10 Ways US Conservatives Have Abandoned Principles for Raw Power

To be an American conservative used to mean 1) taking a hard line toward Russia, great skepticism towards the motivations and actions of Vladimir Putin, a belief that the US should impose sanctions on Russia for behavior contrary to American interests;

Instead, Donald Trump congratulated Vladimir Putin for winning more than 75% of the vote in a rigged Russian election; refused to name or blame Russia for meddling in the 2016 election; and was studiously silent when his administration imposed sanctions on Russia for cyber-attacks. Indeed, he said he found Putin’s denials persuasive. Former CIA Director John Brennan suggests Russia has compromising information on Trump. 

2) a strong defense of law enforcement against accusations of bias, especially the FBI;

Trump and his supporters in Congress have mounted a campaign against the credibility of the FBI. 

3) a strong defense of the intelligence community, especially the National Security Agency and the CIA;

Trump has attacked the credibility of these agencies.

4) a deep concern about deficit spending and the US debt, constantly calling for fiscal discipline, especially in times when the economy is strong;

5) opposition to protectionist trade policies and a belief in free trade among nations, recalling that the Smoot-Hawley tariff exacerbated the Great Depression;

6) “traditional family values,” and a belief that the nation’s leaders, especially the president, must be held to high moral standards;

7) deep skepticism if not opposition to the government seizing private property by use of eminent domain;

8) outrage at public officials’ potential conflicts of interest, profiteering at the expense of taxpayers and bilking the government for private expenses;

9) a respect for governmental “checks and balances” and the rule of law;

10) immigration policies that allow businesses to hire workers to address shortages so they can maintain and expand their businesses.

“Conservative” Trump supporters seem to have abandoned these principles or to have been struck blind and silent, selling out for the sake of raw partisan power and tribal oneupsmanship against “liberals,” essentially becoming what they say they hate.

Eliot Cohen, professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University, made this point in an Atlantic.com article in which he argues that the Republican Party is no longer conservative: “The conservative virtues remain real virtues, the conservative insights real insights, and the conservative temperament an indispensable internal gyro keeping a country stable and sane,” he writes.

“The conservative is warier than her liberal counterpart about the darker impulses and desires that lurk in men and women, more doubtful of their perfectibility, skeptical of and opposed to the engineering of individual souls, and more inclined to celebrate freedom moderated by law, custom, education, and culture. She knows that power tends to corrupt, and likes to see it checked and divided. Words like responsibilitystoicismself-controlfrugalityfidelitydecorumhonorcharacterindependence, and integrity appeal to most decent people.”

“The GOP threw frugality and fiscal responsibility away long ago, initially in the Reagan years, but now on a stunning scale involving trillion-dollar deficits as far as can be forecast. It abandoned most of its beliefs in fidelity and character when it embraced a liar, cheat, and philanderer as its nominee and then as president.”

And when the party embraced unchecked executive power over collaboration with Congress, essentially abandoning its principle of protest to Obama’s use of unchecked executive power, it proved that its only philosophy is to grab power and the ends justify the means.

Ironically, it is now up to “liberals” to uphold conservative principles. But not for the first time in American history. Policy reversals have happened many times before because political parties’ constituencies or markets change.

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