In Praise of Conscientious Conservatives

George Will, the dean of the conservative commentariat. Now a man without a party.

There are still conservative writers out there who have kept their integrity in this dark political era. This group is not as large as we might wish, but we should promote their work and appreciate the stand they are taking even if we often disagree with their other opinions. It will be a bleak future for American democracy if the poles of political debate range from racist/incompetent populism to technocratic liberalism to leftism. There  must be a place for thoughtful conservatism. Do you believe in the value of reasoned debate and the vigorous airing of dissenting opinions? Then support conservatives of integrity.

Here’s a roundup of some of their recent work.

Wheaton grad and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson:

Republicans got an administration that is morally small. Trump’s proposed budget would require massive cuts in disease research, global development and agricultural programs — just as a famine gathers a hideous strength. The proposed budget practices random acts of gratuitous cruelty.

This is a pretty bad combination: empty, easily distracted, vindictive, shallow, impatient, incompetent and morally small. This is not the profile of a governing party…

It is now dawning on Republicans what they have done to themselves. They thought they could somehow get away with Trump. That he could be contained. That the adults could provide guidance. That the economy might come to the rescue. That the damage could be limited.

Instead, they are seeing a downward spiral of incompetence and public contempt — a collapse that is yet to reach a floor. A presidency is failing. A party unable to govern is becoming unfit to govern.

Another former Bush speechwriter, David Frum, on the healthcare debacle:

I take no pride or pleasure in saying “I told you so.” We’ve all been wrong about enough things to teach us humility about our rare bursts of foresight. What I would urge is that those conservatives and Republicans who were wrong about the evolution of this debate please consider why they were wrong: Consider the destructive effect of ideological conformity, of ignorance of the experience of comparable countries, and of a conservative political culture that incentivizes intransigence, radicalism, and anger over prudence, moderation, and compassion.

Weekly Standard founder Bill Kristol:

Consider the last week alone: The Republican president continues to speak out with no recognition of the normal proprieties of the presidential office, no appreciation for the dignity of the nation he represents, and no acknowledgment that he should be constrained by the truth. Meanwhile, the president appoints his daughter a White House adviser, and empowers her husband to be involved in delicate matters of foreign policy. Nepotism is a fact of life, but it would be foolish to deny that unabashed nepotism is evidence of progress in degeneracy.

Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin:

Perhaps we should not be surprised by the flurry of unforced errors. President Trump has little relevant experience, zero curiosity in policy and a rotten temperament that suggests he is divorced from reality. His staff is a mix of ideological extremists and party hacks, none with White House experience. His 30-something daughter and son-in-law have no public experience, either. How did you think this was going to work?

And the man everyone on both sides loves to hate, David Brooks, on the failed health care bill:

I opposed Obamacare. I like health savings accounts, tax credits and competitive health care markets to drive down costs. But these free-market reforms have to be funded in a way to serve the least among us, not the most. This House Republican plan would increase suffering, morbidity and death among the middle class and poor in order to provide tax cuts to the rich…

The core Republican problem is this: The Republicans can’t run policy-making from the White House because they have a marketing guy in charge of the factory. But they can’t run policy from Capitol Hill because it’s visionless and internally divided. So the Republicans have the politics driving the substance, not the other way around. The new elite is worse than the old elite — and certainly more vapid.

These conservatives have kept their integrity. They insist that incompetence and corruption and cruelty are bad. As obvious as that ought to be, in our time these are controversial opinions. By airing them, these writers risk losing money, influence, and connections in the world of Republican politics. They are willing to pay a price for their integrity. May their ranks grow.

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