Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Insufferable Become Sufferable: The Evolution of A Never-Trumper

Gene Wisdom
by Gene Wisdom - There are few things that does the soul good like admitting you’re wrong. Having officially entered the ranks of the elderly in turning 60, I have certainly had my share of those occasions. But fortunately, just as “love means never having to say you’re sorry” (OK, that’s a lie, right, men?), being a conservative means rarely having to admit to error. Well, now it’s my turn.

When Trump entered the Presidential race (which I’m convinced he decided to do when President Obama ridiculed his “birther” position, shortly after Obama was elected, at a White House correspondents’ dinner) I was like most, I think, surprised at that move. Throughout the nomination process I remained a devoted Ted Cruz supporter. I still think he would have made a better President. Whether he would have beat Hillary, who knows?

As you might guess from my support of Cruz, I am a lifelong Reagan Republican. The postwar (WWII, I suppose I now should add for clarification) conservative intellectual movement consisted of three legs of a stool: traditionalism, represented by Russell Kirk and Robert Nisbet; libertarianism, best represented, at least early on by Murray Rothbard, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman; and the anti-Communists which included James Burnham, Whittaker Chambers. As the differences sharpened between these three groups, there was an effort to bring these strains of thought together, to fuse them. Hence, “fusionism”, propounded by Frank Meyers. The best-known examples of individuals who combined all three influences together were William F. Buckley, Jr., who was arguably the founder of the movement, and Ronald Reagan. I have spent my life reading, studying, and advancing the ideas of conservatism. I know what it is and I are one.

Donald Trump, I am convinced, is not. There is nothing in his biography that gives any hint that he has said or done anything to advance conservative principles. As is well-known, he contributed to Planned Parenthood and a list of Democratic (i.e., not conservative) candidates. His history as a successful businessman was often advanced as suggestive of someone who would make sound decisions but it says nothing of what he even believes. It certainly doesn’t make one a conservative unless one wants to put George Soros, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos on the Right side of the divide. Further, his record of ruthlessness and bankruptcies in business says nothing about principles except a readiness to sacrifice all, including his creditors, in pursuit of the dollar. Between God (or other principles) and mammon, his choices in favor of the latter have been clear.

Even while “God’s spokesmen” lined up to support and endorse him. Shamefully so, in my opinion.

Trump’s behavior on the campaign trail gave me no further reason for confidence. There is no doubt that he lacked polish; he also doesn’t have the judgement, character, or temperament to occupy the Oval Office. And there is much reason to have such doubts to this day. He plays fast and loose with the truth. His virtually daily outbursts on Twitter display the maturity of a stunted 12-year old. A pathological narcissist and adolescent.

We conservatives became well-known—and mocked by the media and Hollywood elites--in the 90’s for insisting that character still matters. Congress not only impeached Bill Clinton but we cast aside our own for sexual misconduct: Bob Packwood, Bob Bauman, Mark Foley, and Larry Craig. And it still matters as Republicans wrestle with the proper response to the candidacy of a very popular Senatorial candidate, Roy Moore, accused of sexually assaulting a minor.

But in Trump’s case, at what point do his negatives cancel out accomplishments of his Presidency? Do they require that the positive entries in the ledger never be considered or even entered? We know that the media rarely give even a passing glance at them. For myself, I have remained a continual critic of Trump while acknowledging those “few” things he got right.

It is time for me to take a second look. And there is much there for conservatives to celebrate. My friends, who often accused me, rather ridiculously I might add, of being a Hillary supporter during the campaign, often reminded me of Trump’s commitment to appoint solid conservatives to the Supreme Court and other federal courts. And then came Neil Gorsuch. A knock out of the park. Trump came through. Though Reagan’s legacy also included Antonin Scalia and Ed Meese, who arguably began the originalist debate and revolution, his appointments also included Anthony Kennedy whose proximity to the Right side is belied by his reputation as a “swing” voter on the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch’s legacy, I will be presumptuous to predict, will equal the intellectual heft, if not the wit, of Antonin Scalia, and the fidelity to text and history of Scalia and Clarence Thomas. And Trump’s appointments to the appeals courts will only deepen that legacy as we see with the appointments of Kyle Duncan and Davis Stras.

