W. R. Collier Jr- The Red Conservatives are following Erick Erickson and his supporters into open rebellion against the Republican Party and possibly into the political wilderness. They are doing so because of disgust with Donald Trump and the Party shot callers who can be blamed for his rise.
Back in 2004 I was arguing to friends that the Republican Party had 10-20 years or so before it would potentially go the way of the Wigs. I said this because of what I saw as a widening gap between the views and aspirations of the shot callers and movement conservatives.
The shot callers not only have a more limited aspiration but they tend to read today’s polling data and trends as set in stone and irreversible. The movement conservatives tend to read polls and trends as fluid and reversible. The shot callers want to contain and reduce the size of government within “reason.” Movement conservatives want nothing less than a strict constructionist reading of the Constitution that reduces Federal power to a mere fraction of what it is now.
Not only do movement conservatives want less government, they want and demand more growth: seeking 4% and 5% growth may be dismissed even by GOP shot callers who control the Party, but this goal is far more aspirational than settling for an anemic growth for the US economy of 2% or less which doesn’t even match the population growth rate. Watching their own real income contract even as Party bosses seem to LAUGH at the notion of 4% to 5% growth rates, only fuels an inner rage at the system.
Finally, for movement conservatives, the fecklessness and ineffectiveness of the shot callers to even achieve their limited goals, even when they have both houses of congress, is a source of frustration. Millions of people gave and worked to give the GOP those majorities, only to see the likes of Paul Ryan do deals with the Democrats that undercut, and betrayed, everything they said they COULD do when they were seeking those majorities.
And now we enter the twilight zone freakshow that is The Trump Train and for movement conservatives, unimpressed with, at best, a late conversion to some form of populist conservatism, the frustration level is over-flowing. And while one might suspect they are angry at Trump and his supporters, and perhaps they are to some extend, they blame the shot callers, the Party bigwigs, whose creature this is.
Most Americans are not ideological. This means they don’t fathom and comprehend ideological principles of economics, public policy, or governance in general. They don’t even consider inquiring into such matters. Think about THAT: the general public do not consider the principles and laws of cause and effect which ought to be known and followed to have such things as economic growth, peace and security, and good government (in short, overall prosperity). Movement conservatives do consider such things, they think deeply about them, and they work to implement them, often being opposed by both their own Party and the Democrats.
This is important to understand. Donald Trump is winning a core constituency of people, and it is in fact growing, most of whom do not think ideologically at all. Instinctively, they reject the left’s utopian nonsense, and they desire propsperity, peace and security, and, perhaps to a lesser degree, good government. Donald Trump, cussedly, gives them the vision of a possible future in which the border is tightly controlled, illegals and other refugees who might undermine their culture and economy are removed and kept out, trade deals somehow bring jobs back to the US and make us all richer, and the economy grows at unheard-of rates. As for social issues, much to the chagrin of social conservatives such as myself, other than lip service, Trump’s supporters overall don’t care.
For movement conservatives, Trump’s brand of “common sense conservatism”, as he calls it, is heresy. For instance, conservatism at its root really is not jingiostic and anti-immigrant or anti-foreigner, the idea of equal opportunity is a huge core value, the natural meritocracy of the free market sorts those who should rise from those who shouldn’t. The idea that illegal immigrants are “taking our jobs” or somehow depriving us of wealth seems to defy the conservative credo that wealth is unlimited and that the more people produce, the more wealth is CREATED- an illegal immigrant can’t TAKE your wealth, they can produce their own and you can produce your own. Even if you oppose amnesty and open borders, as I do, you don’t necessarily think illegal immigrants are stopping YOU from producing your own wealth.
Take the issue of trade. For movement conservatives, trade is not about “jobs”, it is about comparative advantage where we sell what we are good at producing and we buy what others are good at producing. You look at a trade imbalance and consider that our economy is under-producing, not that the Chinese, for instance, are over-producing. You look at inversions and US companies moving abroad and you consider how regulatory and tax policy are killing businesses, not whether or not they produce goods in the US or abroad. You consider the “Chinese currency manipulation” argued by Mr Trump and how the US is guilty on all counts: the artificial devaluation of the US Dollar by the magic of the Fed printing presses is leading to all sorts of trade problems, most of which Trump blames on foreigners while his economic plan ignores the issues related to sound money.
The Trump Train is rolling and, I predict, could put Trump in the White House where he would pursue policies that are populist and potentially jingoistic and isolationalist, where he could unravel the free trade regimen. He might be good for finding a less objectionable Supreme Court nominee, for not going after the Bill of Rights (though his comments on libel laws have raised some questions), and on taxes but his course would be a sort of mishmash of liberal and conservative ideas which are at odds with one another. One can hardly assume he understands, let alone will follow, the values and principles of conservatism!
