Time for Conservatives To Rethink Their Priorities

“the GOP has embraced many policy positions—and attitudes—that have little to do with advancing human liberty. Throughout my career, conservatives and libertarians have been allies on many issues and at odds on others, but now we’re like residents of different planets.

For instance, both groups agreed on the dangers of Soviet expansion. Libertarians, however, warned that giving American security agencies too much power would undermine liberties at home. Conservatives and libertarians worked together to fight progressive assaults on property rights, but libertarians wondered why conservatives couldn’t see how the drug war undermined those goals.

Still, we had many opportunities to work together. Whereas conservatives in Europe never had a problem using big-government to achieve their ends, American conservatives were about “conserving” America’s particular traditions. Our nation’s founding fathers were classical liberals, so conservatives often defended libertarian ideals.

The Trump era solidified long-brewing changes in the conservative movement, as it moved toward a more European-style approach that wasn’t concerned about limits on government power. Trump wasn’t a political thinker, but a marketing savant who tapped into popular and often-legitimate resentments of the increasingly “woke” Left.

Republican politicians mostly stood by Trump, even as he shattered democratic norms and reshaped conservative policy prescriptions, less out of fear of Trump himself and more out of fear of the conservative grassroots voter. What does it even mean to be a conservative these days?

In 2020, the GOP dispensed with its platform and passed a resolution stating its enthusiast support for the president’s agenda. Party platforms are unenforceable, but they provide the faithful with an opportunity to create a mission statement. Apparently, being a conservative now means supporting whatever the leader happens to believe.

Such an approach is temperamentally and philosophically non-conservative, as are many of the goals of the Trumpiest wannabes. Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.), best known for giving a fist pump to MAGA protesters before some of them stormed the Capitol, recently introduced a plan to boost the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.”

“MAGA conservatives want libertarians to join their tribe, but their publications offer frequent attacks on the free market. The populist right wants to boost federal spending, impose draconian immigration controls, expand the power of police and spy agencies, step up the drug war and, well, stop when you see something of value to libertarians.

Since Reagan, conservatism has revolved around four concepts, explains Jonathan Last in The Bulwark, a right-leaning anti-Trump publication. There was “temperamental conservatism,” which worried about the consequences of progressive social engineering. There also was “foreign-affairs conservatism,” “fiscal conservatism” and “social conservatism.”

“‘Conservatism’ as it is now viewed by the majority of people who identify as conservatives—and who once believed in all or most of those four precepts—is now about one thing and one thing only: Revanchism,” Last wrote. Sure, I had to look it up, but “revanchism” means “a policy of seeking to retaliate, especially to recover lost territory.”

Yes, that “own the libs” approach has muscled out principled discussions about long-held conservative ideals and goals.”

“slow change rather than dramatic progress, a focus on prudence, trust in human liberty and variety, respect for societal norms, love of virtue, and commitment to social peace—are at odds with the nihilistic bomb throwing of a conservative populist movement that seems as radical at times as its progressive enemy.”

The Texas Bill That Prohibits Social Media Censorship Is a Mess

“Many Republican legislators at both the state and national level are profoundly misguided about Section 230. They seem to think it’s getting in the way of conservatives’ free speech rights when in reality it gives Big Tech additional legal cover for continuing to platform right-wing speech. Legislation aimed at hurting social media companies will ultimately end up hurting the kinds of speech that have flourished on Facebook and Twitter but would not have been published in mainstream media outlets.

If anything, that’s disproportionately likely to be right-wing speech.”

Why Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton Are Like Trump Cover Bands

“Nobody expected the mob of bands that followed the Beatles’ early success would replicate the lads’ triumphs just because they wore their hair long, sported the same suits and drew on the same musical influences. And they didn’t. The imitators wrote hits, filled theaters and even caused young girls to scream, but Beatlemania—almost a mass delusion, a form of ecstatic consciousness provoked just by the toss of a mop-topped head, or an arrival on an airport tarmac—remained highly specific to the actual Beatles.

The Donald Trump phenomenon is the closest thing we’ve seen in American politics, with the Republican base standing in for smitten teenagers in 1964. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that when the base gathered for its annual conclave at CPAC last week, none of Trump’s would-be successors roused more of a response than a group of Fab Four impersonators at a sock hop.

They tried—boy, did they try. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), trying to boost his anti-immigration credentials, dropped a quip about the Biden administration’s border policy—“That’s not catch-and-release,” he said, “that’s recruit-and-release!”—at which point a “few polite titters rippled through the ballroom,” reporter Elaina Plott observed in the New York Times. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) bombed, too, as he tried to out-Trump Trump with an anti-China line that zinged Hunter Biden. (He “paused for a reaction that never came,” wrote Plott.) Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the college debate champion and one-time Tea Party darling, treated the session like a stand-up comedy gig, drawing only scattered applause. The only Cruz line that made the crowd roar was one in praise of Dear Leader Trump, the Texas Monthly reported.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Trump impressions did better, but the winners of the battle of the bands were Govs. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), both of whom ranked second and third to Trump in CPAC’s 2024 straw presidential poll—but more from their resistance to the pandemic lockdown than their evocation of Trump himself.

Can nobody in the GOP wear the big man’s big suit and endless red tie? Trump himself got a decent response from the “ebullient crowd” (Washington Post) when he spoke at CPAC, so the base hasn’t tired of his jokes, insults, grievances and bombast. They just needed to hear the original hits as performed by the original hit-maker.”

Parler, the “free speech” Twitter wannabe, explained

“But despite the recent attention, some say the rise of Parler fits into the larger history of American conservatives and their relationship with the media.

“This follows a pattern of what the right wing has done [since] the rise of talk radio in the ’80s, and then through live cable TV, and then the rise of social media,” Lawrence Rosenthal, the chair of the University of California Berkeley’s Center for Right-Wing Studies, told Recode. “In each case, what you found is that the right wing gives up on participating in mainstream media and creates an alternative universe.””

“Based in Nevada, the company behind Parler is run primarily by two people: Matze and Jared Thomson, who serves as CTO. Neither of them had a particular public profile before creating the app. Jeffrey Wernick, a bitcoin enthusiast and early Airbnb investor, serves as the company’s chief operating officer. But there are other people funding the app.

Earlier this month, Parler confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that conservative megadonor Rebekah Mercer was the company’s lead investor and agreed to fund Parler only if it gave users control over what they saw on the platform.”

One surprisingly simple reason evangelicals love Trump

“Burge’s analysis, published Thursday, finds that on issues ranging from border security to immigration detention, white evangelicals — a group that includes dozens of individual denominations, from the Southern Baptist Convention to the Pentecostal movement — are substantially more conservative than the average American and even the next most conservative religious group.”

“on the whole, the president’s views on immigration have drawn support from evangelicals, a key voting bloc that helped carry him to victory in battleground states in 2016. It’s a strategy that his campaign is hoping to replicate in 2020 and, so far, it appears to be working: Trump has a 75 percent approval rating among white evangelicals, compared to 42 percent among all Americans.”