What happens when conservatives win the House, the Senate, the majority of governorships and state houses and still lose the cultural war?
What happens when Americans sense that there is a contempt for God, marriage, children, morality, free speech, free association, hard work, individualism and decency and the contempt is led by the Democrat President and amplified by the media, entertainment, educational, and cultural elite? The government subsidizes bad behavior by seeking out people to put on food stamps, gives out “free” phones, encourages illegal behavior, degrades the military, dismisses acts of violence against voters of a certain color, and uses the force of the State to investigate and harass political opponents.
And what happens when Americans surrender and absorb those values? What happens to a Western nation that stops attending church, divorces on a whim (if it bothers to marry at all), foregoes having children, plays video games rather than getting a job, identifies with its group rather than its American-ness, and conducts itself in coarse and base ways? Worse, what happens when Americans recognize that these are bad roads to follow yet they’re afraid to talk about it because to even admit the problems is to be labeled a closed-minded bigot?
That is a pretty desperate situation.
I listened to an episode of Jonah Goldberg’s podcast “The Remnant” and his guest was the son in law of Bill Kristol, Matt Continetti. They discussed the history of conservatism. I found myself nodding along until they reached the Tea Party, which Jonah called “a failed movement.” All movements should fail so effectively. The Tea Party produced two massive wave elections for the Republicans. Cruz, Rubio, Paul, Johnson, and Lee are all Tea Party Senators and it often meant knocking off crusty old Republicans in the primary who seemed content to be in power while watching America swirl the drain.
The Tea Party voters saw the limitations of electoral gain through the eight years of Obama. Majorities in the House and Senate produced little of value (yes, yes, I know that there was legislative trimming of the hedges) and certainly didn’t result in even the slim satisfaction of rhetorical courage. If a conservative stood up (hello Ted Cruz, Rand Paul), the crabs in the bucket pulled him back down so things could proceed as before.
Meanwhile right-leaning cultural leaders talked in hushed tones about debt and deficits and screeched loudly about how Ted Cruz was single-handedly going to cost Republicans the House and Senate — a fear that was patently absurd as no one outside the Beltway gave a hot damn about the government shutdown. And while the worrywarts spilt ink on things that didn’t matter, they ignored things that did.
The conservative movement, such as it was, came to resemble, and still does resemble, the Libertarian movement: nattering on about policy minutia and lost in theoretical purity. But it is worse than that. At least Libertarians stick stubbornly to their policy positions and principles. They vote for Gary Johnson and they’re the champions of lost causes. Not so-called conservatives. Rather than seek real gains and take courageous stances, they’ll look the other way at bloated budgets (can’t risk a shutdown!), they’ll ignore cultural rot (we’ve worked so hard to be accepted as “compassionate,” don’t want anyone to think that we’re bigots!) and generally huddle in the corner and point rather than do something substantive.
The kind of Republicans who received national acclaim like George Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were rhetorically conservative but legislatively weak on cultural issues like abortion, gay marriage, and other socially conservative values, they were big government on spending both foreign and domestic, and all are possessed of this noblesse oblige that motivated them to save the world — just not in precisely the same way a Democrat might. It was using the government for higher aims. Redistributing the American taxpayer’s money at home and abroad was good. America is blessed. Going into debt meant being a noble global citizen.
Anyone who leaned right suffered being taken for a fool for a long time. Then Obama was elected. I remember feeling utter frustration that the best speech John McCain gave that election cycle was his gracious concession to President Obama. How symbolic, I thought. Republicans are at our best when we’re losing.
Along comes Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is not a good guy. He’s not a war hero like McCain. He’s no sincere Christian like Bush. He’s no solid husband like Romney. He’s a philanderer. He is bellicose. He’s base. At this writing, there’s public discussion about a hush money payment to Stormy Daniels to stay silent about her affair with the Donald when Melania was pregnant or just had Baron. Nasty stuff.
David French, who ran for President to save us from such humiliation, tweeted this yesterday:
Dear Trump evangelicals. It looks like Trump has now been caught lying to you about paying off a porn star to silence reports about an affair shortly after his son was born. He had an affair. He paid hush money. He lied about it. Let that sink in. Is that your man?
— David French (@DavidAFrench) May 3, 2018
Why doesn’t Trump’s personal affect the political? How can good people support such a bad person? I’d like to turn this around, for a minute.
How do you, Evan McMullin voter, defend craven Republican behavior? How do you propose to fight a media that hates every value you hold dear? What’s your plan for dealing with people who are destroyed because they don’t want to bake a cake as more liberal judges are put into lifetime positions? How do you plan to defend Western civilization with a neutered military and porous borders? How do you defend Hillary’s mindless foreign adventurism, celebration of baby killing, lying repeatedly to voters, and how would Hillary Clinton have been better than Trump? Do pray tell.
No Trump voter I know claims that Trump is a good person. Evangelicals, especially, understand the sinful nature of all people — even good men like Romney, Bush, McCain and David French. Evangelicals also know that God uses imperfect, even sometimes unrepentant (hello Jonah) tools to achieve His ends. They know that bad people can do good things.
Trump voters know Trump’s character and believe he’s not the good person, but the right person for the very nasty job that it is to be an effective Republican President in these evil times. Being an ineffective, but nice, Republican is easier. A Nice Republican doesn’t accomplish much and that keeps everyone satisfied with the status quo. Ideally, the nice Republican loses the election gracefully.
So far, Trump voters have been correct. Trump understands the media. He intuits the loss of American identity and wants to reverse it. He senses the corruption and is unmasking it. He sees how a weak military and border compromises American greatness.
If Trump is successful, hopefully, he’ll make American safe for a Nice Republican to preside again. We’re not there yet. If cultural icon Kanye West is chewed up for an unpopular opinion and a conservative publication is shunned from Facebook, America is still not safe for you or me, or Marco Rubio as president. If the President of the United States is the victim of a vast, empowered State that targets ideological enemies, no one is safe, not even the nice, good Republicans who cherish “norms.”
The conservatives claiming the moral high ground while America dies fear that there will be nothing to conserve post-Trump. I believed, and still believe, that would have definitely been the case with Hillary Clinton as president. Her corruption and the government corruption would become calcified, permanent. America would be a borderless nation filled with angry tribes. The cultural insanity would become conventional wisdom. It still might. I’m a pessimist. I believe America and Western Civilization are probably too far gone.
We’re in the Flight 93 presidency, rushing the cockpit and still, still the anti-Trumpites refuse to get what’s at stake. They, like CNN, will focus on Stormy because it’s easier than soberly facing the implosion of Western Civilization, and America’s dimming light on the hill.
The light flickers. It might be time better spent to help the person trying to keep the flame burning rather than being the wind that fuels the storm that could extinguish it.