Now hating is self-justifying

Published 3:55 pm Saturday, May 27, 2017

“They’re beating plowshares into swords for this tired old man that we elected king.

Armchair warriors often fail and we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales.”

—Don Henley

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I guess it really does take one to know one.

Charlie Sykes is a bona fide conservative of the Barry Goldwater/Edmund Burke vein. I’m pretty sure he has papers and everything.

From 1993 until last year, Sykes was one of the most influential voices in Wisconsin, hosting the most popular talk-radio show in Milwaukee until the candidacy and eventual Republican nomination of Donald Trump forced him to question the very nature of conservatism as it is now manifested and he quit. He still operates his “Right Wisconsin” blog on Twitter and is now a frequent contributor on (gasp!) MSNBC.

And a couple of weeks ago. Sykes penned an essay for The New York Times’ Sunday Review section beneath a headline of: “If Liberals Hate Him, Then Trump Must Be Doing Something Right” that is about as insightful and profound a piece that’s come down the pike in quite a while.

It explains the Donald Trump phenomenon; it explains those who have pledged their fealty to him, and it explains much of the mindless venom being spewed all over social media.

And that which Sykes has come to recognize, he calls “Rabid anti-anti Trumpism.”

Sykes believes that traditional conservatism, with its belief in ordered liberty and respect for the rule of law is “being eclipsed by something different: Loathing those who loathe the president.”

As example, he quotes Rush Limbaugh’s remarks in the immediate wake of Trump’s controversial firing of FBI Director James Comey one day and his hosting of Russian officials in the Oval Office the next: “This is great,” the shy, retiring and always rational Limbaugh shouted across the radio waves. “Can we agree that Donald Trump is probably enjoying this more than anybody wants to admit or that anybody knows? So he fires Comey yesterday. Who’s he meet with today? He’s meeting with the Soviet, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov! I mean, what an epic troll this is.”

Mr. Conservative Radio, with near orgasmic excitement, positively compares the President of the United States to a person who intentionally antagonizes others online by posting inflammatory or offensive comments, designed to disrupt. And that Limbaugh could do because throughout his campaign, he had told his audience “Do not expect Trump to be conservative. He isn’t one.”

Which marked the first time in my life I had agreed with Rush Limbaugh, but more significantly, had marked a sea change in American conservative thought, Sykes maintains.

“While there are those like Sean Hannity who are reliable cheerleaders for all things President Trump, much more of the conservative news media is now less pro-Trump than it is anti-anti-Trump. The distinction is important, because anti-anti-Trumpism has become the new safe space for the right,” Sykes wrote.

And this, he says, is how it works:

Rather than defend any specific Trump action, his supporters now change the subject to “the biased fake news media, over-the-top liberals, hypocrites on the left, anyone else victimizing Trump or his supporters and whataboutism, as in ‘What about Obama?’ or ‘What about Clinton?’”

All of which not only looks like the average Facebook feed but in classic cause and effect allows the Trumpites to “delight in the frustration and anger of his opponents.”

Sykes (I think rightly) concludes that Trump’s base of support hasn’t and probably won’t hold him to promises or actual accomplishments because conservative politics is now less about those things and more about making their enemies on the Left “cry out in anguish,” with ad hominem attacks, logical fallacy notwithstanding, being a primary strategy.

The dirt of anti-anti-Trumpism is being piled on the conservative graves of Burke, Goldwater, Buckley and Reagan, even as they turn over within them.

“In many ways,” Sykes writes, “anti-anti-Trumpism mirrors Donald Trump himself, because at its core there are no fixed values, no respect for constitutional government or ideas of personal character, only a free-floating nihilism cloaked in insult, mockery and bombast.”

Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of The Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork