Conservatives Are Slouching Toward Irrelevance

Talk is cheap. A leader’s authentic values become clear when those values conflict with their private interests. Republicans spent the past half century yammering about “family values.” They even impeached a President for lying under oath. But when given the opportunity to grab the smallest additional scrap of money or power by promoting a moral monster, they took that deal with a smile.

Rep. Trey Gowdy’s walk of shame down the Capitol steps on his last day.

Not one Republican member of Congress demanded Trump’s tax returns. Not a single Republican Congressman stood up to oppose this administration. When principle and patriotism came into conflict with personal gain, every single one of these hypocrites chose to protect and enrich themselves instead of serving their nation.

Mitt Romney briefly raised eyebrows this week with an op-ed critical of the President. He followed that bold talk with a promise to support the President’s immigrations plans which have included a fantasy wall and very real concentration camps for immigrant children. Lindsay Graham spent the first year or so of the Trump Administration engaged in dissident mutterings, then as his friend and surrogate spine John McCain lay dying this past August, the Trumpians showed him his file. He fell in line immediately.

Ben Sasse goes on TV talking about civility and community values, then votes to support every Trump policy and does nothing to stop him. Paul Ryan could have cut Trump off at the knees at the Republican National Convention. Instead he devoted his power and energy to gutting the NeverTrump movement. What did he get in return? His power remained safe and he was able to pass an enormous tax cut for himself and other millionaires.

We were taught to believe that we live in a nation of laws. Conservatives, who love to talk about law and order, spent every ounce of their power in the last Congress protecting themselves and their President from the law. They did it for money and for the tingling sensation of power. Conservatives last year faced a highly visible test of their authentic values. We discovered that they are whores. Conservatism will not escape the taint of this moment.

Incoming Democratic freshman Rashida Tlaib set the tone for the new Congress. At a gathering of supporters after the swearing-in ceremony, she said this:

People love you and you win. And when your son looks at you and says, ‘Momma, look you won. Bullies don’t win.’ And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t, because we’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the motherfucker.’

In the interests of civility or something, we’re all supposed to pretend this isn’t true, that we don’t see the things that are obviously dangling before our eyes. The truth is that this Congress will either impeach the President, or he will be indicted. Otherwise we will set a precedent that Presidents are above the law. If this Congress fails to bring the President to justice, then the message to voters is that principle is pretense, that politics in our system is a pure exercise of power. Law is nothing more than a weapon used by the powerful against the powerless.

As for Tlaib’s choice of language, we are far beyond any authentic expressions of concern. Nevertheless, Republican, Kevin McCarthy tried to muster some faux concern with this maudlin display of church-lady umbrage:

Do you know what happened in the last Congress when Republicans were in the majority?” he asked. “You know what our freshman class did? They put a resolution together to actually work with one another, to not use foul language. They got almost every single freshman to sign onto it! That is the difference with this new Congress and it’s wrong.

McCarthy just spent the past two years protecting the pussy-grabber-in-Chief and his First Lady, the illegal alien nude model. A man who is OK putting immigrant children in concentration camps is concerned about word choice. It’s the perfect caricature of late-stage conservatism.

There are principled, intelligent conservatives out there in the wilderness, men like David Frum and Bill Kristol. They are politically irrelevant, because the elected officials chosen in the name of conservatism sold their souls so cheaply. After a run through the refining fire, nothing remains of conservatism but its odd collection of bigotries. It didn’t have to be this way, but that’s the choice made by the whores we elected. As grandstanding moral prostitutes like Trey Gowdy slouch down the Capitol steps toward irrelevance and disgrace, our movement is an ill-smelling shell of its former promise.

The easy way always turns out to be the hard way. In their defining moment, conservative leaders chose the easy way, selling out their country and their constituents for a few more moments of safety and a few extra bucks. Their choice and their character will not be forgotten.

32 Comments

  1. In my neck of the woods here in the south, someone who boxes themselves in (stupidly and often unnecessarilly) is described as “crawfishing”. When this technique is applied to national and international events, it requires even greater skill to accomplish. Such is the case when irrational, ill-thought-out major foreign affairs actions call for the best “crawfishing” one can accomplish. I give you: Syria.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/news/mideast/no-syria-withdrawal-without-commitment-turkey-bolton-says-n955181?

