I have always admired Mona Charen. I continue to admire her even though I don’t agree with her Never Trump position.
I admire Mona for speaking out at CPAC against the invitation it issued to Marion Marechal-Le Pen. I admire her for warning a CPAC audience not to look the other way at sexual harassment when conservatives commit it.
Now that Mona is a Never Trumper who has spoken out at CPAC, the liberal media admires her too. It has a strange new respect for her.
Mona is the subject of an admiring piece in the Washington Post’s Style section, and in a CSPAN interview she mentioned recent appearances on MSNBC. In response to a question from the host, she added that she hasn’t appeared on Fox News in a while.
That Fox News isn’t interested in Mona’s point of view tells us plenty about that outlet. Kookie leftists are welcome on Tucker Carlson’s show, but there’s no room on the network for a thoughtful, conservative Never-Trumper.
I wonder, though. Did Joe Scarborough or others at MSNBC ever invite Mona to express her point of view during the Obama years? If not, this tells us plenty about that outlet, and the use it now wishes to make of Mona Charen.
Mona told the Post that the only way forward for people like her in the Republican Party is to reach out to Democrats. She says she doesn’t “want to sound Kumbaya,” but “the poisonous polarization we’ve seen is so dangerous.”
If Mona believes that reaching out to members of a party firmly committed to remaking America along hard-left lines is going to reduce polarization, then, yes, she sounds Kumbaya. At best.
During her CSPAN appearance, one caller asked Mona to acknowledge the conservative accomplishments of the Trump administration and to explain why, in view of these accomplishments, she remains a Never Trumper. Mona acknowledged the conservative accomplishments, but argued that they are outweighed by the damage Trump will do to Republicans and conservatives. In her view, young Americans won’t forgive Republicans for backing Trump, and the political fallout will last for many years.
There are problems with this argument. First, the conservative gains being made through the Trump administration are real; the future damage Mona expects is speculative.
Five years ago, no one expected that Donald Trump would ever be elected president. Six months before he was nominated, few expected he would be the GOP nominee. One day before the election, few expected he would win.
Why, then, should we have confidence in predictions about what the political landscape will look like ten years from now?
It’s certainly true that young voters are turned off by Trump. But pre-Trump, young voters were turned off by George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. Had Trump not emerged, would, say, a President Cruz be appreciably more popular with young Americans than Trump is? I doubt it.
The main problem Republicans have with young voters (beyond leftism’s inherent appeal to the infantile) is that the conservative message, particularly the rejection of identity politics, runs counter to what young people are being taught to believe. Conservatives can either pander to the young with an unconvincing me-too approach or they can fight back against the institutions that indoctrinate the young with political correctness, identity politics, and the rest of the toxic cocktail.
One thing I like about Trump is that he has opted for the latter response.
However, the most (and probably the only) promising way to make conservatism palatable to the young is the Reagan model — implement conservative, pro-growth policies; hope (and expect) them to produce positive results; and rely on young voters, as they become older, to appreciate and reward politicians who advocate these policies. Reagan’s successes didn’t translate into permanent conservative governance, but they staved off left-liberal governance for 20 years.
Anyway, even if Mona is right about the probable effects of Trumpism on the ability of conservatives to appeal to younger voters in the future, what, pragmatically, is gained by Never Trumpism? Will these voters be so impressed by the independence of Mona, Bill Kristol, et al. that they will forgive conservatives for the “sins” of Trump? No.
If Mona, Bill, et al. somehow persuade Republicans to repudiate Trump and nominate a conservative whose policies, by definition, will be similar to Trump’s, will the future be made safe for conservatives? Not likely.
Realistically, Never Trumpism isn’t about saving conservatism from the stain of association with Trump. It’s about saving Never Trumpers from that stain. I don’t condemn Never Trumpers from wishing to save themselves, as they see it. But they shouldn’t imagine they are doing conservatism a favor.
Indeed, it is possible that hatred of Trump will cause some Never Trumpers to abandon conservatism, in part or in whole. There’s evidence that this is already happening. In my view, it’s a more realistic prospect than Never Trumpers saving conservatism by relentlessly opposing a president who is implementing a mainly conservative agenda.
The best way to promote conservatism is to support vigorously President Trump’s efforts to implement conservative agenda items. This means encouraging Republican Senators and Congressmen to stick with the president to the extent he pushes such items.
It means supporting Trump when, as seems certain, the Democrats nominate a liberal (or worse) to run against him in 2020. Not to support Trump in such a race is preemptive surrender. It would tend to render self-fulfilling Mona’s prediction that Trump will produce the demise of conservatism. So would reaching an alliance with Democrats, for there are no conservative Democrats to speak of.
I’m not urging anyone to abstain from criticizing Trump. He should be criticized when he promotes non-conservative policies (in the eye of the beholder) and for outrageous behavior, of which there will be plenty.
However, not every foible or bit of obnoxiousness should be treated as an outrage. Let’s leave that to the left-wing resistance, which encompasses Mona Charen’s new admirers at the Washington Post Style section and at MSNBC.