Category: Politics

Mo Brooks was correct to oppose phony repeal-and-replace bill

The few conservatives we have in Congress have suddenly found themselves caught in a traditional V-shaped ambush, with bands of intersecting fire coming from both Republicans and Democrats. From the establishment's left, their efforts to repeal Obamacare were called unconscionable, cruel and even corrupt. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said it represented "a merciless assault on working families." But conservatives were only trying to save the healthcare market from an inevitable financial death spiral that'd leave those families with the type of substandard care seen in most European nations. From the establishment's right, their pledge to vote against its poorly written replacement - the American Health Care Act - was also described as too demanding, puritanical, and even disloyal. President Donald Trump, reeling after the bill's defeat, sent this tweet: "Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!" But conservatives were only trying to keep the promise they (and Trump) made to repeal - in its entirety - Obamacare, and not simply tweak the program here and there. Regardless of what the establishment may think, Americans owe a debt of gratitude to most of the members of the Freedom Caucus, and especially to U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Hunstville. Brooks, along with every Republican member of our state's Congressional delegation, promised that he'd vote to repeal Obamacare when given the chance. But when push came to shove, only Brooks kept that promise, and…

Conservatism rejects the central planning behind Obamacare reform

Conservatives, don’t be deceived. Any attempt by Republicans in Congress to ensure that all Americans have affordable health care coverage will simply extend and further complicate the mess left by Obamacare. But that’s exactly what’s happening, at least according to House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. “Let me be clear,” she said earlier this year when top Republicans were drafting the reform bill behind closed doors. “No one who has coverage because of Obamacare today will lose that coverage. We’re providing relief. We aren’t going to pull the rug out from anyone.” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price echoed that undeliverable promise last weekend. “I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we’re going through,” Price said when asked about the bill on Sunday. He added, “We’ll have more individuals covered.” Conservatives know these statements cannot be true for many reasons, but chiefly because they run headlong against one of our movement’s guiding beliefs: our principle of imperfectability. The late Russell Kirk observed that when a society seeks to make things perfect – everybody having excellent health care, for instance – things usually end very badly. The only equality such schemes achieve is by dragging everyone into the gutter together. “To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things,” Kirk wrote. “All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering…

Reports of conservatism’s death have been greatly exaggerated

The headlines after last month's Conservative Political Action Conference seemed to describe less a celebration of our party's complete electoral domination and more a wake for our movement. "RIP, movement conservatism," declared the American Thinker. "How Donald Trump killed movement conservatism," wrote Truthout. "Trump's takeover of conservatism is complete," opined a Washington Post columnist. The rash of obituaries didn't end with the conference, either. Headlines following the president's first address to a joint session of Congress continued the trend. "Trump's speech to Congress killed conservatism," wrote one Mediaite contributor, and the bells continue to toll with each passing day. These types of political eulogies are nothing new, though. Similar headlines ran when Senator Barry Goldwater lost in 1964, when then-Governor Ronald Reagan lost his primary fight in 1976, and also in 1992 and 2006. Four years ago Reuters even asked "Is conservatism going extinct?" and in 2008 The New Republic happily confirmed that, yes, "Conservatism is dead." Ding-dong, the liberals cheered ... then their party went on to lose more than 1,000 elected offices during the next eight years. Who won those seats? For the most part, conservatives. Truth is, our movement was far from dead in 1964 and it's far from dead now. Quite the opposite. Still, these doom-and-gloom articles do illustrate how some people consistently confuse things like principles and policies with mere people. To paraphrase the protagonist in "V for Vendetta" the conservative movement is more than just flesh. It is an idea ... and ideas are…

How can someone possibly be a conservative?

