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Comment: Donald Kirk – Conservatism at a Crossroads




American conservatives face irrelevance and division within their ranks. The traditional conservatism, the creed of the “ribbed of the rock” Republicans, has faded. Americans forget about post-war conservative presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower, the General of World War II, and Ronald Reagan, who called on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” between East and West Berlin.

Instead, right-wing extremists, evangelical Christians and extremist activists are leading the Republican agenda, forcing unanimity against Democrats, whose candidate, aging Joe Biden, defeated their idol, Donald Trump, in November. by more than 7 million votes. The core values ​​of real conservatism, ardently defending free enterprise and individual rights and beliefs with responsible world leadership, are lost in a battle for party unanimity. Old-time conservatives, stalwarts of mainstream churches and communities, may not like what they see, but rally to the embers in the interest of reclaiming lost power and leadership.

At the heart of the Conservative dilemma is Trump, whose attraction to extremes is messianic. Righties worship Trump as an iconic figure, the answer to their dreams of challenging not only the Democratic Party, but a galaxy of intellectuals, professors, columnists and think tanks who ridicule them as connoisseurs, upstarts, below them socially and intellectually.

The right-wing movement has its roots in class and social warfare as well as regional differences and faith in a fundamentalist form of Christianity that opposes historic Protestant denominations as well as Wall’s Jewish power and influence. Street at the university groves. Anti-Semitism is an undercurrent of the right-wing movement that Trumpism implicitly appeals to.

Looking not only at the 2020 election, but also at Trump’s record as president and the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, one would assume he would have ended up as leader of the Republican Party. Incredibly, however, he remains a galvanizing figure, still capable of claiming party leadership and challenging Biden in 2024, when he is convinced a majority of voters will be fed up with Biden’s “socialist” policies.

How Trump is exploiting the Republican Party is difficult to understand. He himself was born of wealth, bequeathed hundreds of millions of dollars by his father, a New York real estate entrepreneur who made his fortune selling middle-class apartments. Trump expanded his father’s empire but lost a fortune in Atlantic City casinos. He might not have survived as a tycoon if he hadn’t hosted a TV show in which he shouted ‘You’re fired’ at candidates with fantastic business connections.

This mogul, who owns golf courses and resorts open only to those with money and connections, remains a hero for right-wing groups, QAnon and Proud Boys and other fascist organizations responsible for the chaos. at the Capitol. The FBI is investigating them for terrorist links Trump would disown. At the same time, right-wing television networks Newsmax and One America News are challenging established networks, including liberal CNN and MSNBC and even conservative Fox News, of which famous commentators Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity are among ardent supporters of Trump.

Liberal commentators believe the Republican Party is so divided, so anachronistic, that it may not survive as a cohesive conservative movement. The GOP, they say, has lost its way. Biden’s conservative enemies are waiting to expose his weakness, to reveal that he suffers from dementia. Against him, they can only dream that Trump will again present himself as the one who is capable of defeating him. The fact that Trump was impeached twice by the lower house of Congress did little to dampen his populist appeal.

Trump may run into insurmountable legal issues ranging from unpaid taxes, to attempts to force vote changes in pivotal states to support for the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill. The 2022 elections for all members of the lower house of Congress and for a third (33 or 34) of 100 senators could decide whether the Republican Party can pull its various elements together and prepare for Trump’s candidacy two years later.

Either way, Trumpism will last. Fervent idealists, violent schemers will remember him as the man who defeated leftists and liberals on the east and west coasts. His fans who never say they die will always revere him as a beacon of hope in the jungle of American political leadership.

Donald Kirk is the author of 10 books on Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines and the Vietnam War. He wrote this for

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