In the last eight dismal years, smart conservatives have started keeping a list. I know I am. You may be too. My list includes names like John Roberts, John Boehner and Mike Huckabee.
The betrayers are legion. We thought they were conservatives, and they sold out the cause. The first re-wrote a law so he could impose Obamacare on us. The second caved to Obama faster than Chris Christie running to Golden Corral so he could return to his red wine and cigarettes. The third let his animosity for Ted Cruz drive him to the feet of Cheetoh Jesus, aiding and abetting the former Democrat’s hostile takeover the GOP. There are many, many more (hey there, Gov. Kasich!).
Given the nation’s political and moral free-fall of the Obama Era, and that our own leaders seem to betray us, anger is not only an acceptable response, it’s a righteous one. Jesus himself got angry at sin, flipping over the tables of the money-changers who were hawking their wares outside the temple.
But after a while, we need to move on from anger and retribution. Now, I believe, is that time.
First of all, from a practical standpoint, we must admit that anger is of limited use in politics. To accomplish anything politically, you must have at least 50 percent of the people on your side. If conservatives are making lists and blasting every potential voter — Trumpkins, protectionists, nativists — as, well, deplorable, that doesn’t help build a working majority. Just ask former presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton how it worked for her.
Secondly, from a spiritual standpoint, we know it’s not productive. Anger is not a sin, but nursing and inflaming it is:
“‘In your anger do not sin’ : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27).
Conservatives have had plenty of reasons to be angry, and surely more will arise today (did you hear Trump wants government-sponsored childcare?). Uggh.
But the sun is going down. It’s time to move on.
One of conservatives’ favorite speeches is Ronald Reagan’s 1964 “Time for Choosing” address in Los Angeles. In it, Reagan gave an epic, and somewhat angry, summation of the battle between liberalism and conservatism as he endorsed the first conservative presidential nominee of the modern era, Barry Goldwater.
“Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government,” he declared, “and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.”
Conservatives loved the speech. I still watch it when I need inspiration. But it couldn’t save Goldwater from a landslide loss.
Reagan later realized that his angry tone wasn’t a political winner. When he launched into national politics 13 years later, it was as the optimistic, hopeful Reagan that carried us to the high-water mark for conservatism from 1980-88.
After eight years of Obama, the American people are as divided and angry as I’ve seen in my 42 years. But it’s not unprecedented. You may recall we fought a bitter Civil War for four years that killed hundreds of thousands of men. It was brother against brother. Talk about bitter.
As the Confederates retreated in defeat in 1865, many southerners urged Gen. Robert E. Lee to take his ragtag army into the Appalachian mountains to continue a guerilla fight. Lee demurred. He surrendered, and became a college president where by his example and his words he encouraged healing and reconciliation.
In response to the bitterness of a Confederate widow, Lee wrote, “Dismiss from your mind all sectional feeling, and bring [your children] up to be Americans.”
America’s in bad shape. I’m not happy about it. But a band of bitter, backbiting conservatives won’t save the country. I’ll continue to call out John Roberts, John Boehner and Mike Huckabee when it’s appropriate. But maybe I will say a prayer for them as well, and forget about that list. Because after the Trump Show is over, conservatives are still going to need 50 percent plus one to earn the right to govern.