Port: Conservatism can't just be about making liberals angry
We conservatives should make our choices — from whether to buy a gun to what sort of immigration policy we prefer — based on what's workable and in line with our principles. Not on how it will make liberals react.
MINOT, N.D. — "Piss off a liberal," the bumper sticker on the pickup in front of me read, "buy a gun."
I spotted this crude bon mot after dropping my kids off at school this week. I was stuck in a traffic jam — or, at least, what counts for a traffic jam in Minot — with not a lot else to do but ruminate.
It occurred to me that this bumper sticker may encapsulate, succinctly, what conservatism in the era of Donald Trump has become.
An ideology that is fundamentally reactionary. One that is defined by its liberal opposition.
I'm in favor of people buying guys if they want a gun, or need a gun. Keeping and bearing arms is a civil right. But why would you exercise that right just to make someone else angry?
Why would you do anything just to earn the pique of another person?
That's childish, yet this juvenile thinking seems to permeate the modern conservative movement, to its detriment.
Principled conservatism works when it promotes policies generally organized around the belief that taxes ought to be low, and government ought to be small and not intrusive.
So what, then, to make of an iteration of conservatism that seems to be little more than culture war trolling?
Did we elect Donald Trump as president because he'd be a good leader, or because he makes progressives puke?
Do we want to build a border wall because that's an effective way to secure the southern border? Or do we just want to earn a scolding from a New York Times columnist?
The recent imbroglio over the busing of immigrants from border states to places such as Martha's Vineyard is a prime example of what I'm talking about. There is a valid point to be made about the hypocrisy of liberals who talk sanctimoniously about offering sanctuary to those crossing our borders illegally while living hundreds and even thousands of miles away from the epicenter of the problem.
With a little bit of forethought, the Republican governors, like Ron DeSantis in Florida and Greg Abbott in Texas, could have made that point by publicly asking communities like New York and Martha's Vineyard to take some people in. It would have put the leaders in those liberal-leaning communities in a tough spot. They would be expected to have the courage of their convictions.
Instead, DeSantis and Abbott, et al, went about it in a way intended to provoke anger among liberals, rather than a thoughtful reconsideration of their positions.
This is how conservatism is going off the rails. We conservatives should make our choices — from whether to buy a gun to what sort of immigration policy we prefer — based on what's workable and in line with our principles.
Not on how it will make liberals react.
When we do the latter, it allows liberals to define us as conservatives, and not in a flattering way.
When our ideology, our culture, and our policy positions, are rooted in whatever "pisses off" a liberal, we end up becoming what liberals accuse of us being. And that's not something conservatives should ever want to be.