A great number of formerly principled conservatives jumped on the Trump Train after he secured the nomination. The reasons are usually quite venal: an urge to be on the winning side; because they hate liberals more; because FoxNews or their website’s financial backers demanded it; or simply because they were never “principled” to begin with.
You see, with someone like Sean Hannity, at least he never fudged his principles or who he is. He could quite correctly argue he has not changed himself one iota to fit into the new Trumpian landscape; rather, the mountain has come to Mohammed. Same with other conservatives who were born deplorable, like Dinesh D’Souza and John Cardillo. Kurt Schlichter’s 2018 Twitter timeline is not measurably different from his 2011 timeline. These guys may be evil, but at least it’s a principled evil.
But senior editors of NeverTrump-until-it-became-unfashionable sites like the Federalist and National Review? This is how Cheeto Jesus permanently transformed conservatism: Not through Hannity or Schlichter, but by converting weak-willed mainstreamers like Mollie Hemingway, Ben Domenech and, as we see today, Rich Lowry.
Lowry, whose magazine was once responsible for the famous (or infamous) “Against Trump” issue, has, like many of the issue’s contributors, been leaning #MAGA for months. But it took until today, the end of March, 2018, to formally and utterly surrender. And, in the process, call his remaining NeverTrump colleagues at NR literally delusional.
“…the coterie of [Trump] critics on the right — loosely referred to as Never Trump — often sound like they are in denial… Yet we shouldn’t buy into the fantasy either that Trump is going to disappear into thin air, or that Trumpism can be blithely dismissed so the party can return to what some Never Trumpers believe constituted the status quo ante… The hold that Trump has on the GOP has a lot to do with his mesmerizing circus act, but it’s more than that. He’s been loyal to his coalition on judges, social-conservative causes and gun rights.”
That’s the brunt of his arguments. 1) Dear Leader won, so get over it, and 2) But Gorsuch.
Lowry also dresses up his piece with a sudden and convenient embrace of populism, arguing that even Reagan thumped some rabble-rousing lines to win elections. But more than that: Lowry argues that Flatulent Fannybanger is closer to the conservative heart than his own magazine. Or as he put it: “But make no mistake: On immigration and China trade, Trump is closer to the national Republican consensus than his conservative detractors.”
I wonder what the proudly elitist William F. Buckley Jr. would have thought of this statement from one of his successors.
Now what Lowry clearly does not want to engage with is the fact that the horror and disgust liberals like Chris Hayes, centrists like Jake Tapper or little old me, or conservatives like the oh-so-delusional David French possess has little to do with the psychopathic manchild’s politics. I mean, sure, there’s the usual liberal partisan idiots who treat President Mugabe-For-Idiots exactly the same as they do Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and George W. Bush, who have exhausted their supply of hyperbole so long ago that they have absolutely nothing new with which to come at Corn Chowder Face; but that’s not who we’re talking about. And Lowry conveniently ignores Captain ADHD blowing up the deficit with a reckless, spendthrift omnibus that he opposed literally hours before he supported it. There’s also the mindlessly cruel actions against Muslim immigrants and transgender troops, which all appear tied up in the courts for the time being. But politics really has little to do with it.
For one thing, he doesn’t even have much in the way of politics. The only things that are constant are his loving tariffs (which were opposed by NR up until it was no longer popular to do so) and his opposition to the estate tax, which is purely of personal interest to him. From guns to the tax bill, he would suddenly go squish until advisers reoriented him. He’s kind of a cuck even on his signature issue, immigration, waffling and wavering depending on whom he was last talking to five minutes ago.
The vast majority of his successes, from the conservative point of view, happened not because of Bronze Baboon but in spite of him. The tax bill was put together entirely by congressional Republicans; Gorsuch was from a list of judges submitted to him. One of those auto-signing pens could have been sworn in as POTUS and have been just as effective. The main policy “win” we can attribute to POTUS personally is the tariff and trade-war thing; I suspect this won’t be a “win” most Republicans, who were pro-free-trade until ordered not to be, will be bragging about by 2020.
But either way, and I don’t know how many times this has to be said: it has little to do with the Dissembler in Chief’s politics and everything to do with his moral character. Doesn’t anyone care about that anymore?
