June 6, 2019

LIEL LIEBOVITZ: Why Jews Should Pay Attention To The Recent Debate Rocking American Conservatism:

The first has to do with the self-branding of the Never Trumpers as champions of civility. From tax cuts to crushing ISIS, from supporting Israel to appointing staunchly ideological justices to the Supreme Court, there’s very little about the 45th president’s policies that ought to make any principled conservative run for the hills. What, then, separates one camp of conservatives, one that supports the president, from another, which vows it never will? Stephens himself attempted an answer in a 2017 column. “Character does count,” he wrote, “and virtue does matter, and Trump’s shortcomings prove it daily.”

To put it briefly, the Never Trump argument is that they should be greatly approved of, while Donald Trump should rightly be scorned, because—while they agree with Trump on most things, politically—they are devoted to virtue, while Trump is uniquely despicable. The proofs of Trump’s singular loathsomeness are many, but if you strip him of all the vices he shares with others who had recently held positions of power—a deeply problematic attitude towards women (see under: Clinton, William Jefferson), shady business dealings (see under: Clinton, Hillary Rodham), a problematic attitude towards the free press (see under: Obama, Barack)—you remain with one ur-narrative, the terrifying folk tale that casts Trump as a nefarious troll dispatched by his paymasters in the Kremlin to set American democracy ablaze.

Now that this story has been thoroughly investigated and discredited, it seems fair to ask: Is championing a loony and deeply corrosive conspiracy theory proof of anyone’s superior virtue? The fact that these accusations were false implies that the Never Trumpers who made them early and often were among the political pyromaniacs, and are therefore deserving of the very obloquy that they heaped on Trump. And what about people like Carter Page, a blameless ex-Navy officer who was defamed as an agent of a shadowy, ever-expanding conspiracy headquartered in Moscow?

Conspiracy-mongering doesn’t seem like much of a public virtue.

Nope.

Plus: “The Never Trumpers, of course, aren’t the first Americans to hide cold careerism behind a wall of virtue-signaling. It’s why so many in the professional punditry went the way of Never Trump: More than anything else, the decision to align oneself with a movement that, ontologically, vows to reject the president a priori, no matter what he might say or do, regardless of your own supposed political beliefs, is a way of affirming one’s professional class loyalties, thus ensuring that your progeny will still be accepted and acceptable at Yale.”

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