I’ve been bringing the #NeverTrump message everywhere the last few days and for the most part, I’ve been disciplined in my message: Trump is a problem for the future of conservatism even more than Hillary Clinton could be.
Conservatism survives if it spends 4 years in opposition to Hillary.
It does not survive if it spends 4 years in compliance with Trump.
— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) May 8, 2016
As messages go, it resonates with the #NeverTrump faithful and with those on the left who were already predisposed to disliking any candidate the GOP put forward. For the most part, I’ve left Trump’s enablers alone with the exception of a widely read column I put out early last week in which I promised I would no longer lie to myself about the character of people who I had thought of as allies. And while I’ve kept that promise, I think I need to go a bit further at this point as was proven to me on an appearance on CNN’s Reliable Sources this morning.
The part that is especially interesting is when resident CNN Trumpkin, Kayleigh McEnany, said this about my opposition to Trump.
MCENANY: Ben, I just hear so much outrage from now and the never trump movement and as Rush Limbaugh pointed out, where was this outrage, about the Iran Deal? Where was this concerted effort and the millions and millions of dollars and the outrage they see now against Donald Trump, no one, none of you have exhibited that over the left wing extremism in Washington and it’s interesting that it comes out now against your own.
I politely addressed her concerns about my whereabouts by pointing out my own involvement in every one of the fights over the last several years.
HOWE: I don’t know about anybody else, but I was out there marching with the Tea Party in 2009 and 2010. I was out there on the ground in 2012 and in 2014. I’ve been fighting the left and fighting Obama ever since I’ve been able to have a voice at all on these issues. So the fact that now I’m coming out against Donald Trump is actually very consistent. I’m against liberalism and the destruction of conservatism and that’s what Trump represents.
I suppose my answer was thorough enough but the problem is I was being too disciplined in my message. I was trying to refocus this on the lack of conservatism that Trump represents despite Kayleigh trying to make it about me and others and what we had or had not done.
But that was a mistake.
As I pointed out in the column linked above, Trump’s enablers and surrogates are a huge part of the problem and we’ve let them get away with way too much. The real question isn’t where was I in the conservative movement. The question is where were they? And specifically today, where was this Kayleigh that is now questioning me despite my involvement being documented? So I did some searching. I restricted the news to anywhere between Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and June 2015 (when Trump announced his candidacy).
First, I looked for anything about the Iran Deal by this stalwart of conservatism, Kayleigh McEnany. I was unable to find this amazing on the ground work she’d done in opposition to the Iran Deal. Nor could I find any of her on the ground work against Obamacare when it was up for votes in the House and Senate nor when it was under discussion in 2010-2011, although I did find plenty of news appearances by her in the following years which, I guess, Ms. McEnany believes is activism.
I saw nothing of alignment with the Tea Party, no protests, no taking on of the occupy protestors face to face, no working to get someone elected, no attempts to organize grassroots efforts, no ponying up a ton of her own money to self-finance projects with conservative messages, no putting her neck on the line despite calls from others to get in line.
These are all things that I am on record doing.
Where was Ms. McEnany when we were battling the establishment in Mississippi over Thad Cochran? Where was Ms. McEnany when Alan Spector was shouting down his own constituents because he wanted to vote for Obamacare? Where are the brave positions Ms. McEnany staked out because of principled conservatism?
Until Ms. McEnany actually shows when she has ever put her ass on the line instead of in a cushy chair where she Monday morning quarterbacks the conservatives that are actually in the trenches, I plan on being much less forgiving in my tone and pushback on her and those like her.
People who haven’t been in the battlefields with the rest of us have no right to redefine conservatism for all or any of us. And yet, it’s not surprising at all that Trump’s biggest surrogates seem to have found their conservatism quite suddenly. They’re just following his lead.
Because don’t forget, McEnany is just an example of a larger problem. The vapid arguments and bumper sticker talking points of Trump’s legions of charlatans are everywhere.
I made a mistake by forgetting momentarily that it is not only Trump who threatens the identity of conservatism. I won’t make that mistake again.