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The Conservative Imperative for Understanding What’s Happening Now

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He should thank the conservative caucus for saving his rear end, and he should work with them, not try to take ’em out instead. It’s just a backwards step, and he’s gonna find out it’s a step he’ll take at his own peril. It’s a step one of his return to the — let’s call it the right-left previous activity of his political action. (Trump voters react to his attack on conservatives)

One of my email correspondents drew my attention to this comment from one of Rush Limbaugh’s listeners, reacting against Trump’s declaration of political war against the Freedom Caucus last month. My email friend thought that the phrase “the right-left previous activity of his political action” was a succinct characterization of my reasons for finding it difficult to believe in Donald Trump, even when his actions (like his nomination of Judge (now Justice) Neil Gorsuch) win applause from this or that issue constituency among conservatives.

As I thought about it, it seemed to me that the phrase does in fact capture a key aspect of the challenge President Trump represents for the conservatives who let their satisfaction with his rude treatment of the GOP’s quisling leaders triumph over the facts of his erratic, but mostly left-leaning life experience as a public figure. Now, as they watch the steps he is taking as President, they feel alternately driven to applaud his actions or cry out in dismay.

Contemplating this metaphorical dilemma, I realized why, in fact, it differs from my own observations of President Trump. The folks in the metaphor are watching the movement of Trump’s steps. They are content to react as at one moment he puts his right foot forward, the next his left, and so forth. But all this signifies is that he is walking. It tells nothing about the direction of his walk. Like a tacking ship, he seems to those on board to be going now this way, now that. But to know the direction in which he moves, one must know which way the wind is blowing. One must also know the heavens, and consult the position of the stars.

During the GOP primary season, the prevailing political winds blow from predominantly conservative quarters of the GOP’s grassroots voters. Donald Trump successfully gauged his rhetorical maneuvers accordingly. Now that he’s in office, the prevailing winds blow from the predominantly socialist quarters of the elitist faction’s powers-that-be- the media, money and bureaucratic forces (intertwining corporate and governmental entities) that hold sway over the fundraising and influence peddling activities through which politicians, and most issue-oriented citizen action groups, maintain the wherewithal to compete in electoral politics.

During this latter period of governance as opposed to electioneering, it may appear to those who have shipped out with him that Trump tacks from left to right. But though they are preoccupied alternately by encouraging hope or crestfallen disappointment, he may simply be a skillful captain, steering the ship toward a consistent goal. He steps this way and that, left, right; left right. Only someone who keeps an eye on the course those steps trace out against some consistent background, will realize that, overall, he tends always in the same direction.

How are we to judge that direction? For conservatives determined to preserve the constitutional, republican self-government of the American people, the principles, premises and provisions vital to its survival comprise the background they have continually to keep in mind. No matter that this or that action feels like it’s headed in the right direction; or dismays them by its leftward drift. They will seek to determine how such actions line up with the course required by the principles, premises and provisions essential to securing right and rights, including liberty, for all.

They will realize that it is not possible to know if the nation is headed in the right direction unless we continually remember the parameters of its existence, set forth when its journey began. And keep in mind the goal of reaching and maintaining a state defined in terms of the actions, consistent with God-endowed right and justice, by which humanity is preserved secure in the blessings of liberty.

When it comes to understanding, at any given moment, the course of current events in our nation, this describes the conservative imperative. I hope fellow Americans who have been reading my columns for the past twenty years or so will recognize it as an imperative I have consistently tried to respect. In light of it, events can never be considered without logically recurring to the foundational core of our identity as a nation. This cannot be done without patient and sequential thought. So the discussion of “what’s happening” requires more time and attention—both to write and to read. It requires more than facts and emotional declamations. Indeed, it may seem, at times, as if it deals with things as distant from the moment as the heavens are from earth.

But except we keep such things in mind, how can we make provision, in our present actions, for the goods we seek to preserve for our posterity. Isn’t this, after all, the goal of the sovereign constitutional act by which we claim to govern ourselves? It may serve the purposes of elitist power and ambition to act as if all that matters are our present feelings, whims, and satisfactions. Such actions will not preserve our good character as a free people; a people willing to fulfill our obligation to God, who made us capable of choosing to use our freedom rightly. Yet isn’t the good character by which we prove our capacity to merit the blessings of liberty exactly what we Americans must conserve, or else inevitably lose the claim that we have staked to decent freedom?

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