There is a fight going on right now for the very soul of the conservative movement.
This isn’t news. It isn’t something we’re just realizing. From the very moment Donald Trump won the nomination, if not in the months preceding, those of us who saw what was coming sounded alarms. We knew that the idea of Republicanism, constitutionalism, and conservatism itself was up for grabs.
Against all odds, Donald Trump became the President of the United States, and that’s when the fight became a war.
Donald Trump conservatism is an institution now. He is the President, the de facto head of his party, and in the months since he took over, the party has floundered.
Congress had big plans, backed by the President, who had a wishlist of legislation that mirrored Paul Ryan’s goals. But, Congress floundered. Obamacare repeal, even a “light” version, never came to pass. Tax reform is barely on track, left limping along by demanding Senators who are more fans of the status quo than the bright future they campaigned on.
But more than the policy achievements (or lack thereof) of the Trump Administration is the example being set forth by them and by conservative media.
In politics, it is fashionable to consider your side the moral side and the other side as the immoral – some even go so far as to say “evil.” However, along comes Trump, a man whose beliefs – up until he decided to start talking like us – were antithetical to ours. From the get-go, the man was a lie. He did not represent conservatism as we had imagined it. His was a darker conservatism, one that fed on fears to create boogeymen that were easy to make the bad guys and make Trump himself the good guy.
That has now spread to the people who wish to use whatever mandate they believe Trump possesses to run for office themselves.
This brings us to Roy Moore.
There is, despite the credible evidence against him, an overwhelming group of supporters that refuse to see anything wrong with Moore’s candidacy. They choose to believe that all the accusers are liars, that the evidence is fake, that it’s all a great big conspiracy to take him out. But, at the end of the day, Moore’s own denials are, at best, half-hearted. There is no defense from his camp, simply more attacking.
Many in conservative media, from reporters to editors to pundits, choose to overlook the evidence and feed these conspiracy theories and defend the indefensible. Where once we accused the Democrats of having a wagon-circling echo chamber, we now copy their tactics.
And, I readily admit that the atmosphere that created Trump and Moore is on me. That in my zealous attacks on certain Republicans in Washington, I fed the masses that were looking for someone to buck it all. I do not like Mitch McConnell, and wish that Matt Bevin had won that Kentucky primary. But, in my anger over McConnell’s rule of the Senate, I stoked certain flames.
And here we are, those flames towering high, threatening not to consume the enemy – whether it be Democrats or the GOP Establishment – but to consume us. Our credibility as a moral force, as people who believe in the Constitution and the redemption of mankind, threatened by an embrace of a fraud of a Republican who is now our President and a judge who saw the Constitution as optional and little girls as datable.
And conservative media is not honest about it. The people at Fox News will never admit that they have created a monster in the populism they stoked during Trump’s candidacy. People in the conservative blogosphere will never admit that they picked the wrong horse a time or two. We let the idea of perfection get in the way.
The perfect became the enemy of the good, and now, at a time when Republicans should have no problem forcibly telling Moore to step aside, we find people we considered friends and allies telling a pedophile that his accusers are full of crap and, even if they were telling the truth, who cares?
This should be unacceptable. But we have begun to circle the wagons ourselves. We have lost our way. We have decided that tribalism – that the party – is greater than the public good. And that’s not good.
It’s not good at all.