To Be or Not to Be: The Existential Crisis for Conservative Republicans

In William Shakespeare’s Classic Tragedy “Hamlet,” the young prince, through urgings of the ghost of his father, grapples with the injustice of his father’s murder and his uncle’s usurpation of his throne and the rapid marriage of his mother to his uncle.  In Act 3, Hamlet delivers his famous existential soliloquy “To Be or Not to Be, that is the question.” He contemplates the known sorrow of life where he feigns madness and spurns love compared to the unknown future of non-existence – death.  Hamlet chooses to live to see through his promise to his father’s ghost to avenge his father’s murder, but, as in any good tragedy, in the process he loses all that he loves, his kingdom and ultimately his own life (Sorry for the spoiler, but come on, you should have read it) giving his kingdom to the son of the man Hamlet’s own father had killed.

Today, Conservative Republicans have reached their own existential crisis with the rise and election of Donald Trump as the leader of the Republican party.  The very movement launched by men such as William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan which had dominated the Republican party since Reagan has found itself out of the driver’s seat.  The very movement that had provided the energy that gave Republicans control of Congress, the Tea Party, had found a new champion in Donald Trump.  Anger at the failure of Republicans to deliver change with control of Congress swelled to throw out “RINOs” and “Establishment” or as Trump named the chant “Drain the swamp.”  Like Prince Hamlet, they hear the ghosts of Lincoln and Reagan, but what are the ghosts saying? Rise up and seek revenge on the usurper? Run away and set up a government in exile?  Join the enemy of the Crown?

Trump was an unlikely champion of Tea Party conservatives and social conservatives. He was historically a liberal and a frequent visible supporter of Democrats. He had a well known immoral past and a very tenuous connection to Christianity.  Yet social conservatives (particularly white evangelicals) freely embraced him in the face of what they perceived as a steady attack on their religious culture – legalization of same sex marriage, transgender us of public restrooms, the rise of political correctness, “white privilege,” Black Lives Matter vs. Blue Lives Matter, the “war on Christmas,” etc.  There was also a rising fear of immigrants – fueled largely by the large migrations of Syrian refugees into Europe and America and the attacks of ISIS, which included attacks on American soil.  There was a sense to them that the country was “out of control.”  It was not a time for reason and compromise. It was time to “Make America Great Again” because we were going to be overrun by immigrants, killed by terrorists or lose Chirstmas. Obama and Clinton were clearly responsible for this and Trump was the solution.

In this atmosphere, there was little room for traditional conservative principles. Conservatives were fractured in the 2016 election.  Many initially opposed Trump and declared “Never Trump” only to return to the fold and vote Republican because the thought of President Hillary Clinton was completely untenable.  Others saw Trump as the greater threat and decided to vote for Clinton.  Still others, like myself, could bring not bring ourselves to vote for either and voted for third party candidates or refused to vote in that election.

Of course, Trump did win.  Following the election, most conservatives, including me, took a (less than optimistic) wait and see approach – ready to support conservative principles, but also ready to criticize where necessary. Others, however, took a decidedly different path.  A surprising number to me, became as John McCormack of the Weekly Standard recently coined the term, “Neo-Trump” and firmly lined up behind the President – occasionally becoming uncomfortable with his actions, but not standing to oppose in any way.  Others, like for example Sen. Marco Rubio, have been generally supportive, but also vocally critical on certain issues. As a whole however, the GOP Congress, while not giving Trump everything he wants, has been most cautious to confront or cross Trump. Those who have, have not fared well. Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake chose not to seek re-election. Recently, Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) went down to primary defeat.

However, another significant faction, much to my surprise have discovered themselves to be “neo-liberal” and have all but left conservatism behind to join the Resistance – Trump being the focus of modern evil.  Washington Post Columnist Jennifer Rubin, for example, still calls her column “Right Turn,” but its clear she has made a U turn.  I’ve observed a number of other “conservative voices” in blogging and on social media do a total flip over Trump.

