William B. Turner
Conservatism as a political philosophy is rank nonsense. It is simply foolish to state an automatic suspicion of change. Not all change is good, but change is inevitable, and the most sensible attitude towards it is one of curiosity. When one sees specific harms as resulting from specific changes, one can work to eliminate or ameliorate them, but such efforts will more likely succeed the more carefully one looks at the change in question. Conservatism is a philosophy of refusing to look as long as possible.
Conservative persons, however, are paragons of decency. Not party animals, but you can safely invite them to any party and expect them to comport themselves flawlessly. They have impeccable manners. Think Prince Charles. Not a barrel of fun, but very upright and proper.
There are no real conservatives in the United States. Real conservatives are monarchists. The real conservatives left British North America at the promulgation of the Declaration of Independence, which was a statement of defiance to the King of England, which no monarch could abide.
The closest we had once the Revolutionary War started were the slave owners, who played a major role in getting the Revolution started and provided much of the leadership through the War and for the first generation afterwards. Thus was racism installed as a grounding principle in what passes for conservatism in the United States.
Overt racism is something no respectable citizen of the United States wants to traffic in these days. Faux, U.S. “conservatives” are vaguely aware of the standards for real conservatives and pay lip service to them. They are also deeply conformist. So they usually try to keep their racism a secret. Richard Nixon showed them how to do that in 1968 by running on behalf of the “silent majority,” which distinguished all the upstanding, conformist people from the dirty hippies and the civil rights protesters. This approach became standard operating procedure for Republican presidential candidates until Donald Trump. By dint of being a rich property owner, Trump had an obvious, natural affinity for the Republican Party, the Party of rich property owners. The problem was that he was overt about his racism and he was, is, stunningly crass and vulgar.
His vulgarity reaches no heights greater than when he talks about sex, which he does far more than any president of the United States ought to do. We do occasionally get some attractive presidents. John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama and, to some people, apparently, Bill Clinton come to mind. Donald Trump does not. No one wants to think about Trump and sex at the same time. Melania has to, but she signed up for that job, so we need have no sympathy for her.
During a Republican presidential debate in March 2016, Trump said, “I have to say this, he hit my hands. Nobody has ever hit my hands. I’ve never heard of this one. Look at those hands. Are they small hands? And he referred to my hands if they’re small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee you.”
In other words, for the first time in the history of the United States, a candidate for the office of president of the United States made a dick joke on national television. Such is “conservatism” U.S. style. Prince Charles would never make a dick joke in public. That time he got caught wishing he were Camilla’s tampon, it was in a private conversation that became public inadvertently.
U.S. “conservatives” see vulgarity as a virtue. No real conservative would ever call a woman a “slut” in public, as Rush Limbaugh did during the debate over access to contraceptives.
Now, however, to ensure the complete degradation of U.S. “conservatism,” the Donald has struck again. He has carried his vulgarity over into the realm of international diplomacy, or international undiplomacy, since never was there a man who is less diplomatic than the Donald. On January 2, 2018, Trump tweeted, “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
In other words, the president of the United States has hurled a dick joke at a foreign leader. That the foreign leader in question is roughly as crazy as the Donald is no excuse. There was a time, about a year ago, when the United States was still the leader of the free world. The Donald has entirely squandered the U.S. leadership position with his foolish positions and his boorish, vulgar behavior.
When Dwight Eisenhower left office, many observers gave him relatively low marks as president. Many people thought he had been oddly passive as president, not as involved in the doings of his two terms as he should have been. Many years later, a historian spent many weeks immersed in the documents of the Eisenhower presidency and produced a book that raised Eisenhower in everyone’s esteem. The name of the book was The Hidden Hand Presidency, reflecting the conclusion the historian came to that Eisenhower had been more involved than most people realized, he had just been very quiet about it.
The Republican Party has now replaced the hidden hand presidency with the dick joke presidency.