With great consternation, conservatives have finally come to a clear mirror and seen themselves in the company they keep. The image is not pretty. Rush Limbaugh read aloud portions of an anonymous post published on the Claremont Institute’s (a conservative intellectual think tank) website.
At the risk of losing the reader, I will quote a goodly-size portion of the 4,500 word punch in the face to the NeverTrump movement titled “The Flight 93 Election.” If you would rather skim, just read the last paragraph of this quote.
I apologize in advance that I will be quoting other portions of that article as well–so this will not be a short read.
One of the paradoxes—there are so many—of conservative thought over the last decade at least is the unwillingness even to entertain the possibility that America and the West are on a trajectory toward something very bad. On the one hand, conservatives routinely present a litany of ills plaguing the body politic. Illegitimacy. Crime. Massive, expensive, intrusive, out-of-control government. Politically correct McCarthyism. Ever-higher taxes and ever-deteriorating services and infrastructure. Inability to win wars against tribal, sub-Third-World foes. A disastrously awful educational system that churns out kids who don’t know anything and, at the primary and secondary levels, can’t (or won’t) discipline disruptive punks, and at the higher levels saddles students with six figure debts for the privilege. And so on and drearily on. Like that portion of the mass where the priest asks for your private intentions, fill in any dismal fact about American decline that you want and I’ll stipulate it.
Conservatives spend at least several hundred million dollars a year on think-tanks, magazines, conferences, fellowships, and such, complaining about this, that, the other, and everything. And yet these same conservatives are, at root, keepers of the status quo. Oh, sure, they want some things to change. They want their pet ideas adopted—tax deductions for having more babies and the like. Many of them are even good ideas. But are any of them truly fundamental? Do they get to the heart of our problems?
If conservatives are right about the importance of virtue, morality, religious faith, stability, character and so on in the individual; if they are right about sexual morality or what came to be termed “family values”; if they are right about the importance of education to inculcate good character and to teach the fundamentals that have defined knowledge in the West for millennia; if they are right about societal norms and public order; if they are right about the centrality of initiative, enterprise, industry, and thrift to a sound economy and a healthy society; if they are right about the soul-sapping effects of paternalistic Big Government and its cannibalization of civil society and religious institutions; if they are right about the necessity of a strong defense and prudent statesmanship in the international sphere—if they are right about the importance of all this to national health and even survival, then they must believe—mustn’t they?—that we are headed off a cliff.
In that very tight logic, the writer, using the pen-name “Publius Decius Mus,” built the argument that things are not going so well for conservative ideals, and are not on a path to get better. The idea of Congressional action, federalism, and judicial restraint, taking baby-step wins, is simply wishful thinking.
He’s absolutely right. Conservatism, and its essential foundational requisites of the nuclear family, virtue, and individual responsibility, are losing. The federal government is pouring rocket fuel into the engine that propels our society away from these ideals, and all conservatives are calling for is a series of drogue chutes when we need a Saturn V.
Only three questions matter. First, how bad are things really? Second, what do we do right now? Third, what should we do for the long term?
So now, this sick society of ours has produced a Trump, who has taken positions (so many, I lose count) on issues that serve only to strip away the pretentious faux civility we’ve seen in our government for decades. Haven’t we (conservative think-piece writers, radio hosts, bloggers, and political activists) been saying for years that the genteel veneer of political get-alongism only works for Democrats and liberal Republicans?
Weren’t we the ones pushing for Ted Cruz to shut down the government over the debt ceiling? Weren’t we the ones excoriating President G.W. Bush for TARP? Weren’t we the ones facepalming over Boehner and McConnell’s half-measures and compromises?
And along comes Trump who cuts to the core of the issue, and we get on him because he’s an immoral cad who only thinks of his own featherbeds, never keeps promises, and discards all the foundational convictions upon which conservative ideals are built. But so many realize they can be inside the joke and help him win by putting clothes on the naked emperor.
Trump’s vulgarity is in fact a godsend to the conservatives. It allows them to hang their public opposition on his obvious shortcomings and to ignore or downplay his far greater strengths, which should be even more obvious but in corrupt times can be deliberately obscured by constant references to his faults. That the Left would make the campaign all about the latter is to be expected. Why would the Right? Some—a few—are no doubt sincere in their belief that the man is simply unfit for high office. David Frum, who has always been an immigration skeptic and is a convert to the less-war position, is sincere when he says that, even though he agrees with much of Trump’s agenda, he cannot stomach Trump. But for most of the other #NeverTrumpers, is it just a coincidence that they also happen to favor Invade the World, Invite the World?
It’s very tempting to join the tailor shop and hold up ornate garments fit for Emperor Trump the Vacuous, to become praetors to the Orange Throne. It’s tempting to watch Trump destroy the Democrats for keeping the very promises they make, which destroy the underpinnings of society. It’s tempting to use him to build the Saturn V rocket conservatives need to change the course of this country.
But we ought not to. It’s cheating. And cheaters won’t win.
Forgive me for going back to the Bible, but I must do that, because conservatism is founded on a morality given by an absolute lawgiver. If I can’t refer back to the anchor texts, then why bother calling it conservatism at all?
Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:22-28)
Take that Scripture passage and move it to the back burner of your mind for a moment and let it simmer.
