What’s Wrong with the Right?

In my last post, I tried to explain my fundamental problem with the “conservatism” of the Republican Party. This time, I would like to finish up by laying out the specific problems I have with their actual practice (or lack thereof).

First, Republicans refuse to encourage virtue. Instead of promoting an idea on its own merits, they rely on utilitarian arguments that don’t resonate with the American people. And they’re not very good at those either; if they were, they would’ve done a better job conveying the negative effects of liberal policy on cities, minorities, low-income families, and the economy at large. Republicans are still operating under the outdated assumption that people don’t want to hear moral arguments in political debate; after all, modern liberalism grew out of the demand for tolerance and diversity. But that’s all changed in the last ten or twenty years. Now it’s the left who argues from a place of moral superiority (even if they’re wrong), and their emotional appeals have been widely accepted. But Republicans are too afraid of offending people who already oppose them to make a moral case for their policy prescriptions. They rarely attract new voters because their elected representatives sound cold and hollow. Meanwhile, the moral relativists on the left have adopted the reverse strategy to great – and bewildering – success.

Second, Republicans accomplish almost nothing. In my lifetime, they never have; and it seems they don’t want to. At best, they’re reactionary: they might come out strongly against liberal policies – but only after their constituents demand it and only after it’s too late to make much of a difference. More often, they prefer holding the line to any real action. They talk a big game when they’re out of office, but all they really want is to prevent Democrats from winning elections. Being in office is the entire goal, so they’re happy to get paid for doing basically nothing. That’s why they campaign on conservative issues they never intend to honor: because it’s a good fundraising tactic. It’s why they side with liberals once they get there: because the left leaves them alone if they pose no threat. And even if they get nothing done, they know conservatives will prefer them to a Democrat. It’s a good plan for ambitious, ineffective politicians, and it’s still better than the leftist alternative. But it’s not what their supporters want – or what the nation needs.

Third, Republicans accommodate liberalism more than conservatism. Over the past century, they allowed for the rise of an administrative state that now effectively runs the government – unelected bureaucrats and “experts” who enact permanent change for progressive causes… with no accountability to the people. By contrast, the meager efforts of Republicans don’t matter in the long run, because they’re swept away every election or two. And those efforts are often indistinguishable from Democrats; today’s conservatives would’ve been counted as liberals in the not-so-distant past. On social issues, they cave to Hollywood, corporations, and shrieking college students. In Congress, they give bipartisan support to massive spending bills that ultimately benefit no one but the politicians. They pander to the left in hopes of attracting new voters, thus alienating their own for people who hate them. In their efforts to appeal to everyone – an impossible idea that Democrats never entertain – Republicans end up appealing to no one.

Fourth, Republicans behave as if nothing can be done without the consent or approval of the left. Every time Democrats blame them for some new tragedy, Republicans bend over backwards to denounce crime and condemn their own radical wing. In return, the Democrats give them no credit, no grace, and no hint of the same courtesy when things are reversed (as they often are). But do Republicans hold their feet to the fire? Of course not. They’re too busy defending themselves as if they owe the left an explanation. Every time Democrats change the rules or move the goal posts, Republicans follow like good little dancing monkeys. For heaven’s sake, they’re arguing with people who want to legalize crime and mutilate children. The only reason to engage with them at all is because they pose a political threat. They should confront the left with courage, calmness, confidence, and contempt. It only takes thirty seconds and a functioning brain to debunk their vile nonsense. Yet Republicans spend more time coddling the Democrats like a spoiled child. For every victory they win, they accept three or four defeats. Their inability to take charge – especially with the current descent into leftist lunacy – is a true sign of their incompetence.

