Wednesday, August 3, 2016


In 2007 G.W. Bush and John McCain led an effort to provide amnesty to millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States. That action would have led to long term democrat majorities at the national level and at lower levels in some regions of the country. Conservative Americans burned up the Washington DC phone lines and crammed the in-boxes of elected officials to stop Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). The outcry was so intense that the CIR effort was stopped, and has not been able to gain traction for nearly a decade.

That effort to oppose the 2007 Comprehensive Immigration Reform was a harbinger of what would become the TEA party movement. The movement brought together a number of frustrated factions of Americans that were fed up with an unresponsive, and entirely self-absorbed political ruling class that spanned both major US political parties. Among the groups that would unite within the movement there was never universal agreement on policy or even principle. But the movement found success in its focus on areas of agreement.

Like a lot of folks that were cynical about the prospects of America's political future I was encouraged by the TEA party movement. I've long held the conviction that the solutions to our nation's political dysfunction must come from the bottom up, from the broad base of the American people. The fantasy of the politician hero, or champion, is an obstacle to getting the nation on the right course. A movement motivated by a few common principles, or simply goals, rather than teams and personalities held great potential for overcoming the wrong-direction-momentum dragging the nation down.

Today the future of that movement is unclear to me. The divisions among prior allies seem to deepen every day - a growing schism between Mark Levin and Alex Jones wings of the movement. These factions were formerly able to unite to defeat CIR, and to achieve off-year election victories in 2010 and 2014. To a surprising extent the divide is presently not respectful, constructive, or amicable. The antipathy between the wings is increasingly based on the willingness to support a specific politician.

This is not a post about the GOP nominee, but it is about the affect that nominee may have on the future of the conservative movement. Will the movement that coalesced around stopping CIR in 2007 find the will to do the same if Donald Trump supports some form of amnesty as President? Or will this simply be accepted as a non-politician's "common sense" solution to the illegal immigration problem, just part of a negotiation to get a wall built.

We just watched a GOP National Convention in which the nominee's daughter introduced her father with a speech that praised the moderate political center, decried the "gender pay gap", demanded a solution for student loan debt, and pined for universal child care. Within days of that speech Trump himself reaffirmed his support for increasing the minimum wage. The TEA party movement would have excoriated Mitt Romney or John McCain for these positions when they were the GOP nominees. But today much of that movement is silent on these topics. So what  gives?

I'm daily looking for reasons to be confident that the TEA party movement will be there to hold a President Trump accountable when he promotes these ideas from the White House. When the next TARP, or CIR, comes along will former allies oppose them together even if President Trump supports them? Will there be a new view of accountability based on relativism? Bad policy is bad policy even if the democrat's policy is worse. After months of hearing "conservatives" talk about cuckservatives and Constitution preachers while using the idea of electing a "pastor" as an epithet, my confidence that the movement hasn't accepted the promise of a wall as down payment on some Faustian bargain is pretty low.

One thing that a Trump presidency is likely to do for us is reveal the depth and persistence of the divide in the conservative movement. Tim Huelskamp lost his Kansas primary for US Congress yesterday. There is no way to characterize this loss as anything but a tragedy for conservatism, Americanism, or the conservative movement in general. There is no question that his opponent was a less conservative, establishment, candidate. Yet today I've seen a lot of celebration about Tim's defeat from people that have identified as conservatives - celebration based on nothing other than the opinion that Huelskamp waited too long to support Trump. That's a tough divide to bridge.

I'm looking forward to more battles where conservatives are united by principle, rather than divided by politicians. But for now, the silence from not a few that have previously spoken out is saying a lot.

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