Conservative columnist Charlie Sykes nails the dilemma of modern conservatism, which is abandoning principles in favor of a reflexive, reactionary defense of Donald Trump only because he annoys liberals. Ad hominem attacks have replaced logic, principles, and commitment to eternal values. This “anti-anti-Trumpism” is ultimately a dead end, he writes. “Conservatives will care less about governing and more about scoring “wins” — and inflicting losses on the left — no matter how hollow the victories or flawed the policies. Ultimately, though, this will end badly because it is a moral and intellectual dead end, and very likely a political one as well.”
In many ways anti-anti-Trumpism mirrors Donald Trump himself, because at its core there are no fixed values, no respect for constitutional government or ideas of personal character, only a free-floating nihilism cloaked in insult, mockery and bombast.
Needless to say, this is not a form of conservatism that Edmund Burke, or even Barry Goldwater, would have recognized…
Here is how it works: Rather than defend President Trump’s specific actions, his conservative champions change the subject to (1) the biased “fake news” media, (2) over-the-top liberals, (3) hypocrites on the left, (4) anyone else victimizing Mr. Trump or his supporters and (5) whataboutism, as in “What about Obama?” “What about Clinton?”
For the anti-anti-Trump pundit, whatever the allegation against Mr. Trump, whatever his blunders or foibles, the other side is always worse.
Sykes has a new book, How the Right Lost Its Mind.
A conservative friend on Facebook confirms the anti-anti-Trump mentality: conservatives will abandon Trump, he says, “only when Trump capitulates to the liberals. We hate them more than we love Trump.” In other words, support for Trump is not based on a coherent philosophy or policy agenda, but simply a reaction against the policies and personalities of the Clintons, the Obamas, the Sanders and other Democrats. You can’t maintain a political movement or manage a government that way, if you do not have a positive vision but are simply all about negative reaction.
Jonah Goldberg of The National Review makes a similar point: “Rather than rationalizing and enabling (Trump’s) behavior, conservatives should be doing everything they can to convince Trump that he’s his own worst enemy. Mike Pence would do himself, his party, and his country a favor by telling Donald Trump, “If you humiliate me like that again, I will resign and run against you in 2020.” It may not work. But it’s a far better approach than bending over and shouting, “Thank you, sir! May I have another!?”