Right now, what do conservatives stand for?

Posted on January 27, 2021

Establishment conservatives should want to be rid of Donald Trump. It could help them recover conservativism from the Trumpist MAGA movement.

Those conservatives should know that Trumpism is dangerous to friend and foe alike, that Trump’s potential 2024 candidacy for president will make it nearly impossible for reality-based conservatives to recruit volunteers or raise money, and that an engaged Trump will change the nature of the 2022 midterm elections, further radicalizing the movement.

So both party insiders like McConnell and outsiders like Cruz should have good reason to convict Trump of the impeachment charge, in order to block him from running for reelection. This is really the only way they can even hope to take back their party. Because they are elected for six-year terms, Senators are in the best position to withstand immediate pressure and vote on principle. And at this point, the only principle is whether the truth is true.

But it’s not happening. Conservative Senators have already caved in by voting for a lie about the constitutional grounds for impeachment. Things could hardly be more Orwellian; it’s 1984 in 2021. With complete disregard for facts or the best interests of America, they have once again handed their party over to the Trumpist movement.

This is tragic because Donald Trump is only a symptom; the disease is radicalism founded on white victimhood, grievance against nonwhites and “liberals,” the possession of arsenals of weapons, and a willingness to commit violence. GOP primary voters have embraced and are motivated by disinformation, including insane conspiracy theories. And now the conservative establishment has failed to protect even its own self-interest, possibly the last opportunity they will ever have.

How can state and local conservatives stand for anything when their federal officeholders fall to the mob? And even if, in some jurisdictions, mainline conservatives control their party, how do they rebuild a set of principles? What do they stand for after discarding fiscal conservatism, shredding national defense priorities, lying about the integrity of our democratic institutions, attacking both Republicans and Democrats for merely obeying the law, and turning their backs (or cheering) on political threats and violence?

For four years, the movement has done nothing but accommodate Donald Trump’s whims – from siding with Russia and blaming our allies, to taking absurd anti-science positions on COVID and climate change. But most of all, they applauded Trump’s mindless cruelty to immigrants, Muslims and people of color.

That’s what conservatives now stand for. They’re for hurting people whenever their base imagines they are people of color, or those who side with people of color. It’s far worse than just a philosophy of obstruction. It’s a philosophy of nihilism.