I have long said that Conservatism is a legitimate political philosophy. I don’t agree with much of what is touted by those who call themselves Conservatives. And I think that much of what is labeled “conservative” is cruel and selfish. But nevertheless …
Before going further, what is “Conservatism”? I went to the font of knowledge about Conservatism, the National Review, and discovered an article by Jonah Goldberg (whose column appears regularly in the Daily Star): When we say Conservative, we mean …. One of the definitions Goldberg lists is this from one of his friends:
To my mind, conservatism is gratitude. Conservatives tend to begin from gratitude for what is good and what works in our society and then strive to build on it, while liberals tend to begin from outrage at what is bad and broken and seek to uproot it.
So are today’s Republicans conservative in that sense? Not likely. The GOP’s moral rot is the problem, not Donald Trump Jr. writes Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post.
The key insight from a week of gobsmacking revelations is not that the Russia scandal may finally have an underlying crime but that, as David Brooks suggests, “over the past few generations the Trump family built an enveloping culture that is beyond good and evil.” (Remember when the media collectively oohed and ahhed that, “Say what you will about Donald Trump, but his kids are great!”? Add that to the heap of inane media narratives that helped normalize Trump to the voters.) We now see that, sure enough, the Trump legal team (the fastest-growing segment of the economy) has trouble restraining its clients, explaining away initial, false explanations and preventing self-incriminating statements. (The biggest trouble, of course, is that the president lied that this is all “fake news” and arguably committed obstruction of justice to hide his campaign team’s misdeeds.)
Let me suggest the real problem is not the Trump family, but the GOP. To paraphrase Brooks, “It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a [party’s] mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing.” Again, to borrow from Brooks, beyond partisanship the GOP evidences “no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code.”
Out of its collective sense of victimhood came the GOP’s disdain for not just intellectuals but also intellectualism, science, Economics 101, history and constitutional fidelity. If the Trump children became slaves to money and to their father’s unbridled ego, then the GOP became slaves to its own demons and false narratives. A party that has to deny climate change and insist illegal immigrants are creating a crime wave — because that is what “conservatives” must believe, since liberals do not — is a party that will deny Trump’s complicity in gross misconduct. It’s a party as unfit to govern as Trump is unfit to occupy the White House. It’s not by accident that Trump chose to inhabit the party that has defined itself in opposition to reality and to any “external moral truth or ethical code.”
If today’s GOP is the bearer of Conservatism, I stand corrected. That brand of “Conservatism” is in no way legitimate and marks that political party as having lost any moral mandate that it once might have had.