America if it left—it would wind up “in the back of the queue.” Advice is one thing, a threat is another, and Mr. Obama’s was widely resented. That he said “queue” rather than “line” made it look orchestrated, even dictated, by Downing Street. If Remain loses, Prime Minister David Cameron will fall. What struck me this week is wherever Britons stand on Brexit, no one seems to love him.

In America and Europe, with Donald Trump and Brexit, the same issue predominates: immigration. It is mind-boggling that the elites of the West still struggle so haplessly with the idea that their way has failed. The intelligent, sturdy Angela Merkel of Germany—the EU’s staunchest defender, indeed its symbol—last summer made the decision to invite a million refugees to a Europe with no plans or even capacity to handle the influx. This decision gave a special boost to Brexit. If it passes, Britain’s exit may spark the slow—or not so slow—unraveling of the EU.

A Party Divided, and None Too Soon Beltway Republicans will have to come to terms with how they lost Middle America.

This first month of summer I see movement and no-movement.

No movement: Donald Trump. He’s like someone caught in the first act who lurches into a second act—a solid, prepared speech, a subdued interview—then scrambles back to first-act antics. It’s easy to guess he’s surrounded by friends and supporters who know more is needed than popping off about “Crooked Hillary” but are afraid to mess with his swing. They fear taking the tang out of his secret sauce. Another guess: He’s not sure he can pull off a change of style—he’s afraid he’ll be boring if he’s serious, afraid he’ll bore himself if he knows what he’s going to say next. So he continues to rant, not to reassure fence sitters. Hillary Clinton hasn’t entered a second act either, but it’s partly situational: She’s trapped in a primary battle. When it comes to Mr. Trump she tries various attack lines—“divisive,” “dangerous,” “dangerously incoherent”—to see what resonates, as they say. She is plodding, unimaginative, stolid. She wishes she had secret sauce.

Make America yell againCloser to home I see movement. Friends who’d been for John Kasich or Marco Rubio now sunnily and without a headache declare themselves for Mr. Trump. An intellectual friend, previously disapproving, confided she’s for him too. But two friends who had been early, enthusiastic Trump backers now seem to be having doubts: They’ve lost their oomph, talk about him less. Nothing’s set in concrete this year, not that anything was.

A central predicament of 2016 continues. GOP elites and intellectual cadres may be clueless about America right now, but they have an informed and appropriately elevated sense of the demands of the presidency. They fear Mr. Trump’s temperament and depth do not meet its requirements. Trump supporters have a more grounded sense of America and its problems but too low a sense of what the presidency can demand in regard to personal virtues. If this problem is to be resolved, it is Mr. Trump who will resolve it. He shows little interest. This space said in February that his political fortunes would hinge on whether America came to think of him as a good man and a fully stable one. It is still true.

The Beltway intelligentsia of the conservative movement continues to be upset about Mr. Trump’s coming nomination and claim they’d support him but they have to be able to sleep at night. They slept well enough through two unwon wars, the great recession, and the refusal of Republican and Democratic administrations to stop illegal immigration. In a typically evenhanded piece in National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru writes of conservative infighting. Most back Mr. Trump, but others, “especially among conservative writers, activists, and think-tankers,” vow they’ll never vote for him. “This debate splits people who have heretofore been friends with similar views on almost all issues, and who on each side have reasonable arguments to hand. It is therefore being conducted in a spirit of mutual rage, bitterness, and contempt.”

That’s witty and true—I’ve seen it—but the division is also promising. Too much has long been “agreed on.” At some point conservative intellectuals are going to take their energy and start thinking about how we got here. How did a party that stood for regular people become a party that stood for platitudes regular people no longer found even vaguely pertinent? During the Bush administration, did the party intelligentsia muscle critics and silence needed dissent, making the party narrower, more rigid and embittered? What is the new conservatism for this era? How did the party of Main Street become the party of Donors’ Policy Preferences?