Earlier this month a senator from South Carolina was called a "traitor" and told he "doesn't have a shred of honor" because he voted to confirm Alabama's Jeff Sessions as our nation's attorney general. A few days later a young singer from California received death threats after she wore a gown to the Grammys emblazoned with the campaign slogan of our current president. Then a journalist in New York City was called a "monster" by his best friend after writing a rather balanced profile of political provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, and was then called a "Nazi" in a local bar after admitting he supported stronger borders. What was their great transgression? It wasn't so much what they said or did, but who they are. The senator is Tim Scott - a black man. The singer is Joy Villa - a black woman. And the journalist, Chadwick Moore, is a gay man who recently told NPR that he and others are "part of a brand new conservative" taking shape across the country. "We were born in the Democratic party," Moore explained. "Somebody set our house on fire, we went running out, and the right has been so welcoming to people like me and there's so many of us." Yet, as Moore learned, his old pals on the left reserve a special sort of vitriol for those who dare to step outside of their neatly designed box of identity politics. If you're a member of some type of minority - race, religion, sexual…

How would you define conservatism?

A recent survey from Gallup found that the United States remains an overwhelmingly conservative country, with conservatives outnumbering liberals in 44 states, tied in just two, and lagging in only four. Although the gap has narrowed in some regions, conservatives still enjoy at least a 20-point advantage in 13 states (Alabama is fifth, where we outnumber liberals by a whopping 30 points). With so many Americans calling themselves conservative, one would assume its definition would be simple to explain. One would be wrong. Conservatism, as a word, doesn’t fully describe the many aspects of our philosophy. Some of its principles and processes aren’t “conservative” at all, just as modern liberalism is often quite illiberal. That makes defining conservatism incredibly difficult. So much so that, as pointed out in the National Review, when its founder William F. Buckley was asked to define the term for a book titled What is Conservatism?, the usually confident and always prolific writer produced an essay sheepishly titled “Notes toward an Empirical Definition of Conservatism; Reluctantly and Apologetically Given by William F. Buckley.” If Buckley couldn’t do it, then nobody can ... yet others have tried. “What is conservatism?” Abraham Lincoln asked. “Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried.” Yes, but conservatism also seeks variety, preferring creativity to centralization, and there’s nothing old and tried about what happens within a vibrant free market. Just ask the buggy whip industry. Conservatism also “understands the important role that traditions, institutions, habits,…

It’s time we had a long talk about conservatism

For an American conservative, it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. Our party is in power. Republicans hold the White House, both chambers of Congress, and a majority of state legislatures and governorships. You could walk from the Florida Keys to northern Minnesota without touching a single “blue” county, and we finally have a president boldly implementing at least some of our agenda: securing our border, utilizing our natural resources, and putting “America First.” Meanwhile, our opposition remains disoriented and in denial, staggering from one angry group to another, and further alienating a majority of the country. Our Grand Old Party’s elephant stands triumphant over the Democrat’s donkey like Muhammad Ali once stood over a knocked out Sonny Liston … and the bell has rung. On the other hand, our philosophy seems adrift. Conservatives have seen our already difficult to define beliefs stretched during the past year so that they may better fit a single individual, as if conservatism were a suit of clothes rather than a way of thinking. We’ve seen many of our movement’s opinion leaders suddenly embrace failed Democrat policies like central planning and protectionism. We’ve been told that our “purist” approach is an obstacle to “getting things done,” and our younger members are questioning our values after watching their elders fall silent on issues of morality and character. Amidst this clamor, conservatism is at real risk for becoming what the late Lionel Trilling once accused it of being: not a coherent set of…

Conservatives must scrutinize Bill Pryor’s record

President Donald Trump is very close to announcing his choice to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. “I think in my mind I know who it is,” he recently said. If we’re to believe knowledgeable court watchers or aspiring Trump whisperers, we know who it is, too: Mobile native Judge Bill Pryor. Pryor comes highly recommended from all corners of the conservative movement, from the editors at the National Review to firebrand radio host and legal expert Mark Levin. Another Mobilian and frequent conservative writer on these pages, Quin Hillyer, says Pryor would be an “excellent” choice. I’ve read and watched Pryor for years, as well, and have become reasonably confident that he’d be a safe bet to fill Scalia’s robes. But trusting our side’s experts and being reasonably assured simply isn’t enough. There’s too much at stake, and we’ve been burned far too many times. Conservatives must be absolutely certain, and that’s why we must scrutinize Pryor’s record as if we’ve just met the man. Pryor, of course, was Alabama’s attorney general from 1997-2004 and enjoyed a reputation as a capable politician and a pretty good AG. He was placed on the U.S. 11th Circuit of Appeals by President George W. Bush, and during the decade since he’s become known as a very conservative judge, much like the late justice he may replace. Conservative legal scholars tell us that Pryor strongly believes in judicial restraint, and holds that political questions must be left to the…

