You will recall my post from Tuesday about Jeff Flake's new book. I made clear that I understand that Flake's bona fides as a conservative are questionable at best:
People of various stripes are going to react to the book title in various ways. There's an argument to be made that it's an exercise in self-delusion. Yes, in some years during his service as a House member and now Senator when his voting record is solidly conservative, but his FreedomWorks ratings for 2013, 2014, and 2014 dipped from a general run of 100 percent ratings, peppered by occasional dips into the high 90s, to 85, 77 and 79 percent, respectively. There was his vote for Loretta Lynch. There was his support for normalizing relations with Cuba.Yesterday, I caught a little of Laura Ingraham's radio show while I was in my car, and was she ever on a tear. No spotty-record-as-a-conservative for her. In her estimation, Flake is an out-and-out left-leaner. She said she wouldn't be surprised to see him switch parties. She named a couple of Arizona political aspirants she thought might make good primary contenders against him.
An argument he makes in the course of his book and article is a classic case study in Reasonable Gentleman Syndrome:
Dole, Baker and Lugar? Oh, please. Who is he expecting to buy that?There was a time when the leadership of the Congress from both parties felt an institutional loyalty that would frequently create bonds across party lines in defense of congressional prerogatives in a unified front against the White House, regardless of the president’s party. We do not have to go very far back to identify these exemplars—the Bob Doles and Howard Bakers and Richard Lugars of the Senate. Vigorous partisans, yes, but even more important, principled constitutional conservatives whose primary interest was in governing and making America truly great.
Well, given his RGS affliction, perhaps his "friends across the aisle."
If so, he is on a fool's errand.
But the overall way she framed what she was up to, I thought, spoke volumes about why the Trump water-carriers don't get it - and the irony is that they think we don't get it.
She railed against the swath of the Republican Party that, in her view, is digging in its heels against Trump's "agenda." For fleshing out that "agenda," she went back to the two issues she has myopically hammered on since the summer of 20215: immigration and trade. She trotted out - make that thundered - the term "populism" to describe what she thinks constitutes some newly relevant body of thought that is rendering conservatism obsolete, and "globalism" to - well, describe anybody that stands in populism's way.
"Populism" and "globalism." It takes a certain kind of brassiness to employ these terms free of any hint of caricature at this late date. No matter how hard the Journal of American Greatness tries to impart a coherence to the diffuse concerns of Americans experiencing economic frustration and make it some kind of body of thought with a long pedigree and a promising future, it really doesn't add up to a viable ideology with core principles to which one can point. And let's face it, globalism boils down to protectionism. Tariffs.
Hey, Laura, why is your idol doing so badly poll-wise even as he seems to have racked up an impressive accomplishment on one of your two pet issues, with illegal border crossings down 76 percent by May from what they'd been previously?
Then I caught a few minutes of FNC's The Specialists on TV last evening, and Eric Bolling was hammering home the same point: A big swath of Republicans in Congress are actively bucking Trump's "agenda." Of course, Bolling's big thing is "draining the swamp." Yes, cronyism and palm greasing and turf protection are and always have been a hindrance to good government in Washington. But again, making their eradication the core of one's orientation doesn't add up to a body of principles constituting a vision.
No, there is no need for actual conservatives to assume some kind of position of contrition, to take their own inventory. Not when hard numbers tell us what they're telling us.
All that is necessary is to depict current developments accurately and stay true to that worldview which still hasn't ever been applied in anything close to a pure form.
When it is, we'll see a lot of this cacophony and confusion die down.
Not every last bit of it, of course, given that a core tenet of that worldview is an acknowledgment that this is a fallen realm.
But human beings can maneuver through it with dignity and assurance.
Trumpism can make no such promise.