An anecdote. Two years ago at a birthday party for a mutual friend, I bumped into a hedge-fund billionaire who turned to me angrily and lashed out over something I’d written that seemed to him insufficiently conservative. I listened, merely blinking with surprise I’m sorry to say, and removed myself from his flight path. Afterward I thought about how he must have come to view himself. He is, as I said, vastly wealthy, but also generous, giving time and money to think tanks, groups, candidates. He must view all this, I thought, as a targeted investment. Maybe he sees himself as having . . . a controlling investment. Maybe he thinks he bought conservatism. I felt in a sharp new way that my criticisms of the donor class had been right. Inevitably they see to their own enthusiasms and policy priorities. This was how the GOP became the party of We Don’t Care What Americans Think About Illegal Immigration. Who do those Americans think they are—they think they own the place?

A great party needs give. It needs a kind of capaciousness and broadness. On that, the best example of movement I’ve seen in some time is what I discovered this week: a sophisticated, rather brilliant and anonymous website that is using this Trumpian moment to break out of the enforced conservative orthodoxy of the past 15 years.

It is called the Journal of American Greatness. Its contributors ask questions that need asking and make critiques that sting.

They describe themselves as “aghast at the stupidity and corruption of American politics, particularly in the Republican Party, and above all in what passes for the ‘conservative’ intellectual movement.” Who are they? “None of your damned business.” Why? “Because the times are so corrupt that simply stating certain truths is enough to make one unemployable for life.”

Where they stand: “We support Trumpism, defined as secure borders, economic nationalism, interests-based foreign policy, and above all judging every government action through a single lens: does this help or harm Americans? For now, the principal vehicle of Trumpism is Trump.”

They explore essential questions. “When—and why—did free trade become a sacred ritual of the Republican right?” They give neoconservatism its intellectual due but explore the “unwisdom” of the “Middle East democracy agenda.” Neoconservatives seem “incapable of learning from their mistakes or changing their minds.” The contributors hilariously score NeverTrumpers who claim to be standing at great cost on principle while others are “in the tank” for Mr. Trump: “Of all the opinions that require little courage to express, opposition to Trump is the lead one.” In the past two decades, they observe, “a new conservative intellectual superstructure,” including magazines, journals and think tanks, was built on the new base of the Republican Party. It “routinized the production of its self-justification.” But “the base no longer wants the superstructure.” Voters have their own ideas of what conservatism is.

I contacted JAG by social media and asked about their work. “If we had to characterize ourselves, we would like to think that our writing is informed by a mix of pragmatic experience and theory. What brings us together is our dismay at the stultification of political ideas in the United States. We see ourselves as challenging the intellectual rigidity that has come to characterize, in our view, so much of what passes for self-described ‘serious thinking’ today.”

Their reach and the reactions they’ve received “have thus far significantly exceeded our expectations.”

It’s encouraging they’re doing what they’re doing, and that there is a market for it.

Clinton Embodies Washington’s Decadence She breaks the rules and gets away with it every time. No wonder voters are fed up.

The most interesting thing Donald Trump has said recently isn’t his taunting of Hillary Clinton, it’s his comment to Bloomberg’s Joshua Green. Mr. Green writes: “Many politicians, Trump told me, had privately confessed to being amazed that his policies, and his lacerating criticism of party leaders, had proved such potent electoral medicine.” Mr. Trump seemed to “intuit,” Mr. Green writes, that standard Republican dogma on entitlements and immigration no longer holds sway with large swaths of the party electorate. Mr. Trump says he sees his supporters as part of “a movement.”

What, Mr. Green asked, would the party look like in five years? “Love the question,” Mr. Trump replied. “Five, 10 years from now—different party. You’re going to have a worker’s party. A party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years.”

My impression on reading this was that Mr. Trump is seeing it as a party of regular people, as the Democratic Party was when I was a child and the Republican Party when I was a young woman.

Hillary Clinton campaigningThis is the first thing I’ve seen that suggests Mr. Trump is ideologically conscious of what he’s doing. It’s not just ego and orange hair, he suggests, it’s politically intentional.

It invites many questions. Movements require troops—not only supporters on the ground, but an army of enthusiastic elected officials and activists. Mr. Trump doesn’t have that army. Washington hates what he stands for and detests the idea he represents policy change. GOP elites will have to start thinking about two things: the rock-bottom purpose of the party and the content, in 2016, of a conservatism reflective of and responsive to this moment and the next. This will be necessary whatever happens to Mr. Trump, because big parts of the base are speaking through him. It is no surprise so many D.C. conservatives are hissing, screeching and taking names. They’re in the middle of something epochal that they did not expect. They’re lost.

