Whatever happened to the “happy warrior?” Conservatism at it’s best, contrary to the left, is optimistic. Conservatives always say America’s best days are ahead. Ronald Reagan embodied that spirit. When speaking at the CPAC annual dinner in 1985, he said the following:
Once during the campaign, I said, “This is a wonderful time to be alive.” And I meant that. I meant that we’re lucky not to live in pale and timid times. We’ve been blessed with the opportunity to stand for something—for liberty and freedom and fairness. And these are things worth fighting for, worth devoting our lives to. And we have good reason to be hopeful and optimistic.
We’ve made much progress already. So, let us go forth with good cheer and stout hearts-happy warriors out to seize back a country and a world to freedom.
This is not yet another in a series of pieces going back over the years where a person yearns for the “next Ronald Reagan.” It’s not about Reagan so much as it is the lack of individuals who embody that same spirit. There are some. Marco Rubio, Ben Sasse, Paul Ryan, and Mike Lee are several examples of those who advance the cause of conservatism in a positive way. Their ideas and policy proposals are offered with hope, optimism, and opportunity. That brand of conservatism can bridge the gap between various demographics and the Republican Party.
Unfortunately, a toxic strain of “conservatism” exists within the current political climate, and it is one that still has influence. There is no core to it. There’s nothing helpful about it. There is nothing positive about it. It’s faux conservatism built around anger, nothing more. Susan detailed some of what former Congressman Joe Walsh had to say about the election. He tweeted yesterday afternoon:
On November 8th, I'm voting for Trump.
On November 9th, if Trump loses, I'm grabbing my musket.
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) October 26, 2016
When CNN’s Jake Tapper inquired as to what he meant, Walsh replied:
It means protesting. Participating in acts of civil disobedience. Doing what it takes to get our country back.
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) October 26, 2016
Civil disobedience? The layman’s term for that in some circles is “rioting.” How is this helpful to the cause of conservatism? Who outside the mob from Joe’s radio audience, examines what he says and thinks, “I want in on that?”
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke of Wisconsin who shot to conservative fame over the last 18 months recently tweeted the following:
It's incredible that our institutions of gov, WH, Congress, DOJ, and big media are corrupt & all we do is bitch. Pitchforks and torches time pic.twitter.com/8G5G0daGVN
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) October 15, 2016
This is a law enforcement officer engaging in this kind of nonsense. Clarke didn’t back down. In fact, he opined about it and in doing so, made matters worse.
“First of all if you came here expecting me to walk that statement back or ask for a do-over, you are going to be disappointed. I am not your typical conservative. I stand and fight for what I believe in and I play smash-mouth politics. Big Media is not used to that from many conservatives,” wrote Clarke.
“When I tweeted the above image, I meant it. I wasn’t speaking in code,” continued Clarke. “It’s time to run those corrupt politicians out of Washington DC and back to whatever crevices they crawled from. It’s time to put Mrs. Bill Clinton behind bars, where she belongs. And it’s time that the DOJ learns what the ‘J’ stands for in their name.”
The politicians he rails about, whether Clarke like them or not, are elected by the people to represent them. Perhaps the Sheriff needs a civics lesson, but the “crevices they crawled from” include areas of Milwaukee County. There is a multitude of reasons for criticizing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s Justice Department. That said, while Clarke and Walsh’s rhetoric whips up the choir they’re preaching to into a frenzy, what it does not do, is persuade.
Unfortunately, we hear similar rhetoric at times from those in elective office and of course, from the GOP presidential candidate. They too are not engaging in persuasion. They’re not selling conservatism to people.
They are selling anger.
While that works for a small sliver of the electorate, it doesn’t reach beyond that small audience and engage other people.
The Republican Party is doomed to the kind of failure it will likely see on November 8th as long as this kind of “conservatism” is front and center with the general public. With Donald Trump as the GOP candidate, Sheriff Clarke and Joe Walsh will not be able to complain about the lack of a “fight” put up by the Republican nominee, so then what? Who will they blame next? They’re certainly not going to do any self-reflection.
When the smoke clears on November 9th, the Republican Party will have to make wholesale changes if they want to win a Presidential election any time soon. The conservatism envisioned in part by William F. Buckley, and Ronald Reagan can still be applied today. However, if GOP leadership and voters allow the populist, angry brand of conservatism espoused by Donald Trump and Pat Buchanan to rule the day, the “happy warrior” conservatism that wins, will be lost in the wilderness for quite some time.