  2. I’m not as cynical about the courage of the Democratic leadership if for no other reason that all those who voted in record numbers in the mid-term election are going to hold their feet to the fire.

    This excellent article from The New Yorker urges Dems to “go big” (or, as WX noted – go home). Lot of good ideas to consider in this piece and some excellent writing to wit.

    “…some sense of the psychological vagaries that Democrats have to contend with can be derived from the increasingly peculiar way that Trump talks about the wall, as though it were not a policy but a totem—for the protection of his own ego, perhaps. “The wheel, the wall, some things never get old,” he said last week, at a rambling Cabinet meeting.”

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/01/14/the-house-democrats-best-path-forward?

  3. What was it George Carlin said about people? “You know how stupid the average person is? Well, half the people are stupider than him!!”

    Turns out the idea for “The wall” was made up by Roger Stone just so Trump would have something to throw out to his ill informed base including I assume his David Duke followers that said candidate Trump could remember. Something simple, just a few words! Sort of like “Lock her up!”

    I guess anything more complicated would be too much for him to remember!

    And the government is shut down over a slogan!!!

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2019/01/04/where-the-idea-for-donald-trumps-wall-came-from/?fbclid=IwAR1J26WwR85Y2gcJsKngh4nD2hRZR3dSyP4dfWnAv2eWF_YS6LfS3NQEH5M#42ad3af04415

  4. Meanwhile, the puppet tyrant is looking to spread his wings and invoke “national emergency” measures to get his wall built. And who believes that once he has opened that toolbox, he is not going to use it for whatever else he wants.

    But, hey, don’t worry, the House can stop him all by themselves, even though the Senate, DoJ, Homeland Security, and SCOTUS are all lined up behind him. Thank goodness we now know the Fed has the guts to stand up against him, though it will be VERY interesting when the madman tries to find cause to fire the chairman.

    Nope, the fascists are not sliding towards irrelevancy. They are just getting wound up.

    Congress is going after that monster in Homeland Security on Jan 18th. Excellent. And just what happens after they find she has lied constantly and is a truly evil creature? Does anything change? Is she fired, or arrested? Does Congress have that legal power? If they don’t, then the law is utterly meaningless.

  5. Where to start. Core values that I agree with. Fiscal responsibility, yeah right. Those who have not seen the post Chris did about tax cuts should give it a look. The Cargo is not Coming I think was the title. Trump spends money like a drunk sailor after giving his rich buddies a tax cut.

    Family values, really. Go screw a porn star while the wife recovers from childbirth. Hell the guy’s opinion of women is on tape. Yet so-called Christian Conservative voters stand by him.

    Free trade. Trump bitches at the Fed but can’t grasp that his BS trade wars are killing the economy. The man has no grasp of how real business works.

    This guy is all hat and no cattle yet no one will call him on it. The Republicans have surrendered the moral high ground without a shot fired. The wingnuts own the party and the sad thing is there were a lot more deplorables than we thought. I fear the GOP is beyond repair and that is sad. The reasons I seldom voted that way now own the party.

  6. You’re right, Chris, that not prosecuting crimes by high officials sends a powerful message that we are not a nation of laws. This serves to embolden the already corrupt, while simultaneously demoralizing the ones who want to do the right thing. You don’t necessarily even have to prosecute. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission showed that it is possible to avoid searing, divisive prosecutions that might tear the country apart, but you *must* at least get the truth out. All of it, in all its gory, unpleasant detail.

    Here’s the problem: this isn’t the first time Democrats had the obligation to do so… I just saw _Vice_ yesterday, made by the same director who made _The Big Short_ about how Wall St greed and outright criminal fraud drove the 2007 financial crisis. I liked it, but it was sickening to watch as it brought back to the fore all the crimes that the GWB administration, including guys like Cheney and Rumsfeld, were involved in, that were also left unprosecuted.