Others have either formally left the Republican party as a protest over Trump’s behavior or policies such as separation of families at the border.  Yet another group remains in the party but strongly advocates that Democrats win control of Congress to purge and repudiate Trumpianism from the GOP.

The late great Charles Krauthammer coined the term “Bush Derangement Syndrome” to describe Democrats who had lost all sense of reason of President George W. Bush. He described as: “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.”  To no one’s surprise, the term “Trump Derangement Syndrome” has been applied to anyone who does not sing Trump’s praises or dares to criticize non-conservative policies, e.g. protectionist tariffs, or outrageous and immoral behavior that degrades the office of the President and reflects horribly on Republicans. I have frequently been accused of TDS.

I would concur that TDS is real.  I have watched conservatives I admire become so frothed at the mouth as to incomprehensibly advocate what they fought against for years – because of Trump. Contrary to my critics, my positions have not changed. I advocate the same core conservative principles that I have advocated most of my adult life – with a few changes recent years (immigration reform and same sex marriage), but those changes occurred pre-Trump and have nothing to do with him. Nonetheless, my critics routinely assure me that my positions and the strength of my support for them are mere products of “Trump hate.”

I’ll be the first to admit it. I don’t like him. I don’t like his protectionism, his foreign policy, his crude and immoral manner, his bullying nature (I really just have no patience for bullies), his anti-intellectualism, his pandering to hate groups and ignorance, his attacks on free speech and free press (and before you go all “Fake News” on me, he attacks anyone who attacks him), his penchant for dividing the country, etc.  As to “hate,” yes, I do hate what he has done to my party which has included the normalization of racism in the name of opposing political correctness, e.g., the nomination of Corey Stewart for Senate in Virginia. I hate the ugly behavior at his rallies. I hate the lack of civility that he has heightened (yes, it already existed and yes Democrats have been just as uncivil). I could go on, but that is pretty sufficient to illustrate my point. So, Trump hate? Guilty. TDS? No.

Having said these things, he has surprised me on some things. He has followed through on regulatory reform pretty aggressively. He did appoint Gorsuch, an eminently qualified jurist for the Supreme Court which proved pivotal in 3 major cases this week. He has appointed a number of conservative judges in the lower courts. Some have been great. Others, well, no.  On balance, in that regard, I will confess that he exceeded my expectations. Of course, over the last 2 days I have been reminded of this and asked am I not happy Hillary didn’t make an appointment. Bear in mind though, I did not vote for Hillary.

While the Courts are important, we have made them far more important than they should be. The Courts have become a super legislature because Congress fails to do its job. If we remedied that dysfunction, the courts would be far less important. Also, bear in mind, that if the President gets NATO wrong, North Korea wrong, or China or Russia wrong, Courts are the least of our problems. I’m a lot more concerned about foreign policy than the courts – my own interest in Constitutional law notwithstanding.

I am not trying to re-litigate the 2016 election. In fact, I’m really quite tired of hearing about it – from all sides. Trump won. Period. End of story. “Elections have consequences.” – Barak Obama.  I’m not pushing for impeachment.  I do believe it is important to let the Special Counsel do his job. I do believe there will be a lot more to see – and its going to get pretty ugly. Impeachment level ugly? Unknown.  I’m rather doubtful. Will more people go to prison? I think that is likely. Will it affect the 2018 or 2020 election? No way to know at this point.

Former Republican Columnist George Will has called for an effort to elect Democrats in the mid-term as being the only solution to purge Trumpianism from the GOP. While I am sympathetic to that view (because I think it is unlikely to change unless that does happen), I simply cannot advocate that action.  Contrary to views of many of my critics, I remain a member of my state and local GOP and work to elect Republicans. Why? Because I don’t think you can change the party from the outside.  I still believe in the legacy of the party of Lincoln and Reagan.  I don’t know why anyone would think they can leave and campaign against the party and then come back and assert your moral will. Frankly, that’s delusional. People have long memories.  Having said that, I have, literally and publicly, cut all ties with the Republican National Committee. It is an arm of Trump and I will have nothing to do with it.

