By Thomas Ertl
With Donald Trump as the eventual presidential nominee of the Republican Party, the old Republican guard is still in shock over what has happened to their former control over the conservative Republican electorate. They now have to face the reality of Trump representing the Republican Party in the general election. Their current narrative is that Mr. Trump isn’t genuinely conservative. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! But is there any basis for their criticism of Trump’s conservative credentials?
The doubters are from the usual sources in talk radio and among Republican operatives. Here are some of their many comments:
• “Is Trump really a conservative?”
• “I don’t know what Trump is but he’s not a real conservative.”
• “Trump is not a conservative purist.”
• “With Trump, what will happen to true conservatism?”
My favorite lines come from the old-guard commentators:
• “[Trump] must work harder to earn conservative votes.”
• “Will Trump destroy the conservative movement?”
Then long-time conservative leader Richard Viguerie adds:
• “He is not part of the Republican conservative family. He needs to prove he is worthy of our support.”
• “Right now conservatives are mostly on the sidelines waiting to see if Trump governs as a conservative.”
These comments are laughable, especially the ones by Mr. Viguerie. We have a candidate in Mr. Trump who has received more conservative votes in Republican primary history, peeling off a considerable number of voters from the enemy party, and the gatekeepers of an ineffective conservative political system are worried he is going to damage their system of conservatism, a system that has had very little influence in government for decades!
That’s like worrying about someone hindering the Washington Senators of the late ‘50s: can you get any further in last place? They act as if modern conservatism is this great engine rolling through the land, changing politics and culture everywhere it goes, and, therefore, has something to lose from Donald Trump’s leadership.
You have to love Viguerie’s lament that Trump is not part of the Republican conservative family. Maybe that’s why he was so dominant in the Republican primaries—because the voters were fed up with the conservative Republican family!
It sounds like the old-guard Republicans are losing control over THEIR “conservative” movement—and they don’t like it.
CONSERVATISM: “WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?”
This primary season is challenging all thoughtful conservatives to reflect on the meaning and effectiveness of conservatism with much needed introspection.
We have come to the place politically where people are asking: “What does ‘conservatism’ actually mean anymore?” The answer should be, by definition: conservatism is a political and social philosophy promoting the preservation of traditional, historic, and social institutions of culture and policy.
Has modern conservatism been “conserving” America’s traditional Christian, historic, and social institutions?
The following is a statement by Robert Lewis Dabney (1820–1898) lamenting the Northern conservatism of his day in his 1871 pamphlet, “Women’s Rights Women.” Dabney was a Presbyterian minister and Southern statesman. When you read Dabney, see if he is not describing Bush Republicanism and the politics of John Boehner and Paul Ryan.
Northern conservatism: This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity, and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always—when about to enter a protest—very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its “bark is worse than its bite,” and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance. The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it “in wind,” and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy from having nothing to whip.
I borrow from Mrs. Clinton when I ponder modern conservatism and ask, “What difference does it make?” Modern conservatism is not a political movement that actually conserves anything of what was traditional America. It has become a political movement whose primary purpose is an exercise of discussing conservative ideology but has no real influence on the practical issues of American life.
DABNEY ON CONSERVATISM
R.L. Dabney’s commentary on Northern conservatism of the late 1800s is true in every generation and transcends time because he addresses the failings and temptations of human nature and of political men.
His words are an analysis of political realities and also a warning to future conservatives. He nails the reason why conservatives in his day always “acquiesce” and “never conserve anything”—because of their timidity. Timidity within the political guardians of conservatism gives the reason for its “impotence.”
Courage—what in life amounts to anything without courage? What religious, political, business, or social endeavor succeeds without courage? It is the internal drive that gives the politician the ability to stand strong on the traditions of the past and refuse political innovation.
When Dabney writes of risking attacks by standing in “sturdy principle” he is really introducing a religious element into politics. How can a politician stand against progressive innovation unless he has a transcendent, religious conviction for the truth. Without such conviction the politician will always fall to expediency.
Dabney wrote of Alexis de Tocqueville’s prediction that political innovators will always be successful in America because of the selfish timidity of her public men:
It is the nature of ultra democracy to make all its politicians timeservers; its natural spawn is the brood of narrow, truckling, cowardly worshippers of the vox populi, and of present expediency. Their polar star is always found in the answer to the question, “Which will be the more popular?” As soon as any agitation of this kind goes far enough to indicate a possibility of success, their resistance ends.
Dabney concludes his list of conservatism’s failures by describing its fake “role of resistance.”
This corruption has been exposed as Washington’s fake Left/Right paradigm of public political polemics by day, and dinners and companionship by night.
Courage: it has no replacement and it is the very thing that has attracted the conservative electorate to Donald Trump. Trump’s courage is a character trait they haven’t seen in a generation and it is the very thing they’ve been craving in their political leaders.
CONSERVATISM: AN ACADEMIC EXERCISE
Modern conservatism has evolved into more of an academic institution than a political one.
The academic dimension of the last six-decade conservative movement bears a similar resemblance to academia in the university. There is, in both domains, much emphasis on discussion, publishing, policy papers, and conference after conference. In both institutions theory always takes priority over implementation and application.
Conservatism has succumbed to an intellectual discussion and debate over “purity” of ideology. Every 2 or 4 years we debate which controlled Republican candidate is the purest conservative, then we vote for him, and he goes to Washington and eventually becomes part of the Washington Republican Establishment and serves the money oligarchy like the others. With all of the wonderful rhetoric during the election cycle, we never get a bill that is written, passed by a Republican-controlled committee, voted on the floors of House and Senate, passed and sent to the president for his signature. It is what Donald Trump is forever saying, “All talk and no action.”
