A Short Guide to MAGA "Conservatism"
What it is. And what it isn't.
Last week, a reporter for NPR asked me, “How conservative is the GOP?” It’s an awkward question because it all depends on what you mean by the word “conservative” these days.
A few years ago I (naively) thought I knew the answer. I’m not so sure anymore, so this is what I said:
As 2024 approaches, Sykes thinks that what people think of as conservatism may at this point be more about style than substance.
"It's whoever can play most effectively to the media wing of the Republican Party, who can anger the left, who promises to fight and inflict damage on the left more more aggressively."
But it’s actually more complicated and puzzling than that, isn’t it? Because what passes for “conservatism” now, in right-wing media and MAGA circles, is not really what Edmund Burke (or J.S. Mill, Milton Friedman, Bill Buckley, George Will, or Charles Krauthammer) had in mind, is it?
Herewith a short and admittedly incomplete guide to what MAGA “conservatism” is, and what it is not. Let me know what I left out.
MAGA “Conservativism” is for a strong national defense…
…except, of course, when it is not.
MAGA “Conservatives” believe in fiscal restraint…
…except when they are in the White House.
National Review’s Rich Lowry notes the “sporadic commitment to fiscal conservatism” by the GOP.
After a hiatus during the Trump years, Republicans are back in the mood for fiscal probity.
It’s very strange not to seriously pursue a deeply held goal when you have unified control of Washington, then to insist on trying to achieve much of it in one fell swoop when you barely have control of one chamber of Congress.
“Hiatus,” is kind of a nice way to put it. Actually, the Trump years added $7.8 trillion to the national debt in just four years — which is about 25 percent of the nation’s accumulated $31 trillion debt bomb.
“Conservatives” are devoted to the constitution, which must be strictly observed…
… except when it needs to be scrapped in order to hold onto power.
“Trump calls for the termination of the Constitution in Truth Social post.”
“Do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Trump wrote in a post on the social network Truth Social … “Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”
MAGA “Conservatives” believe in “American Exceptionalism”…
…except when they are lavishing praise on foreign leaders like Viktor Orban, or (as I wrote earlier this week) wishing that we could be more like the Philippines, or China, in our willingness to kill suspected criminals.
And then there was this:
President Donald Trump appeared to equate US actions with the authoritarian regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview released Saturday, saying, “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”
Conservatives used to support resistance to Russian aggression…
…but MAGA “Conservatives” are now Vladmir Putin’s most useful idiots.
MAGA “Conservatives” are against Affirmative Action…
…except when they need to win a senate seat.
MAGA “Conservatives” are all about “law and order”…
…except when they say screw it.