Calling the balls and strikes on Trump’s appointments (Part Three)

Earlier this week President-elect Donald Trump’s most conservative challenger during the primary, Sen. Ted Cruz, praised his former opponent’s cabinet picks, signaling growing approval from the detractors on the right. “This is a serious cabinet, a cabinet of highly qualified individuals and it is a cabinet of strong conservatives,” Cruz said. “The president elect should be commended for bringing together a team of all stars and I think that bodes really well for the commitment to carry through on the promises we made.” What a difference a year makes. During the primary Cruz and others (including yours truly) repeatedly reminded voters of Trump’s lengthy record of supporting liberal candidates and causes – and opposing conservative ones. We justifiably feared Trump was simply using the backlash against illegal immigration as camouflage to conceal the liberal that hid beneath, and worried that his administration would be packed with big government types from both parties. That hasn’t come to pass, at least not entirely. I’m still a little worried (his economic policies sound very pre-Great Depressionish, and his picks for the transportation and treasury secretaries aren’t good), but this is a nearly solid team of conservatives. My last two columns called the balls and strikes on the first 11 cabinet nominees (if you’re keeping score: two homeruns, a triple, three doubles, two singles, a foul ball, and two strikes). Today we’ll pitch to the remaining lineup of big names. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was picked to be our ambassador to the United…

Calling the balls and strikes on Trump’s appointments (Part Two)

Republicans have been loudly cheering President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet picks, and there has certainly been much to cheer about: we have several solid conservatives, some true warriors, and a couple of promising regulation-busters. But before we get carried away by the prospect of having our government run by people other than the likes of John Kerry and Eric Holder, we should be mindful of one of the conservative movement’s most easily overlooked principles: doubt. As was explained in my last column, even though Trump has a couple of homeruns (vice president, attorney general), and a few hits (secretaries of education; commerce, defense, and health and human services), we’ve had talented cabinets before. The last Republican administration was led by accomplished outsiders and experienced governors, but it eventually evolved into a creature of the establishment. Limited government? It grew by an entire department. Free markets? It bailed out reckless banks, poorly-run car companies, and dabbled in Keynesianism. School choice? It allowed Sen. Ted Kennedy to write its education reform bill. The list goes on. So, yes, I have doubts, and they grew after Trump struck out with his treasury and transportation picks. While much of the lineup still looks good, conservatives must keep the pressure on the president-elect’s administration to follow-through. That said, picking up where I left off last week, Trump’s next announcement was the selection of Dr. Ben Carson to be his Secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs. I like Dr. Carson, but sometimes he leaves me wondering about…

Calling the balls and strikes on Trump’s appointments (Part One)

One of the conservative movement’s primary concerns about President-elect Donald Trump is that he doesn’t seem to be guided by a clear, definable political philosophy. Some of the things he says are truly conservative, while others seem aligned with big government liberalism. “At this point, who cares?” he once remarked after conservatives questioned his adherence to our principles. Now, at this point, everyone should care, because this is when philosophy becomes policy, and the devil is always in the details. Personnel is policy, as the saying goes, so who Trump appoints to his cabinet is currently our only indicator of how he’ll actually govern. So how’s he doing? Calling the balls and strikes from a conservative standpoint, it’s really a mixed bag. Starting from the earliest to the most recent picks, we must begin with any president’s first presidential decision – his choice for running mate. Vice President-elect Mike Pence is a conservative’s conservative with a stellar reputation within the movement and a rock-solid record. He wasn’t even on many short lists of potential picks because most thought he was too conservative for Trump’s taste. The result: Home run. Next comes Trump’s choice for U.S. Attorney General – our own Sen. Jeff Sessions. My admiration for the man is well documented, but so is his record on law and order. Trump couldn’t have chosen better. Another home run. Trump then nominated Betsy DeVos for education secretary. She’s an advocate for school choice and charter schools, but has also been closely…