What’s the Point of Conservative Commentary?

A few weeks ago, I was perusing my Twitter timeline when I came across a tweet that gave me some pause and a nugget to chew on. It was posted by a gentleman some of you may be familiar with: Terry Schappert.

Terry is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces veteran who appears on Fox News from time to time. He also hosts a very entertaining show on the Outdoor Channel called Hollywood Weapons.

I’m a longtime fan of Terry. I enjoy his insight and good-natured wit, and I very much appreciate his many years of honorable service to our nation. I also consider him a friend, though we’ve never met in person. We know some of the same people, share similar critical views of liberalism, and at some point we became acquainted on social media. He was also kind enough to provide me with a blurb for one of my novels, which I was very thankful and honored to receive.

So when Terry weighs in with a serious point on an issue, I tend to give it some thought. And last month, he tossed this one out:

As a conservative writer myself (though for me it’s not so much a profession as it is an interest), the statement certainly caught my attention. And I assume, based on some occasional back-and-forths the two of us have had on Twitter, that the tweet was at least in part directed at me. The main point of contention is that Terry has a far more favorable view of President Trump and his reliable defenders than I do.

As you may have guessed, I don’t agree with Terry’s tweet, nor do I really even agree with the premise. And I say this fully cognizant that the man I’m calling “wrong” could likely kill me 37 different ways with a stick of chewing gum.

*gulp*

But while I disagree with Terry’s assessment, I do understand where he’s coming from (and why many others assuredly agree with him). So, I figured I’d go ahead and address his points in a column — one that ended up being far longer than I had planned it to be (sorry, folks).

Conservative writers and pundits were some of Donald Trump’s sharpest critics during his 2016 presidential campaign. They fought him tooth and nail during the election on everything from his temperament, to his lack of knowledge and experience, to his big-government ideas, to his reckless and conspiratorial rhetoric, to his chronic dishonesty, to his utter lack of personal decency.

But in the end, their vocal opposition wasn’t enough to stop Trump electorally. He went on to win the Republican primary, and then the presidency. And since then, he has maintained a very impressive approval rating among his party (not so much the country) while continuing to take slings and arrows from conservative skeptics and critics on television, radio, and the Internet.

Of course, these people’s numbers aren’t nearly what they used to be. A lot of longtime media-conservatives have done an about-face on Trump — many of them because they recognized the very real career risks of approaching this presidency from any angle other than fawning adulation — even when Trump and his agenda stand in direct violation of the principles they spent years and even decades defending.

Still, most of those who remain skeptical and critical continue to hold (and voice) the same views on policies, ideology, and standards of conduct that they did prior to the election. And they have remained a source of frustration for the Trump faithful, even as folks like Mr. Schappert deem them largely irrelevant to both the conversation and the advancement of conservatism in this country.

Again, I understand that perspective. But let me attempt to redefine the argument a bit, while addressing why I think the premise is flawed.

In regard to the tweet, let’s knock out the easiest part first. Pretty much no one gets into writing conservative commentary for the money. If someone genuinely believes in and understands the societal advantages of conservative principle and practices (to the point that they’re engaged enough to actually write about it), they’re certainly smart enough to also realize that there’s not a lot of money in it.

Sure, there are exceptions to the rule — primarily in the realms of television and radio where conservative sensibilities often take a backseat to partisan commiseration and fearmongering. But that’s a topic for another column.

Secondly, I don’t believe that the typical conservative writer is under the illusion that he or she is going to produce such a phenomenally well-received and influential body of work that it will deal a death blow to the persistent allure of liberalism and liberal sensibilities in this country.

No one can do that, including President Trump. In fact, one can make the argument that Trump significantly added to that allure on the political right by running on a populist, big-government platform that often paralleled that of his socialist counterpart in the Democratic party, Bernie Sanders.

The fact that Trump is blowing through taxpayer money and racking up national debt even faster than Obama suggests the same.

But let’s get back to conservative writing.

Most of us get into this field or activity because we’re passionate about the issues and the nation, and because we believe we have something of value that we can offer to the conversation. That’s certainly what drew me in.

My first national political piece from back in 2011 can still be found on this very website. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but it tells the story of a closet conservative who felt ostracized in the left-lurching era of Obama, and decided he could no longer remain silent about it.

Even Charles Krauthammer, whom many (including myself) consider one of the greatest conservative writers of all time, didn’t start down this path believing he would change the national landscape.

“When I went into journalism,” Krauthammer told an interviewer back in 2005, “I decided this is what I wanted to do. The point of it was to say what I believed, and I didn’t really care one way or another how people would react.”