We soon saw President Trump’s much-maligned and miss-distorted travel ban. He campaigned on tightening immigration, both from south of the border and of Muslims. He sought to clamp down on immigration from nations that did not adequately vet those leaving. Those nations included Venezuela and North Korea. The Supreme Court recently validated this executive prerogative in a 7-2 decision.

On the national defense side, the pluses start with the appointment of General “Mad Dog” Mattis as Secretary of Defense. Need I say more? OK, I will. Among the military accomplishments was the elevation of Cyber Command to a “Unified Combatant Command”, raising their profile and priority. For a glance at how far that capability has come I suggest that you read Fred Kaplan’s Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War. There was also the reversal, by President Trump, of President Obama’s decision to allow transgender individuals to serve in the military.

Diplomacy is again being used to advance U.S. interests. As a recent example, North Korea has again finally been re-designated as a “state sponsor of terrorism”. Long overdue. Just this week, Trump declared that the U.S. embassy will be moved to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, by which policy will reflect reality. Again, long overdue. The Trump State Department is also cutting funds to some United Nations organizations, such as the UN Population Fund.

The Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions (a particular favorite, being formerly a strong conservative Senator from my home state of Alabama) is a particular bright spot for conservatives. While there is a significant negative in Sessions’ commitment to civil asset forfeiture, he has sought to restore the rule of law in cracking down on sanctuary cities. Toward restoring the integrity of the election process, he demonstrated commitment to election integrity with the DOJ’s recent stand with Texas on its voter ID law. Justice also recently ended the Obama-era Operation Chokepoint initiative which sought to block some businesses, including firearms dealers and payday lenders, from having access to bank loans.

The Obama Administration’s collaboration with the far Left in the “sue and settle” strategy was ended. With “sue and settle” an environmental group, for example, would sue the Environmental Protection Agency and then reach a settlement by which a consent decree would be entered effectively extending regulations without benefit of legislation or even the formal regulation process. Regulation by litigation. Over.  For more on “sue and settle” read the Heritage Foundation study at

President Trump promised to trim down the Leviathan of regulation, saying he would do away with two regulations for every new one implemented. In this case, he has over-accomplished. In a presentation I heard from a representative from Freedom Works this past weekend (which was the inspiration behind this essay) I learned that the ratio is actually SIXTEEN to one.

A list of Trump accomplishments would be incomplete without mentioning the absolute paroxysms of hate and rage his election and presence in the White House has elicited. Oh, the joy this gives me. Beginning with the feminist protests and their pussy hats immediately after the inauguration to snowflake college students who simultaneously require safe spaces on the hearing of Trump’s name while also violently protesting conservative speakers, much of the “resistance” has more ideological affinity—and sympathy--for Venezuela’s government and Jane Fonda than protecting American interests. CNN programming is a continual drumbeat of anti-Trump “news”. Positives? If mentioned at all, they are covered as negatives.

Am I now a Trump supporter? Don’t rush out and get me a MAGA hat. Trump is still Trump. But Trump’s accomplishments? Many would make Reagan proud.

Gene Wisdom, a retired naval officer, is a lifelong conservative Republican.  He is a native Alabamian, and he and his wife have recently moved from Nashville, where they lived for ten years, to Knoxville. While in Nashville Gene was moderator of the Conservative Fusion Book Club. 

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1 comment:

  1. I'm in close agreement with most of what you've written above, concerning the intimate but by no means simple or clear connection between substance and style in politics. I do not find Trump admirable either as a man nor a political leader, but his success as a demagogue does not invalidate his agenda. Many of his appointments and policies do seem consistent with an informed conservative concept of what the federal government should be and do.