The late great conservative philosopher Roger Scruton once warned readers in his book How to Be a Conservative that “good things are easily destroyed but not easily created.” A year after his passing, Scruton’s words are more important than ever for the conservatives who watched in horror at what unfolded on January 6th 2021. President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral certification will be forever remembered for the rioting and destruction by armed right-wing extremists who stormed the Capitol building and disrupted sacred democratic procedures. The insurrection caused many politicians on both sides to rightfully warn Americans that democracy is fragile, even in a country with the long and rich democratic history of the United States.
Those in positions of power who continued to support President Trump’s failed effort to challenge the election and refused to listen to their colleagues’ wisdom will also be remembered when history has been written. These Trump “dead-enders” who encouraged militants to break through the Capitol, whether it be for political gain or financial rewards, must be punished for their actions. President Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Josh Hawley, and others will deservedly receive scorn from unfriendly media outlets, but those among conservative intelligentsia must also unequivocally denounce the events that unfolded. A clear line has to be drawn between the honorable creed of American conservatism and the treacherous extremism displayed in the nation’s Capital. In no way does an armed riot against American democracy represent the values of American conservatives, the GOP, or the vast majority of the American people. We must remind the critics who served as apologists for months of far-left rioting and violence that the conservatism advocated for by the right is one based on a rich intellectual tradition from Edmund Burke to Ronald Reagan. It does not have any connection to the thuggery on display in and around the capitol building.
The values held by right wingers including faith, tradition, limited government, family, patriotism, free markets, prudence, liberty, restraint, and the rule of law were not represented by the Trump dead-enders who sought to undermine American democracy. It is unfortunate that this shameful act will be associated with conservatism and the American right, but to move on we must clearly state the difference between conservatism and treason. Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and other opportunistic grifters must be removed from conservative politics and never taken seriously. The prominent conservative politicians involved cannot be forgiven for their sedition against the American republic, even if that means primarying rising stars or refusing to support future Presidential bids. If conservatives hesitate to properly condemn the rioting incited by those on the extreme right now and in the future, we will be no better than the Democrats who unflinchingly supported the carnage brought by Black Lives Matter last summer.
Debates will continue to be held by conservative thinkers about the direction the GOP should take following the narrow defeat of President Trump, and there are many lessons to be learned from the Trump Presidency. While the “Never-Trump” conservatives will feel vindicated by the President’s unacceptable behavior, the GOP should not forget why people were drawn to Trump back in 2016. His hardline stances on immigration, trade, and America’s relationship with China were widely popular in the party and should become Republican orthodoxy in the future. Further, Trump’s disdain for the Bush-Obama conflicts in the middle east, aggressive approach to the culture war, unapologetic patriotism, and the support he received from the working class contrasted from the “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush, which should lead to considerable rethinking from even the harshest conservative Trump critics. Although Trump’s rhetoric on most issues was vastly different from the policies of his administration, fruitful discussions of the future of conservatism should not be silenced because of Trump’s inexcusable behavior over the past few months.
Despite the tensions between various factions of conservatism, conservatives should all come to an agreement that grasping for straws to appease Donald Trump’s insatiable ego will destroy the conservative movement in the United States. We should adhere to the lessons of Edmund Burke who once quipped “rage and frenzy will put down more in a half hour than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years.” Approaching the American electorate with a robust conservative platform that differentiates itself from the woke radicalism and globalist economy of the Democratic party should enable the GOP to regain power from the Democrats in the foreseeable future. If that is to happen, the shameful behavior of the President and his dead-enders since the legitimate election of Joe Biden and the Supreme Court’s rebuttal of their legal action to overturn the election must be thoroughly rejected by the right for the sake of our country.