    A sitting US President lied to the American public in order to start a war against Iraq. A sitting US Vice President went along with the lies so as to carve out Iraq’s oil fields for his former employers. A sitting US Defense Secretary created his own intelligence groups so as to create and package the lies together over the strenuous objections of the actual intelligence community. And a sitting US Secretary of State went to the UN and repeated those lies (which he knew to be lies) to our allies and to the world to drum up a coalition for this false war.

    And at the end of the day, Obama decided to “look forward, not backward”. That was supremely cowardly of him. The first job of the Executive Branch is to enforce the laws. He failed that first obligation as much as GWB did. And it set the stage for Republicans to believe that Dems won’t prosecute them no matter what. So far, that gamble has proven correct.

    After watching the movie, I’m really coming around to your view that Trump is not an aberration. Trump will probably go down in history as the worst president we’ve ever had, followed by GWB, followed by Obama (I realize the last assertion will be controversial, but that’s my opinion. He only looks good because of who he’s bookended by. At best, he was markedly below average in addressing the pressing problems of the day). Trump is a symptom of the Politics of Crazy that has taken hold of this country for at least the past few decades, if not longer. And so far, neither party has really been willing to confront it head on. Given how many Democrats joined in the pearl-clutching around Tlaib’s remarks, I’m growing increasingly worried that the Dems will whiff the Trump investigation just like they did the Iraq War investigation, the Financial Crisis investigation, and even the Iran-Contra investigation.

    1. EJ

      I absolutely agree with you, but to add to your note about South Africa’s TRC: Remember that South Africa *did* send people to jail, as well as ordering considerable transfer of money and land, and the removal of many people from their jobs. This wasn’t done by the TRC itself, but the TRC was only ever intended to run in combination with the courts.

      Indeed, the two were intended to go together: the main way that people were incentivised to make disclosures to the TRC was that it could grant immunity from prosecution for those things that one made disclosures about. If people preferred to stay silent about things, then the alternative could be prison or rescission. Without this threat, nobody would have gone to the TRC.

      This was especially the case among the security forces, where every individual officer was held liable for the orders they obeyed and the actions they committed. As a result, many police, soldiers and prison guards had to recount their own individual actions and take personal moral responsibility for things which they had not thought of as being wrong at the time they did them. Police being police, you can imagine how happy they were about this.

      1. That’s a good point. You’re right. The only way the TRC worked was because it was backed up by the threat that if you *didn’t* disclose everything, and they found out, they’d prosecute you fully for it.

        At any rate, I think a TRC for our country WRT the Iraq War, or Trump’s Russian connections, etc. is too lenient. The TRC was appropriate for South Africa because you really could argue that, otherwise normal people, went along with apartheid abuses because it was just a part of society at that time. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but on the other hand, if they come clean with what they did, and take moral responsibility for their actions, then perhaps it was best to forgive them and allow them to integrate into the new society.

        But Bush’s and Trump’s actions are no such thing. General society never condoned lying to the American people about war, nor has it ever been generally acceptable to be under Russian control. Ever person complicit in those crimes *knew* that they were committing a crime and going *against* social norms. That’s far different than a white South African who went along with apartheid because it was the social norm of the time.

        If it were up to me, the far better model for dealing with these guys (especially Bush’s co-criminals) would be the Nuremberg Trials.

      2. I actually had a conservative (strong trump supporter) tell me a Biblical story of atonement to explain why trump should not be viewed as immoral. “Judge him by what he accomplishes, not what he has done and atoned for…” Needless to say, that was not the end of the conversation. I asked him to define “moral” and then I asked him if character and honesty were not important qualities in leaders. Let me acknowledge that I did not change his mind. He believes that “merit” is how all men (and women) should advance. Guess he didn’t “get” Lizze Warren’s story about “you didn’t build that by yourself”meme. So yesterday. So unacceptable. So unfathomable by privileged people.

      3. By the way, “lying” has become the new norm. This same individual I describe above is incensed with how the great General Flynn is being pillioried for pure political reasons. “It’s an outrage!” Guess he missed the part where Flynn was caught (and admitted) to lying not once but multiple times about multiple serious national security matters….but the example had been skillfully set by first candidate trump then president trump that truth really is a relative commodity.