Krauthammer was never of the impression that he could somehow impose his views on others, nor was that his goal. He believed that putting forth honest, well researched and constructed arguments was a noble undertaking and a service to his fellow man. If those arguments were strong enough, perhaps they would indeed lead to change. At very least, they would enable receptive minds with valuable insight and a path forward, and infiltrate resistant minds with some compelling points to consider.

Yes, contrary to popular belief, some liberals do actually read and listen to conservative commentators to get a broader picture of the issues and arguments (not just trash them on social media). Even I (a relatively small name in this genre) have a bit of a liberal following that is drawn to my work and challenged by my reasoning:

Sure, my readership — like every other conservative writer’s — is made up mostly of fellow righties. People of similar mind tend to gravitate toward each other, and be more receptive to each other’s views. Does that mean folks like me are just blowing in the wind, preaching to the choir, and not offering anything else of use?

It can certainly feel that way at times, but I’ve seen my arguments shared online and repeated enough times on competing television networks (sometimes verbatim and sometimes even credited) to know they’re being considered by a larger, more diverse audience than the keys on my laptop. I’ve also heard from enough strangers (of different political leanings) over the years, asking my take on various topics, to recognize that I’m not simply an entertainer.

I also don’t believe that the legacy and influence of someone like a Charles Krauthammer can be written off as pointless because he supported the failed candidacies of John McCain and Mitt Romney, but opposed the successful candidacy of Donald Trump (and remained quite critical of him after the election).

Yes, Trump won. And yes, he has ushered in some conservative political victories. That’s a good thing. By all means, let’s give him some credit and add a slap on the back for good measure. But the nature of those victories also illustrates my point. They came not through advocacy or public persuasion on Trump’s part, but rather from many years of blood, sweat, and tears from the conservative movement that forced his political hand.

Jonah Goldberg touched on this just the other day:

“The best things Donald Trump has done, from a conservative perspective at least, stem from catering to the demands of the GOP or the conservative movement. He appointed judges from the Federalist Society’s list because he had to (before this was made clear to him, he was still talking about putting his sister on the court). His positions on guns, taxes, health care, defense spending, abortion, etc. are products of his transactional relationship with the institutions of the GOP establishment and the conservative coalition. The best proof of this is that he used to be pro-choice, anti-gun, pro–socialized medicine, etc.”

And if you believe that the hallmarks of modern conservatism that Trump adopted in these cases simply fell out of the sky one day, and that they weren’t pursued, carried, advanced, and heavily influenced over a number of years by conservative thinkers through writing, speeches, and other forms of media, you might as well be saying that the history of the GOP didn’t begin until 2016.

Sadly, a lot of the Trump crowd seems to believe precisely that, cavalierly casting aside the pre-Trump GOP and the conservative movement as having achieved essentially nothing.

Reality, however, tells a very different story.

David French wrote a great piece about this last month that highlights significant post-Reagan conservative victories for the pro-life movement, gun rights, education, individual liberty, and foreign policy. They are not to be ignored, and they all took place back when Donald Trump was a Democrat and Democratic donor who funded liberal candidates actively opposing such efforts.

“But what about the Obama era, when Republicans let the president and his progressive base get everything they wanted?” I’ve heard that assertion more than a few times, and it just doesn’t hold up.

As Charles Cooke described in a piece back in 2016, DC Republicans, despite their limited numbers (and the insistence otherwise of certain conservative talk-radio stars), actually managed to shut down quite a bit of the Obama and Democratic agenda:

“Without the GOP manning the barricades, Obamacare could well have been single payer, and, at the very least, the law would have included a ‘public option.’ Without the GOP manning the barricades, we’d have seen a carbon tax or cap-and-trade — or both. Without the GOP manning the barricades, we’d have got union card check, and possibly an amendment to Taft-Hartley that removed from the states their power to pass ‘right to work’ exemptions. Without the GOP standing in the way, we’d now have an ‘assault weapons’ ban, magazine limits, background checks on all private sales, and a de facto national gun registry. And without the GOP standing in the way in the House, we’d have got the very amnesty that the Trump people so fear.”

Cooke also pointed to several state-level achievements, and I would add that the budget sequestration of 2013 kept an extra trillion from being added to our national debt.

None of this is to say that there weren’t plenty of legitimate reasons to be frustrated with the GOP back then. But in a system such as ours, in which power in government is divided, and the number of political seats a party holds matters, it’s good to take a step back and consider a little context.

And in the broad scheme of things, the conservative movement has indeed paid big dividends since Reagan.

