Republicans Should Embrace Conservatism As Reagan Did


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Note: The following is the second of two articles where Lone Conservative contributors give their opposing thoughts on the ideas of Ronald Reagan and the future of the conservative movement. Please be sure to check the homepage for the opposite viewpoint which was posted earlier.

It may seem counterproductive to demand one faction of the GOP prevail over the other, but any chance of unity has been eliminated by the actions of the Trumpians. 

Trump has his list of enemies, and not even Mitch McConnell or Mike Pence managed to escape his or his supporters’ rage. And two of the most Trumpian members of Congress, Matt Gaetz and Majorie Taylor Greene, have made it clear that Trumpism isn’t here to work with conservatism, it’s here to replace it. 

The Republican Party must choose a path and Trumpism is the wrong one. It can hardly be called a principled movement. The essence of Trumpism is a personality cult that places the man above any sort of principles. Trumpism sees any disagreement with Trump as proof you aren’t sufficiently anti-Left and are the enemy. 

Ironically, this mindset makes the Trumpians a mirror image of the radical Left. Both show contempt for our institutions as soon as they get in the way. (Trump was advocating abolishing the filibuster well before AOC.) Both embrace conspiracy theories, with Trump believing he will be reinstated as president come August.

Trumpian willingness to undermine elections to appease Trump is unAmerican. Trump was more than willing to spread lies and attempt to bully Pence into violating the Constitution. These lies have an impact, with 53% of Republicans wrongly believing Trump is the true president. Of course, Trump’s lies about Biden stealing the election are no more true than his lies about Ted Cruz stealing the Iowa caucus in 2016.

Furthermore, on a very practical level, Trumpism is unelectable. MTG and Gaetz may want Trump to replace Reagan, but Reagan won 49 states. Trump couldn’t beat Joe Biden and cost Republicans both chambers of Congress. 

Though it is obvious Trumpism must be defeated, finding an alternative has seen some missteps. For example, Paul Ryan seems to want us to embrace an establishment-friendly, no culture war, return to normalcy. Such an approach will just have the GOP lose with dignity. It must also be acknowledged that Ryan sounds rather silly saying we can’t have a personality cult so let’s base the GOP around Reagan forever. 

Furthermore, this establishment Reaganism is a distortion of what Reagan stood for. He was more than willing to go against the status quo, producing a victory in the Cold War with rhetoric and tactics the establishment thought would get us into WWIII. And while he could have been more involved in the culture war, his fight for American values against Communism and the Radical Left was a conservative win in the culture war. 

Reagan was certainly a great president, but it is not Reaganism that must be chosen, but conservatism. For it was his embrace of conservatism that made Reagan great. But what should conservatism be conserving? Democrats have had so many policy and cultural victories that simply conserving that which has been would include entitlements we cannot afford, abortion, etc. The values and principles we should be conserving are those of 1776: the American Creed and natural law, the republican principles of liberty and justice. 

The common objections to upholding conservatism as Reagan did are typically that times have changed and the Cold War mentality must be done away with, and traditional conservative principles such as our defense for free markets must be rethought in the face of corporate Leftism. 

Concerning this supposedly outdated Cold War mentality, I would observe that the Evil Empire is still alive in China, and we must continue to work towards the end of its communist tyranny. And it is true leftist corporations are problematic, but our principles do not pertain solely to those we agree with. The principles of free markets are just as worth defending concerning leftists as are the principles of free speech when Nazis are marching through Skokie.

And when considering if our principles need to be updated, it needs to be remembered that when Thomas Jefferson enumerated the Revolutionary principles in the Declaration, he was identifying objective truths. Nikki Haley referenced these objective truths in her speech at the GOP convention, saying, “America isn’t perfect. But the principles we hold dear are perfect.” Perfect principles are eternal. And eternal principles, by their very nature, are unchanging.

These principles are what made America a free nation worth loving. Our nation’s greatest triumphs have been in the pursuit of those principles, and our greatest sins have been in violation of them. 

Today, America is faced with many grave challenges. If we are to rise up and overcome these challenges, we must embrace conservatism. Only those principles can keep us free, and only those principles can handle the challenges facing us. They are why America has always been great, and we must never reject them if America is to stay great.

Jack Shields is a student at Texas A&M University. He is a history major and huge Dallas Cowboys fan, with interests in politics, religion, and philosophy.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Jack Shields

Jack Shields is a student at Texas A&M University. He is a history major and huge Dallas Cowboys fan, with interests in politics, religion, and philosophy.

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