      4. EJ

        Please don’t compare a show trial of the leaders of political parties you dislike to the Nuremberg Trials. It’s a misunderstanding of what those trials meant to us as a nation which is perhaps more difficult to read than you appreciate.

      5. EJ-
        Are you saying that prosecuting Bush and his cohort for outright lying to the American people to send us into a war under false pretenses is a show trial? The Nuremberg Trials established the right of international bodies to prosecute leaders for committing war crimes. The Bush Administration committed (and the Obama admin continued to commit) war crimes. They labelled prisoners of war as “Enemy combatants”, a term that is not recognized by any concept of warfare, specifically to deny them the rights they’re due under the Geneva Convention. Given that the Geneva Convention came out of the Nuremberg Trials, violating them is very much justification for prosecution. It’s certainly not a show trial. They then held them in Guantanamo Bay, a legal no-man’s land, specifically to deny them American constitutional protections. They then authorized the torture of these prisoners of war, which was not limited to a few “bad apple” investigators, but was a broad program authorized at the highest levels of the Administration.

        There’s more than enough crimes that would fall under war crimes territory to merit prosecution. I assure you I’m not calling for trials on the basis of partisanship. FWIW, you can check my previous posts about Obama on these forums, going back all the way to when Chris was writing for the Houston Chronicle, saying that he has unconstitutionally ordered the assassination of American citizens without due process, or even informing said citizens of his decisions (Anwar Al-Awlaki). After killing Al-Awlaki, two weeks later, in a separate drone strike, they assassinated his 16 year old son. Last I checked, minors are not allowed to face the death penalty regardless of crime, which means we can say with 100% certainty that Obama’s “Terror Tuesday” kill lists violated the constitution even without seeing what evidence he had against the two. And yes, for that, I believe he should have been impeached and prosecuted as well.

        I know I sound like a radical on this topic. But I feel like I’m the one who stood still while everyone else has moved. Have we really come so far that Presidential actions to lie about war, authorize torture, violate the Geneva Conventions, and secretly assassinate US citizens (including minors), can now be dismissed as just partisan whining?

      6. EJ

        WXWall:

        I don’t want to find fault with your zeal to reform your country, and I certainly will not defend Bush or any of his cronies. However, the Nuremberg Trials are something which are more symbolically important to Germans than perhaps you realise; and I apologise if this made me overreact.

        Briefly:

        The Nuremberg Trials were only part of a much larger series of trials, punishments and rehabilitations carried out by Germans, the three western occupying powers and the Soviets. While the trials of the leaders attracted the most attention, the other parts were perhaps more important, as they transformed the process from “victor’s justice” into a genuine attempt for a nation to rehabilitate itself and face its past honesty.

        Two extremely important parts of this were as follows:

        Firstly, guilt was defined very broadly. The people who mined the coal which drove the trains to Auschwitz were guilty of helping to perpetrate the Holocaust, as were the workers in barbed wire factories and the people who bought the products made by camp slave labour. Had any of them not done these things, the Holocaust would not have happened. Social norms are no defence, doing your job is no defence, following orders is no defence. This was vital because it catalysed a broad change in society: we could not blame it on “a few bad leaders.”

        Secondly, punishment was applied very broadly. Most German soldiers who survived the fighting served prison time, some up to a decade in Soviet prisons in Siberia. They had, after all, failed in their duty to disobey orders and turn their weapons on their leaders; even though this duty had never been written in their rulebooks, and most of them were unwilling conscripts. The entire police force was dismissed and it was some years before we were permitted to police ourselves; and even then the police force was rebuilt under foreign guidance and based on their customs and traditions rather than our own. The same went for the large corporate concerns which had backed the Nazi government. People who belonged to the SS (an organisation much larger than either the camps or the Waffen-SS) were permanently denied access to the welfare state. This was vital because it meant that it was impossible to glorify any part of the era.

        For this reason, I would ask you to please not compare any trial of leadership, which does not involve also punishing and rehabilitating broad sections of the rest of society, to the Nuremberg Trials.

      7. EJ-
        I’m sorry. I only now realized that you’re German. I understand the Nuremberg Trials are an important symbol of Germany’s (and the Allies) effort to rectify a problem far bigger than Bush/Obama crimes in the Global War on Terror. I didn’t mean to minimize or trivialize their importance.

