Recently, I had shared a very generic comment on several political social media threads, advocating that their should be room for assorted conservative-leaning political views in conservative news outlets and publications. Several staunch (and relatively newly-minted) Trump supporters took this position to mean that the current President’s political position is not good enough for me, and that I am essentially advocating for “resistance” within the party. Indeed, overtime some of these supporters have shifted in their own views from thinking that so long as particular conservative positions were met by the administration and the administration embraced the conservative values and fought off progressive attacks they would be happy to becoming firmly convinced that the positions the current administration takes, the fights its chooses, and the methods at its disposal are the only truly conservative views, positions, and methods that exist, and that anything divergent from these expression is either completely unrealistic or undermining the achievements of administration.
That was quite fascinating, because it revealed a great deal about the mindset of the core of the Republican party apparatus and activists at this particular moment in time. It’s worthwhile to take a moment away from the fora where any exploration of this situation is bound to deteriorate into accusations of fascism, totalitarianism, and so forth, and reflect on this mindset – and whether it may have a point. The issue here, of course, is that at least some of such voices are firmly convinced that all other voices within the conservative movement have failed – first, in substance, many of the leading conservatives considered more “moderate” have been intellectual frauds, not true to conservative values. They may also be political traitors, as likely to aligned with the Democrats as with the right-wingers within their own party. Second, same subset of the Republicans who eschews anything but “Trumpism” at this point as illegitimate and having no place within the party, is concerned that all previous generations of Republicans with other views do not have the fighting skills to respond alternative to the progressive attacks, both in Congress, and throughout the nation.
As we have discussed, however, culturally, it will take people with both deep knowledge of conservatism and creative response tactics, that go beyond name-calling and outright mockery, to outwit a sprawling and blossoming progressive Cultural Apparatus. The Trumpism proponents, in other words, by focusing on only one type of attack that can be successfully launched, as they see it, are actually limiting their battlefields to the hardcore political realm – where they have already actually lost a few battles, and may be losing more as experienced Republican lawmakers in Congress announce their retirement one after another, with at least some of them hardline and very respected conservatives.
Admittedly, progressive “Resistance”, sophomoric and harmful to the nation as it is, may actually backfire politically in the upcoming elections, as independents, who may have benefited from the administration’s actual policy come out to support the lawmakers that are getting something done. However, Trumpism as an ideology is a rather confused lot. President Trump’s administration has moved on from its initial hard nationalist position towards a traditional Republican administration, at least in the domestic realm, which is what appears to be on everyone’s minds these days. The foreign policy, on the other hand, is a mish-mash, driven as much by inexperience, as by any ideology or foreign policy vision – and has seen abject failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. But that is for separate discussion. President Trump himself is swayed by various voices in his administration, and how he is going to be swayed depends on who is there to sway him, as well as on a host of other factors, that may not be replicable with anyone else.
The more interesting question, then, is not whether the Trumpists are right or wrong to welcome or block certain ideas or alternative voices, including, potentially the ones that they know nothing about, because those voices are a reaction to both the failures of pre-Trumpists, and skeptics of the excesses of the movement. The real issue here is who are the Trumpists themselves, what do they actually stand for, and how long will they outlast the end of the Trump administration’s tenure? It is extremely difficult to try to block out other people, when the person you have build your own outlook around does not have his own adherent views on anything, and essentially acts in concert with many of traditional Republicans of various degrees of conservatives.
If during the campaign of 2016, the Trumpian lot more or less identified itself with the Bannon faction, as the Bannonites have more or less lost their influence, and Steve Bannon himself lost the support of most donors, as well as the administration, they have to contend with the fact that Trump’s advisers now range from essentially liberal Jared & Ivanka, to assorted members of Congress of various degrees of conservatives, to Stephen Miller, the only remaining outpost of Bannonism – for now. With most of the foreign policy, excepting Israel, some aspects of the Iran policy, and counterterrorism, wandering in the wilderness, the Trump supporters are now faced with essentially having a position of “My president, right or wrong – and whatever he decides at the moment is right”.
The proclivity to embrace increasingly shrill and crazy candidates for the down ticket, however, is a passing fad, because it’s at odds with the President’s own increasingly traditional positioning on most matters, including, with the exception of tweets, and interpersonal relationships, most policy matters. Trump has made somewhat of truce with his former primary opponents and other critics – and that’s a good thing, because many of them have been steering him in the direction of the best positions his administration has taken so far. For that reason, the tendency of some of the Trump, supporters who were late to the game, to bash Trump’s former opponents as failures makes about as much political sense as progressive “Resistance” to a legitimate president. The administration is composed not just of Trump, but all of his advisers, everyone who executes his policies – and everyone who is focused on getting the job done. While political donors and activists are stuck on ax grinding, the people in power are settling in towards governance, and moving past old election gripes until such time as they become relevant again. In other words, President Trump is leaving a good portion of his own base behind, not in terms of election promises, but in terms of his administration’s political maturity and advancement.
So what does it mean for Republicans and ex-Republicans who’ve been turned off by excesses of Trumpism, or by the worst of Trump supporters, or by the seeming transformation of the party? The answer is simple – it means patience. For all President Trump’s personal shortcomings, the administration is taking many positions that any of the other REpublican candidates would have taken – much to my relief. That means that the party is not being destroyed by factionalism, and that, surprisingly and imperceptibly, it is actually unifying – and increasingly around a more conservative platform, to the joy of many people. Those who have not quite yet moved on from the initial bitterness and infighting, will be forced to do so sooner or later – first, because the administration needs all the allies it can get; second, if they want to party to grow, rather than to shrink, they will have to sooner or later find a way to rebuild the burned bridges to the well-meaning critics (not the Resistors, obviously), and third, because “this too shall pass”. Inevitably, as the administration s hifts in a more traditional direction, input from experienced individuals who share the same ultimate visioned will be more welcomed, and after the administration is over, it is the people who have contributed to making it a success, not the people who have tried to turn it into a failure that will enjoy popular support and run for higher office. The room at the table for voices who want to be at that table is only a matter of time, and the most shrill and hostile voices, will eventually be outnumbered, because, let’s face it, when the only thing you stand for is reactionism to everything you don’t like, anyone who is working towards something constructive, will find a way to build around your corner of bitterness and upwards.
In other words, the State of the Union is strong, and the State of the Republican Party, though weakened by decades of poor candidates and unprepared members, will get stronger. We are in a good shape, and the restoration of the Party of Ideas is officially on.