Over the last couple of decades, the conservative movement has continued to make some of the same old mistakes while embracing some new ones. You don’t hear a lot of people discussing that on the Right these days and that’s not healthy. No person, organization, or movement can hold it together without some constructive criticism from time to time. I’m going to offer my take on it right now and feel free to comment on it, disagree with it, or offer your own in the comments section. That being said, if you find yourself starting to get angry reading any of this, just remember what Thomas Sowell said:
1) We’re too focused on home runs instead of singles: Conservatives always seem to believe that if we get the right person in the White House or pass the right bill, we can fix problems that have been slowly festering for decades. In a theoretical, perfect world, this might be true. In a world where the far-Left has been taking more complete control over the culture, schools, corporate board rooms, and Hollywood for decades while conservatives have done nothing about it, it has little chance of success. As the late, great Andrew Breitbart said:
The Left has been slowly, but surely incrementally marching through institutions and our culture, while conservatives have mostly shrugged instead of pushing back. Then, when things reach a certain tipping point, liberals move things wildly to the Left and we always look for someone to wave a magic wand and fix it. When that doesn’t happen, we tend to chalk it up to Republican politicians being “unwilling to fight” and there is absolutely some truth to that. However, it’s also very true that what the conservative movement considers “fighting” is usually someone willing to be a defiant @sshole, shaking their fist at the sky as the ship goes down because so few people in the conservative movement are actually willing to get up off the couch and do the work of patching the hole.
2) We're way, way, too complacent: Conservatives talk a good game about “fighting,” but every time you point out a problem that could be solved by actually “fighting,” half the movement comes up with reasons to do nothing. Sometimes, it’s “Muh principles.” However, if your principles put you at a competitive disadvantage, keep you from addressing critical issues, and mean your supporters will be abused and treated unfairly while you do nothing, either your principles suck, or you don’t understand them. Ironically, given that conservatives have all too often embraced pointless, dumb “own the libs” tactics that accomplish nothing but piss people off, many conservatives will refuse to insist on an even playing field because it infuriates people on the other side. As if they’re just going to give up their advantage without a fight.
You may be thinking, “I don’t know if I buy this. Give me some concrete examples.” Okay, how about breaking up the social media monopolies like Facebook and Google? Cutting off funds for state universities that discriminate against conservatives? Moving to ban government unions? How about boycotting any corporations that take a stand we don’t like on political issues and looking for ways to kneecap them like DeSantis did with Disney? How about flat-out saying, “We’re absolutely not allowing any illegal aliens to become American citizens ever, including the 40-year-old ‘dreamers’ who have been breaking the law here for decades?” The ship isn’t just going to right itself; we have to be the ones to right it. That requires action in the face of liberal resistance, not just waiting for everyone to come around to our way of looking at the world.
3) We've become too divided: I have been blackballed from the Republican convention not just once, but twice that I know of for being too tough on Mitt Romney and John McCain. I have publicly savaged Mitch McConnell for years. I even once made the news for yelling “You suck!” at Jeb Bush from the press section at CPAC. All that being said, there is a difference between planting kicks in the ribs of the establishment when they’re running the show and doing a terrible job of it and treating them like the enemy.
The fact of the matter is that we may not want people like Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Paul Ryan running the party, but they’re not on the “other side.” On the contrary, if people like that are not willing to vote Republican, we WILL NOT WIN ELECTIONS. Let me repeat that, if people like that are not willing to vote Republican, we WILL NOT WIN ELECTIONS. We NEED THEM, just as much as they need the grassroots. Reagan rather famously said:
He was right and anyone who doesn’t understand that is no more fit to lead than the establishment Republicans who lost the plot by being just as dismissive of the grassroots side of the party.
4) A deeply unhealthy relationship with Donald Trump: A significant portion of the conservative base has something akin to a parent-child relationship with Donald Trump. They play the role of the indulgent parents who can't bear to discipline their son and Trump is their little out-of-control hellion that they find endearing no matter what he does. Granted, Trump does have his moments of genius and he is treated unfairly by some people on the Left, but he also often acts like a cruel, petulant child who can't control himself. No matter how many times he screams profanities at his teachers or runs across the restaurant, grabbing food off everyone's plates, his parents can't bear to punish him and they're constantly getting angry at anyone who suggests that their horrible little brat has a behavior problem. The problem isn't their little Trump, it's EVERYBODY else. They're all always so unfair to him! Why can't people understand that their special little boy deserves special treatment?