To another part of the Trump phenomenon that does not involve policy, exactly:

When Mr. Trump went after Mrs. Clinton over her husband’s terrible treatment of women—she was his “unbelievably nasty, mean enabler”—my first thought was: Man, I thought it was supposed to get bloody in October. This is May—where will we wind up? But I was struck that no friend on the left seemed shocked or appalled. A few on the right were delighted, and some unsure. Isn’t this the sort of thing that’s supposed to turn women off and make Hillary look like a victim?

But so far Mr. Trump’s numbers seem to be edging up.

I was surprised that if Mr. Trump was going to go there early, he didn’t focus on a central political depredation of the Clinton wars. That was after Mrs. Clinton learned of the Monica scandal and did not step back, claiming a legitimate veil of personal privacy—after all, it was not she who had been accused of terrible Oval Office behavior—but came forward on “Today” as an aggressor. Knowing her husband’s history, knowing his sickness, having every reason to believe the charges were true, she attacked her husband’s critics, in a particular way: “The great story here . . . is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president. . . . Some folks are gonna have a lot to answer for.”

She was speaking this way about conservatives, half or more of the country. At a charged moment she took a personal humiliation and turned it into a political weapon, which further divided the nation, pitching left against right. She did this because her first instinct is always war. If you have to divide the country to protect your position by all means divide the country. It was unprotective of the country, and so unpatriotic.

The lack of backlash against Mr. Trump’s attacks on Mrs. Clinton, though, I suspect is due to something else. It’s that the subject matter really comes down to one word: decadence. People right now will respect a political leader who will name and define what they themselves see as the utter decadence of Washington.

I don’t mean that they watch “Scandal” and “House of Cards” and think those shows are a slightly over-the-top version of reality, though they do. Now and then I meet a young person who, finding I’d worked in a White House, asks, half-humorously and I swear half-curiously, if I ever saw anyone kill a reporter by throwing her under a train. I say I knew people who would have liked to but no, train-station murders weren’t really a thing then. (Someday cultural historians will wonder if the lowered political standards that mark this year were at all connected to our national habit of watching mass entertainment in which our elites are presented as high-functioning psychopaths. Yes, that may have contributed to a certain lowering of real-world standards.)

But the real decadence Americans see when they look at Washington is an utterly decadent system. Just one famous example from the past few years:

A high official in the IRS named Lois Lerner targets those she finds politically hateful. IRS officials are in the White House a lot, which oddly enough finds the same people hateful. News of the IRS targeting is about to break because an inspector general is on the case, so Ms. Lerner plants a question at a conference, answers with a rehearsed lie, tries to pin the scandal on workers in a cubicle farm in Cincinnati, lies some more, gets called into Congress, takes the Fifth—and then retires with full pension and benefits, bonuses intact. Taxpayers will be footing the bill for years for the woman who in some cases targeted them, and blew up the reputation of the IRS.

Why wouldn’t Americans think the system is rigged?

This is Washington in our era: a place not so much of personal as of civic decadence, where the Lois Lerner always gets away with it.

Which brings us to the State Department Office of Inspector General’s report involving Hillary Clinton’s emails. It reveals one big thing: Almost everything she has said publicly about her private server was a lie. She lied brazenly, coolly, as one who is practiced in lying would, as one who always gets away with it could.

No, she was not given legal approval to conduct her business on the server. She was not given the impression it was fine. She did not comply with rules on storage and archiving. Her own office told U.S. diplomats personal email accounts could be compromised and they must avoid using them for official business. She was informed of a dramatic increase in hacking attempts on personal accounts. Professionals who raised concerns about her private server were told not to speak of it again.

It is widely assumed that Mrs. Clinton will pay no price for misbehavior because the Democratic president’s Justice Department is not going to proceed with charges against the likely Democratic presidential nominee.

This is what everyone thinks, and not only because they watch “Scandal.” Because they watch the news.

That is the civic decadence they want to see blown up. And there’s this orange-colored bomb . . .

Clinton-Sanders: Maybe That’s the Ticket It could keep the party together, at least for this year, and deny an opportunity to Trump.

Let’s begin with a prophecy: It is not only the Republican Party that is breaking and perhaps re-forming. The Democratic Party is also starting to come apart. We’re seeing the first signs of it now.

