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Paul Kengor: Moving the Movement Beyond Trump




A colleague from Never Trump asks why I did not support a second impeachment of Donald Trump, given that I say that I want the conservative movement to go beyond Trump. The answer is not difficult.

To begin with, the impeachment trial was from the start a political spectacle, a rash judgment by the Democrats. First, there was the moot question of whether a non-sitting president can be removed. Moreover, there were crucial questions not only of whether Trump was behind what happened on January 6, but how House Democrats could immediately rush for an impeachment vote even before he ” an investigation was not carried out to find out whether what happened was planned well in advance (as everyone like CNN, MSNBC, NPR, the Washington Post and the FBI have reported), or if those that assaulted the building began before Trump even finished his speech (the Washington Post and New York Times printed timelines before Democrats obviously thought of one). There is also the crucial question of why tens of thousands of people present at Trump’s speech were not incited against a few hundred who would have been.

In short, it was a quick vote in the House without an investigation, without witnesses (not even during the Senate trial) and without due process against the accused person. Rushed political work and hacking work by the Democrats. The country must move forward. You want unity, then pursue unity.

Of course, the deeper motivation of Democrats and some anti-Trump Republicans was to use a second indictment as a tool to prevent Trump from running again. This is what puzzled my colleague about my position: if I would really like to see the Conservative movement move beyond Donald Trump, why not support a decision to disqualify him from running again? The answer is that the ends do not justify the means – that is, partisan exploitation of the impeachment process.

But when it comes to moving the conservative movement beyond Trump, this is something that I have aspired to since 2015, whether or not I concede that Trump as president has done things that the Tories should be applauding, including being a surprising religious freedom advocate and pro-life stance, energy fracking and independence and deregulation, making strong court choices, and more. Yet I saw from the start, especially as a university professor, Trump’s deleterious effect on young conservatives in particular. Of course, not all of them were repelled by him – entire conservative youth groups like Turning Point USA have become pro-Trump organizations. Overall, however, many young conservatives have given up. They found nothing attractive about Trump.

Above all, it’s completely different from what happened in the 1980s, when crowds of young people were drawn to conservatism because of the inspiring person and the beguiling message of Ronald Reagan. The likes of an “Alex P. Keaton” (played by Michael J. Fox) on “Family Ties” reflected a common type of young conservative. I was one of them. As the editor of the conservative editorial page of The Pitt News in the late 1980s, I had a group of fellow writers who had been drawn to the movement.

I can talk about it vividly right now as I write the story of The American Spectator, which in the 1980s thrived among young conservatives. In the early 1980s, notables who began their careers at Spectator were as diverse as bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, prominent Never Trumpers John Podhoretz and Bill Kristol and George Will, and scholar Mark Lilla, a Ph.D. Harvard. and a faculty member at Columbia University, who today writes for The New York Times and The New York Review of Books, and has written thoughtful works criticizing liberalism.

It was cool to be a curator then. It was intellectually stimulating. It was fun.

“I was a Conservative then – in the 1980s – because being a Conservative was the most intellectually exciting option,” Gladwell told me. “This was where all the free thinking and innovation was. The American Spectator was a key part of it. I think it attracted a lot of young talent because it gave us all a chance to thumb our noses at the facility.

What I urge is to move the conservative movement beyond Donald Trump, with messengers like Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Kristi Noem, Dan Crenshaw and so many more (I could list the experts at length). It is a major moment of opportunity for a movement to regain its strength. Conservatism is about a lasting order that, well, endures. It transcends. He must now transcend Donald Trump.

But until then, you’re not continuing the political spectacle of an impeachment trial – intended to disqualify Trump from office – just in order to make it happen.

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and senior researcher at the Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College.

Categories: Opinion | Paul Kengor Columns

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