Thursday, July 5, 2018

If Trump is not a true conservative - and he is not - what should conservatives do in November?

Quote of the Day: “While two-thirds of Americans disapproved of … state-sanctioned child abuse, forcing the president to back down, a majority of Republicans approved. If Trump announced he were going to spit-roast immigrant kids and eat them on national TV … most Republicans probably would approve of that, too. The entire Republican platform can now be reduced to three words: whatever Trump says.” - Max Boot.

(1) holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.
(2) falsely applied to a political party known as the GOP (Gullible Odious Patriarchists).
OK - #1 is from the dictionary; #2 is your Scriber’s invention.

Scriber continues: For a long time (well, at least since the election of W.) I have argued that (1) conservatism is a legitimate political philosophy, but that (2) the Republican party, as currently constituted, is not conservative. Read on to find out what it is and is not.

Two conservatives buttress my case.

Roger Scruton, a conservative author and commentator, writes in the NY Times What Trump Doesn’t Get About Conservatism. Here is some of what he has to say about the party of Trump.

I have devoted a substantial part of my intellectual life to defining and defending conservatism, as a social philosophy and a political program. …

Like many others, both conservative and liberal, I did not foresee the political career of Donald Trump, nor did I imagine that such a man could occupy the highest office of state, in the name of a party that specifically makes appeal to conservative voters …

… as Edmund Burke pointed out in one of the founding documents of modern conservatism, his “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” we must “reform in order to conserve.” Institutions, traditions and allegiances survive by adapting, not by remaining forever in the condition in which a political leader might inherit them. Conservative thinkers have in general understood this. And the principle of adaptability applies not only to law but also to the economy on which all citizens depend.

In another of conservatism’s founding documents, “The Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith argued that trade barriers and protections offered to dying industries will not, in the long run, serve the interests of the people. On the contrary, they will lead to an ossified economy that will splinter in the face of competition. President Trump seems not to have grasped this point. His protectionist policies resemble those of postwar socialist governments in Europe, which insulated dysfunctional industries from competition and led not merely to economic stagnation but also to a kind of cultural pessimism that surely goes entirely against the American grain.

Conservative thinkers have on the whole praised the free market, but they do not think that market values are the only values there are. Their primary concern is with the aspects of society in which markets have little or no part to play: education, culture, religion, marriage and the family. Such spheres of social endeavor arise not through buying and selling but through cherishing what cannot be bought and sold: things like love, loyalty, art and knowledge, which are not means to an end but ends in themselves.

About such things it is fair to say that Mr. Trump has at best only a distorted vision. He is a product of the cultural decline that is rapidly consigning our artistic and philosophical inheritance to oblivion. And perhaps the principal reason for doubting Mr. Trump’s conservative credentials is that being a creation of social media, he has lost the sense that there is a civilization out there that stands above his deals and his tweets in a posture of disinterested judgment.

So the party of Trump is not truly conservative. What then are dedicated conservatives to do? Here’s an answer increasingly embraced by conservative commentators.

Max Boot, a Post columnist, is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a global affairs analyst for CNN. In his current column he explains why I left the Republican Party. Now I want Democrats to take over.

"Should I stay or should I go now?” That question, posed by the eminent political philosophers known as the Clash, is one that confronts any Republican with a glimmer of conscience. You used to belong to a conservative party with a white-nationalist fringe. Now it’s a white-nationalist party with a conservative fringe. If you’re part of that fringe, what should you do?

Veteran strategist Steve Schmidt, who ran John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, is the latest Republican to say “no more.” Recently he issued an anguished Twitter post: “29 years and nine months ago I registered to vote and became a member of the Republican Party which was founded in 1854 to oppose slavery and stand for the dignity of human life,” he wrote. “Today I renounce my membership in the Republican Party. It is fully the party of Trump.”

Schmidt follows in the illustrious footsteps of Post columnist George F. Will, former senator Gordon Humphrey, former representative (and Post columnist) Joe Scarborough, Reagan and Bush (both) aide Peter Wehner, and other Republicans who have left the party. I’m with them. After a lifetime as a Republican, I re-registered as an independent on the day after Donald Trump’s election.