        I brought them up because, to my knowledge, they were the first trials to establish the concept of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”, and that leaders of a country were bound to a supranational set of ethical norms and could face justice from the international community even if they were immune to such justice under their own country’s laws. That’s the only part I wanted to compare to. Absolutely agreed that the Nuremberg Trials, in totality, were much, much more than that, both legally and symbolically. My apologies if I sounded like I was minimizing that.

  7. Romney is trying to have his political cake and eat it too. The discussion panel on 1A this morning got it right I think- that’s he’s gambling on Trump to implode, then he can pick up the pieces. Personally I’m glad to see him getting shade from all sides. If he truly wants to check Trump’s worst impulses, there are opportunities galore. He could state upfront that he will not vote to confirm any AG candidate who won’t promise to leave the Mueller investigation alone. He could take the lead in doing an end-run around McConnell’s obstruction with regards to to ending the government shutdown and pledge to override a veto. None of that would mean abandoning the policies he said he liked (because $ for the wall is not necessary for increasing border security). Do I think he will do any of that? No, because I think he is a craven opportunist, more so than the average politician. He is welcome to prove me wrong; I’d be delighted to be wrong on this one.

    1. Romney is the worst kind of opportunist – a “privileged” opportunist. I am not impressed with the sincerity of his propriety gauntlet – after all, he has been rather silent for the first two years of trump’s administration. Put me in the “Romeny is setting up to be the trump-alternative presidential nominee” camp. He’s got lots of room with all the others posturing and trying on new hats…Our Florida perennial presidential candidate, Rubio, is similarly testing new waters in his “common man” approach. Guess if populism worked for trump, he thinks it will for a smarter, more deserving man such as himself. This time.

    1. If conservatives wanted to keep the word linked closely to a dedicated and popularly understood value system, they would act with principles that uphold those values; they don’t, so the core meaning of conservativism is as empty as the actions of conservatives.

      However, to at least to be transparent about my motivations in responding, I pretty much think any attempt to align your identity with a group-influenced belief system (-ism), you will eventually be forced to abandon both your personal values and wider logic and self-awareness in deferral to that identity. In plain language, if you call yourself a conservative, a liberal, or anything else, you’re giving up personal defense of your beliefs to whatever the common knowledge says that belief system means. So conservatives today are brown-people hating kleptocrats, because the political, media, and voter base institutions have rallied around those values.

      The alternative is to maintain a strict orthadoxy, which requires deepset denial of changing facts, opinions, or perspectives (as well as opposing of same). Strict orthadoxy ideologies aren’t much better than identitarian ideologues in my reckoning.

      All isms lead to schisms.

      Better to be yourself than a conservative, is my reckoning. I only join parties for the primary votes.

    2. EJ

      I’m given to understand that the word “conservative” has become so unpopular that many Right-wing people have adopted the phrase “classical liberal” instead. This inevitably means that the phrase “classical liberal” has itself become unpopular in turn.

      I’ve heard this called the “euphemism treadmill.”

  8. A lot of the run of the mill conservatives are now in the Democrat Party or Independents. The movement is not dead just underground. No I will not support the immorality of the current GOP. But the Democrat party is now the big tent party. They will accept a fiscal conservative socially moderate like me.

    Show and tell is coming. The rot and corruption is being exposed. Call me what ever you want. But I think God is ripping away the curtain, exposing Pharisaic Christians for what they are. I see Trump as a Saul of the old Testament not a Cyrus that so many Pharisaic Christians think. Trump is a judgement. Without him I would of stayed naive of what so many of my fellow country men are including Church goers. There is going to be a purge I think in our country.

    I still believe most of us are decent and are woke up now. I loved Nancy telling the reporters this morning after one asked if she would give one dollar for Trump’s wall well maybe one dollar. As the reporter backed track trying to pin her down she told him the wall was immoral and not what we are as a people. She is right I believe.

  9. A good contrast between the life outlook of our present negativists and the outlook of the optimistic outlook of the new members in the Democratic Conference of the House on display yesterday. See my reply of a few minutes ago in Chris last posting, 2018 in a Single Tweet.

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