WASHINGTON, May 6, 2016 – You would think from the reaction to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s Indiana primary victory that he shot his way to power.
The Bush clan says it will not be attending the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The failed Republican candidate of 2012, Mitt Romney, says he’ll stay home as well. GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan said he can’t bring himself to support his party’s likely standard-bearer this November. “I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now,” Ryan told CNN.
Have you noticed that the very Republicans who in years past told their conservative base that loyalty to party trumped calls for ideological purity are now abandoning that loyalty on the question of, well, Trump’s purity?
The New York Times echoed the establishment GOP thinking in a lead editorial following Trumps resounding primary victory in Indiana, “The Hoosier State delivered an all-but-crowning victory to Donald Trump… It is the Republicans who are making a clear choice in 2016, one that seemed unimaginable a year ago: To stamp what they still like to call the party of Lincoln with the brand of Donald Trump.”
The downtrodden conservative editorial board at William F. Buckley’s National Review were as down in the mouth as their liberal counterparts at the Times:
“There is no sugarcoating it… the presumptive nomination of Donald Trump by America’s nominally conservative party is a bitter defeat for conservatives… An army cannot win the day without foot soldiers and National Review readers, with the support they provide, both morally and financially, are some of the most loyal and steadfast in the conservative movement.”
If, as National Review suggests, the conservative movement is now limited to their subscriber and donor base, conservatism is in big, big trouble, indeed.
But their analysis of the defeat of Cruz and Kasich is far more comforting than grappling with a more uncomfortable truth: modern conservatism has failed to be much of an obstacle to the advance of the creeping authoritarianism of our federal government.
Ted Cruz has preached the conservative gospel according to Bill Buckley for years, but is described as “Lucifer in the flesh” by the likes of former GOP House Speaker John Boehner – a view held by loyal Republican Party apparatchiks.
An insulting portrayal they would never apply to President Obama, whom they continue to serve and accommodate.
They claim the silver-tongued Trump has convinced legions of Republican voters to revolt, like heavens disgruntled angels of old, who followed “Lucifer” in rebellion against God.
“Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven,” says Satan in John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”
But the party of Lincoln is hardly heavenly, having lost its lofty mantel as the party of liberation when it became indistinguishable from the party of slavery, Jim Crow and tax-and-spend.
If conservatism took it in the shorts in last Tuesday’s Indiana primary, William F. Buckley is partly to blame.
“Nominate the most conservative candidate that is electable,” Buckley famously said.
And the editors at National Review – and at the New York Times for that matter – can thank that seemingly small ideological compromise for empowering entrenched, establishment Republican candidates who campaign as conservatives but govern as Democrats. The ones that once demanded your unquestioning loyalty in support of the Republican Party.
The ones who now deny the same unwavering devotion to the presumptive presidential nominee of their party. You know, the Republican Party.
It was the inconsistencies of conservatism that proved its undoing last Tuesday.
The Times noted in its editorial that GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan recently spoke to young Republicans at Georgetown University, saying, “House Republicans are developing a bold, pro-growth agenda to take the country. By giving the people a clear choice in 2016, we can earn a mandate to do big things in 2017 and beyond.”
That may fly with the young and ignorant idealists at university, but for the many seasoned veterans of American life – the unemployed factory worker, the low-wage earner confronted by rising Obamacare premiums, the taxpayers who must bear the burden of clothing and feeding the masses of illegal immigrants flooding across our borders – no longer believe Ryan or his party have a vision for the future… other than getting re-elected.
If, as the Times’ headline says, the GOP is “Donald Trump’s party now,” blame conservatives for hitching their wagon to the Republican Party’s discredited leaders.
That was a bargain made in hell.