By now, everybody knows Milo Yiannopoulos is going to be speaking at CPAC. He is in fact, a keynote speaker. President Donald Trump will be speaking as well, as will Fox News host Sean Hannity. Naturally, there is a segment of the political population who are thrilled by this development. To me, it’s rather pathetic because, among all three, there is not a single one who will advocate conservatism when they are on stage.
Trump will no doubt want to bask in the adulation people will give him. He’ll talk about his election win and how he beat “the establishment.” Sean Hannity will no doubt be yelling at Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and others to “get on board” and start doing what Trump wants. Milo will do his usual schtick of bashing feminists, social justice warriors and whatever other cultural targets he deems worthy of derision. Through it all, many in the audience will be hooting and hollering, doing fist-bumps with each other and believing what they’re witnessing is the espousal of conservatism, but it’s not even close.
While formed loosely, the Tea Party movement that emerged in 2009 was a conservative response to what people saw as government largesse on steroids. TARP, auto bailouts, the AIG bailout and Obama’s stimulus proposal (as well as the GOP’s passage of Medicare Part D hailed a signature achievement), had many conservatives shouting, “Enough!” People said it was time for the GOP to remember their mission of supporting limited government. It was effective as it helped the GOP recapture the House and come close to winning the Senate in 2010.
Unfortunately, that was then. The Tea Party as it existed then is no more. It became segmented into splinter groups with the larger ones focusing more on bashing “the establishment” instead of accomplishing anything. Even in that state of mind, at the very least, it still revolved around the core principles of smaller government and liberty. But even that died on the vine.
What we’re witnessing now, on the national stage at least, is a brand of “conservatism” that has nothing to with the kind of conservatism advocated by the likes of Irving Kristol, Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan or William F. Buckley. The politics of agitation and anger have taken over. We no longer have Buckley’s terrific, ‘Firing Line.’ What we have now is akin to Jack Black in ‘The School of Rock’ screaming about “Sticking it to the man.”
It doesn’t matter that Milo’s blather has nothing do with conservatism. It doesn’t matter that President Donald Trump’s ideas on trade and government spending line up with Senator Chuck Schumer. It doesn’t matter that Sean Hannity abandoned all pretense of conservatism to gain favor with Donald Trump. They’re all running around yelling and screaming at other Republicans, the media and Democrats.
Their fans couldn’t care less what they say as long as they are pissing off Democrats and liberals. I appeared on CNN’s ‘Reliable Sources, ‘ and when host Brian Stelter tweeted it out, there was a slew of replies that said, “Not watching! FAKE NEWS!” Trump and his ilk have conditioned people to be angry for the sake of being angry. “Stick it to the libs!” is the equivalent of “sticking to the man.”
What is truly unfortnate, is that until somebody steps up to reclaim the mantel of classic conservatism, the agitators will continue to dominate the discussion. The dreaded establishment is winning on the ground as we saw with the re-election of Senators John McCain and Pat Toomey. But that could change as well unless somebody decides to say, “Enough!” to the fakes and phonies who are using conservatism as a platform for their rubbish and not as a means of advancing the policies and ideals that make up conservatism.