In a remarkable essay, Charles Murray adumbrates the tenets of a new religion which might be called the Church of Conservatism. The theology could be fleshed out a bit, but for now here is what we may infer from what Mr. Murray tells us.
The new church has a high priesthood, whom Mr. Murray label Establishmentarians. Its members are a select group, “the tiny fraction of the population that deals professionally in public policy from the right.” Only they are permitted to enter the inner sanctum of the Church, the Holy of Holies, wherein is kept the Book of the True Conservative, which contains the principles of the new religion. The priesthood is given the keys to the kingdom, the right to say who is and who is not a conservative, the right to sanctify and the power to anathemize.
A fundamental dogma of the Church is that Donald Trump is evil. Not that his views are all bad. Some might in fact be socially beneficial. No, Trump is evil in his essence, like Satan, if you will. And he must be denounced as such by all Establishmentarians, and his influence exorcised wherever it might be found amongst the erring members of the Church.
Many of the Church’s priests are “columnists, media pundits, public intellectuals and politicians” whose role is to preach about the application of the principles of True Conservatism to public policy and good government. The authentic Priests have already identified themselves publicly as #NeverTrump, meaning that there is no way in Hell that they will ever cast a vote for Trump.
There is no hatred like an odium theologicum, said John Stuart Mill, and Murray reserves all his powers of vituperation for the heretical followers of Mr. Trump. Murray calls them the false priests. They have posed as conservatives but now say that they will vote for Satan, oops, I mean Trump. In their weakness, these renegades seek to excuse their sin by pleading that “Hillary is even worse.” This might serve for the ordinary voter, but Murray’s priests answer to a higher authority. Jonah Goldberg, perhaps, or Bill Kristol. Search your souls, Murray implores them. “Are you voting for a man whom your principles require you to despise, or have you modified your principles?”
Then there are the “closet #NeverTrumpers” who seek to pass themselves off as members of Murray’s church, but who keep silent about Trump. They occupy positions such as policy analysts (of which Mr. Murray is one), “political strategists, senior Hill staffers and potential appointees to high office in a Trump administration.” As such, they are not expected to opine publicly about Trump, and are thus in a position to just shut up and keep their options open. Woe to you, you hypocrites! You pretend adherence to the true religion but a misplaced caution restrains you from speaking out! Come now and follow Mr. Murray’s example!
Murray’s heretics are especially prone to fall into a Jesuitical casuistry in which they use their considerable intellectual powers to deceive themselves about Trump. In the face of all of the evidence that is in front of them, they “concoct elaborate rationalizations” for supporting Trump. This is a sin that Murray particularly singles out.
Perhaps Mr. Murray is here directing his contempt at the Trump supporters who fear that “coming out” will count against them when they apply for a position or tenure at a liberal university, or that they will be black-listed by Murray’s church. Bad enough that they have to worry about totalitarianism on the left, now they must also worry about anathema from the right. And so they publish their work in support of Trump anonymously.
One such group, by the way, is Journal of American Greatness (JAG), a group of bloggers who describe themselves as “American patriots aghast at the stupidity and corruption of American politics, particularly in the Republican Party, and above all in what passes for the ‘conservative’ intellectual movement.” JAG scholars evaluate Trump’s platform on its merits, and they do it brilliantly. But then, as I noted above, for Establishmentarians the issue is not so much Trump’s policy position as about the man himself. Even Satan can have some good ideas, it seems.
Establishmentarians are somehow unaware of their own practice of Jesuitical casuistry. How else could such intelligent people convince themselves that Hillary would be a better president than Trump? In this regard, Murray adopts P.J. O’Rourke’s distinction that while Hillary is “wrong within normal parameters” Trump is wrong outside of normal parameters.
And how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
Dennis Prager has been a severe critic of Donald Trump, and yet he is not persuaded by his “#Never Trump friends” whom he identifies as “people like Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol, Ben Shapiro, Bret Stephens and George Will”. For their benefit, he has written an article in which he lists some of the consequences of a Democrat presidency:
• A continued decrease in the defense budget.
• A continuation of the Dodd-Frank act.
• Making Washington, D.C. a state, thereby giving the Democrats another two permanent senators.
• A continuation of Obamacare.
• A continuation of illegal immigration.
• An increase in job-killing regulations on large and small businesses.
• Higher corporate income taxes, keeping hundreds of billions of dollars offshore.
• A cessation of fracking, “which the left, in its science-rejecting hysteria, opposes.”
To the above I’d add a continuation of the left’s insane obsession with climate change and green energy which puts the economic and security welfare of our country at risk.
Mr. Prager correctly observes that another four years of a Democrat presidency would give us one (and likely more) left-wing judges on the Supreme Court, an activist liberal majority that would legislate from the bench. They’d transform the rules by which we live more even than Congress or the Executive.
“The goal of socialism is communism,” said Vladimir Lenin. With a third Obama term, we’d be well down that road. For this reason, I think that “Establishmentarians” is a misnomer for the #NeverTrumpers. I call them the “Neocoms” — the new communists.