Trump’s constituency are not looking for a conservative because the BRAND has already been RUINED by the GOP shot callers who time and again have campaigned as conservatives and then, in league with the Democrats, have created the current crisis of confidence and, yes, malaise. When one says “Trump is not a conservative”, for most people that’s like saying “he’s no George Bush” or “he’s no Paul Ryan.” They might even argue that Trump is a conservative because of his rhetoric, which is a not well thought out caricature of conservatism.
But for movement conservatives who have thought all of this through, in detail, Trump is an abomination and so are the shot callers whose utter failures have led to Trump. And, finally, at the end of their rope, the Red Conservatives led by Erick Erickson, are considering what had been unthinkable: ending their ties to the GOP and going their own way. Their goal is not to give the election to Hillary, though they realize they face long odds, their goal is to create and control a vehicle for pursuing the true conservative agenda. While I might argue that this is not the right time to do this, as Erick Erickson considers launching a new political party, I cannot deny that a part of me wouldn’t be drawn to such a party, consequences be damned.
What I said in 2004 is that if a new and truly aspirational and conservative party were to get started it would need four things:
1. Many dozens (perhaps 100) members of Congress switching affiliation overnight
2. Access to over a billion dollars in funding from day one
3. The ability to recruit/mobilize over 3 million activists around the country rapidly on the ground to re-register at least 50 million voters
4. Many of the major conservative thought leaders coming out in support calling on their followers to join the new party
But I have strong doubts that Erick Erickson is the man to lead this charge. Here is a man who accepted the media assigning the color red to the GOP and he not only missed the propaganda signifigance of both making the GOP color hostile and removing the obvious red=communist connotation of assigning it to the Democrats, but he embraced it. From the start I have always believed this was a mistake and to this day I refuse to accept the notion the media should be allowed to decide the color that represents our movement: Erickson’s acceptance of that is, to me, a disqualifier. This is why I use the phrase “Red Conservatives.”
Another fault I find with Erickson’s approach is that he often uses half-truths or sensationalization or even buys into the leftist narrative to attack Trump. For instance, saying Trump is to blame for violence directed by people associated with President Obama seriously undermines the conservative cause. Painting Trump as a nazi or saying he “would be as bad” or worse than Hillary Clinton are simply absurd statements: at worse Trump would be somewhat like what we’ve had from Republican Presidents since after Reagan.
As for Trump “destroying the brand”, consider it destroyed already by the Party shot callers. And the evidence of that? Trump’s constituency grows day by day and ours gets smaller.
One can forgive and understand why so many refuse to vote for Trump or are willing to even use dirty tricks to stop him, but these same people who consider themselves leaders of the conservative movement have also failed to fight the faux conservative shot callers in the Republican Party. Erickson in particular showed his fecklessness by accepting the media’s diktat on what color should represent our entire movement! He and his merry band are Red Conservatives, whose color is chosen by the media.
Sure the current Party shot callers have ruined our brand, but the current conservative movement leadership has been unable to fight them or the media, and now that Trump, the latest faux conservative, is riding a new wave of support they want us to abandon the GOP, possibly cede the election to Hillary Clinton, and follow THEM? Should we follow them when this lot couldn’t even hold the line against letting the media choose their color? (I jave NEVER been a Red Conservative and have always been a True Blue Conservative as BLUE is the global color of conservatism and always has been.)
Hyperventilating about Trump ruining the conservative brand by leaders who have been unable to protect that brand from GOP shot callers and media manipulation somehow feels disenqenuine and, sadly, unsportsmanlike. Trump is winning the primary, by the rules set, and he has no less or more majorities than Romney or McCain did, both faux conservatives, and these feckless leaders weren’t threatening to bolt back then. But unlike Romney and McCain, Trump has enthusiastic supporters and he is drawing a broader base of supporters, and he can beat Hillary with his unpredictable antics and his mastery of the media, a fact many deny based on current polling numbers which, like the GOP shot callers they loath, they seem to believe are fixed and unchangeable.
As Trump’s “ceiling” is rising, and as every prediction of his campaign collapsing fails, and as he grows in strength while the GOP field of candidates shrinks, we see these “leaders” headed for the exits in frustration. But just as I blame Trump on the Party shot callers I blame Erickson’s band of Red Conservatives on them as well, and I totally understand why they feel compelled to do what they are doing.
I would look to see who Trump promises to appoint to offices to see what kind of administration he will have, but, as I see it, he’ll win the general election even if all the Red Conservatives follow the Erickson crowd into the wilderness. Going there will be rendering all of the Red Conservatives outcasts, leaving to us True Blue Conservatives, who have neither abandoned our Party NOR our principles, the task of continuing the battle to take back OUR Party and to influence the Trump administration as best we can to adopt conservative policies.