You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for it all (according to the great country and western philosopher Aaron Tippin, at least). But it is also true.
Take the Republican Party.
Instead of turning against Donald Trump (or at least practicing strategic silence) after the devastating revelations at the Jan. 6 hearings, the party’s response was to immediately fall in line. Again.
Trump himself is full of contradictions. Obvious hypocrisies include: “You can’t resist” (a police officer); “Lock them up!” (back when he thought it ok to suggest using the government to jail his political opponents); and “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth?” (before invoking the Fifth Amendment nearly 450 times this week). This is clearly an unprincipled man whose positions are a matter of convenience.
But his influence on the Republican Party goes beyond his own moral flexibility. Look no further than the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence for evidence.
After a 2020 election cycle in which the Law and Order party slammed Democrats for wanting to “disappoint the police,” we’ve seen some members of the right-wing commentator blithely dismissing a video of MAGA rioters carrying Hitting Capitol cops with flagpoles. (The lives of those cops don’t matter to the Blue Lives Matter crowd.) Now, many of the same voices on the right are saying, “Defund the FBI.” So much for the glorification of law enforcement heroes running out against danger.
Why the reversal? It’s not because the police have suddenly become more abusive, and it’s not because Republicans have discovered that standing against law enforcement earns votes. The real reason concerns Trump’s attempt to avoid accountability and oversight.
But that’s just one of many outrageously cynical flip-flops for Trump’s party. Today’s GOP is inscrutable, even deranged. And the changes go beyond a political realignment that brought more working-class Americans into the fold of the GOP — trading free trade for populist protectionism and leaving behind the rich blue-blood image conjured up by established elites like Mitt Romney.
“…how do we distinguish the red shirts from the blue shirts? I’m pretty sure the litmus test for the GOP will be pro-Trump. The only color that matters is orange.”
Consider foreign policy.
Ronald Reagan famously displayed moral clarity by confronting and labeling the Soviet Union as an evil empire. In contrast, Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin (not to mention other authoritarian leaders in countries like North Korea and China).
Consider a commitment to the American project itself.
The basic goal of conservatism in America was the preservation of democracy. Today’s illiberal right wants to destroy it. Conservatives idolized America’s Founding Fathers and past leaders. Now, for all their outrage at the left’s removal of statues and renaming of schools, some of Trump’s defenders tried to rhetorically tear them down to excuse Trump’s inexcusable behavior in office. Republican politicians prided themselves on being pro-“rule of law” and “conservative”. But then they backed Trump’s bogus “emergency order” on the border wall.
And there’s more. Conservatives have long denounced the culture of victimhood, yet Trump constantly plays the victim and refuses to take responsibility (let alone blame) for anything. Conservatives have also criticized identity politics and “playing the racing card”. Trump, who called the New York Attorney General (who is investigating him) a “racist,” does so with glee.
It’s probably all about power. But once problems and tactics become indistinguishable from the other side (except to the extent you have it escalated their worst impulses and tactics), the fight becomes a pointless power play. It’s probably about tribalism. but who is our tribe? Without transcendent principles or guidelines, how can we tell the red shirts from the blue shirts?
I’m pretty sure the litmus test for the GOP will be pro-Trump. The only color that matters is orange.
The biggest reversal, of course, has to do with reversals. Conservatives have historically championed a belief in moral absolutes while denouncing moral relativism. Yet so much of what today’s conservatives say about the “establishment” and institutions (like the FBI) could have been propagated by a Berkeley hippie in 1968.
Go through a list of issues – character, values, free trade, purpose limitation, Russia, spending, law and order, rule of law, etc. – and you’ll find little semblance of a consistent position. Today’s Republican Party is 180 degrees different from the party most of its members, like me, joined.
We are left with a party without a foundation, without a timetable and without a soul. It’s branded though, it’s sticky and gold plated and it says “TRUMP.”
While it may be possible for the GOP to vacate its premises and fall back on borrowed capital of the past, the possibility exists without one right to exist requires a constant stream of revenge fantasies to rationalize support for such a shallow personality cult.
Without deep, abiding principles, we fall for everything. Donald Trump probably won’t be there to watch the aftermath when the music stops.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/im-a-conservative-and-i-dont-know-what-the-gop-stands-for?source=articles&via=rss I’m a conservative and I don’t know what the GOP stands for