But it’s not just Republican leaders and lawmakers (who were sent to Washington on conservative platforms) who’ve been directly influenced by conservative commentary. More importantly, it’s where millions of Republican grassroots activists and volunteers, who’ve put in countless hours to advance conservative causes and elect conservative leaders, have taken much of their direction over the years.

I know this firsthand.

During Obama’s first term, I decided it was time to get more involved in the conservative movement and more deeply support the GOP’s opposition against the president’s abysmal leftist policies. I volunteered for conservative candidates — working in call-banks, knocking on doors, and even helping to organize a campaign fundraiser. I hosted a precinct at the Republican caucuses in 2012, and was twice elected to serve as a delegate at the Colorado GOP State Assembly & Convention so I could help shape the Republican platform and voter representation.

Over those years, I met and had conversations with a lot of other volunteers and activists. I got to know many of these folks, as well as who and what motivated them to spend so much of their time working on the advancement of conservatism. I can assure you that it wasn’t Donald Trump’s tweets, or Obama’s birth certificate, or hatred for John McCain. I can assure you that the books they carried under their arms weren’t written by Tony Schwartz.

No, their influences were prominent (and even not so prominent) opinion-makers within the conservative movement. Theirs were the books they toted. Theirs were the voices and arguments they endorsed and echoed.

Even Trump himself appeared to recognize this once upon a time:

I should note that many of the Republican grassroots foot-soldiers that I became acquainted with have since thrown in the towel — not on conservatism but on the GOP. They’d busted their asses for years to stem the tide of encroaching leftism here in Colorado, managing in 2014 (against the odds and all predictions) to unseat a Democratic U.S. senator in a state that had elected Barack Obama twice.

Two years later, these same people were mercilessly vilified and declared categorically corrupt by then candidate Donald Trump (and his media enablers like the Drudge Report) for having the gall to resoundingly support Ted Cruz — Trump’s last viable primary opponent who, unlike Trump, had been running on a conservative, small-government platform.

The debacle devastated the state GOP, alienating a lot of the party’s heavy-lifters, while moderates — turned off by Trump for the same reasons as most of the country — have likewise abandoned ship. Trump is so unpopular here that even strong, effective leaders like Mike Coffman, who voiced his discontent with Trump numerous times, was booted for being too closely aligned with the president. The Democrats swept this state last year, including the election of a far-left governor, and it doesn’t look like the political tides will be changing anytime soon.

But back to the topic of conservative commentary…

It goes without saying that well-worded conservative theses will never command endless hours of national news coverage the way the outlandish presidential candidacy of a television-celebrity billionaire untethered from facts and decorum can. As we saw, a spectacle of that magnitude can draw support from roughly a third of a political party’s primary voters, and if the general-election opposition is horrific enough, it can also propel one all the way to the White House.

But we also have to acknowledge that at some point, Donald Trump will no longer be president. And when that day comes, we’ll thank him for the select conservative gains that were achieved under his watch.

The very next day, a lot of clean-up work will have to begin.

We’ll miraculously remember that the national debt is a catastrophic problem of epic proportions, and we’ll wonder how in the heck it managed to leap by several trillion while we were busy getting worked up over NFL players kneeling and yelling “fake news” at every story we didn’t like.

We’ll sober back up to the dire state of our social safety-net programs, and recognize that something needs to be done — and done very quickly — to prevent them from leading to an economic upheaval.

We’ll wonder why in the heck we ever started these ridiculous trade wars that we’re bailing out with billions of taxpayer dollars as they drive up prices on American consumers and manufacturers.

We’ll wonder why we chose to needlessly alienate foreign allies while lending legitimacy, prestige, and the public deference of American intelligence conclusions to hostile leaders like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.

We’ll find ourselves struggling with how to achieve a rhetorical and unifying high-ground on just about any issue that requires public support, while looking at the sinking ship that is Republican voter affiliation (and wondering how — or if — the holes can be plugged).

Once Trump has cashed in his chips and left the building, and the personality cult disintegrates to the ground like an unlucky Avenger at the hands of Thanos, a number of things that we had forgotten about will have to be brought back into focus. Too many challenges that existed prior to Trump’s tenure will still be here and in far worse shape, and they’ll need addressing. There will be serious new challenges to contend with as well.

It’s worth remembering that while the rampant tribalism we see today is indicative of human nature, and demagoguery and executive actions can be effective in the short term, they can’t solve the problems in this country that conservatism (in its various forms) can.