So, as Hamlet contemplated his fate, so must Conservative Republicans decide what they will do with their own usurper “uncle” Donald Trump. What is the way forward? Is the answer to renounce the GOP and Trump? Should conservatism, which has become mired with Trump’s nativism and tribalism, be renounced as well?

There is no question that both Conservatives and Republicans have serious brand damage.  I warned about this loudly and frequently in the 2016 election. My fears have been more than realized. The GOP has indeed become the party of Trump (with over 80% of GOP approving of Trump), and not the party of Lincoln and Reagan. “Conservatism” has been redefined to embrace fiscal irresponsibility, crony capitalism, protectionism, demagoguery, and xenophobia. The principles that built conservatism – free markets, fiscal responsibility, small government, and the rejection of racism – have disappeared from the radar.  I truly understand why those who left the party and the movement did so.

As unwelcome as I currently feel in my party those calling themselves “conservatives,” I don’t see another viable alternative. Third parties are a ticket to nowhere in America.  I have good friends who are Libertarians. I respect them and their views. However, I often tell them and others that Libertarians are the nine sided dice players of politics (a Dungeons and Dragons reference).  Most people, myself included, will never understand D&D and neither do most people – regardless of the enthusiasm of the players. People just don’t take them seriously. They had their best chance in 2016. The candidates of both parties were hated. Who did they nominate? Gary (“What’s Aleppo?) Johnson, who even in interviews looked like he had just had a great smoke.

Also, historically, third parties just don’t work in America. They only have permanent impact following the collapse of a major party. There are a number of reasons for that which I will not delve into here.  Suffice it to say, neither party is at the collapse point yet and it isn’t happening.  So it might feel good to leave and wave your own new flag, but you’ll be lonely.

You could join the Democrats …. But why? Haven’t you fought them most of your life? There is no room in the Democratic party for your views. Right now, Democrats are having their own existential crisis with “uncle” Bernie, who isn’t even a Democrat, in a giant tug of war between liberal/centrists and progressives (and just outright socialists, or as they will correct me “Democratic Socialists). Don’t even try to be a pro-life Democrat. You will face the Purge.

Is the enemy of my enemy really my friend? Never Trumpers criticized Republicans who voted for Trump solely because he wasn’t Hillary. Voting for Democrats simply because they aren’t, or oppose Trump, is the same monolithic approach.  If Republicans take a kick in the keister this fall, it very well COULD carve Trump from the GOP. However, if the Democrats take control of Congress, I think it highly likely that Trump will find new friends and work with Democrats. He is not a man of principle and historically is liberal. It’s clear his base will go where he goes, so he would have little to lose by doing so.

I believe the solution to the existential crisis is to choose “To Be.” Conservatives need to get back what first built the Conservative movement – Ideas.  The Conservative movement embraced the principle of ordered liberty.  As Lee Edwards, Ph.D wrote in “The Origins of the Modern American Conservative Movement” from the Heritage Foundation:

The central idea of The Conservative Mind, upon which American conservatism is essentially based, is ordered liberty. It is a blending of the sometimes contending requirements of the community and the individual, of individual freedom and individual responsibility, of limited government and unlimited markets.

Much of this comes from “Classic Liberalism” of the Enlightenment embraced by John Locke. Conservatives believe in the strength of individual liberty and the strength of a society comes not from the strength of government, but of civil society – expressed in non-government institutions such as families, churches, neighborhood organizations, service clubs, fraternities sororities, etc.

Conservatism as a modern American movement was launched by intellectuals such as William F. Buckley.  The current trend in politics is anti-intellectual. However, I firmly believe that the answer to darkness is light. The answer to anti-intellectualism is engagement with intellectual, intelligent, understandable, and relatable thinking. Millennials, who currently lean left, actually respect this process – when they are engaged.

In his recent book, “Suicide of the West:  How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy” Jonah Goldberg points out that Civil Society is against human nature and human nature is always ready to reclaim us.  We have to struggle to press forward the ideas which have made us prosperous and free.

