When conservatism is no such thing

Published 8:02 pm Friday, March 5, 2021

“And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.”—Exodus 32:7

ROLLING FORK — For both symbolism and irony, it’s pretty hard to beat.

In advance of the getting down to business, the attendees at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) being held last weekend in Orlando over concerns about a virus that the man they now effectively worship told them did not exist, were treated to a sight with Biblical echoes — the unveiling of a golden statuette image of Donald Trump.

Not a calf, but meeting the graven image standard, for sure.

Well, it is really fake gold, of course, but that, too, is almost symbolic perfection, if you think about it.

And while they may call themselves such out of habit, the people at CPAC, even more this year than some before it, are traditional conservatives in name only. It turns out there really are RINOs, but they are the same folks who have been calling other folks that.

But don’t just take it from me.

Michael Gerson is no lefty. Now a columnist for The Washington Post, his conservative bona fides include a stint at the Heritage Foundation, working as a staffer for such Republican stalwarts as senators Dan Coats and Bob Dole, and serving as both President George W. Bush’s primary speechwriter and senior policy advisor, after being recruited for the former president’s staff by none other than Karl Rove.

A snowflake, he ain’t.

And in advance of this year’s  gathering of the faithless in Florida, Gerson wrote: “Asking Conservative Political Action Conference attendees for their views on conservatism is like asking arsonists to lecture on fire safety. For decades, the fondest hope of the kind of agitators attracted by this annual event has been a Republican president who shares the breadth of their grievance, the depth of their anger and the fervor of their conspiratorial delusions. In Donald Trump, they finally found their man. He will be welcomed this year—as he will be for the rest of his life—as the god-king of Crazy Town.”

These people are not conservative; they are cultists, so blinded by their hero worship of a con man who would be strongman, they have lost all orientation to reality, much less the truths of its underpinnings.

Traditional conservatism, which for  the young and feeble of mind really does predate both Republicanism and Trumpism, is a political and social philosophy (rather than ideology), emphasizing the need for principles of a lasting order through natural laws, the adherence to which results in a more stable and productive society.

Conservatism dates back to Aristotle, was championed within Western Civilization by Edmund Burke, and was resurrected from modern intellectual dormancy in post World War II America by the likes of William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater.

And at no point throughout its long history has any of its proponents felt the need to parade out some idiotic and sacrilegious gold-plated craven image of a calf, much less an ass.

“The problem,” Gerson wrote, “is that Trump has extended his realm to include state Republican Party institutions across the country, which now see their primary role as the censure of sanity. The vast majority of elected Republicans have demonstrated their cravenness by falling meekly into line.”

And that alone precludes these far right-wing pseudo-populists’ usurpation of the far more respectable title of conservative. Conservatives believe each generation has a moral imperative to pass on culture, reason and enlightenment to the next.

No true conservative would either justify his own beliefs and actions nor encourage others to give in to their character flaws and follow the blinding heats of their passions—on the political stage, or any other.

That is why Barry Goldwater felt morally obliged to personally deliver the tidings to Richard Nixon that he had to go.

And it is the absence of courage and character today that keeps anyone from delivering the same message to Donald Trump.

Rather, be it at CPAC or the country writ large, these idol worshipers will continue to spread the lies that their political opponents are instead less than really human enemies, whose silencing my any means is justified, that violence in the name of their cause is not only authorized but to be encouraged and that representative democracy itself is only a thing of value when it suits them.

“They will learn that deadly incompetence, based on lies and lunacy and costing countless lies means nothing,” Gerson warns.

“They will learn that the Constitution can be shredded in the pursuit of raw power. Call this what you will, but it has nothing to do with conservatism.”

Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.