Conservatism, in a number of ways, is just as inorganic and fragile as capitalism. Conservative tenets often aren’t inherently gravitated toward, but nonetheless, they’re crucially important and incredibly effective within societies. They must continually be promoted on their merits, whether it’s to the receptive, the skeptical, or the non-ideological (like the man who currently sits in the Oval Office).

And without thought leaders around to take up and advance the cause, can we really expect the tides of liberalism to ever recede?

Pre-order Safeguard, by John A. Daly




Why Some Conservatives Are Harder on the Right Than the Left

On occasion, readers have asked me why — these days — I tend to criticize people on the Right (aka people on “my side”) more often than I do people on the Left. Some find it puzzling, being that I have long written from a conservative point of view, including hundreds of stiff critiques of President Obama and his administration from 2011 (when I joined this website) to early 2017 (when Obama left office).

Of course, I haven’t stopped criticizing liberals and liberalism in the Trump era (not by any stretch of the imagination), as evidenced by my writings here, on other websites, and on social media (primarily Twitter). But yes, I have been harder on my fellow righties over the past three years or so, and I believe for good reason.

It’s not because I’ve suddenly become more liberal (a lazy accusation I often hear from Trump enthusiasts). On the contrary… My political positions haven’t changed one iota since the Obama years. The same can’t be said, however, for a lot of people on “my side,” who’ve had an awfully hard time figuring out that their conversion to Trumpism has made them far more liberal than they used to be.

Let me be clear: I’m a conservative, not a Trumpist. My views are decidedly to the right of most of those calling me a liberal.

So what’s the explanation? Why do I spend so much time taking “my side” to task? Well, that brings me to the point of this brief column, and why I chose to publish it today…

This morning, I stumbled across a long Tweet thread by a guy I follow on Twitter. His name is Neville, and he uses the handle “ConservativeBlackMan.” I noticed a while back that we share many views on (and frustrations over) today’s political landscape. And like me, Neville receives questions on why he’s harder on his side than the other side.

He addressed those questions last night. His explanation was thorough, thoughtful, and quite representative of mine. So I figured his post was worth sharing with the rest of you. Enjoy:

And in trademark Neville fashion, he includes some humor.

Hopefully Neville has helped explain some things for some of you. I’d be happy to discuss this topic further in the comment section below, if anyone’s interested.




18 Righties You Should Follow on Twitter

This is by no means the first website to produce a list of must-follow conservatives on Twitter. A handful of right-wing sites have done so over the years, and even left-leaning publications like Paste Magazine and Salon have lately joined in the fun (mostly focusing on conservative Trump skeptics).

But since the political twitterverse is a vast place, where there are indeed a good number of insightful and entertaining righties worth checking in on daily, I figured that another such list isn’t going to hurt anyone.

To make this one a bit different, however, I’m going to leave out some of the conservative social-media juggernauts like Ben Shapiro and Jonah Goldberg, who everyone already follows and knows are great. In fact, I’m not going to include anyone who has more than 150k followers. Instead, along with some familiar figures in the media, I’m going to include individuals whose names you may not have heard of until now.

Here we go (in no particular order):

1. Guy Benson

A Fox News contributor and political editor at Townhall, Benson has long been known for his thoughtful and intellectually-consistent commentary. His Twitter feed is an extension of that insight:

Benson is a principled voice and strong critic of uninformed and reckless political activism, as exhibited recently by Jimmy Kimmel:

2. Michael Freeman

Freeman is a conservative speechwriter, so you’d think he’d have some trouble fitting clever insight into 140 characters or less. Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case. His sharp wit generates a chuckle from me at least a couple times a day.

3. Terry Schappert

Schappert is a Fox News regular, the host of the reality show Hollywood Weapons, and one heck of a nice guy. A U.S. Army Special Forces veteran, Schappert is a warrior and a diplomat who has been known to use his Twitter feed to try and bridge the gap between the conservative movement and the Trump base. Additionally, he often provides a unique perspective on battles fought in the culture war:

4. Jon Gabriel

Gabriel, Ricochet.com’s Editor-in-chief, is kind of a Twitter legend, so there’s a pretty good chance you’re already following him. But in case you’re not, here are some samples of the brilliance:

Warning: Gabriel regularly shares his taste in music with his followers…and that taste is kind of weird.

5. Bethany S. Mandel

I’m embarrassed to say that I wasn’t familiar with Bethany Mandel until she generated (not by design) a fair amount of social-media attention by giving birth to her third child in a car on her way to the hospital .

Married to Seth Mandel of the New York Post, Bethany is a principled and provocative writer who isn’t afraid to tackle culturally-complicated topics.

