A number of conservatives who spent the last few decades telling Americans they should support the Republican Party — despite it fielding unconservative candidates — have suddenly decided that ideological purity matters.
For instance, columnist George Will on Friday announced his departure from the Republican Party — during an appearance at a Federalist Society luncheon no less. Will joins a number of self-proclaimed conservatives who have abandoned the GOP ship since it became clear that Trump would likely be the party’s nominee.
The problem with the George Wills of America suddenly claiming to value conservative purity is that this concern for conservatism was conspicuously absent in 2012, 2008, and 2000.
“I joined it because I was a conservative, and I leave it for the same reason: I’m a conservative,” said Will, who signed up in 1964 after being inspired by Sen. Barry Goldwater.
“The long and the short of it is, as Ronald Reagan said when he changed his registration, ‘I did not leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left me,'” he said.
Will’s reasoning echoes that of many in the NeverTrump camp, who claim that the GOP’s selection of Trump as a candidate represents some profound and innovative betrayal of conservatism.
Choosing ideological purity over party loyalty may seem like a principled decision — perhaps even a noble one. But the problem with the George Wills of America suddenly claiming to value conservative purity is that this concern for conservatism was conspicuously absent in 2012, 2008, and 2000.
“What matters, at least to me, is that I can sleep with a clear conscience,” writes National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg on his reasoning for joining the NeverTrump club. But Goldberg’s conscience didn’t seem to be bothering him in 2012, when he authored “The Case for Romney” for National Review Online.
Goldberg admitted Romney’s lack of conservative credentials, calling him “a late immigrant to conservatism,” and noting that he “doesn’t speak the language naturally.”
Despite this, Goldberg insisted that “voting for Romney isn’t a betrayal, it’s a transaction.” In return for this grand bargain, conservatives would get a president who wasn’t a Democrat and had to pass some of their agenda. Goldberg also derided conservative “die-hards” who refused to support Romney because of his lukewarm conservatism.
This has been the song sung by the chorus of mainstream so-called conservative writers and thinkers for over two decades. We know “insert name here” isn’t a true, ideological doctrinaire conservative, but he’s not that bad, and he’s certainly better than the Democratic alternative — so vote for him anyway.
But now that the GOP candidate isn’t an Establishment shill, champing at the bit to invade the Middle East or willing to put the interests of multinational corporations and the global financial elite above the American worker, the guardians of the American faux-conservative movement have changed their tune.
“I honestly believe that a President Trump would do enormous, perhaps fatal, damage to the conservative movement as we know it,” a new Goldberg with an apparently newfound respect for ideological purity writes.
Trump may very well not be a real conservative. But a Trump presidency would not do nearly as much damage to the conservative movement as those — like Goldberg and Will — who protested little as the Republican party sold the American people a toxic mix of globalization and foreign intervention and claimed it was conservatism.