It will not happen automatically. It will not happen if we choose “Not to Be.”  The struggle to remain relevant will not be easy. It will be hard fought with much mocking and name calling. However, the legacy of Locke, Lincoln, Buckley and Reagan are too important to leave behind like some dicarded and forgotten refuse.  It is our birthright and we must fight for those promises and ideas to remain relevant so that we can pass them on to the next generation as others have faithfully passed them on to us.

We must choose “To Be” light in a time of darkness.

A Deplorable Election

Days ago, Hillary Clinton made headlines calling half of Donald Trump’s backers a “basket of deplorables.” She soon apologized for the statement, but only about the 50% portion of the remark.  Mike Pence countered that Donald Trump’s supporters were “hard working Americans.”  He further added, ““Let me just say from the bottom of my heart: Hillary, they are not a basket of anything, they are Americans and they deserve your respect.”

Frankly, it was a stupid thing for Hillary to say and Pence eloquently and smartly responded.  Of course, the media could not let Pence get one up, so Wolf Blitzer of CNN decided to bring back David Duke.  Blitzer tried to get Pence to acknowledge that David Duke was deplorable.  Pence declined and a minor firestorm erupted that Pence would not classify Duke and the Klan as “deplorable.”  However, that was false.  What Mike Pence actually said was that he wasn’t going to engage in name calling. He said that Duke had already been denounced and that their support was not wanted. Of course, we can argue as to Trump’s flippancy on David Duke, but there is zero evidence that Mike Pence has ever supported Klan members or pandered to them.

Anyone who knows Mike Pence and his history knows that Mike does not like negative campaigning.  He rejected it very publicly after his unsuccessful first election effort to unseat Phil Sharp (D-IN) writing an article, “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner” and publicly apologized to Sharp.  He refused to do so when running for Governor.  He has been forced into that role as the VP candidate, but he does not like to lower himself to name calling.  It was a cheap shot and it is an example of what gives journalists a bad name and low regard among Republican voters.

For weeks now, the Trump campaign has dogged Hillary Clinton about her health.  She falls (literally) ill and all there is a frenzy among Trump supporters of proof of their suspicions.  From all indications, she did suffer from pneumonia, resulting from allergies and exhaustion from the campaign schedule.  Trump remained surprisingly quiet and staff and surrogates were threatened to be silent.  Even so, the campaign is dogged with a lack of transparency and calls for release of health records – all the while, Trump refuses to release his tax returns.

It is a deplorable election with deplorable choices.  Hillary Clinton can’t keep track of her stories on emails and won’t divest herself from the Clinton Foundation, even though she says she will do so if she wins.  Trump can never keep any story straight. He has continually flip flopped on immigration, abortion, Planned Parenthood and now climate change.  He routinely just makes things up and is rarely held accountable – likely because there are so many that the impact of a single lie is not that seemingly significant.

When you look to third parties, Gary Johnson asked “What is Aleppo?” when it had been all over the news for weeks as a result of the humanitarian crisis from the Syrian Civil War.  His isolationism was revealed to be cluelessness. Jill Stein is facing criminal charges for playing protestor.  One who is to be the Enforcer and Executor of laws lacks any credibility if she ignores the law.  Then we have Evan McMullin – the only adult in the room.  Unfortunately, however, due to his late entry, he will be a on limited number of state ballots – and, sadly, not on mine although I fully support his candidacy.

It is a long 2 months and we haven’t seen the debates yet. Like Hawaiian Limbo, we will indeed see how low can you go. It’s going to be a grim few weeks.

On the subject of “deplorable” and the context of Hillary Clinton’s remarks, please welcome Matt Adams (no relation to me) as a guest columnist to Vocem Libertatis.  He will be detailing the origins of the alt right movement and their relationship to white supremacist, nationalist and the Russian power brokers.

How I Remember September 11, 2001

15 years ago today, I had just finished working out in the fitness center of the American United Life Tower – now One America – in Indianapolis.  I had just showered and was getting dressed when someone said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  By the time I got out, many were glued to the TV.  A second plane had hit the second tower. We all knew it had to be a planned terrorist attack.  I immediately suspected, as did many others, that al Qaeda was responsible as they had attacked the embassies previously.  Of course, we soon learned that in fact they were the perpetrators.  We were completely stunned as watched the towers engulfed in flame and smoke and were horrified as people jumped to their deaths to escape the flames.