She’s also kind of hilarious on social media:

6. Angela Nelson

Nelson occasionally composes diary-style columns for RedState, and is very active on Twitter, where she not only produces conscientious commentary, but also retweets some of the more interesting social-media content from the political Right.

7. T. Becket Adams

A commentator for the Washington Examiner, Adams is a must-follow on Twitter for his sharp, timely takes on the news of the day. He calls out political tribalism and double-standards whenever he sees them, and he does so with style.

8. Kimberly Corban

Corban is a rape survivor and Second Amendment advocate who uses her horrific experience to educate audiences across the country on sexual assault, the lasting impact it has on survivors, and self-protection. As an advocate and mentor for young women, Corban’s insight on Twitter has been particularly prudent to recent high-profile news stories involving sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.

She also happens to be uproariously funny:

Beyond all that, she’s a tremendous free-throw shooter.

9. Jay Caruso

Caruso writes for the Dallas Morning News and RedState, among other publications. He also co-hosts the entertaining Fifth Estate podcast with Neal Dewing.

A conservative and staunch Trump critic, Caruso has little patience for media-sycophants who’ve traded in their ideological principles and sense of decency for ratings and website-clicks.

10. Christian Toto

For those worn out on the exhaustively-preached left-wing orthodoxy of the entertainment industry, Christian Toto hears you. He’s a Denver-based entertainment reporter and commentator who examines the industry from a unique right-of-center perspective via his website, Hollywood in Toto. The content is always interesting, as are his Twitter takes.

11. Allen Ginzburg

Ginzburg has written for multiple conservative websites, but most of his commentary these days can be found on Twitter. He’s a sane voice in insane times, who calls out both sides of the political aisle.

12. J.R. Salzman

A veteran and wounded warrior of the Iraq war, Salzman is insightful and strongly spoken on issues relating to the military, foreign policy, and Veterans Affairs.

Plus, he’s always posting awesome stuff like this (which alone is worth a follow):

And this:

Make sure you check out Salzman’s word-work creations too. They’re fantastic.

13. Liam Donovan

Donovan, a contributor to National Review, works in Washington DC and has a sharp and wonky political mind. His thoughts are always worth paying attention to.

14. Darrick Johnson

Johnson is a regular guy whose Twitter-follow caught my eye when I realized that he lives in the town next to mine. Though I’ve never met him, I thoroughly enjoy his smart and funny tweets, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why fewer than 300 people follow him. Perhaps we can change that.

15. Ben Howe

Howe is a popular political writer (for RedState), filmmaker, and straight-shooter who has an uncanny gift for nailing profound, air-tight points in just a few words.

16. Tom Nichols

A number of people on Twitter have remarked on how much I remind them of Nichols (who’s a fellow author and political writer), and that they pay close attention to both of us. I have no reason not to believe this, other than the fact that he has a hundred-thousand more followers than I do (maybe I’m just a late bloomer). Anyway, his popularity is well-deserved:

17. Salena Zito

CNN’s Salena Zito is a very thoughtful journalist who has made it her job to examine the political tides in our country through the eyes of regular people. She recognized the power of Donald Trump’s appeal to working-class voters during the 2016 campaign, and has written several respectful pieces on these folks. That respectfulness has carried across to her Twitter feed where she is always a measured, informative purveyor of news.

18. Haley Byrd

Byrd is a congressional reporter for the Independent Journal Review, and doesn’t throw out a ton of a personal commentary on Twitter. However, her light-hearted approach to political reporting is always appreciated:

Well, I hope you all found the list useful, and if you’re looking for one more conservative worth a follow, I hear this guy has a way with words:

Happy tweeting.




Dennis Prager’s ‘Purist’ Straw Man

pragerConservative commentator Dennis Prager recently wrote a column in which he blamed what he sees as two major failures within the Republican party (and the conservative movement) on purist conservatism.

One of them, as you can probably guess, was the collapse of the American Health Care Act. The Republican-sponsored bill, which was supported by President Trump, Speaker Ryan, and a large majority of House Republicans, peeled away some key components of Obamacare. It wasn’t, however, the sweeping repeal-plan that many on the Right were hoping for, and it was ultimately denied the required number of votes to move forward by members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of very conservative congressmen.

Prager’s point was that by taking the hard-line position of insisting on the full repeal of Obamacare, rather than signing on to a multi-phased dismantling of the law that took into account the realities and complexities of the current health care system, Republicans came away with absolutely nothing. Thus, Obamacare will continue on as the law, untouched, indefinitely.

It’s a reasonable argument. While there were a number of conservatives outside of DC that opposed the bill (who were by no means purists), the Freedom Caucus members are well known for their opposition to legislative compromise in the name of conservative principle. And their rhetoric throughout the AHCA debacle reflected that.

