Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Necessary Realignment

Here is the most brilliant piece yet on the Trump phenomenon, by our friend Scott Richert from Chronicles:
Since 1989, when the George H.W. Bush administration successfully scuppered a Supreme Court case (Turnock v. Ragsdale, originating here in Rockford, Illinois) that was widely expected to lead to a reconsideration of Roe v. Wade, the Republican Party nationally has paid little more than lip service to pro-life Christians.  The Bush Junior administration had the opportunity to strip state marriage laws from review by the federal courts, which would have prevented last summer’s Obergefell decision; they chose not to, because Karl Rove wanted Republican candidates to be able to campaign on the issue in 2004.  Politics and the prosecution of the war in Iraq, which bankrupted this country and destroyed our international reputation, took precedence.

Perhaps, then, the real story of the 2016 primary season is that evangelical Christians and Catholics are finally recognizing that they have simply been used.  Since George H.W. Bush’s betrayal of pro-lifers in 1989, and his subsequent nomination of “stealth justice” David Souter, I haven’t voted for a single Republican nominee for president.  (Needless to say, I haven’t voted for a Democratic candidate, either.)  There’s a bit of schadenfreude in watching other Christians come to grips with the reality that the national Republican Party does not really care about the moral issues that we do.

Yet does Donald Trump?  That the answer is almost certainly no—look at the man’s (very public) private life—hardly matters.  If he does not, then social conservatives are in no worse position than we have been in for the past 25 years.  We may, in fact, be in better shape, because, despite Trump’s nods to Christians and social conservatives, their issues haven’t been central to his campaign.  It’s the national issues—trade, the economy, immigration, an end to foreign adventurism, confronting the threat of Islam not so much abroad as here at home—that have animated his supporters.

And it’s Trump’s patriotic positions on those national issues that have neoconservatives left and left threatening to leave the Republican Party, to back either a third-party candidate such as Michael Bloomberg, or even Hillary Clinton—despite the fact that both are anathema to the Christian and social conservatives whom the GOP has taken for granted for the better part of 30 years.  Open borders, trade policies that have gutted the American working and middle classes, foreign wars that have bankrupted this country, killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, destabilized the Middle East, and swamped Europe under a wave of migrants—these are the policies that the neoconservatives who control the Republican establishment want the next president to continue.  The fact that they believe they are more likely to get their way under Clinton or Bloomberg than under Trump is telling.

Whatever else may result from Trump’s campaign for the Republican nomination (and, as seems likely at this point, the presidency itself), this realignment of political priorities is not only welcome but necessary.  Social conservatives were never going to win the big battles in Washington, D.C.—and not just because the Republican Party has sold us a bill of goods for the past quarter-century.  This country is simply too big, too diverse, too divided to return to a sane moral consensus—let alone Christian moral teaching—at the national level.

That does not mean, however, that all hope is lost—far from it.  Over the last decade, for instance, the pro-life movement has made great progress at the local and state levels.  States have passed new laws regulating abortion clinics as medical facilities; as a result, abortuaries are shutting down in record numbers.  The number of pro-life pregnancy-care centers in the United States is now an order of magnitude greater than the number of abortion clinics.  The Pregnancy Care Center of Rockford (on whose board I serve as president) has saved more babies locally over the course of its existence than the Partial-Birth Abortion Act has saved nationwide.  And it’s just one of over 4,000 such centers in small towns and big cities throughout the country.  The Republican Party in Washington, D.C., in or out of Congress and the White House, has done nothing to bring this change about; Christian pro-lifers on the ground, mostly conservative but sometimes of other political stripes as well, have made all the difference.

Whether he wins the Republican nomination or not, whether he wins the presidency or not, Donald Trump has already done this country a great service.  The destruction of neoconservative hegemony over the Republican Party and the return of social issues to the local and state levels where Christian conservatives can make a real difference is a victory in itself. (Read more.)
And here is a really good article from The New York Post:
 Second, it doesn’t appear to me that conservatives calling on people to reject Trump have any idea what it actually means to be a “conservative.” The word seems to have become a brand that some people attach to a set of partisan policy preferences, rather than the set of underlying principles about government and society it once was.

Conservatism has become a dog’s breakfast of Wilsonian internationalism brought over from the Democratic Party after the New Left took it over, coupled with fanatical libertarian economics and religiously driven positions on various culture war issues. No one seems to have any idea or concern for how these positions are consistent or reflect anything other than a general hatred for Democrats and the left.

Lost in all of this is the older strain of conservatism. The one I grew up with and thought was reflective of the movement. This strain of conservatism believed in the free market and capitalism but did not fetishize them the way so many libertarians do.

This strain understood that a situation where every country in the world but the US acts in its own interests on matters of international trade and engages in all kinds of skulduggery in support of their interests is not free trade by any rational definition. This strain understood that a government’s first loyalty was to its citizens and the national interest. And also understood that the preservation of our culture and our civil institutions was a necessity.

All of this seems to have been lost. Conservatives have become some sort of schizophrenic sect of libertarians who love freedom (but hate potheads and abortion) and feel the US should be the policeman of the world. The same people who daily fret over the effects of leaving our society to the mercy of Hollywood and the mass culture have somehow decided leaving it to the mercies of the international markets is required. (Read more.)

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