I shortly went upstairs to work.  Everyone was glued to internet news.  One Tower collapsed and we were completely dismayed.  The second tower collapsed and we were sickened.  We learned that the Pentagon had been hit.  While there was no evidence there was a threat to our building – the 2nd tallest in Indianapolis – we could not help but worry that we might be next and what was next.  Who was safe? How large was this attack?  Were my wife and children safe?  We were released to go home as no one was able to get work done.

The world changed that day in so many ways.  I remember days of no contrails in the skies and no planes overhead. Shortly afterward came the anthrax attacks.  No one felt safe.  We all lived in fear.  We were horrified at what had happened in New York and Washington.  Yet stories of courage came from those hours.  We heard of the bravery of first responders in New York.  The stories of survival from the towers and in the Pentagon.  Perhaps most stunning was the story of Flight 93 and courage of those passengers who likely gave their lives to save others from another attack.

We were unified as a nation in resolve as firefighters raised a flag over the ruins of the towers.  We rallied around the President – who had not won the popular vote in the last election – and were heartened by his grabbing a bullhorn and letting the terrorists know that would hear from us and that they would be held responsible.  Parties didn’t matter. We were all Americans and we had been attacked.

The fear from that day changed us in many ways.  We demanded that the government deal with terrorists aggressively and surrendered many freedoms.  I most cognizant of the scrutiny we now endure to board a plane as I write this in the air today.  We enacted laws like the Patriot Act which gave our government the ability to intrude upon our privacy in a much greater way.

I guess it’s easy for me to reflect upon my own reactions and memories today being in the air on this day.  I certainly had some trepidations about flying today.  However, what happened 15 years ago is so much larger than our personal memories, fears and reflections.  3,000 Americans perished suddenly that day.  They went to work like any ordinary day. They had no idea it would be their last day.  Their families had no idea they would never see their loved ones again.  None of these had anything to do with the complaints of the terrorists.  They were ordinary Americans.

In addition to the ordinary citizens that were lost, many first responders died doing what they were trained to do – save lives, sometimes at the expense of their own.   Many more have died since due to diseases from inhaling toxic fumes and dust from the debris as they sought to find survivors and recover the remains of those we lost.

As we reflect this day on the events of 15 years ago, think about the families who lost and may we be ever mindful of those we love.  Don’t take them for granted.  Don’t put off telling them how much you care.

Also as we reflect on the events of that day, I remember vividly how we came together as a nation.  No one decided to use the national anthem as a political statement.  People realized that as Americans we are all in this together.  We stood as God Bless America was sung and many, including me, were brought to tears.  We did not focus on our differences.  We focused on what we had in common.

I don’t mean to minimize racial divides in our country or the inequities that are present.  We are not perfect and we need to address those issues.  However, need to reclaim that sense of what we have in common.  We need to remember why we pursue justice and equality – because that is our heritage.  We need to remember that those 3,000 died not because of what is wrong with America.  They died because the perpetrators hated everything that unites us.  The dead included many faiths, races, LGBT and straight.

The rancor of this election has had little to do with our shared values.  We need to embrace those values – without losing the sense of urgency to address wrongs in our society or wrongfully denying they exist.

Let us remember those who left us that day.  Let us remember the courage of those sacrificed all to save lives.  Let us also remember for whom they sacrificed themselves – fellow Americans of all faiths, races, preferences and genders.  For those in the NFL protesting today, you picked the wrong day. It’s pretty clear you don’t understand what the flag means.  Ask those firemen.



An End to Writer’s Block

Sorry for the absence over the last few weeks.  For those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, you know I have not met with doom or foul play.  Between working on campaigns, despair over their results and having to take care of some matters in my personal life, it has unfortunately left me with little time and a severe case of writer’s block.  I had numerous articles that never left the draft stage.  However, don’t despair.  The stupor has cleared.  Articles will be forthcoming soon.  There is work to be done.  Freedom is on the line. I will not be silent.

