Last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, highlighted one of the harshest truths about the state of today’s Republican Party. There is little to no room for traditional conservative principles in the current Trumpified GOP.
In her NY Times piece, I’m Glad I Got Booed at CPAC, Mona Charen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, described her appearance on a panel to discuss the #MeToo movement. When Charen spoke about conservative women being hypocritical when they excused the sexual misbehavior of President Trump, and supported the president and Republican Party backing of a credibly accused child molester for the United States Senate, she was greeted with boos and later, had to be escorted from the premises by security guards concerned for her safety. So much for free speech and civil debate.
Charen’s conservative credentials are considerable. She was an editorial assistant at the National Review and a speechwriter for both Ronald and Nancy Reagan. When George H.W. Bush wasn’t conservative enough for her, she became a speechwriter for Representative Jack Kemp. Yet here’s how she described her encounter with the extremist factions at CPAC.
“What happened to me is the perfect illustration of the collective experience of a whole swath of conservatives since Donald Trump became the Republican nominee. We built and organized this party — but now we’re made to feel like interlopers.”
Charen said that for traditional conservatives, the past two years have felt like an episode of The Twilight Zone, as “politicians, activists and intellectuals have succumbed with numbing regularity, betraying every principle they once claimed to uphold.”
While I am not what you would call a social conservative, I am very much concerned about what were once more conservative fiscal and foreign policy standards being discarded and that rational Republican centrists like Charlie Dent of the Tuesday Group are leaving Congress. We’ve had proud records on issues like trade, immigration and fiscal discipline, but now in this era of Trumpism, so many people whom I once respected have thrown their principles and values out the window just to be on the bandwagon. Are the short-term benefits really worth the long-term damage?
To me, a big part of conservatism is having a high degree of character. I believe the Republican Congress is abdicating its constitutional responsibility for checks and balances and oversight. While I would greatly prefer Republicans exercise their constitutional duty than Democrats, I’d rather have Democrats than nobody. I took a lot of heat from fellow GOP supporters when I said the best thing that could happen to the Republican Party in 2016 was for Hillary Clinton to win in a landslide that would have forced us to confront the fact that we’ve become morally bankrupt and don’t stand for anything other than being a vessel for the interest of our donors. I now think that a last-ditch effort to save the GOP from itself is for Democrats to win the House and Senate in 2018 because the only thing that’s going to penetrate the current debacle is losing. Neither guilt, humiliation nor embarrassment is working.
Much like Charen laments the loss of traditional conservatism, I’m mourning the silence of the few remaining centrist Republicans when faced with issues that require real courage and character. The good news is that some people in the audience at CPAC applauded Charen and others stopped her to offer their words of encouragement and support. As an optimist, I still believe there are members of the GOP who want to solve problems and get things done, but the party may have to be pulled under by a tsunami in November to finally come to its senses.
That will be the time for more pragmatic, common sense conservative and centrist GOP leaders to come out of their shells. If not, the Republican Party risks being lost at sea.