The conservative crackup

By WND Staff

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

The conservative movement is at war with itself. Leading conservative institutions are putting intense pressure on Republican politicians to try to stop frontrunner Donald Trump, which can only lead to a contested convention. But others are supporting Trump.

Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, one of the nation’s most respected and long established conservative groups, is embroiled in a leadership battle which will be settled in the courts, apparently over support for Trump.

And the upcoming Indiana primary could prove the last stand for conservative activists who claim Trump must be stopped at all costs, even if it means splitting the Republican Party.

The long predicted conservative crackup may finally have arrived.

What do YOU think? Why are people losing trust in the GOP? Sound off in today’s WND poll.

Earlier this week, conservative activists expressed their frustration with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for not taking action against Donald Trump by endorsing Ted Cruz.

Jonah Goldberg of National Review mocked the governor by saying, “Someone slap a photo of Mike Pence on a milk carton.”

The editors of the magazine said, “Mike Pence needs to step up.”

And conservative activist Erick Erickson expressed fury at Pence’s lack of action by asking, “Why the hell would I ever support Mike Pence again?”

When Pence finally did endorse Cruz, it was preceded with a lengthy tribute to Trump and assurances he wasn’t “against anybody.” Many conservatives responded with scorn, with some even charging Pence had done more harm than good.

Erickson called it “weakness.” And National Review’s David French called on conservatives to commit to not support Donald Trump, even if he does secure the Republican nomination before the convention.

Trump opponents have already begun trying to “blacklist” Trump’s supporters within the conservative movement and subvert organizations which do not support Ted Cruz.

This even includes activists of long standing such as Schlafly. According to a recent report from Jerome Corsi, Cruz supporters within Eagle Forum have been accused by Schlafly’s attorney of trying to “seize control of Eagle Forum from founder Phyllis Schlafly over her support of Donald Trump for the Republican nomination.”

Andrea Tantaros of Fox News may also be a victim. In a brief statement, the television channel said “issues have arisen” with Tantaros’ contract and she will no longer be appearing on the network for some time. Tantaros recently alleged on air certain conservative activists were telling her she should lose her job.

Trump also continues to defy conservative orthodoxy, recently by championing an “America First” foreign policy which conservative foreign policy analyst Charles Krauthammer condemned as “contradictory” and “confused.”

In contrast, Pat Buchanan celebrated Trump’s foreign policy as a repudiation of the “Bush II-neocon deformity.”

Adding to the confusion among conservatives, Trump is aggressively promoting his opposition to so-called “free trade agreements” in manufacturing heavy Indiana.

Even when endorsing Cruz, Mike Pence specifically thanked Trump for bringing attention to the air conditioning and refrigeration company Carrier’s decision to outsource jobs to Mexico. Traditionally, support for “free trade” has been a central pillar of the conservative movement.

George Hawley, a political science professor and the author of “Right Wing Critics of American Conservatism,” argues the danger to the conservative movement is real.

“The founder of the American Spectator, R. Emmett Tyrell, once remarked conservatism is ‘America’s longest dying political movement,’ but just because its obituary has been premature in the past doesn’t mean it is invincible,” said Hawley. “If Trump wins the nomination despite conservative objections, or if Trump is stopped but the Republican coalition cannot be put back together, the conservative movement will be in real trouble. Conservatism is not going to go away, but its influence is waning.”

What could be taking its place is a new spirit of populist nationalism, which even veteran conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh suggests may prove more popular than conservatism. Instead of talking about limited government and the Constitution, Trump hammers away at issues of national pride, bad trade deals, and illegal immigration.

Trump’s proposal for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration into the United States has also proven overwhelmingly popular among Republican voters in every area of the country even though other Republican leaders oppose it.

Hawley cautioned it is often difficult to determine what voters actually believe on issues of trade and immigration because answers can vary widely depending on the wording of public opinion surveys. However, he said Trump’s current prominence speaks for itself.

“Trump’s success so far indicates that there is a real consistency for economic protectionism and new immigration restrictions,” Hawley told WND. “Whether that constituency is large enough to win a general election at the national level remains to be seen.”

Marc Fitch, author of “Shmexperts: How Ideology And Power Are Disguised As Science,” says Trump’s rise is a result of Republicans’ failure to adhere to conservative principle.

“I don’t think that conservatives have had control of the Capitol since Reagan,” said Fitch. “Conservatism is a philosophy. It has not been represented in government and if it had been we might not be where we are today. Conservatism is not going anywhere. Donald Trump and his supporters may succeed in changing the Republican Party but to say that they are changing a philosophy that is hundreds of years old is to get a little too excited about the present day and forget the past.”

Phil Elmore, a WND columnist, believes the talk about the conservative crackup is a bit too early.

“I think this assumes, incorrectly, that the conservative movement was ever united,” he said. “We saw some great coalitions form when the tea party first came along. We’ve seen other moments of unity in the past. But those coalitions fade, recombine, break up, and reform and always have. We are not a monolithic movement even though the libs, who are far more united, want to paint us as such.

“We as conservatives can’t agree on the best approach to preserve liberty or even what liberty means. The liberals, the Democrats, the progressives, they can always agree on how much they hate freedom.”

But ideology may prove secondary to issues of identity as the Indiana vote nears. A Trump rally in Costa Mesa and a Trump address to the California Republican convention have both been marred by large protests featuring anti-Trump activists waving Mexican flags.

On Friday, Trump himself was forced to jump a barrier and enter a conference by the backdoor to avoid the hostile crowds. Television news prominently covered the protests, lessening the media impact of the Pence endorsement.

Peter Brimelow, a former senior editor at National Review, the founder of and a past contributor to WND, argues the conservative movement will be forced to embrace nationalist and populist themes whether it wants to or not.

“Conservatism Inc. has sowed the wind and is now reaping the whirlwind, not just on immigration and trade but on its total surrender to political correctness,” he told WND. “It abandoned nationalism and refused to do anything about immigration back when it was a manageable problem. Now it is breaking out of control. Trump picked up these nationalist themes and now the self-styled conservative intellectuals are horrified to find that they are popular. If the GOP doesn’t shift in response, it will simply die. And it deserves to.”


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