What is conservatism?
For about 15 years (2001 to 2016), there was a straightforward answer to this question. True Conservatism was right liberalism or conservative liberalism. Conservatism meant preserving the Global American Empire or the “rules-based international order.” It meant championing globalism and the expansion of free trade. It meant conserving liberal internationalism through showering the Pentagon with hundreds of billions of dollars in “defense spending,” supporting our NATO allies, celebrating the CIA and FBI as great American patriots and inciting stupid expensive wars in distant parts of Eurasia.
Among other reasons, this is why I was so hostile to conservatism. This is why I identified as a nationalist. I didn’t support any of this. The conservatives were people like Mona Charen, Jonah Goldberg and Bill Kristol who became the leading figures in the Never Trump movement. Those people, however, have been driven into exile on MSNBC and the composition of the Republican Congress is changing in every election cycle as more and more MAGA Republicans are elected and replace people like Liz Cheney.
Today, the definition of conservatism is up for grabs. There are plenty of MAGA Republicans who agree with my view, which is now mainstream, that we need to stop funding the war in Ukraine, withdraw from NATO, abolish the FBI, purge the Deep State and start firing the Pentagon generals like Mark Milley.
“At the moment when freedom-loving people around the world are elated (if on tenterhooks) at the progress of Ukrainian forces in pushing back the Russian invaders, Heritage Action, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, has joined with other self-styled conservative groups to oppose helping Ukraine fight for its life. I know, I know, the Trumpification of the GOP has been a fact for six years, and yet this heel turn is remarkable. It’s as if People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced that they support puppy mills for medical research. Responding to President Biden’s request that Congress appropriate another $13.7 billion to help the Ukrainians cope with energy price hikes and other security needs, Heritage Action urged a no vote, railing that “These funding requests ignore the concerns of the American people.”
The pro-Putin, pro-authoritarian voices in the GOP are not yet a majority—about a quarter of House Republicans and 11 of 50 Senators voted against the $40 billion aid package for Ukraine in May—but they’re not a small minority either, and the wind is at their backs. CPAC has all but canonized Hungary’s strongman Viktor Orban, and in the first hours after Putin rolled into Ukraine, Trump reveled in the murderer’s “savvy” and “genius.” The 2022 election could bring more authoritarian-friendly Republicans to Congress, and meanwhile, hatcheries of conservative orthodoxy like Fox News and The Federalist are doing the spade work of persuading the base that Kremlin propaganda is more trustworthy—pravda, if you will—than the New York Times. …
Now it’s goodbye to all that apparently. J.D. Vance, Trump’s hand-picked candidate for an Ohio Senate seat has said he doesn’t care one way or the other what happens to Ukraine. The Federalist denounces Mitch McConnell (who traveled to Ukraine to show support) and other “swamp creatures” for putting Ukraine’s security needs ahead of America’s. The vapidity of this new “conservatism” is bottomless. They haven’t bothered to consider that brutal aggression by a larger against a smaller state invites a Hobbesian international disorder in which no one is safe.
A number of Republicans have seized on the talking point that Biden is more concerned with Ukraine’s border than with our southern border. Blake Masters, the Thiel-conjured Republican nominee for senate in Arizona, sneered that America’s leaders are “buffoons who hate you so . . . they’ll keep defending Ukraine’s borders while turning their backs on ours.” Rep. Mary Miller and her ilk found this irresistibly witty and repeated it. …
These supposed conservatives are strangers to the most important themes of traditional conservatism. They dishonor the name. Conservatism was a worldview intimately bound up with opposition to tyranny. Of course we fell short of our aspirations from time to time, but love of freedom was in our DNA—or so it seemed. Our hearts were with oppressed peoples from Lithuania to Tibet to Tehran. We cheered the fall of the Berlin Wall because the USSR was a comprehensive, seven-decade assault on human dignity. We hated it for its repression of speech, thought, religion, movement, and enterprise. We hated it for its torrent of lies.
Putin’s Russia differs from the USSR in ideology, but in repression and rapacity, it is comparable. And it’s scarcely believable that the “useful idiots” who make excuses for it today—who actually root for its success—are “conservatives.”
We’re not a majority in the GOP.
We have established a large beachhead though.
There are Republican candidates and sitting members of Congress who are on record in support of defunding Zelensky and Ukraine. This America First faction should have more leverage over Republican leadership in a Republican Congress when Liz Cheney & Co. are gone in 2023.