Prager shot himself in the foot, however, with his second example of purist conservatism: The NeverTrump movement.

As someone who was an unapologetic NeverTrump voter from February 2016 through election day, who also happens to be to the left of Prager politically (as many NeverTrumpers were), I feel inclined to shoot down this silly narrative.

NeverTrumpers, of course, were those right-leaning folks who typically vote Republican, but couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Donald Trump in the general election. This very small but vocal minority grappled with their consciences quite a bit throughout the election cycle. They certainly didn’t want Hillary Clinton to become president, but they found Trump to be such a profoundly unacceptable nominee, that they couldn’t grant him their support. In the end, they voted for neither of the major-party candidates.

And as Mr. Prager (who’s quite familiar with this crowd) very well knows, it wasn’t about conservative purity — not in the general election anyway. NeverTrumpers ran the spectrum of the Right, from moderates to libertarians to right-wingers. They didn’t expect or demand ideological purity. What they expected was a nominee who was fit for the office. And in Trump, they didn’t see that person.

Sure, Trump’s liberal leanings were a concern for many conservatives during the primary (and beyond). The man, after all, was a lifelong Democrat who had given lots of money to Democratic politicians. The paint was still wet on his conversions to Republican stances on key issues like gun control, immigration, abortion, and taxes. And as a Republican candidate, Trump advocated for universal health care and praised single-payer. He vowed not to touch entitlement programs, campaigned against free trade, and described eminent domain as “wonderful.” He even parroted the reckless and conspiratorial anti-war rhetoric of Code Pink and Michael Moore.

These things deeply troubled a number of conservatives (as they should have), but even back then — before Trump became the GOP nominee — his positions weren’t the poison pill. Trump himself was the problem.

The current occupant of the Oval Office established himself early on as a man who had a ridiculously hostile relationship with the truth (far beyond what people are used to from politicians). He routinely made up outlandish stories and casually thew out assertions that were patently false. This went on routinely for well over a year. Sometimes the rhetoric was relatively harmless. Other times, it went as far as implicating foreign governments, world leaders, and even our own military.

One doesn’t have to be a conservative purist to have serious trouble supporting a pathologically dishonest individual, who demonstrates no understanding of the ramifications of his own words.

Then, there was the counter-punch.

When Senator John McCain made a joke at the expense of Trump supporters, Trump scoffed at the notion that McCain was a war hero, and mocked American POWs for their capture. When Trump took issue with a disabled journalist’s reporting, he lampooned the man’s disability. When Megyn Kelly asked a tough debate question, Trump suggested that she was on her period, and then harassed her on Twitter for nine months (resulting in 24/7 security for her and her family). When fellow candidate Ben Carson got too close to Trump in the polls, Trump compared him to a child molester and mocked his faith journey. When Jeb Bush challenged Trump at a debate, Trump accused his brother (former U.S. President George W. Bush) of lying about WMDs in Iraq, and being aware of the 9/11 plot ahead of time and doing nothing to stop it. When Ted Cruz’s father had choice words for Trump, Trump linked him to the JFK assassination. When Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled against Trump in a court case, Trump stated that the judge should recuse himself because of his Mexican heritage. When the Khan family (parents of a fallen U.S. soldier) criticized Trump, Trump responded by suggesting that the mother was stuck in an oppressive marriage that didn’t allow her to speak.

One doesn’t have to be a conservative purist to have serious trouble supporting a man who is despicably vindictive and can’t control his ugly impulses. Some might even have trouble helping such an individual get his hands on our country’s nuclear codes.

The perverse fixation on Vladimir Putin. The threatening of journalists. The difficulty with directly condemning David Duke and the KKK. The bragging of grabbing women by their genitals. The list went on and on, and none of these things had anything to do with conservative ideology.

Yet, Prager actually wrote this of Trump in his column: “There were no valid reasons to oppose him in the general election.”

No valid reasons? Just sanctimonious purist conservatism, huh? Please.

The reality is that if Trump had run on all of the same political positions, but had presented himself as something other than a disgusting, dangerous, and profoundly unsuitable individual, the NeverTrump crowd would have managed to hold their noses (albeit more tightly than usual) and sign on to the popular binary-choice (aka lesser-of-two evils) argument. Despite their deep reservations over his lack of conservative principles, they would have recognized him as being a better big-picture alternative than Clinton, and reluctantly given him their vote.

