This is not a column I ever wanted to have to write, nor is it one — if I were in your shoes — I would ever want to read.
For it all but says much of the cause I’ve devoted my career to up until this point was a loss-leader. And no one likes to admit that. It also says Rush Limbaugh isn’t a sell-out for recently changing “advanced conservative studies” to “advanced anti-Leftist studies,” but an inconvenient truth-teller.
Nevertheless, it is an inconvenient truth we must confront if we, conservatives, have any hopes of conserving American Exceptionalism for our children and grandchildren.
Let’s begin with some questions.
If Democrats weren’t telling the coal industry that junk-science environmentalism was more important than their jobs, what are the odds Donald Trump would’ve won those coal states in the 2016 election? If nothing else had changed about the Democratic Party but that one issue, would the outcome be any different? If they were just as pro-child killing, just as anti-family, and just as pro-big government?
Likewise, why did legions of white working class Americans in the Midwest, many of them aged 45 and older, cross over and vote for Trump in 2016 after being loyal Obama voters in 2008 and 2012? Did Obama just suddenly make his liberalism known following 2012? Or was he governing as a full-bore progressive all along?
As I’ve previously written, for a generation Democrats had what amounts to a social compact with these voters: Give us the votes we need to impose our social agenda, and we’ll use government to either protect your jobs or provide one in exchange.
However, nowadays the Democrats aren’t keeping up with their end of the bargain. The union carpenter/roofer is now being told his job must go to a low-wage illegal — because “tolerance.” The coal miner is now told his job must be sacrificed on the altar of what the temperature might be 10,000 years from now.
Essentially, Democrats are taking their oldest voting bloc and demanding they get nothing, and to like it. No longer are Democrats demanding these folks vote against their values, as they have been for a generation, but now against their vested interests, too.
Sure, people would prefer to vote for their values and their vested interests. But if given a choice between the two, vested interests will win with most. There aren’t too many people willing to be a Daniel, who suffers for his values. Most would rather be well-fed and taken care of. This is the human condition.
And it’s one that even what we call “the greatest generation” succumbed to. So if even a generation that risked it all to defeat Hitler, Hirohito, and the Soviet Union were willing to make this Faustian Bargain with the Left, what do you think Gen Xers and millennials not nearly as committed to the cause of liberty are willing to agree to?
This brings us to the real debate in America.
The reason it appears we have two left-of-center political parties in America is because we have a left-of-center America. Or, maybe a better of way putting it is, we still are a right-of-center country; it’s just that the center has moved decidedly to the left.
Most of America has abandoned conservatism — if they ever knew what it was — in the post-Reagan era. They want big government, and they want to be detached from moral restraint. Heck, even Republicans don’t want to conserve family values anymore.
Consider that while Democrats are at their lowest levels of elected office representation nationwide since before the Great Depression, the margin between Americans identifying as “conservative” or “liberal” is half of what it was 20 years ago. In fact, while conservative identification is still a robust plus-11, that’s actually down from plus-14 prior to the 2016 election.
At the same, “liberal” now surpasses “moderate” as the top self-identified ideological demo among Democrats — further proof of the party’s leftward lurch.
Furthermore, even among those still identifying as “conservative,” there’s little anchor to what the term actually means. Instead, for most, the term simply means, “Do you line up with the views of the current GOP standard-bearer?”
For example, all of my adult life, the Republican Party has stood for free trade and against Russian hegemony. Now, to line up with President Trump, “conservatives” are changing their views on free trade.
Plus, since the rise of Trump and his penchant for complimenting Vladimir Putin, “conservatives” have nearly tripled their approval of the notorious Russian dictator since 2015. Conservative evangelicals are now more approving of immoral politicians than ever before as well.
Now is when things really get uncomfortable, if you’re not queasy already.
Since Reagan left the national stage, much of the Republican Party’s success can be attributed to backlash against the most-leftist elements of the Democratic Party, more so than any affirmative policy vision from the GOP.
I’d actually make the case that except for the Contract with America in 1994, there has been no affirmative conservative policy/reform agenda from the GOP in the last quarter-century. And Republicans probably only got the chance to pursue that because of backlash against the Democrats for the Brady Bill and Hillarycare.
George H.W. Bush won in 1988 by attacking Michael Dukakis as a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and thus out of the mainstream. He then lost re-election despite being a victorious wartime president, for violating his “no new taxes” pledge.
George W. Bush won the narrowest (and most controversial) of victories in 2000 largely because of backlash/Clinton fatigue. He then won re-election despite his middling approval ratings, because John Kerry was outed by the Swift Boats and Karl Rove made it his goal to define him as “too left to lead.”
The 2010 and 2014 midterm victories were a backlash against Obama, largely driven by a backlash against Obamacare.
Even with having that same backlash in his favor in 2016, and a disliked and distrusted Hillary Clinton as his opponent, Trump still only won the presidency by fewer than 78,000 votes spread out over four states — the slimmest of margins.
Here’s what this all means.
Much of America would willingly buy much of what Democrats are selling — even the dreaded undercoating — if not for the current price point. Which is your neighborhood looking like Ferguson, your college campus looking like Cal-Berkley or the University of Missouri, and your public restroom looking like a cross-dressing convention.
They don’t want choice in health care; they want to be taken care of. They don’t want to be entrepreneurs; they want an income. They don’t want limited government; they want government to work for them. The American dream is no longer “take the risk and earn the reward.” It is comfort, non-confrontation, and cord cutting.
All Democrats have to do is change the packaging. Put Bernie Sanders’ talking points in a younger, more likable persona. Run a woman with all of Hillary Clinton’s views, just not her criminal record. Had they done either of these things last year, that person would be president right now.
This puts conservatism in a real bind.
We know the GOP is toast, and we have to let it die. However, we’re like the parent of the drug-addicted child who knows we need to let our offspring hit rock bottom to ever truly be healed. Except we’re afraid the moment we do that, the next call will be the police informing us he’s dead.
Strategically, most of us know we’d be better off separated from the Republican Party, but the fear of Democrats then using that separation to finish off our way of life for good keeps us putting off death in the hopes for a miracle cure.
This is the real political debate in America: Most of America deciding how much tyranny masquerading as caring they’re willing to ingest. Most of conservatism deciding how much betrayal they’re willing to tolerate to oppose the tyranny.