A significant part of the base is going left. Bernie Sanders took off because they want a socialist. The party is going left for a host of reasons: the crash of 2008, economic strain, eight years of President Obama, trends within American culture and education. Hillary Clinton’s struggles this year are connected in part to her ideological unreliability, to the sense that she’s a generation behind ideologically, that she’s got the wrong attitude toward Wall Street and the use of military power. She’s old school; we’re entering something new.

Bernie Sanders & Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders & Hillary Clinton

Here’s what I suspect is coming whatever happens this year. Just as a portion of Republicans—nobody knows how big—will break from the GOP over Donald Trump, some percentage of Democrats, especially among the affluent will, in the next cycle, start to peel off from their party over its lurch leftward. They will not be at home in a party of smiley-face socialism that threatens to become actual socialism. They will not want the American economy destroyed. They will not be comfortable in a party that supports the most extreme political correctness; they do not want their 10-year-old daughters using transgendered bathrooms with men. They will find themselves increasingly opposed to the political correctness that has swept the universities. They will have increasing qualms about spending $60,000 a year to have their bright, kind children turned into leftist robots.

So they will start to split off from the Democrats, and they will find the Republicans who split off in 2016, and together, in 2020 or so, they will attempt to create their own party. It will be pro-growth, moderate on social issues, more or less neoconservative in its foreign policy. It will be smallish but well-heeled. It will try to hold together and grow.

That is my prophecy. Everything is in play.

I mentioned the strains, shifts and breakage within the Democratic party that you can see right now. Nothing illustrated it like what happened last Saturday in Las Vegas, when a state Democratic Party convention turned violent, with chairs thrown, fists shaken, curses screamed. Sen. Barbara Boxer, longtime California liberal and Clinton supporter, was heckled and booed. She later said she’d feared for her safety. The state Democratic chairwoman reported threats of bodily harm, including a text message that said: “We know where you live . . . Where your kids go to school/grandkids. We have everything on you.”

It doesn’t get much uglier than that. At issue, procedures surrounding the delegate-selection process and Sanders supporters’ claim that the deck was stacked against them. This was the local expression of a larger national argument over whether the Democratic National Committee and its chairman, Hillary friend Debbie Wasserman Schultz, were, as Donald Trump used to say, rigging the system.

After the Vegas melee Mr. Sanders was relatively unrepentant. He blandly said a few days later that he opposes all forms of violence. He told a California rally that the Democratic Party “can do the right thing and open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real social and economic change.”

The Democratic divide can be seen in other ways. Dante Chinni of this newspaper took a dive into the demographics of Kentucky, whose primary this week “shows how deep divisions are within the Democratic Party.” A racially diverse segment, “located in cities and their surrounding suburbs, is largely behind Mrs. Clinton, while a less-diverse and largely rural part of the party backs Sen. Sanders.” Mrs. Clinton won narrowly, carrying the most populous counties and most of those with the largest African-American populations, Mr. Sanders the least populous and all the least diverse counties. His voters in Kentucky were rural and white, which was true also in Michigan and New York. “The tensions within the party aren’t likely to lessen,” Mr. Chinni concluded.

California votes June 7. A journalist this week speculated in conversation that if Mrs. Clinton underperforms or even loses there, it could be a gift. It will make her desperate. Presuming she goes on to win the nomination, her desperation might prompt her to make Bernie Sanders her vice presidential nominee.

Why not? It would hold the party together for this cycle. It would help keep Sanders voters, who often threaten to go elsewhere if Mrs. Clinton is the nominee, in the tent. It would also unsettle Trumpworld. They see Bernie supporters as potential Trump supporters in the general election, and Mr. Sanders as having an appeal that overlaps with their own. They see his outsider mystique and his appeal to the young.

Would Mrs. Clinton do it? If it were the only choice, she would. Would he? He hasn’t ruled it out. In early May, Mr. Sanders told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he was “focused” on winning the nomination, and, if he does not succeed, “we are going to fight as hard as we can” to make the Democratic platform more “progressive.” “Then, after that,” he said, “certainly Secretary Clinton and I can sit down and talk and see where we go from there.”

Maybe he’d hold Mrs. Clinton hostage on the platform before he would agree to be her vice president. Maybe she’d accept a more left-wing platform to get the vice president she thinks she needs.