The serial adultery that he remains proud of. The sexual assault that he also remains proud of. The irrationality, the impulsivity right next to the nuclear football. His utter contempt for the rule of law and the system. His rage against federal law enforcement for the temerity of thinking that presidents and their top lieutenants are not above the law. The imperialist tendencies, the deep respect for dictators like Putin and Erdogan, and contempt of state or local law that make Obama and Bush 43 look deferential by comparison. His incompetent blundering in Syria that predictably led to the doom of our allies, the Kurds. His blatant corruption and his diplomacy purely in the service of his own, or Jared Kushner’s, properties. His acolyte Devin Nunes converting the House Intelligence Committee into a body dedicated not against foreign enemies, but against people of the opposing party. The lies, one after another, sometimes contradicting another lie, never having any reason to believe lying is wrong. And, yes, the tweets. Tweets that turn both him and the country into the laughingstock of the world.
Also, there’s the epic turnover within the chaotic White House, which Lowry briefly touched on; Lowry’s only problem with this is how unseemly it is to fire someone over Twitter.
Which has been the complete sum of Brave Brave Sir Lowry’s criticism of the Buddha of Bullshit since the inauguration: “Oh, he just could be a bit more polite on Twitter, that’s all.” As if this timid, submissive stance would cause Mike Cernovich to stop calling Lowry a cuckservative.
Now, I understand the intense pushback from the always-apoplectic base against anyone who would dare question their God-Emperor. They’re constantly calling for Shep Smith’s ouster from FoxNews for his remainingly stubbornly honest about President Combover’s administration, as FoxNews viewers are more intolerant of dissent than your average Oberlin gender studies major; their abuse and literal death threats have led even a right-winger named Joe Walsh to sleep next to his shotgun — purely because he took the FBI’s side against Caligula’s inquisition. Siding with the FBI used to be a no-brainer position for the party of law and order, up until High Ayatollah Fatass issued his fatwa declaring them haram.
In that setting, it takes both courage and a strong moral compass to remain defiant against Lord von Clownstick and his fanatical swams of deplorables. Conservatives such as Rick Wilson, Tom Nichols, and Amanda Carpenter have the strength of character to be up to the task despite the intense blowback. Lowry, however, represents the more typical turn of the typical commoner when faced with adversity, with narrow and petty little interests and goals unrelated to the grand stage of American history, a stage that Lowry’s magazine was founded entirely to help preserve.
Because to fervently support Trump almost by definition means you couldn’t care less about the Constitution. A lot of #MAGA types swear they’re defending the Constitution, but their speech and their actions prove that they do not want a federal democracy; they want a strongman who has absolute power. It has been observed prior to 2015 that Trump is a poor man’s idea of a rich man. In that vein: Trump is also a weak man’s idea of a strong leader.
And Lowry is just a product of human nature. Heroes in human history almost by definition have been a tiny minority; most people prefer to be passively blown around by the winds of history, than stand against them and risk breaking apart. Easier is the life of the leaf than the tree. Think of any evil regime, past or present; they are able to take hold because the people’s natural instinct is to either salute or else lay low when the Legions of Doom come marching through the village, instead of to proudly defy them.
Moral character is pretty much set upon adulthood. Lowry is who he is. I wouldn’t have cared if he were just some random like me. But the former editorial head of the conservative establishment’s flagship publication? Come to think of it, why was he elevated to such lofty heights to begin with? (Current editor Charles Cooke still occasionally snarks at the Sundowner-in-Chief, without offering up serious criticism. I suspect he too will yield when the 2020 cycle begins.)
I honestly feel this is a critical juncture in American history, one in which the very continuation of the Republic is threatened. These existential crises have hit almost like clockwork every eighty years. We survived the challenges of 1776, 1861, and 1941, and came out stronger each time. The beast again reared its head in 2016, and like the second crisis, it is one almost entirely of our own making. It takes Americans of great courage, fortitude and wisdom to shepherd the rest of the people through these seasons; with the few such great people on hand today actively getting shouted down by the mobs of either the left or the right, followers like Rich Lowry instead acquiesce to the people utterly committed to this nation’s destruction, or transformation into something lawless and unrecognizable, most likely via Article V convention. (There are no shortage of liberal Lowrys also ready to follow charlatans like Farrakhan to the country’s dismemberment, if called upon.)
And to be sure, there were Americans, both leaders and followers, working against our interests in the previous crises as well. But what we have now are deep paucity of leaders working for our interests. The theme of the Last Jedi was letting the old institutions of good die, even the Jedi order, hoping for new ones to eventually emerge from the darkness and barbarity later. It’s a theme perfectly suited for our times, and is one increasingly ascribed to by both right and left.
I just wish that the country forged by Washington, preserved by Lincoln and defended by FDR and Eisenhower would at least go down fighting.