Are “Conservative Values” Trump Defectors Idealize Really Distinct from Trumpism?
While Americans have by and large done a horrible and irresponsible job of practicing social distancing during this pandemic, a group of anti-Trump Republicans have been strategically and deceptively practicing a political distancing from Trump and the Republican Party.
Let’s be clear, though, that this political distancing is just that — a matter of political strategy, not one of ideological difference.
These anti-Trumpers, re-constituting themselves as members of the Lincoln Project, are simply trying to save conservative ideology from Trump’s sinking ship. While Trump has, for all intents and purposes, pulled back the curtain on traditional Republican “ideals,” revealing the small-man retrograde politics of racism, mass redistribution of wealth to wealthiest, sexism, anti-unionism, resistance to LGBTQ civil rights, and more, these defectors from Trump and the GOP are trying to create a life raft for conservatism by speciously peddling the story that the values of traditional conservatism and Trump’s Republican Party are somehow distinct.
Just last Thursday, Jennifer Horn, former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party, announced her departure from the Republican Party in the pages of USA Today, waxing nobly about conservative principles and lamenting Trump’s supposed departure from them: “Those ideals that I have spent so many years fighting for — liberty, conservatism, constitutional leadership — are no longer the principles of the Republican Party,” she asserts with brave face. “I remain committed to the fight for conservatism, constitutionalism and individual liberty. My belief in the promise that is America remains strong. America must remain a beacon of hope for freedom and liberty for all.”
Her resignation followed that of former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, who actually joined the Democratic Party, declaring himself a single-issue voter, that issue being democracy.
Both are members of the Lincoln Project, and both toe its political mantra we see the likes of Michael Steele, Rick Wilson, and other former high-level Republican operatives seeking to salvage the coded anti-democracy politics of conservatism from Trump’s exposure.
The founders of the Lincoln Project spell out this party line, writing, “We have been, and remain, broadly conservative (or classically liberal) in our politics and outlooks. Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain, but our shared fidelity to the Constitution dictates a common effort.”
They insistently distinguish their Republican values from Trump’s: “Mr. Trump and his enablers have abandoned conservatism and longstanding Republican principles and replaced them with Trumpism, an empty faith led by a bogus prophet.”
But how distinct is this conservatism these figures ennoble?
For example, do they really value democracy?
Did we hear these folks crying out when Pennsylvania Republican House leader Mike Turzai declared back in the 2012 that Voter ID laws would help Mitt Romney win the presidency by suppressing the vote?
Did they rail about the gerrymandering their once beloved Republican Party fought so hard for in order to undermine free and fair elections?
The GOP back then and for some time has been no fan of democracy. Just remember Karl Rove’s fantasy of a “permanent Republican majority” back when he was serving as George W. Bush’s brain. Voter suppression and gerrymandering were the order of the day. These “longstanding Republican principles” did not value democracy in any way shape or form and thus disgraced the Constitution as well.
Did we hear the loud and sanctimonious voices of Steve Schmidt and Jennifer Horn speak out against the Tea Party and its rampant racism?
When Tea Party protesters carried signs demanding “Take Your Government Hands Off My Medicare,” did we hear these conservative pundits trying to inform the public that Medicare is a government program? Or, did they go along with the manipulation of these folks to exploit them in the service of their agenda for tax cuts, the shrinking of government (meaning the elimination of services), the elimination of the Affordable care Act, and more?
Did we hear them disagree with Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell when, after Trump’s huge tax cuts for the wealthy, they insisted Social Security would need to be cut to manage the deficit? Did they decry the tx cuts themselves, which simply redistributed wealth to the richest?
They went along with it. Just as they went along with the oft-repeated lies of trickle-down economics that tax cuts for the wealthy would pay for themselves and eventually this wealth would work its way down the ladder. The International Monetary Fund has since confirmed the big lie of the traditional economic policies of conservatism.
So, while these suddenly holier-than-thou seek desperately dismiss Trump as a liar, “a bogus prophet,” who has “abandoned conservatism,” we need to call this lie.
Back in 2004, Al Franken penned a book titled Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced View of the Right, highlighting just the rampage of lying that, in the age of Trump, is repeatedly identified as “unprecedented.” Paul Krugman recently traced the Republican aversion to fact and reality to the beloved icon of conservatism Ronald Reagan.
How quickly we forget. Does the acronym “WMD” jar your memory at all? Remember when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, along with their entourage, sold Americans a bill of goods in order to invade Iraq, costing the U.S. thousands of lives and trillions of dollars? As Rachel Maddow since exposed in her 2014 documentary Why We Did It, the regime of Bush and Cheney, both with personal ties to big oil, were working hand in hand with oil companies
These people have not been about democracy and the Constitution, and neither has conservatism.
The Republican Party has long worked to deny women the right to an abortion, seeking to control their bodies. How does this conservative principle support individual liberty for women? It doesn’t. Conservative ideology is nastily sexist.
And let’s not forget Lee Atwater’s 1981 interview in which he made clear the conservative agenda embodied in the Southern Strategy, which involved replacing the “n-word” with coded terms like “state’s rights,” “small government, “ and “tax cuts.”
We can expect these Lincoln Project folks to do all they can to distinguish themselves from Trump in an effort to re-assert his anti-democratic politics in a “kinder and gentler” code so they can continue bamboozling Americans as they serve the wealthiest at the expense of the rest of us and continue the assault on civil rights.
Don’t be fooled.