Explaining my decision, I noted that Trumpkins “want to transform the GOP into a European-style nationalist party that opposes cuts in entitlement programs, believes in deportation of undocumented immigrants, white identity politics, protectionism and isolationism backed by hyper-macho threats to bomb the living daylights out of anyone who messes with us.” I still hoped then that traditional conservatives might eventually prevail, but, I wrote, “I can no longer support a party that doesn’t know what it stands for — and that in fact may stand for positions that I find repugnant.”

I am more convinced than ever that I made the right decision. The transformation I feared has taken place. Just look at the reaction to President Trump’s barbarous policy of taking children away from their parents as punishment for the misdemeanor offense of illegally entering the country. While two-thirds of Americans disapproved of this state-sanctioned child abuse, forcing the president to back down, a majority of Republicans approved. If Trump announced he were going to spit-roast immigrant kids and eat them on national TV (apologies to Jonathan Swift), most Republicans probably would approve of that, too. The entire Republican platform can now be reduced to three words: whatever Trump says.

And yet there are still principled #NeverTrump conservatives such as Tom Nichols and Bill Kristol who are staying in the party. And they have a good case to make. Kristol, for one, balks “at giving up the Republican party to the forces of nativism, vulgar populism, and authoritarianism.” As he notes, “It would be bad for the country if one of our two major parties went in this direction.”

No one anticipated Trump’s takeover. It’s possible, these Republicans argue, that we might be equally surprised by his downfall. Imagine what would happen if special counsel Robert S. Mueller III found clear evidence of criminality or if Trump’s trade wars tanked the economy. I’m not saying that’s likely to happen, but if it does, it might — just might — shake the 88 percent GOP support that Trump currently enjoys. That, in turn, could open the way for a credible primary challenge that wouldn’t deny him the nomination but that — like Gene McCarthy in 1968, Ronald Reagan in 1976 and Pat Buchanan in 1992 — could help to defeat him in the general election and wrest the party from his grasp.

Personally, I’ve thrown up my hands in despair at the debased state of the GOP. I don’t want to be identified with the party of the child-snatchers. But I respect principled conservatives who are willing to stay and fight to reclaim a once-great party that freed the slaves and helped to win the Cold War. What I can’t respect are head-in-the-sand conservatives who continue to support the GOP by pretending that nothing has changed.

They act, these political ostriches, as if this were still the party of Ronald Reagan and John McCain rather than of Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller — and therefore they cling to the illusion that supporting Republican candidates will advance their avowed views. Wrong. The current GOP still has a few resemblances to the party of old — it still cuts taxes and supports conservative judges. But a vote for the GOP in November is also a vote for egregious obstruction of justice, rampant conflicts of interest, the demonization of minorities, the debasement of political discourse, the alienation of America’s allies, the end of free trade and the appeasement of dictators.

That is why I join Will and other principled conservatives, both current and former Republicans, in rooting for a Democratic takeover of both houses in November. Like postwar Germany and Japan, the Republican Party must be destroyed before it can be rebuilt.

P. S. About those tax cuts that do so little for the working class …

Catherine Rampell (Washington Post) fingers the biggest tax cut that Trump could enact - trash the tariffs now. She explains in Trump wants more tax cuts, and I agree; sort of (from the Daily Star this morning).

Yes, Mr. President. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but tariffs are taxes!

Regardless of who pays them statutorily, the costs of tariffs are passed down the supply chain, with middle-class consumers ultimately footing at least part of the bill. So when Trump threatens a 25 percent import tax on autos and auto parts for dubious “national security” reasons, that’s going to raise the price of cars that American consumers purchase by thousands of dollars. The costs of an all-out trade war would more than offset whatever benefits Americans might get from Trump’s income-tax cuts.

Curiously, this fact seems to have escaped Trump’s notice. In one breath he might celebrate his (imagined) role as the biggest tax cutter of all time; in the next, he’ll tout the $250 billion of new taxes he plans to levy on Chinese goods. Which will be largely borne by U.S. businesses and households.

Instead of doubling back on his misbegotten import taxes, Trump wants Congress to give him even more power to raise import duties, as laid out in a leaked draft of his “United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act.”

Yes, you read that right. The White House is proposing legislation that literally abbreviates to the “U.S. FART Act.” The bill would effectively allow Trump to hike U.S. tariffs whenever he likes, including without congressional consent and in defiance of World Trade Organization rules.

I wonder who came up with that stinker.

“Whatever Trump says.”

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