A Clinton-Sanders ticket would be the oldest presidential ticket in U.S. history, totaling a combined 142 years. You can characterize that as ancient and out of it, or you can see it as mature, experienced. Up against Mr. Trump, the latter might not look so bad.

Mr. Trump too is looking for a vice president. I don’t understand those who say he should get an attack dog, since he is an attack dog. He doesn’t need a dramatic Northeastern governor with a reputation as a bully, he already has a reputation as a bully. Nor do I understand why they say Mr. Trump needs someone exciting. He’s quite exciting enough. He doesn’t require someone who can help him with the ins and outs of Capitol Hill. That would be nice and come in handy, but it’s also the kind of talent he can hire as staff.

What he needs is Stable Man or Stable Woman. He needs someone with real and obvious political accomplishment—a longtime senator or, less attractively, a representative, or a governor, preferably a current one. John Kasich says he isn’t interested, but maybe he will get interested. Newt Gingrich is on the list, which is understandable in many respects, but he has the same slightly mad quotient as Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump needs “He’s not crazy.”

Big ships need ballast to keep the ship upright, to keep it from tipping over when a high wave comes. Ballast is by its nature uninteresting. Mr. Trump needs ballast. He would benefit from a solid, uninteresting running mate.

Uninteresting would come as such a relief this year. It would be like the old days, when people were boring.

Mr. Trump Goes to Washington The voters have rebuked professional Republicans and conservatives. What’s next for the GOP?

What is needed among Republicans in Washington now is patience, soberness of thought, and a kind of heroic fairness. Reflection and humility wouldn’t hurt either.

One of our two great parties is either shattering or reconstituting itself. It is not united and has not been since the George W. Bush era. As the pollster Kellyanne Conway noted this week, if it were, there wouldn’t have been 17 candidates for president, and Donald Trump wouldn’t be the presumptive nominee.

The optimistic thought is that it is reconstituting itself. The past year the base of the party has been kicking away from its elected and established leaders in Washington and, simultaneously, broadening itself, with new members coming in. That suggests a certain dynamism: Maybe something’s busy being born, not busy dying. We’ll see.

Party of TrumpBut almost every conservative and Republican in Washington—in politics, think tanks and journalism—backed a candidate other than Mr. Trump. Every one of those candidates lost, and Mr. Trump won. After November, think tanks and journals will begin holding symposia in which smart people explain How We Lost The Base.

Mr. Trump’s victory was an endorsement of Mr. Trump but also a rebuke to professional Republicans in Washington. It was a rebuke to comprehensive immigration plans that somehow, mysteriously, are never quite intended to stop illegal immigration; a rebuke to the kind of thinking that goes, “I know, we’ll pass laws that leave Americans without work, which means they’ll be deprived of the financial and spiritual benefits of honest labor, then we’ll cut their entitlements, because if we don’t our country will go broke.” The voters backed Mr. Trump’s stands on these issues and more.

A political question for November: Does Mr. Trump pick up more Democrats than he loses Republicans? Is that how he plans to win? Does he draw in enough new or non-Republican voters to make up for the millions of Republican voters he will surely lose?

In an act of determined denial, Washington Republicans and conservatives continue to see and describe Mr. Trump’s nomination as the triumph of a celebrity in a culture that worships celebrity, the victory of a vulgarian in a vulgar age, the living excrescence of our shallow values and lowered standards. Also, he’s tapped into the public’s rage.

He is all of those things. But he is more, and Washington is determined to ignore the more. He understood, either intuitively or after study, that the Republican base was changing or open to change, and would expand if the party changed some policies. He declared those policies changed. And he won.

As to the matter of rage, it’s more like disrespect for those who’ve been calling the shots. If you know Trump people in real life as opposed to through social media, if they are your friends and family members, you understand that “rage” doesn’t do them justice. They dislike the Republican Party, which they believe has consistently betrayed them, but Trump people in person are just about the only cheerful people in politics this year. They actually have hope—the system needs a hard electric shock, he’s just the man to do it, and if it doesn’t work they’ll fire him. They’re having a good time. Here I throw in a moment I had in Manhattan Thursday afternoon. I was standing on a corner on York Avenue in the 60s when a cab screeched across two lanes to stop in front of me. “I am voting for Trump!” the driver yelled through an open window. “You want to know why? He is neither right or left!” He then laughed and sped on. Not all Trump supporters are quiet about it.

