HORIST: Conservatism … a divided movement within a divided country
In one of his most memorable speeches, Abraham Lincoln – drawing on his familiarity with the Bible – reaffirmed that a “house divided against itself cannot stand.” He was speaking of a nation that could not continue to exist half slave and half free. Today, we are in an era of political chaos because we are politically a “house divided.” We need no further evidence than to see the closeness of our elections.
The unfortunate dynamic of a political house divided is that the smallest marginal shift of just a couple percentage points in an election can make a fundamental dramatic shift in policy and programs. Consequently, EVERY issue – regardless of its relative importance – becomes existential. We fight tooth and nail over everything. In such an environment, spin becomes at least as important as facts. Hence, the political chaos you see in the nation today.
One of the reasons that the left – the socialists – have been able to tamp down the growing conservative Republican consensus that started in 2010 — and gave the GOP its most powerful dominance of the political scene in American history – is that the conservative movement became bitterly divided over the 2016 presidential election. It is a house divided within a house divided.
Even worse, conservatives are up against the progressive movement that is now the core of the Democratic Party – a movement and party that are largely united in the pursuit of power. Yes, there are factions in the background of the Democratic Party, but when it comes to implementation of politics and policy, they operate in great unity. You see that in those congressional votes, where very few, if any, depart from the call of their leadership – and those that do rarely alter any outcomes. You see it when Democrat candidates express progressive apostasy on the campaign trail to gain votes, but instantly fall in line when casting their votes on Capitol Hill. Remember all those candidates who swore they would never vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker?
Those conservatives who did not want Trump to be the GOP nominee – including me – divided into two irreconcilable camps. As people dedicated to principle and policy, many of us crossed our fingers and voted for Trump as the better of two choices. It was not a happy choice, but an easy one. It was a decision between empowering the liberal Democrats and their big government liberal agenda of taxing, spending, regulation and oppression of free speech or taking a chance – yes, a chance – that Trump and the greater Republican establishment would produce better policies despite the pugnacious and counterproductive Trump personality.
As the Trump administration moved on, I was pleasantly surprised at the President’s dedication to conservative appointments – especially to the Supreme Court – and conservative policies, such as school choice, deregulation, tax reduction, increased military spending and border security. These are the bedrock of conservative philosophy.
There was a segment of the historic conservative community who have a dramatically different view. They, too, voted against Trump in the primaries. After the election, they clung to their personal animus toward Trump even if it meant abandoning all those longstanding conservative beliefs. Since POLICY is the most important outcome of the political process – and it can be carried out by an individual of differing PERSONALITY — it is difficult to understand their thinking.
The apostates to their once-held conservative principles included such movement icons as Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, Washington Post columnist George Will and former Chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele. Others proclaiming fealty to conservatism while walking away from its principles and policies were such notables as MSNBC host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough, Post columnists Max Boot and Jennifer Rubin, and so-called Republican strategists such as Elise Jordan and Steve Schmidt.
Some of these folks have left the Republican Party to become so-called independents but are as much into the Democratic Party as those other such self-proclaimed independents as Senators Bernie Sanders and Angus King. Others have more honestly declared themselves to be Democrats. Oddly, while they overtly support the left-wing – and even socialist policies – of the Democrats, they still claim to be the holders of the true values of conservatism.
Their opinion articles and quotes are now fodder for the left-wing east coast media cabal. This group of one-time conservative Republicans can be easily found as frequent panelists on the hardcore left-wing talk shows betraying Republican and especially conservative values.
The fault line that divided the political tectonic plates of the conservative movement was always there, but an overarching political reality kept the two sides in reasonable harmony – until Trump. It can be debated as to whether he caused the plates to separate or is the victim of it, but such blame-placing is irrelevant – the tectonic plates shifted, and the political ground is rumbling as a result. On one side are the conservatives who remain dedicated to principles and on the other a cadre of false-flag conservatives who have surrendered their values to a visceral hatred of Donald Trump, the man.
What is peculiar and offensive to folks like me is the claim by these apostates that THEY remain the true practitioners of conservatism – the defenders of a cause under assault from Trump. They proffer the illogical argument that by supporting the left, they are representing the right. They are wrong and dishonest.
They go so far as to say that conservatives like me have been transformed into cultish followers of a Trumpian party – one that has usurped the Republican and conservative brands. They seem to believe that their retreat from conservative values is a form of expelling us from those same values. According to them, they did not change. We did.
They claim that Trump is not a conservative. In the sense that he is not a longstanding member of the movement, I would agree. To the extent that he has lived self-indulgent and the salacious life we commonly associate with liberal permissiveness, Trump has not been of the Christian conservative ilk – but even they can draw the distinction between the personality of the man and the political policies he pursues today. Policy-by-policy, Trump has proven to be as much a conservative as any past President with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan. Policy-wise, Trump has accomplished more of the historic conservative agenda than even Reagan, who did remarkably well considering he had to deal with a Democrat Congress.
When the conservative ex-patriots say that Trump is not a conservative and we who think he is are just … stupid … how do they explain away such impressive accomplishments as naming two solid conservatives to the Supreme Court, advancing school choice, calling for cuts in the federal budget in real dollars, mowing down generations of excessive regulations, ending the open border policies, pushing back against sanctuary cities and states, ending the abusive practices of the ill-named Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, signing tax cuts, increasing military spending, producing fairer trade policies? This list could go on for several more paragraphs, but it makes the point.
These false-flag conservatives even re-define the philosophy to better fit their apostasy. They reject the basic foundation of conservatism, — limited government. That does not mean no government, but that to whatever extent possible we should limit the power and influence of government over our daily lives – and especially the more distant and less responsive to we the people federal government.
These neo-progressives proffer the argument that we should not oppose big government, only bad government – not realizing that big government IS bad government. They fly under the oxymoronic label of “big government conservatives” – which means they are not conservative at all. As Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government IS the problem.”
What can be said is that those who previously claimed to be principled conservatives, but now endorse the advance of socialism by supporting the Democratic Party, is that they were never principled conservatives. They were the fair-weather friends of the conservative movement. They were embedded in Washington as part of the old political, social and cultural establishment. Their political views were secondary to an old-school collegiality.
Their membership in the establishment is more important to them personally and financially than any dedication to principles. It is why they myopically focus on the Trump personality instead of his policies. In truth, they are neither dependable conservatives nor dependable liberals. That are pragmatic “floaters” in the sea of politics.
If there was any one person who could best personify the hybrid big government conservative, it was the late George Herbert Walker Bush. He was a man of admirable personal qualities whose personality was superior to his policies. His sense of acceptable behavior was more important than the substance of policies. Despite his read-my-lips campaign conservativism, he agreed to expand the federal government through taxes and regulations. This elitist establishment tendency to put style above substance led him to actually vote for Hillary Clinton – potentially the most left-wing socialist President in American history. Bush was a pretty good President, but he definitely was no Ronald Reagan – and he did not absorb Reagan’s bedrock philosophy even by hanging around the Oval Office for eight years as Vice President.
I suppose in this day of self-identification, anyone can call themselves a conservative. They can also call themselves an eagle if they wish. But they still cannot fly among real the eagles.
So, there ‘tis.