The Washington Post is torn up about House Speaker Paul Ryan’s retirement.
The esteemed paper’s editorial board issued a column Wednesday bemoaning Ryan’s departure as another blow for “decent” conservatism.
“The United States needs a decent, pragmatic, conservative party that emphasizes what traditions and institutions are worth preserving amid change,” the editorial says, before declaring that no such party exists in the age of Trump.
According to the Post, “Republicans are decreasingly conservative and increasingly reactionary,” and Ryan’s retirement is another sign that the party is fully in the grasp of Trumpism.
The editorial board doesn’t define what a reactionary is, but they do share what makes for a decent conservative.
“At the best moments of his almost two decades in Congress, Mr. Ryan did stand for a decent conservatism, as he saw it. Like his mentor, Jack Kemp, Mr. Ryan spoke of making capitalism not only grow the economy but also work for the poor, and he mastered the details of policy. He favored robust immigration and free trade. He was upbeat and civil,” the editorial states.
To the Post editorial board, decent conservatism must be civil, favor mass immigration and pretty much just stick to fiscal concerns. Oh, and stand up to President Trump.
In other words, the proper conservatism must not present a threat to the liberalism preferred by the elites and spend most of its energy policing its own side.
It just politely argues over tax rates and entitlement reform, while making no resistance to gun control, open borders and other cultural issues. This is what liberals mean by “decency.”
Conservatives should always be wary when liberal editorial boards tell them what should be the ideal Republican Party. The center-left progressives who run The Post want a neutered GOP that rubber stamps Democratic policies while merely quibbling over the details.
What is interesting about the Post’s ideal GOP is what it seeks to conserve. “[T]raditions and institutions [that] are worth preserving amid change.” But what traditions and institutions would The Washington Post want preserved?
Easy answer: the traditions and institutions that favor liberals.
Most of America’s preeminent institutions are run by progressives. The establishment media, the universities, the courts, the entertainment industry, many churches and the government bureaucracy are all very liberal. Trump frequently lashes out at the press and the bureaucracy, which always draws cries that he’s undermining democracy.
These are sacred institutions — they’re beyond reproach.
Even though many of these institutions, such as the media, clearly show bias and don’t represent all Americans, liberals insist they must be respected and never challenged.
Ensuring there’s a “bipartisan” consensus among the elites is vital to establishment liberals. That consensus pretty much leans entirely left — as evinced by the elite stances on immigration, gun control and other issues. The institutions maintain this consensus. Forcing the GOP to respect those institutions means the party is less likely to oppose liberal demands.
The good thing for conservatives who care about other things besides corporate tax rates is “decent conservatism” only finds an audience on CNN and MSNBC. Average voters don’t care for it, and the GOP, as the Post admits, is now Trump’s party.
The president won over Republican voters with his promise to fight for their interests, regardless of the dictates of political correctness. Trump differentiated himself from the milquetoast likes of Jeb Bush and John Kasich through this appeal. Voters wanted a fighter, not a “civil” pushover who would ultimately surrender to the Left.
Ryan’s coming departure signals a further decline for the kind of civility the Post would like to see. It’s a false civility that only affords respect to those who agree with the social principles of modern liberalism. Disagreeing with those principles draws a very uncivil response.
There is a certain group of conservatives who pine for civility above all other concerns, but that value comes at the price of sacrificing the interests of Republican voters. Civility can only arise when both sides share the same values and concerns.
That’s not the situation we live in today. The current rules for so-called civility and decency are set by liberal institutions. Only a foolish conservative would desire them.