But back to the new Republicans—the Democrats and independents who’ve voted for Mr. Trump. As usual with the Republican Party, these new friends were not cheerily invited in—who would ever think of that?—but crashed the party with the guy with the yellow hair. A lot of Washington Republicans seem to have spent the past week wondering what they always wonder: How much should we snub them? How uncomfortable should we make them? Should we not talk to them or just not give them a drink? Way to do outreach, fellas.

It is good that Paul Ryan snapped out of his smug-seeming “I’m just not ready” approach of last week, and met and talked with Mr. Trump this week. When a sitting Republican speaker of the House is cool on or considering rejecting that party’s presumptive presidential nominee, more is needed than “I’m not there yet.”

He has every right not to endorse Mr. Trump, but if he doesn’t, both Mr. Trump and his supporters deserved more. You have to explain at length and with moral and intellectual seriousness and depth in exactly what ways he’s not worthy of your support, and you have to do it in a way that summons a response that is equally thoughtful and temperate.

Not much is known about the meeting at this point. Mr. Ryan told the press afterward that he was “encouraged” by their talk, but still declined to endorse.

In a joint statement issued soon after, Messrs. Ryan and Trump said: “It’s critical that Republicans unite around our shared principles, advance a conservative agenda, and do all we can to win this fall.” They said they were “honest about our few differences” but “there are also many important areas of common ground.” There was a nod to “many millions of new voters,” who showed up for the Republican primaries, “far more than ever before in the Republican Party’s history.”

All of which strikes me as a Trump win. Mr. Ryan referred to his conservatism and suggested Mr. Trump holds political principles.

Mr. Trump should want to bring the party together. He makes sounds that he doesn’t need to, but he does and must know it or he wouldn’t have met with GOP leaders in the first place. A party fracturing all around him will only spread unease, increase tension, and intensify sourness. He needs at least a semblance of calm so he doesn’t look every day like Thor, God of Thunder and Battle.

Those who oppose Mr. Trump should do it seriously and with respect for his supporters. If he is not conservative, make your case and explain what conservatism is. No one at this point needs your snotty potshots or your supposedly withering one-liners. I confess I have lost patience with many of those declaring they cannot in good conscience support him, not because reasons of conscience are not crucial—they are, and if they apply they should be declared. But some making these declarations managed in good conscience, indeed with the highest degree of self-regard, to back the immigration proposals of George W. Bush that contributed so much to the crisis that produced Mr. Trump. They invented Sarah Palin. They managed to support the global attitudes and structures that left the working class jobless. They dreamed up the Iraq war.

Sometimes I think their consciences are really not so delicate.

As for the political consultants who insult Mr. Trump so vigorously, they are the ones who did most to invent him. What do they ever do in good conscience?

Trump Was a Spark, Not the Fire The establishments, both media and conservative, failed to anticipate how they’d be consumed.

God bless our beloved country as it again undergoes one of its quiet upheavals.

Donald Trump will receive the Republican nomination for the presidency and nothing will be the same. How we do politics in America is changed and will not be going back. The usual standards and expectations have been turned on their head, and more than one establishment has been routed.

A decent interval should be set aside for sheer astonishment.

MegatrumpWe face six months of what will be a historically hellacious campaign. Yes, we picked the wrong time to stop taking opioids.

Before I go to larger issues I mention how everyone, especially the media, is blaming the media for Donald Trump’s rise. I hate to get in the way of their self-flagellation but that’s not how I see it. From the time he announced, they gave Mr. Trump unprecedented free media in long, live interviews, many by phone, some possibly from his bathtub. We’ll never know. It was a great boon to him and amounted, by one estimate, to nearly $2 billion worth of airtime.

But the media did not make Donald Trump’s allure, his allure made for big ratings. Mr. Trump was a draw from the beginning. If anyone had wanted to listen to Jeb Bush, cable networks would have been happy to show his rallies, too.

When Mr. Trump was on, ratings jumped, but it wasn’t only ratings, it was something else. It was the freak show at its zenith, it was great TV—you didn’t know what he was going to say next! He didn’t know! It was better than everyone else’s boring, prefabricated, airless, weightless, relentless word-saying—better than Ted Cruz, who seemed like someone who practiced sincere hand gestures in the mirror at night, better than Marco the moist robot, better than Hillary’s grim and horrifying attempts to chuckle like a person who chuckles.

