Ask any modern conservative what past figure they look up to most, and there’s a high chance that Ronald Reagan’s name will come up. Having been California’s Governor from 1967-1975, where he was an overall popular figure, he narrowly lost the party nomination for President in 1976 to Gerald Ford, successfully secured it in 1980, and went on to win 489 electoral votes and 44 states, easily defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter. In his 1984 re-election campaign, he received the most electoral votes in American history, 525, and won all but one state. During his two-term presidency, which is widely regarded as transformative, he helped create the enormous economic boom brought along by “Reaganomics,” played a vital role in ending the Cold War, and, most importantly, revitalized the Republican Party and conservatism, which was, by many accounts, in dire straits after Watergate. For that, it would make sense for modern conservatives to respect him.
However, Reagan also made mistakes. One of the biggest, in my opinion, was what he called his “11th commandment,” which reads as follows: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”
On the surface, this rule seems solid. It’s pretty much the same rule that families follow, that of praising in public and criticizing in private. Of course, you don’t want to criticize them in front of other people; you’re supposed to be a unit, all working together for the same cause. However, there are dangers to that method of thinking.
First and foremost, what conservatives must realize is that there’s value in the concept of “in-fighting,” as many on the right tend to call it. Since the 2016 election, conservatives and Republicans have been painted by many on the left with one broad brush, as people who hate minorities, women, immigrants and the poor. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but there are those on and offline who are gross representations of that stereotype. If conservatives don’t distance themselves from people like this, then we stand to go down in flames with them.
A prime example of this is Roseanne Barr, a documented lunatic who has spent her entire career spouting leftist talking points and ran on a far-left platform for President, among a myriad of other crazy things. Given Roseanne’s past, the smart thing for conservatives to do would not be to associate with her. However, since conservatives are desperate for celebrities who think like them— an issue for another piece entirely— they were quick to embrace Roseanne when she came out as a Trump supporter. They turned out in droves for her show, alongside continually defending her from attacks from the left (and some on the right). However, it came back to bite them when she sent a tweet comparing Valerie Jarrett to an ape, sabotaging what her own show had sought to do in unifying the country. This naturally opened the floodgates for the left to attack. Due to guilt by association, conservatives were once again the aforementioned gross stereotype leftists portrayed them as.
The second thing that conservatives must realize about “in-fighting” is it gives us a form of high ground, though we have to work twice as hard to get it. Conservatives do in fact often call each other out already, but most on the left vehemently refuse to do so. However, when they do, it’s met with thunderous applause and remarks of bravery.
Take for example former Minnesota Senator Al Franken, who stepped down after a string of sexual assault allegations forced the hand of Democratic Party leadership to urge his resignation. Franken did so, but not before taking a potshot at the President, who also has numerous allegations against him. While Democrats were patting themselves on the back, Republicans had their own problem, namely, Roy Moore. Most conservatives consistently condemned Moore’s reprehensible past, and Sen. Jeff Flake even donated to Doug Jones’ campaign, but what the left saw were the interviews with his dim-witted spokespeople and tweets and articles like this one, that actively promote voting for a disgraceful candidate as long as they share your opinion on policy.
This is not all to say that conservatives shouldn’t defend their ideological brothers-in-arms, especially when they’re being unfairly attacked, but we also need not refrain from or be afraid of criticizing them. If we don’t do it ourselves, the left will surely do the job for us— tenfold.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.