Hillary Clinton is an opponent of everything conservatism stands for. She believes in a statist social structure where personal responsibility is ceded to the government. She believes in humanist doctrines of life quantifiably measured against our own yardsticks, the gaining of pleasure, and the value of a life to society–not the sacredness of a God-given life. She believes in the limiting of personal effort in order to artificially impose “equality,” except for those exempt elite classes who determine what “equality” is. She believes in a planned economy where winners and losers are chosen rather than determined by market forces.
Many, including Publius Decius Mus, believe that America is only one president away from Hillary’s vision.
A Hillary presidency will be pedal-to-the-metal on the entire Progressive-left agenda, plus items few of us have yet imagined in our darkest moments. Nor is even that the worst. It will be coupled with a level of vindictive persecution against resistance and dissent hitherto seen in the supposedly liberal West only in the most “advanced” Scandinavian countries and the most leftist corners of Germany and England. We see this already in the censorship practiced by the Davoisie’s social media enablers; in the shameless propaganda tidal wave of the mainstream media; and in the personal destruction campaigns—operated through the former and aided by the latter—of the Social Justice Warriors. We see it in Obama’s flagrant use of the IRS to torment political opponents, the gaslighting denial by the media, and the collective shrug by everyone else.
With the liberal institutions of higher education, judicial activism, and the mainstream media on her side, Hillary may attempt the coup de grâce on conservatism’s tenuous foothold in government. She may stomp out talk radio, the blogosphere, think tanks and activist groups, relegating us to the cobwebby corners of conspiracy dealers and hate-mongers (like the alt-right, 4chan, 8chan, and the Daily Stormer). She may make the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate map a guide for prosecutors and regulators to target all of us.
Why would anyone be #NeverTrump if he can stop this from happening?
Yes, Trump is worse than imperfect. So what? We can lament until we choke the lack of a great statesman to address the fundamental issues of our time—or, more importantly, to connect them. Since Pat Buchanan’s three failures, occasionally a candidate arose who saw one piece: Dick Gephardt on trade, Ron Paul on war, Tom Tancredo on immigration. Yet, among recent political figures—great statesmen, dangerous demagogues, and mewling gnats alike—only Trump-the-alleged-buffoon not merely saw all three and their essential connectivity, but was able to win on them. The alleged buffoon is thus more prudent—more practically wise—than all of our wise-and-good who so bitterly oppose him. This should embarrass them. That their failures instead embolden them is only further proof of their foolishness and hubris.
Here is Mus’s fatal flaw. He is selling Trump-ism, but we must buy Trump along with it. Trump is not winning on Trump-ism because Trump-ism (which is why I add the dash) is not a thing–it does not exist. Trump-ism is an echo chamber of issues that strip away that veneer of compromise and cut to the core of what is eating people’s lunch.
It’s the bee in the conservative’s bonnet, but also the bee in the work-a-day retired couple’s bonnet, who have been saving all their lives for a nice retirement but can’t afford it. It’s also the bee in the ne’er-do-well’s bonnet, whose job has evaporated a generation ago but hasn’t the good sense to move where the jobs are, or the initiative to learn a new skill. It’s also the bee in the racist blood and soil conspirator’s bonnet, who believes that liberals are simply a front for making white people into slaves.
My initial, and continuing complaint about Trump isn’t that he has the wrong policies. It’s that he won’t implement any of the policies (regardless of what they are) he champions. He will be a terrible president because of the very morally decayed forces that produced him to begin with.
And for that compromise, all the conservative promises and moral preening over the past three decades–four decades if you count Nixon–the bill has now come payable, due in full. We must either swallow the poison of Trump or suffer the persecution of wickedness in Clinton.
The election of 2016 is a test—in my view, the final test—of whether there is any virtù left in what used to be the core of the American nation. If they cannot rouse themselves simply to vote for the first candidate in a generation who pledges to advance their interests, and to vote against the one who openly boasts that she will do the opposite (a million more Syrians, anyone?), then they are doomed. They may not deserve the fate that will befall them, but they will suffer it regardless.
Here I agree with at least the first part of Mus’s conclusion. 2016 is a test.
Now, if you would, take that Scripture passage off the back burner and move it to the front burner. Trump is an immoral, unvirtuous, unabashedly deceitful, homewrecking, scheming, thin-skinned, unforgiving, blustering, vulgar, vengeful, bully. He’s proud of it.
Clinton is a lying, deceitful, self-aggrandizing witch, but she will keep her promises to her constituency. “If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself and will not stand. And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out?” We cannot use Trump to drive out Clinton because Trump is the opposite of what a conservative ideal should be. He’s not flawed, he’s a wholly integrated sociopath operating without a conscience.
Conservatism will fall under persecution with Clinton as president, but persecution is a feature of Christianity, not a bug. Christianity is growing and flourishing in places like China and the Middle East where persecution is formal and unyielding. Yet thousands of new believers are baptized there daily, in secret.
Conservatism is an ideal, not a policy or political construct. It will not die because it’s inexorably linked to the absolute morals of the Bible, and the Bible cannot be wiped out. Supporting Trump as the hope to advance the politics of conservatism and destroy the hopes of liberals is its own devil’s compromise, and much more pernicious and damaging then the compromise conservatives have made over the last decades.
Trump is the conservative test of 2016, and those who pass will be the ones who have looked clearly in the mirror, and rejected the political veneer that Trump has exposed, without trading it for the clothesless Emperor who offers an ersatz redemption.