Back in the real world, Donald Trump is 76 years old, has more political baggage than any other 10 politicians combined, and is so detested by Democrats, a large majority of Independents, and a significant chunk of the Republican Party that it's hard to imagine a realistic scenario where he can even beat a sitting president as weak as Joe Biden. It's absolutely true that Trump did some good things as president, but he also broke his promise about building a wall and making Mexico pay for it, unleashed Anthony Fauci on America, and has now played a significant part in the GOP losing the House in 2018, the presidency and the Senate in 2020 and the Senate in 2022.
I have friends and family who still have an emotional connection to Trump and think he's great, which I get, but at this point, everything he touches turns into a drama-filled, toxic, conspiratorial sh*tshow. A mother loves her child and sees everything he does in a positive light, but treating ANY politician that way is absolutely begging for a Hindenberg-sized disaster.
5) We don't support people that do the grunt work: If I had some middle-of-the-road kid graduating college ask me whether it made more financial sense to go into politics on the Left or the Right, I’d unhesitatingly tell him the Left.
On the right, even if you’re extremely talented, if you don’t know the right people, haven’t figured out how to create a money-making venture, or haven’t built a large, enthusiastic audience, you’re going to be extremely lucky to make a living in politics.
On the other hand, the Left has a massive money-filled pipeline that allows an army of libs to make a good living as government workers, journalists, activists, or think tank/NGO drones. Today you’re a government staffer, tomorrow you’re an “activist,” next week you’re a “fact checker” and next month you’re a journalist.
On the Right, it’s more like, “Thanks for doing so much great free work for the movement because you believe in it, but the three positions we have available are going to friends of a well-connected campaign consultant who lost every race last cycle but is friends with John Cornyn.” Conservatives leave 10 times as much talent out of the game as liberals do because the movement uses and discards people instead of trying to reward people who do good work.
6) Our standards have slipped: Liberals have always been extremely tolerant of scumbags, conspiracy theorists, perverts, and imbeciles, but it’s expected to a degree because Democrats are the party of hedonism, “It’s society’s fault, not yours” and “It should all be free!”
On the other hand, conservatives like to think of themselves as people who believe in competent, adult governance. There are many people and even politicians, especially governors, who still exemplify that way of thinking. However, a lot of conservatives have increasingly embraced conspiracy theorists, obnoxious PR stunts, and childish politicians who are more interested in impressing people on Twitter than governing. Who a movement elevates and reveres says a lot about the values and character of the people in that movement. We’ve slipped in that area over the last decade. A LOT.
7) We want to be told what we want to hear, not the truth: There was a time not so long ago when conservatives prided themselves on being more logical, open-minded, and willing to debate than liberals. Over the last few years, for many conservatives, that has devolved into, “Anyone who doesn’t tell me what I want to hear right this second is a RINO.”
With a big group of conservatives, it’s almost as if they take a childish level of pride in the fact that no matter what anyone says, their minds are absolutely closed, like a broken beartrap. They don’t need facts, they don’t need logic, they don’t need proof, they just know what they know and they’re flipping the double middle finger to the face of anyone that tries to tell them differently.
The problem with this mentality is that if you insist on always being told what you want to hear, you’re going to be told an awful lot of lies and fall prey to a lot of outright con men who are happy to feed you bullsh*t for clout and profit. The conservative media IS NOT as good as it used to be because the market has increasingly changed over to “tell me what I want to hear” instead of “tell me the truth.”
There are some hard to hear truths in your essay, and possibly some wishful thinking as well. My state's contribution to conservatism was the principled but unwilling to actually fight Paul Ryan, and the ready to fight, but not so polished businessman turned Senator Ron Johnson. I'm afraid that the media, woke corporations, leftist indoctrination centers masquerading as schools, and the deep state weaponizing the government have so stacked the deck that conservatives can no longer win the presidency. Trump fooled the media, who thought he was a light weight clown, then viciously attacked him after he won and had some successes. How many "barrels of ink" (now terabytes of misinformation) have the media used to smear him? With Trump being indicted, by a hard Left NY state prosecutor, the rule of law is gone now, and the US is just another banana republic. We were too soft, too indulgent, and now the monsters are loose and in charge. What major city would you feel safe living in?
The average grass-roots conservative doesn't have the 🔥 in the belly to wage a successful battle against the ideological left. We're not crazy enough or so bereft of anything other than ideology to become rabid, frothing at the mouth political opponents. One reason so many conservatives have idealized Trump is because he does have that fire, even though he's a destructive wild-fire in many ways, and hurts us more than he helps. Trump isn't going to save us. We have to save ourselves by refusing to be afraid to be called names, shunned or ridiculed when we stand up for our country and ourselves. Are we ninnies or are we warriors? If, en masse, we refused to pay income taxes by walking away from our jobs, how long would it take to drain the swamp and rid the White House of its infestation of vermin? 🤷🏼♀️