A number of Conservative thinkers have joined the lefties on MSNBC because they agree that Trump in the White House is an appalling atrocity. Left and right meet in a sort of stunned middle to try to inform voters about why Donald J. Trump is a danger to our democracy/republic.
We treat these erudite icons of Conservative opinion with respect. We give George Will, David Frum, David Brooks, Rick Wilson, Jennifer Rubin, Max Boot, and even Bill Kristol places on our panels of pundits and we listen to what they have to say. Perhaps we even suppose that they have been “woke”.
They appear with gray countenances and grizzled faces full of worry and pain. They look so tired and world weary. It is not that Republicans no longer embrace Conservative views, but most are busy pandering to Trump so these learned men seem stodgy, and because they cannot deal with Trump they are sidelined for the moment. Of course most Conservatives are not at all interested in economic equality and neither are these venerable men and women of the right. But Donald has no patience with the ivy league set, and could not moderate his behavior even if he wanted to be in the club. After all he was the best student at the best college in America and it wasn’t Harvard or Princeton.
All this being shunted aside has given Conservatives plenty of time for writing. Rick Wilson recently published Everything Trump Touches Dies. George Will just presented the world with The Conservative Sensibility. David Brooks’ book The Second Mountain just arrived on book shelves. David Frum wrote Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the America Republic, and World War Trump, 2019. Jennifer Rubin writes a column called Right Turn in the Washington Post, Bill Kristol still writes in The New York Times, Max Boot wrote The Road Not Taken in 2018, and Joe Scarborough fell in love with a Democrat and now speaks against the Trump administration on Morning Joe.
Those of us on the left who admire the new friends we have found for their intelligent commentary on the Trump administration should not imagine that these folks will stick around when (if) Trump is gone. Read their books. They still speak those Conservative talking points we all know so well, covered in philosophical rhetoric that makes their political ideas more opaque. When they speak about too much individualism and link that with the Democrats they are saying several things at once. Individualism is bad or its good depending on the point they wish to make.
If they are arguing that social benefits are bad for us because they squelch any struggle for survival that might produce extraordinary new inventions, businesses, organizations, they are actually making a horrified outcry against what they consider to be socialism and another way our (capitalist) republic could die. As I have said before, I am not opposed to capitalism, but I am opposed to unregulated capitalism. I also believe that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that our economy is rigged in favor of those who already have money. These thinkers do not agree. They think our economy is working exactly as it should.
In addition to worrying about individuality, Conservative thinkers also bemoan the loss of a sense of community. They seem to express this as a lack of spirituality (church, religion) and therefore of morals. I doubt that these folks would think the rise of Bible classes in American schools is unconstitutional. They see this as a positive thing, although it is aimed to make people less tolerant of people who practice other religions. Conservatives want America to be a Christian nation which might be alright if it wasn’t so 9th century. Since it pits Christians against Muslims and even Jewish people it could end in a religious war.
Another thing these thinkers have in common is a desire to ditch technology like computers and cell phones, etc. Clearly technology complicates both domestic and foreign affairs. People tend to live in their machines, in their bubbles. There are few ways that we know of to extend moral rules to activities like hacking. We can make the rules but they are too easily broken and the outcomes are often positive for the hackers. I doubt if we can run the reel of culture backwards. Computers may bring us a brave new world or they may be so ruined that they must be discarded. We’ll see.
Republicans see governing as a top-down process. So do some wealthy Democrats. But Democrats who must make their way up in a very lop-sided economy tend to see governing as a bottom-up operation. Normally Republicans who are not wealthy would have more in common with the Democrats in the same situation but these Republicans have been co-opted by the propagandists in right wing media. Conservatives are unlikely to ever understand or accept the new Dems.
So just don’t be surprised when our new Conservative friends wander back to the right wing fold when things get a bit less extreme. They are after all moderates on the right, they have not become part of the left. We appreciate their advice, their pronouncements about the evils of Trump; but as for the rest we must always remember that in their heart of hearts they still hold Conservative ideas and will help Republicans implement them when this fever breaks (if it ever does). With apologies to Jennifer Rubin, if these Ivy League educated entitled white male elites would spend a year pretending to be poor they might write a different book. I would definitely buy that book.