Fifth, Republicans have a habit of sabotaging themselves. As I said in the previous paragraph (and the previous post, for that matter), they don’t know how to successfully sell their brand. They participate in debates and interviews with a left-leaning bias. They nominate “moderates” instead of conservatives – but still confirm radical nominees from the left. They refuse to vet Supreme Court justices on matters of conservative importance – while Democrats require party loyalty above judicial integrity. They bow to the authority of liberal institutions and bureaucrats who have long abandoned credibility. They occasionally say (and do) things almost as dumb as the ones of which they’re accused. They adopt the language of the left without knowing it: undocumented immigrants instead of illegal aliens; racial labels determined by minority activists; politically charged catchphrases; preferred pronouns; and the ever-growing string of letters by which gays and transsexuals have chosen to identify themselves. They welcome radicals to the G.O.P. in a pathetic attempt to “out-lib” the left. And when Democrats accuse them of a partisan conspiracy to undo liberal precedent, Republicans prove them wrong by actually cooperating with the left… and then stupidly applaud themselves for their own honest defeat.

Finally, Republicans refuse to lead us back the way we came. No matter how radical things get, their only strategy is to insist on going no further. They take the word “conservative” so literally as to only fight for the status quo – as defined by the left. They never stand their ground; they just pretend to be outraged for a few years and then forget about it. Every time they lose ground, they pretend to plant their flag firmly on the next hill; but they can’t be trusted to hold their position if they never try reclaiming the ones they’ve lost. Little by little, they’ve surrendered all of their old values, up to and including the definition of marriage and the lives of children – even while paying lip service to conservatism. (“I may not agree with that, but it’s your choice – as long as we draw the line here” is just a coward’s way of giving up.) I want low unemployment and growing markets as much as the next guy, but there’s more to worry about than our current levels of prosperity. We need to undo the damage that’s already been done by honoring the Original New Deal laid out in the Constitution: give power back to the states so that “we the people” can fight for life and liberty on the local level. But aside from lacking the talent and tenacity to get it done, Republicans seem hesitant to return to a time when they had less power over the American people.

But what’s the point of having that power if they’re not willing to use it? Even when they hold all the cards, the G.O.P. shows no interest or competence in shaping the role of government. They could be rolling back excessive spending and regulations, dismantling useless agencies, and decentralizing the federal government; if they believe in limited government, they need to limit it. They could be proposing and campaigning for constitutional amendments to correct the abuses of the left and prevent further encroachments; even if they’re unsuccessful, it could generate support. (Maybe a real push for an anti-abortion amendment would finally spur the abortionists to shoot themselves in the foot. It worked for slavery.) They could overturn the rules and laws that Democrats put in place without proper authority. They could investigate and prosecute the corruption and potential criminality of the left instead of letting it go every time there’s a party switch. They could outlaw the election of ideologues who openly oppose the Constitution. They could start using the impeachment process to hold Democrats accountable for violating it. They could bring actual charges against them – even for breaking their oaths to uphold the law. What’s the point of a swearing people in if comes with no consequences? It may not technically count as perjury, but shouldn’t it be synonymous for elected officials?

But, no! say the Republicans. That’s going too far! Protecting American law would be a violation of American law! Besides, they say, if we play hardball, Democrats might do the same. Well, I’ve got news for you, pal: they’re doing that already.

Some might think I’m arguing that Republicans aren’t conservative enough; and that’s a fair summary. Others may think I’m accusing the G.O.P. of normal political shortcomings; and that seems fair as well. But I would like to clarify that Democrats and Republicans are in no way guilty of all the same things. Every negative action on the right can be leveled against the left as well. That’s part of the problem: they’re too much like Democrats, at least in terms of the actual effect they have on the country. As the alleged party of faith, family, and founding fathers, they should hold themselves to a higher standard. That means more than good behavior; it means doing the right thing. The biggest failure of the political right is inaction and complacency. Everything else – the corruption, the blunders, the flagrant hypocrisy – is present on both sides, but with a mountain of additional sin on the left. Republicans are guilty of some errors committed on the left; Democrats practice all that and infinitely more.

The right may not be much good, all truth be told; heaven knows they could improve without a lot of effort. Their failures infuriate me. But even at their dumbest, they’re the better option. As a Christian, I don’t think any God-fearing American can vote Democrat unless they’re hopelessly confused. As I said in the title of a previous post, there’s “No Good Reason” to do so otherwise.

There are certainly misguided Christians on the right as well – those who value guns as much as God, for example. But self-defense and capitalism are not incompatible with Christianity. The modern left is. And that’s why, for all of its numerous flaws, I still vote right. (You see what I did there?)

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