Instead, they were faced with the kind of dilemma The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes struggled with, and wrote about, when reflecting on Trump’s trashing of McCain’s status as a war hero: “The main reason I won’t support Trump is simpler and more personal [than his policies]: I couldn’t explain such a vote to my children.”

This sentiment was widely shared among the NeverTrump crowd, and we hated being put in such a position.

In the comment section of this very website, in response to my fellow righties who often blasted me during the election for my NeverTrump stance, and accused me of helping Hillary Clinton, I’d ask this question: If Trump were to literally spit in your spouse’s face, would you still vote for him?

Tellingly, no one ever answered it. Not a single person. They all either ignored the question or called it absurd, stating that Trump would never do such a thing. Of course, I didn’t ask the question believing such a scenario to be plausible, and I explained that. The reason I asked it was because I wanted to know if there was absolutely anything Trump could possibly do, that was so personally offensive, alarming, and beneath the dignity of the office, that would compel these people not to vote for him.

The question went unanswered because the honest reply would have been “no.” Anyone with any shred of personal dignity has a line that can’t be crossed, and a man spitting in their spouse’s face would certainly be it. And once the existence of such a line is acknowledged, it becomes much harder to deride those whose line had already been crossed (but didn’t require a literal slap to get there).

It’s quite easy, on the other hand, to throw out some absurd claim about purist conservatism to degrade people whose conscience wouldn’t let them support a particular individual. One has to wonder if Mr. Prager’s attempting to pacify his own misgivings with such a clumsy argument.

The NeverTrump movement (“stance” would be a better descriptor) ended on election night. It was about withholding our vote from an individual we deemed unfit for office. It wasn’t about blindly opposing that individual as president. While many of us have remained skeptics and critics, we’ve supported President Trump when he’s been right, and will continue to do so.

I got to know a lot of fellow NeverTrumpers throughout the election, and we always respected the logic of the vast majority of Republican voters that supported Trump. We understood the “binary choice” point of view. We simply disagreed with it on a personal level.

How about returning some of that respect, Mr. Prager, by dumping the “purity” straw man, and acknowledging that NeverTrumpers voted as they did out of conscience, even if your conscience led you in a different direction?




A Rebellion Against Liberalism in Hollywood?

speechTraditionally, Hollywood has seemed like the last place the conservative movement would go to if it were looking to pick up an endorsement. After all, the entertainment industry has long been hostile toward conservatives, routinely vilifying them in their movies, mocking them in their television shows, and denouncing them at their award ceremonies.

The political divide in the industry is so lopsided, in fact, that entertainment workers actually give six times as much money to Democratic candidates as they do Republican candidates. This would come as no surprise, of course, to all of the right-leaning actors and actresses who have been extremely careful over the years not to air their political opinions in public, fearing that doing so would lose them not only jobs, but possibly even their careers.

There just isn’t a lot of tolerance for conservatism (or even moderate views) in an industry that hails liberal elites like George Clooney, Ben Affleck, and Tina Fey as their distinguished mouthpieces. I’d call the situation hopeless, but I have noticed a small, unexpected change in the entertainment world over the past two years that I’ve actually found somewhat encouraging.

It seemed to start with a renewed interest in patriotism and pride in our military which I attribute to movies like Lone Survivor and American Sniper. These films were unique in that they portrayed the brave individuals who fought for us in Afghanistan and Iraq as heroes and patriots, rather than as international bullies or hapless victims of George W. Bush’s foreign policy (which was the go-to formula in Hollywood for several years). These were rebellious movies that flew in the face of tightly-held liberal sensibilities. They shook not only the industry, but also the actors who starred in them.

It’s clear to anyone who watched Mark Wahlberg and Bradley Cooper in promotional interviews for their respective films that they came away from them as changed men.  After immersing themselves in the lives of our soldiers, learning their stories, going through their training, and meeting their families, they developed a much different view than that of actor Matt Damon, who once claimed that people join the military because they can’t find any better work. Wahlberg and Cooper grew to understand the nobility and bravery of these people, and have become not only supporters but also staunch, outspoken advocates for them.

As a matter of fact, actor Tom Cruise got a taste of the respect Wahlberg has for our military, after he made a remark that being away from his family while filming movies was like serving in Afghanistan.

On another front, actor Matthew McConaughey surprised many at the Oscars last year by using his acceptance speech (for the Best Actor award) to lavish praise upon the person he believed was most responsible for his success: God.

“First off I want to thank God, because that’s who I look up to,” McConaughey said in front of an audience that largely views religion (specifically Christianity) with disdain. “He’s graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand. He has shown me that it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late (British actor) Charlie Laughton, who said, ‘When you got God you got a friend and that friend is you.'”

