Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Conservativism is not trumpism

There is a storied, if not mythological history that is often repeated concerning Ronald Regan and former speaker of the House Tip O’Neil; that they could spend their day fighting bitterly in the public sphere but then enjoy each other’s company in social life. In this current political climate of animus, I can scarcely imagine such exchanges today. To be sure, I have had to police my words with others in my new hometown in the Deep South. As you may imagine, that is very difficult for me to do. The coded language our politicians use has been secreted into daily speech to the point where one can ascertain the political leanings of a person within a few sentences. I can personally account for someone saying to me, “We’re so lucky that bitch didn’t get into office” being the most egregious. Add that to the general timbre of catch phrases like “lock her up” and “trump that bitch” those halcyon days of a more gallant relationship between the two poles of American politics seem to be slipping farther and farther way. I admit that I am no saint in this regard, the angels of my better nature have yet to show themselves.
I watched Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress. What I saw and heard was not conservativism. It can only be described as trumpism. Trumpism will be difficult to define as it is as slippery as the man himself. It is easier to conclude what trumpism is not, and trumpism is not conservativism. When we hear him prattle on about promising walls, excessive military spending, while simultaneously pledging to not tinker with Medicare or Social Security, we are not witnessing a conservative from the Goldwater/Buckley/Reagan tradition. Nor could this sort of pseudo populist grandstanding be described as even neo conservative. However, Trump maintains that (R) next to his name. He is a Republican. He is the de facto leader of the Republican party. And I would submit that the Republicans who have lined up behind him while barely even offering a whimper of protest to his questionable election and horrifyingly incompetent Cabinet picks are no longer conservatives. No. They have sold their political and ideological integrity to trumpism in what can only be described as craven opportunism.
There is no shortage of ink (data?) being spilled on the disarray and discord within the Democratic party. While there was certainly a bitterly fought (but decisively won) primary, the Democratic party has not lost its integrity as the party of those on the left. It is true, there are those who regard the election of Mr. Perez to DNC chair as evidence of some sort of vestige of the Democratic “establishment” continuing to assert party dominance. Though one would be hard pressed to describe Mr. Ellison who has served several terms in the House as somehow not part of the Democratic “establishment.” In a fitting and proper gesture, Mr. Ellison was made Deputy Chair of the DNC. I would urge the so-called Sanders party to coalesce around this union. After all, Sanders has still not joined the party and continues to not share information with the party that could assist the Democrats in organizing against Trump. This is in addition to his 13% primary loss. I mention these things not to further enrage these members, but to include them at the proportion they have thus far included themselves. As an aside to those who voted for Sanders in the primary but not Ms. Clinton in the general; you left the party in November. It’s a remarkably arrogant position to take; betraying the party in a general election, but then thinking that betrayal has afforded you a louder voice.
Despite being an avowed liberal and Democrat, I think it will be conservatives, not Republicans, that will be the variable in effectively resisting Trump. The Democrats will continue to organize and unify. Yes, even despite the lingering (but healing) wounds of the primary. I don’t envision the same happening for the Republicans. The leaders of the party prior to 2016 clearly preferred Jeb Bush, and if their party had a mechanism like superdelegates, Trump would never have been the nominee. We can see glimpses of failing Republican unity behind Trump in the occasional actions and words of Senators Graham and McCain (though they voted for Mr. Trump’s appalling cabinet nominations). As a resident of SC, I was able to watch a town hall with Senator Graham and can attest to his strong language against Russian interference. I watched the same with our junior Senator Mr. Scott but he did not address the issue as forcefully. I hope with the continued opposition presence at town halls, Republicans will be forced to acknowledge the voices of their constituents.
Aside from calling your elected leaders, I would recommend something else in order to effectively resist Trump. If all politics are local, then let us challenge the conservatives we personally know on an intellectual level. If they are conservatives, then they must agree that building a wall is a massively irresponsible government spending project. If they believe in ethical personal conduct, one cannot support the man who bragged about sexual assault. If they are a strict Constitutionalist, they cannot support any sort of religious based legislation regarding immigration. I know these are not new arguments or points. When our conservative friends trot out their tired apologetics for trumpism, I will respond that obviously Trump is no conservative, but he is a Republican. 

1 comment:

  1. As always, most of your positions are spot on. Excess government spending and religious persecution (sorry, registering) are not conservative principles. I absolutely consider myself a conservative. Though I was born during the Reagan years, throughout my voting adulthood there has only been one true conservative anywhere near the presidency, and that is Mitt Romney.

    W spent billions on an untaxed war, and that is simply not conservatism. Most people don't think about this because we are just too young, but WWI and WWII were funded by taxpayers. Not by taking on additional debt, but through actual taxes. Sometimes that's the cost freedom and the American way. But I digress.

    The things Trump is talking about are far more anti-conservative than untaxed wars. $1T on infrastructure, extra paid FMLA for new parents, the wall, etc. I'm neither condoning nor condemning these things. Just agreeing with you that these are clearly not classically conservative, which is smaller government, less spending, etc.

    While I know you don't prefer most of these individuals, I believe Libertarians are the ones picking up more aspects of true conservatism. Not in the Ayn Rand sense of the word, but they are the party calling for less spending, more freedom, and the "out of the bedroom, out of the boardroom" approach to social and business activity. There's no more Federalists, Whigs, or democratic republicans. Parties change. Views change. If Trumpism continues to be the path for Republicans, I will certainly go full Libertarian. Which brings me to my next point. Which answers your question of "why did so many conservatives just lie down and accept Trump into the Republican party?"

    The answer is simple. It's selfishness. Don't get too excited about this statement until I explain. The same way Bernie supporters voted for HRC because she better supported their views than Trump, Rubio and Kasich supporters voted for Trump because he better supported their views than HRC. It's pretty simple, really. The difference with Trump is that he scares me in a very different way than HRC would have. I truly believe many special interests (and possibly foreign entities, but that's a discussion for a different time) had hands in the Clinton pockets. And more scary than that was her later term promises of things like free college to pander to the Bernie supporters. But I would not have feared she had the ability to start WWIII.

    Trump, on the other hand, could. And that should be terrifying to everyone. But you know what? He might get some good stuff done. I know you're more scared of him than I am, but he has yet to actually do anything (other than saying batshit things) to put us in a position like that. It's a risk many were willing to take to make a change. I don't agree with it, but my vote only counts for 1 just like yours.

    To conclude, I would say most conservatives and republicans (since I agree that they are delineated at this point) are just trying to get away from over-spending, PC culture, Congressional standstill, and constantly being called racist/sexist/etc. I get that. I agree with it. I just wish it could have been someone not so dangerous. But we shall see. And we should all hope and pray for the best.