So let us review where we are.
For my entire adult life (and I understand the pattern started earlier than that), the received wisdom has been for Republican candidates to run to the right and govern to the middle. Virtually everyone did this, whether because that was where their heart actually was, or because they were manipulated or forced in that direction. Some politicians were actual (albeit secret) members of the swamp tribes, some went native, and others were kidnapped. But whatever the reason that is the direction things invariably went.
The most principled conservative of the entire lot (Reagan) is perceived as an enemy of government bloat because he successfully slowed down the rate of the bloating. That is how “cuts” in Washington are defined, cutting the rate of growth. This is like a 400 pound man, who gains ten pounds annually, describing a regimen in which he gains five pounds during that same period as a weight loss program. And with all the care of exquisite and experienced liars, our politicians carefully rely on the difference between deficits and debts, pretending that to do something superficial about the former actually helps with the latter.
So this is the way it has been, and thus it seemed it always would be. This has happened over and over. Lucy and the football, over and over. Candidates who sounded really conservative, who talked a good game, who sounded genuine and sincere—the most we could hope for from them was to postpone the day of reckoning. The Democrats insisted on hurtling toward the cliff at 90 mph (“Venezuela or bust!”) while the Republicans (ever voices of moderation) wanted to hurtle in the same direction at 75 mph. The most drastic conservative measures always seemed to cash out to some form of slightly slower liberalism.
This bait and switch move has been the pattern for so long that it has gotten itself embedded in the conservative psyche. It certainly got embedded in mine. This had happened so many times with plausible conservatives that when the implausible conservative that is Trump came along . . . well, I just flat didn’t believe him, and where I did believe him, I disagreed with him. Not only was he the implausible conservative, he was the uber-implausible conservative. I did not vote for him because of character issues and because of believability issues.
Let us focus on the believability issue for a moment. Let us make up a liberal to conservative scale running from one to ten. If Reagan ran as a 10 and governed as an 8, if Bush the Second ran as an 8 and governed as a 6, and you get the picture, what were we to expect from an unlikely late convert to conservatism who ran as a 6? Some of his positions were conservative on paper (e.g. pro-life), but because of their johnny-come-lately character not very believable, while other positions were more populist than conservative (e.g. tariffs), but believable for that reason. So I had every reason (given the historical patterns) to expect him to run as a 6 and govern as a 3. It was not unthinkable to me that he might have wound up governing to the left of where Hillary would have been. Such is the nature of our historic double-crosses.
Nobody ever double-crossed anybody in the opposite direction. Nobody ever ran to the middle and governed to the right. Until now, that is.
Nobody ever ran as a 6 and governed as an 8. But here we are, and that’s as may be. At the same time, a simple scale of 1 to 10 doesn’t do our gaudy situation justice—there has been a lot of additional pyrotechnics, Twitterverse sturm und drang, White House personnel being defenestrated on a regular basis, and other gratuitous entertainments. We shouldn’t ever forget that aspect of it. So when you consider the 8 we are getting instead of the anticipated 3 (certain under Hillary, possible under Trump), and then you throw in all the eager anticipation of watching the daily roundup of the Washington rowdydow on the evening news, the only real conclusion is that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
In the meantime, the Left has been driven barking mad over Trump’s antics, and are hellbent on nailing him for colluding with Russia in the election, and the more that saga unfolds the more we see that it was Hillary colluding bigtime with the Russians, and it turns out that folks really do fall into their own trap, just like it was a movie. “He made a pit, and digged it, And is fallen into the ditch which he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate” (Psalm 7:15–16).
All of this explains very little except why I am sitting here with a jumbo tub of popcorn, with extra butter. I am simply describing what I see here, not explaining it. I don’t really have an accounting for why any of this is happening, except the unmerited favor and grace of God, coupled with a remarkable display of His sovereignty. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever he will” (Prov. 21:1).
Now the Heritage Foundation is what professionals call a Respectable Outfit. Their scholars wear bow ties, and generally have their shirts buttoned up straight—the right button in the right hole, if you know what I mean. These are guys whose socks usually match, and nobody ever accused them of being alt-righty. If you are the kind of conservative who likes to stand on his dignity, this is a good place to stand. And the only times they are accused of being white supremacists is when the Left is accusing absolutely anybody to the white-ward side of octaroon of being a white supremacist. If you are a mainline conservative, the kind who cares about propriety, the Heritage Foundation is legit.
They put together a punch list of 334 items for the new president to do. After just one year, the Trump administration has fulfilled 64% of them. Heritage did this for the first time with Reagan’s election, and at the same point in Reagan’s presidency, he had fulfilled 49% percent of them. More here.
Now this means that, for many respectable Christians, with emphasis there on respectable, a small little cloud of consternation, the size of a man’s fist, has now appeared in the azure sky. That little cloud is called the 2020 election. Whatchagonnado?
I don’t need anybody to tell me that Trump is not a “true conservative.” His recent announcement on steel tariffs, his ad libbing on how due process for guns is for mañana, his support for the Kelo decision, his approach to infrastructure spending, etc. show that Trump is not personally anchored to any consistent worldview conservatism. And yet . . . and yet he is enacting more conservative agenda items than I believe could have been enacted by the men who ran against him, many who had a far better claim to the conservative label than Trump has.
“But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you” (Matt. 21:28–31).
Someone will object and say that this parable is about spiritual truths. I grant it, but it does not strengthen the respectability point to argue that porn stars can come into the kingdom but not into the White House. That might reveal where we think the real sacrilege is, and hence what our real religion is.
I am proposing that we start conducting the thought experiment now, because this thing is going to be upon us before we are ready for it. Suppose that the first year of the Trump administration is a good predictor of what we are going to see for the next two years. And so two years from now, the Democrats will be deciding whether to go with the Bolshevik or the Menshevik. Trump will head into his reelection campaign, trailing clouds of pandemonium behind him. Over the course of his three years in office, he will have made the conservative brand terminally uncool, turning off the hipster libertarians. He will have made the conservative brand terminally undignified, turning off the bow tie set. He will have done more damage to the progressive agenda than we ever expected to see anybody do in our lifetimes. I merely propose the question.
And more to the point, will you be willing to say so in public?
Discuss among yourselves.