McConaughey was by no means the first person to thank God in front of a bunch of Hollywood liberals, but I can’t remember an entertainer of his notoriety ever being so upfront and emphatic about it. It was remarkable and quite refreshing. While there’s certainly nothing anti-liberal about Christianity (lots of liberals are Christians), wearing your faith on your sleeve is very much looked down upon in liberal circles—especially among the Hollywood elite. Thus, McConaughey most certainly ruffled some feathers with that speech, and I’m glad he did it.

Months later, McConaughey went sharply against the grain of his profession again in a commencement speech he delivered to the Spring 2015 graduating class of Houston University.

“Congratulations class of 2015,” the speech began. “Life’s not fair. It never was, isn’t now and won’t ever be. Do not fall into the entitled trap of feeling like you’re a victim. You are not.”

The speech hailed the importance of individual responsibility and work ethic a number of times, and attacked the entitlement mentality that is the modern day lifeblood of the liberal movement.

Actor Vince Vaughn, who has been a low-key libertarian for some time, recently placed his own political indiscretions aside and engaged in a full-throated defense of the 2nd Amendment during an interview with British GQ magazine.

In it, Vaughn said that he believed people should have guns in public, not just in their homes. When asked if guns should be allowed in schools, Vaughn replied: “Of course. You think the politicians that run my country and your country don’t have guns in the schools their kids go to? They do. And we should be allowed the same rights.”

“Banning guns is like banning forks in an attempt to stop making people fat,” Vaughn added. “Taking away guns, taking away drugs, [taking away] the booze, it won’t rid the world of criminality.”

It was a pretty brave stance considering how fiercely anti-gun Hollywood is (when they’re not glorifying gun violence on the big screen, that is).

Liberalism was called to court once again, just the other day, by a less likely source: Jerry Seinfeld.

In a radio interview with ESPN, the comedian told this story of a recent family conversation: “My wife says to my daughter (who is 14), ‘In the next couple of years, I think you’ll want to be hanging around the city more on weekends, so you can see boys.’ You know what my daughter says? ‘That’s sexist.’”

On a side note, I’m pretty sure this alone qualifies her to be a chairperson for the Democratic National Committee. But back to the column…

“They [today’s young people] just want to use these words,” Seinfeld complained. “’That’s racist.’ ‘That’s sexist.’ ‘That’s prejudiced.’ They don’t even know what they’re talking about.”

Seinfeld attributes the problem to crippling political correctness, fostered at American colleges (something conservatives have been pointing out for decades), and claims that it’s a bad thing for comedy. I’ve got news for Mr. Seinfeld: It’s also a bad thing for society.

I assume the former television star is smart enough to understand that it’s the sensibilities of the liberal elites he calls his friends that are killing his profession. Perhaps the interview was his way of airing his frustrations with them. I hope that’s the case, anyway. If not, he at least deserves some credit for identifying the problem in a very public way.

And then there was Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner who, in an interview a few weeks ago, shocked Diane Sawyer not so much with the history of his sexual identity issues, but with the fact that he was a Republican. The revelation came as Sawyer was trying to get the reality-television star to praise President Obama for his recognition of the transgender community. Jenner threw her a curve-ball by stating that he wasn’t a fan of the president’s and that he was a Republican because he believed in the Constitution.

When asked if he was worried that conservatives in the Republican Party wouldn’t accept his transition into a woman, he answered that neither political party had a monopoly on “understanding.”

Personally, I loved the exchange because it pointed out something extremely important—something that many liberals wish weren’t true: Minorities in this country aren’t defined by what makes them different than the majority. Being non-white, or gay, or transgender (or whatever) doesn’t preclude someone from believing in things like personal responsibility, fiscal discipline, small government, and a strong military. It’s okay to reject people who claim you’re a victim that needs help. It’s admirable in fact.

Pre-order John Daly's upcoming novel BLOOD TRADE.

Pre-order John Daly’s upcoming novel BLOOD TRADE.

What Jenner did was decimate the popular narrative that the Democratic Party is the party of the oppressed, and it’s been fun listening to liberals try and explain why Jenner was wrong.

While I don’t consider any of the people in the above examples to be warriors for the conservative movement (most of them probably aren’t even conservatives), I do think it takes some guts to poke at the progressive bubble their peers live almost uniformly inside of. For that, they deserve credit.

Diversity of thought is a good thing in any institution, and if these outliers can use the influence their notoriety brings them to draw a little bit of sanity back into mainstream American culture, that’s a good thing.

We could all use a little sanity right now, even if it’s coming from Hollywood.