The Republican Party has nominated Donald Trump as its presidential candidate.
I don't hold the Republican Party in particularly high esteem. In fact, I would say that for the last several decades, the party has operated to make the world worse, which is partly why I feel the Democratic Party is one of the greatest forces for good in the world.
Moreover, I don't have a lot of respect for conservatism. Or to be more precise, I have tremendous respect for certain ideas that are typically labeled "conservative," but I have next to no respect for the conservative movement in the United States. It is a racist, sexist, homophobic movement that preys on its supporters and coarsens public discourse. It uses its smartest and best members as fig leaves. Its rhetoric is disgusting and its most successful practitioners (Ann Coulter is a great example) aim their appeals at people's darkest instincts.
It is also immensely hypocritical: its response to Black Lives Matter has been to proclaim, indignantly, that all lives matter. I want to emphasize that "all lives matter" is actually a very nice sentiment if it is taken seriously, and it implies radically different policies on guns, war, foreign aid, etc. In this it is much like "equality of opportunity," a phrase that is used as a cudgel against liberalism but which actually implies a level of social spending that would dwarf anything we've ever seen in this country. But only if you take the slogan seriously
, which these pieces of shit manifestly don't. The same goes for their Christian platitudes: if you seriously believe in injecting Christian morality into public policy, or into public life, then you believe in a radically more egalitarian and forgiving society than the one we live in. Or you could, you know, just beat up on gay people. Conservatives overwhelmingly prefer the latter.
All in all I despise conservatism more than I despise almost anything else. I am therefore chastened to find that many prominent conservatives are conducting themselves with integrity in the face of Trump's takeover of the Republican Party. Not Coulter, of course, but a surprisingly long list of conservatives, many of whom I would have labeled hacks. It's important to recognize that some of this is self-interest (an ideologue has every reason to oppose the takeover of his party by someone with no commitment to his values), but on the whole this doesn't detract from the honor of the dissenters. People signed up to fight for the Union for all kinds of reasons, not all of them admirable, but the important thing is that they risked their lives to bring an end to an evil regime. It is the same with the anti-Trump conservatives.
It brings to mind "Easter 1916":
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
A terrible beauty is born.
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse—
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
In the case of the honorable conservatives, I'm not going to write it out in verse, but it's a fairly long list, extending from complete embarrassments like Bill Kristol through pretty much the entire staff of the National Review, including Ramesh Ponnuru and Reihan Salam, through Ross Douthat and David Brooks and David Frum, and sweeping up even the execrable Erick Erickson.
These people aren't just against Trump, they are fighting against him, writing against him, undermining his candidacy, giving courage to his opponents. Atypically for movement conservatives, they are not just invoking character but actually displaying it.
This is not a call for a complete re-assessment of conservatism. It is also not meant as any kind of favorable comparison to the Democrats, whose fight against Trump and what he stands for is longer and more vigorous and (inshallah) more effective. The Democrats remain our country's best hope for the future, as they have been since at least FDR, through the civil rights plank in 1948, through the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the creation of Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security, the Affordable Care Act, gay marriage, and on and on. The Republicans nominated Trump, the Democrats will defeat him.
Instead this is a signpost I am putting down to note the fact that many conservatives are elevating themselves above the usual bullshit and conducting themselves with honor. They deserve the benefit of the doubt in the future, and they deserve our thanks in the present.