I understand that the pull of partisanship is strong. But such justifications ultimately underscore the moral and intellectual decay that has spread as a result of Trump and Trumpism. Many people on the right, in choosing to support Trump over Hillary Clinton, began to accommodate themselves to their decision. They began the process of normalizing Trump, and normalization is now giving way to loyalty. They are now following his lead. What they once found unacceptable is increasingly tolerable. Donald Trump is now steering this ship, so why not relax and come along for the wild ride?
A redefinition of the Republican Party and conservatism, then, is well underway. That was clear from CPAC, where Trump and Bannon were dominant and even celebrated figures. (Arguing that Trump’s effort to refashion conservatism is a worrisome thing doesn’t mean that he won’t make good selections and do good things from time to time. Both can happen at once; and he knows the latter will help him achieve the former.)
Events, including the new administration's own ratio of competence to incompetence, will ultimately determine how successful Trump and his aides, including Steve Bannon and Steve Miller, are in realizing their ambitions. In the meantime, some of us will continue to resist their efforts to transform conservatism into an ethno-nationalist, blood-and-soil movement, one animated by grievances and a Nietzschean ethic. And those on the right who are making their accommodation with Trump might reflect for a moment on the words of Edmund Burke, who wrote that certain means, once tolerated, are soon preferred.Sol Stern writes at The Daily Beast:
The far bigger danger that [David] Horowitz and other pro-Trump conservative intellectuals are in denial about is our new president’s uniquely flawed character, his ignorance of the world and his evident incompetence to organize an American government now facing acute and unprecedented worldwide challenges.
In his 1953 anti-totalitarian classic, The Captive Mind, the Czech writer Czeslaw Milosz described how European intellectuals betrayed their commitment to thought and truth for the illusion that their utopian hopes for change might be satisfied by real communism in power. In the early days of the New Left, Horowitz recognized that this age-old dream of a better world could easily be corrupted when it was attached to state power and a demagogic party leader using the big lie technique. A half century later, in the strange case of Donald Trump, Horowitz has fallen for the same illusion he once warned against.
I am convinced this will end badly for our country, but it’s almost as disturbing that it will end badly for the once idealistic conservative movement in America. This time, when the dreams of radical change fall apart, there will be no redemptive moment as in The God That Failed for Horowitz and his fellow Trump intellectuals.
It will, instead, be transparently pathetic and shameful that men and women of intellect and ideas served as a bodyguard of lies for a low-life con man who managed to disgrace the American presidency.Tim Alberta writes at Politico:
In his meandering 48-minute speech, Trump did not once use the words “liberty” or “constitution.” He did not invoke the name of Ronald Reagan, the last Republican president to address CPAC during his first year in office, and to whom he was incessantly compared throughout the week. He made no reference to “government,” in terms of keeping it small, limited or otherwise. And the only time he uttered the word “conservative” was in reference to his triumph at the ballot box. “Our victory was a victory ... for conservative values,” Trump declared.
Then, in a stroke of strategic and rhetorical genius, the president conflated those “conservative values” with his own. “The core conviction of our movement,” Trump told his standing-room-only audience, “is that we are a nation that will put its own citizens first.” The crowd ate it up.
To Trump—and to his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who appeared on a Thursday panel alongside chief of staff Reince Priebus—this means pursuing an agenda of “economic nationalism” that, among other things, restricts trade, subsidizes certain domestic businesses and borrows and spends large sums of money to spur job growth and wealth creation. None of this is remotely compatible with the modern conservative movement, which has been defined to a large extent by its adherence to the principles of free trade, free markets and fiscal restraint.
It wasn’t just the ubiquitous deification of Trump that was so jarring. It was the degree to which his worldview was accepted, championed and cheered by conservative speakers and attendees with no obvious connection to the new president. Consistently, anti-trade rhetoric drew the loudest ovations, especially when packaged as part of a broader assault on “globalism,” a particular hobbyhorse of Bannon and the Breitbart crew.