Dr. Ben Carson Officially Suspends Campaign

At CPAC to day, as expected, Dr. Ben Carson announced that he was suspending his his campaign for the Republican nomination for President. Two days ago, Dr. Carson announced that he saw no viable path forward and would not be participating in the debate, but did not formally announce a suspension in his campaign. Carson anounced earlier today that he will serve as national chairman for My Faith Votes and pledged to continue to be involved in the election.


See Breakng Story from Politico

New Trump Fraud – $5.2 Million Supposedly Raised for Veterans Doesn’t Exist

Trump skipped the debate in Iowa in January to hold a “fundraiser” for veterans after his public spat with Megyn Kelly and Fox News.  His alternative event was controversial as he originally was looking to partner with the Wounded Warrior Project which had fallen under heavy scrutiny over its internal spending.   As this site previously reported, on the DAY of the event Trump registered the domain DonaldTrump forVets.com and directed contributions to the Donald J. Trump Foundation with no specific veterans organizations listed as beneficiaries.


In fact, some veterans organizations specifically refused to participate declining to be a political prop for Trump.  Trump claimed to have raised $6 million for veterans which included $1 million from himself.  Here is the webpage that was tossed up on the day of the event.  It is still up requesting donations and claims to have raised $1,670,000 online.



CNN investigative reporter Drew Hicks investigated the distribution of these funds.   He was told by the Trump campaign that the information was available on their website. It is not. He went to the known beneficiaries and to date has only been able to track down $800,000 that has been distributed.  This leaves $5.2 million unaccounted for.  Where’s the money Donald? Is this how you’re going to take care of our vets?


CNN Investigative Report on the Missing $5.2 million

Day 6 – This Was Our Finest Hour

Bush Quits Race for President

After receiving only 7.8% of the vote in the South Carolina primary, Jeb Bush announced that he was suspending his campaign for President.  It ends several days of wild speculation that his campaign was at an end. The Resurgent reported earlier in the week that a conference call had announced that payroll for staff was ending today.  The report was picked up by Politico with the addition that staff members were circulating resumes.  In an interview with Megyn Kelly Friday night on Fox News, Jeb dismissed the report but did not deny it.

Jeb was the original favorites among Republicans and many expected a Clinton-Bush rematch in the November election.  Jeb was the favorite target of Donald Trump and Jeb was one of the few Republican candidates to attack back.

In his farewell speech, he thanked family and staff who had stuck with him and congratulated the remaining candidates “on the island.” (no doubt a reality TV smack).  He made no reference to any endorsements, but simply spoke going home to sleep with his best friend and in a touching moment kissed his wife Columba.

At Marco Rubio’s headquarters in Colombia, Governor Nikki Haley congratulated the governor on his campaign.  Likewise, Marco Rubio referred to Governor Bush as “the greatest Governor Florida has ever had” and hoped that his career of public service would continue.

Donald Trump Wins SC Primary, Rubio 2nd, Cruz 3rd

Donald Trump managed to translate his lead in the polls to voting booths. He secured a double digit winning margin at 34% compared to 22% for both Rubio and Cruz.  Rubio came in ahead of Cruz for second.  No other contenders were in double digits. Bush 7.8%, Kasich 7.6% and Carson 7.2%.

In terms of delegates, Trump will receive the lion’s share as South Carolina awards delegates by winner take all by congressional district.  Trump won in all counties except 2 – Richland (Colombia) and Charleston which were both won by Rubio.  It remains to be seen how those delegates will be counted.  However, Cruz will not receive any delegates.

Hillary Clinton Wins Nevada Democratic Caucus

Hillary Clinton narrowly beat out Bernie Sanders to win the Nevada Caucus.  This race was carefully watched after Clinton was shellacked by Sanders in New Hampshire.  Clinton is expected to do well in South Carolina in the Democratic primary there next Saturday.  The question now is whether this slows the momentum of Sanders who has now eclipsed Clinton in national polling.