I ask again, what does it matter anymore who is the “purest conservative”? It doesn’t matter. We have all these great ideological Republican conservatives in Congress and all they do is oversee the demise of the country—illegal immigrants streaming over the border, the destruction of our industrial base and jobs, trillions poured down the never-ending hole of these endless wars of the neo-conservatives. We elect supposed conservatives, and they do nothing and conserve nothing.
For 40 years all we’ve got has been Reagan-esque speeches and more New World Order control, less income, and less freedom. None of the wonderful conservative ideology ever becomes a tangible reality, filtering down to practical improvements in the lives of Americans.
So while our conservative leaders are pontificating over political ideology, writing policy books and holding more conferences, the globalist establishment is continually applying an aggressive plan for their New World Order run by central bankers and multi-national corporations.
This is the very heart of the historic rebellion against the Republican Establishment ruling class. In the last decade Republican candidates were sent to Washington with a mandate to implement a clearly acknowledged conservative ideology and in the end did nothing.
“IDEAS NOT EXECUTED HAVE CONSEQUENCES”
Conservatism’s iconic guiding phrase by Richard Weaver since 1948 has been, “Ideas have consequences.” Sixty-eight years later, in the maturing of the conservative movement, there should be room for a new phrase to fit our present condition: “IDEAS NOT EXECUTED HAVE CONSEQUENCES.”
The meaning of the above statement is two-fold. The best political ideas held in the abstract are of little value, and whoever has the vision and will to implement their ideas will rule the day.
People do not live in the abstract; they live in the physical world. Ideas and life are never held in a vacuum. Life rolls down the corridor of time and in this life someone’s ideas will be implemented. Whoever can implement their ideas in the realm where people live can determine the direction of the culture and nation.
While conservatives are debating the “purity of conservatism,” an alien political worldview is being adapted and applied in the institutions, laws, and culture of American society.
CONSERVATIVES ON THE “TAKE”
What is starting to become clear to a wider conservative electorate is the reality that Wall Street controls the government and their money controls federal politicians. This is evidenced in Mrs. Clinton’s donor speech list filled with international bankers, pharmaceutical conglomerates, foreign companies and governments.
Money from Wall Street funds Establishment candidate campaigns (see Ted Cruz) with the expectations of future payments due.
In just a few years, your bright, passionate ideological conservative becomes just another controlled Republican who can’t even tie his shoes in Washington without permission from someone.
This may be the single greatest reason that “ideas are never executed” in Washington—that politicians serve the money interests, not the people.
A vast majority of Republican congressmen and senators and all their leadership are controlled and beholden to the money oligarchy.
The “conservative” label does not matter anymore. What does it even mean coming from the few who are still hanging on to a term that was gutted long ago of its original substance?
One of the phenomenal benefits in the ascent of Donald Trump is his masterful job of exposing the faults of political operatives who had been hiding in the conservative tent for decades. The list is long and it starts with the Republican Party elites and apparatus, Fox News, Karl Rove, Bill Kristol, talk radio hosts like Glenn Beck and Mark Levin, the Republican leadership of McCain, Graham, Boehner, Ryan, National Review, Weekly Standard, the ever-long list of neo-conservatives, and, of course, Bush Republicanism.
Of course, the greatest of the fake operatives are the neo-conservatives. They have exercised great influence, beyond their numbers, in American foreign policy with their promotion of all the disastrous Middle Eastern wars.
A significant number of these prominent neo-conservatives have dual citizenship with the United States and Israel. With few exceptions, the first love of these dual citizens is always Israel. The purpose of their U.S. citizenship is for the benefit of personal wealth and to give them a platform to lobby and promote Israeli interests.
These neo-cons of divided loyalties have dominated US foreign policy in the last three decades and have done much damage to the image and position of the Unites States abroad.
These men and their policies need to be further exposed and rejected as infiltrators within conservatism.
One by one, these people and organizations are taking on water as the Trump candidacy gives them over to self-destruction. In their protests of Trump, they expose their own false political allegiances. As so-called conservatives, they were among us but they were not really part of us. They have been exposed by Trump, and they will never regain their legitimacy with the conservative electorate.
With their departure goes their corruption, their false political doctrines, and their misguided worldview, which involve American imperialism, national poverty through free trade, illegal immigration, preventative wars, corporatism, and the national pillaging by Wall Street’s crony capitalism.
The constant lamenting of the old guard about the loss of conservatism is really about them being exposed for not being truly conservative with their addition of illegitimate elements to the historic American conservative movement.
The hope is that once the internal battles within American conservatism settle a new conservative movement would arise, cleansed of the infiltrators and fakes. It will be good riddance to them all.
Trump has shown that the safeguard to a “new conservatism” is one with an America first nationalistic appeal. As Trump has said, “No country has ever prospered that has not put its own interest first.”
In consideration of a new political conservative movement replacing the old, one must start with a thorough cleaning of the “old house” with all of its imposters.
The best of any conservatism is always rooted in a transcendent religious foundation. For America, that religious tradition has been orthodox Christianity based in the Law of God.Then new men, with truth, courage, conviction, and resolve must replace those timid, old, compromised leaders of the old order.
Its Law gives the civil realm a basis for its law system and its guardians the courage and conviction to “conserve” such great religious and civil traditions for the good and well-being of its people.
Tom Ertl is a home builder in Tallahassee, Florida and is a member of a local Presbyterian Church (PCA). For over three decades Tom has worked with various Christian political organizations, including Freedom Council in the 80s. He is a former member of The Council For National Policy and has sat on various Christian ministry and political boards. He is also a publisher of Christian historical and theological works and is a columnist for News with Views.