And it was something else. TV producers were all sure he’d die on their show. They weren’t for Mr. Trump. By showing him they were revealing him: Look at this fatuous dope, see through him! They knew he’d quickly enough say something unforgivable, and if he said it on their air he died on their show! They took him down with the question! It was only after a solid six months of his not dying that they came to have qualms. They now understood they were helping him. Nothing he says is unforgivable to his supporters! Or, another way to put it, his fans would forgive anything so long as he promised to be what they want him to be, a human bomb that will explode by timer under a bench in Lafayette Park and take out all the people but leave the monuments standing.

In this regard today’s television producers remind me of the producers of 1969 who heard one day that Spiro Agnew, the idiotic new Republican vice president, was going to make a big speech lambasting the media for its liberal bias. They knew Agnew was about to make a fool of himself. Who would believe him? So they covered that speech all over the place, hyped it like you wouldn’t believe—no one in America didn’t hear about it. It made Agnew a sensation. The American people—“the silent majority”—saw it as Agnew did. “Nattering nabobs of negativism,” from the witty, alliterative pen of William Safire, entered the language.

The producers had projected their own loathing. They found out they and America loathed different things.

That’s a little like what happened this year with TV and Mr. Trump.

My, that wasn’t much of a defense, was it?

The Trump phenomenon itself would normally be big enough for any political cycle, but another story of equal size isn’t being sufficiently noticed and deserves mention. The Democratic base has become more liberal—we all know this part—but in a way the Republican base has, too. Or rather it is certainly busy updating what conservative means. The past few months, in state after state, one thing kept jumping out at me in primary exit polls. Democrats consistently characterize themselves as more liberal than in 2008, a big liberal year. This week in Indiana, 68% of Democratic voters called themselves liberal or very liberal. In 2008 that number was 39%. That’s a huge increase.

In South Carolina this year, 53% of Democrats called themselves very or somewhat liberal. Eight years ago that number was 44%—again, a significant jump. In Pennsylvania, 66% of respondents called themselves very or somewhat liberal. That number eight years ago was 50%.

The dynamic is repeated in other states. The Democratic Party is going left.

But look at the Republican side. However they characterize themselves, a majority of GOP voters now are supporting the candidate who has been to the left of the party’s established thinking on a host of issues—entitlement spending, trade, foreign policy. Mr. Trump’s colorfully emphatic stands on immigration have been portrayed as so wackily rightist that the nonrightist nature of his other, equally consequential positions has been obscured.

In my observation it is a mistake to think Mr. Trump’s supporters are so thick they don’t know his stands. They do.

It does not show an understanding of the moment to say Donald Trump by himself has changed the Republican Party. It is closer to the mark to say the base of the party is changing and Mr. Trump’s electric arrival on the scene made obvious what was already happening.

For this reason among others, I do not understand the impulse of the NeverTrump people to anathametize and shun those Republicans who will not vow to oppose Mr. Trump and commit to defeating him. They have been warned that if they don’t do these things they will not be allowed to help rebuild the party after Mr. Trump destroys it. Conservatives love to throw conservatives out of conservatism; it’s like an ancestral tic. But great political movements should not be run like private clubs. And have the anathemitizers noticed they aren’t in charge anymore? That in the great antiestablishment disruption of 2016 they have been upended, too?

We don’t know what’s coming in 2016, or what happens to the GOP if Mr. Trump wins or loses. If there is a rebuilding of the party, as opposed to an ongoing reinvention, we don’t know when that will commence. If it is a rebuilding, on what grounds do the NeverTrump forces think it will be rebuilt? As a neoconservative, functionally open-borders, slash-the-entitlements party?

I am not sure, whatever happens in 2016, that there will ever again be a market for that product. All this cycle I’ve been thinking of what Lee Atwater said when he wanted to communicate to a politician that a policy was not popular: “The dawgs don’t like the dawg food.”

Centers of gravity are shifting. The new Republican Party will not be rebuilt and re-formed in McLean, it will be rebuilt or re-formed in Massapequa.

Finally, can Mr. Trump win? Of course. Uphill but possible. If this year has taught us anything it is what Harrison Salisbury said he’d learned from a lifetime in journalism: “Expect the unexpected.”