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When We Feared the Trumpifying of Conservatism, This is What We Meant

I don’t have any desire to re-litigate the contentious battle conservatives and Republicans had amongst ourselves as to whether Donald Trump was an acceptable flag bearer for our ideology during the 2016 presidential campaign.  Trump won the nomination fairly, he won the presidency fairly, and he deserves to be praised when he does good things, while also deserving criticism when he does bad things.

That said, fair-minded observers can surely look at the recently concluded 2019 CPAC event and ask whether the fears so many anti-Trump conservatives voiced about the future of our movement have not been realized.  Consider:

Ronna McDaniel, the current Chair of the Republican National Committee, spoke on the future of the Republican Party saying,

“People like Candace Owens, like Charlie Kirk, we need more leaders like that.” 

Really?  Raging against liberals takes precedence over dignity and thoughtful argument?  In the era of Trump, I suppose it makes sense.  Fealty and loyalty to the actual principles and ideas of conservatism take a back seat to anyone who appears willing and able to “own the libs.”  The fact that they have a tenuous grasp on what they’re fighting for or why they are in a fight in the first place doesn’t seem to matter.  “They fight,” therefore they are the kind of leaders we need – just like Trump apologists have said from the start.

And speaking of mindless combativeness, guess who got the largest and perhaps longest ovation at this prestigious gathering of conservative minds?  A William F. Buckley tribute video perhaps?  Not exactly.  No, live-stream video bloggers “Diamond and Silk,” famous for their rambling, often non-sensical yet comedic support of President Donald Trump, were given the featured keynote and final speaking slot of the day.  It’s not as though these two ladies have accomplished much in the way of advancing conservative political ideas, but they have made some serious headlines by shouting down skeptical interviewers by repeating,

“My president never says anything that’s stupid.”

Apparently that’s what now counts as conservative commentary in a movement so hijacked by Trumpism that its seminal annual meeting included stirring room-sized portraits of President Trump’s portrait alongside a screeching Bald Eagle carrying an American flag in its talons, in front of a gleaming planet Earth with a sunrise on its horizon.  The kind of worshipful artwork that would make the narcissist Dear Leader of North Korea jealous.

And speaking of Kim Jong-un, this same day Diamond and Silk were appearing at the Candace and Kirk CPAC show – where the supposedly fiscally conservative crowd actually booed a panelist for lamenting how Trump’s tax cuts actually increased the debt – President Trump was shamefully exonerating the human rights violating dictator of the death of American student Otto Warmbier.

There was a time when a president excusing the torture of an American hostage by a hostile, foreign regime would have drawn the ire of conservatives everywhere.  But it’s a new day in American conservatism it seems.  One defined not by principle but by expediency.

In the era of Trump, the right has abandoned its preoccupation with articulating Reagan’s three-legged stool of fiscal, social, and national defense conservatism, and has opted instead for a cult of personality that pretends listening is for losers, logical consistency is overrated, and petulant bickering is where it’s at. 

Sad.

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