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I’d like to say that I’ve been dying for a Goldberg/Klavan (of the Andrew variety) long-form podcast for almost three years, all about Trump. I don’t want a “debate,” despite the intentionally incendiary (or at least flammable . . . or at the very least dyspeptic) title. I’d like to hear two sides of a divide discuss their differences because I firmly believe most conservatives aren’t Trump purists or Trump haters.
Perhaps I am an anomaly. Nonetheless, for almost four years now I’ve scratched my head trying to understand one side of the conservative movement that I have always respected (and still respect). I imagine the feeling is mutual.
I admit to being unread and unlearned in the so-called “conservative movement.” I haven’t read much that could rightly be called conservative intellectual work like Nash’s The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America (or the underrated Tyranny of Cliches). I do listen. I listen to this great network of podcasts (obviously, not all). I listen to National Review’s podcasts (obviously, not all). I listen to the Daily Wire’s podcasts (obviously, not all . . . can you tell I’m a lawyer yet?).
Before all that, I listened to my father and with my father to talk radio. Early, I thought “conservatism” was primarily about preserving the good of the founding, insofar as possible. This always meant things like maintaining a small government, maintaining federalism or maintaining legislative supremacy in the name of maintaining individual liberty. Or restoring these things as far as practical, because conservatives are nothing if not practical.
This, of course, leaves a big intellectual tent. And there is a long intellectual history, allowing for other things most conservatives tend to like. Some for obvious reasons, such as free markets, low taxes, and minimal regulation. Some for less obvious reasons (but, I think, still related to liberty) such as institutional stability, strong national security, and being pro-life. Of course, this is an extremely poor discussion of the issues that have motivated what we might call “conservatism” over the past thirty to forty years, yet it’ll do for my purposes.
I raise these issues merely to note that I think what I’ll call “Trump critical” conservative voices are, on balance, letting their distaste of Trump, the man, get in the way of supporting the conservative successes of the current administration. Let me define “Trump critical.” Here, I do not mean “Trump derangement.” There are former conservatives who, for my money, have decided they’d be happy and willing to abandon every principle they supposedly held because of their distaste for Trump. I also do not mean conservatives who are obsessed with Trump, such that they cannot get through a day without discussing the man. I mean conservatives like Jonah Goldberg, David French, Kevin Williamson and many others (please don’t make me try to compile a full list) who, in good faith and with good arguments, appear to believe that Trump is worse for conservatism (or the country) than he is good for conservatism (or the country).
The names I have listed are thinkers I respect and whose apparent hostility to the Trump administration, I can’t quite understand. Andrew Klavan of the Daily Wire has a different take. Of course, so do others but I think Klavan is among the most interesting and nuanced. He argues, among other things, that Trump is a man of necessity, not wholesome but needed to fight the media; that Trump should be praised for his apparent dedication to federalism and a reduction of executive power. On a different note, Klavan appears to argue that free markets (at least in terms of trade between nations) is more than it’s cracked up to be. Most of all, Trump, for all his faults, has been right where the “elite” was the wrong time and time again. Nonetheless, Klavan has not been unwilling to criticize Trump for some of his many faults. Since I’ve already labeled the other guys (likely unfairly), let us call Klavan “Trump positive.”
The point of this way too long note is as follows: I think the “Trump critical” and the “Trump positive” sides of the argument as outlined above are the conservative mainstream. I am sick and tired of hearing arguments between alleged conservatives who would vote for a resurrected Stalin over Trump and alleged conservatives who would personally abort a baby to ensure Trump remained in office. Furthermore, I am supremely tired of hearing what I have just labeled mainstream conservatives argue against the hypothetical straw-man version of their opponent. What I would like to hear is an hour-plus discussion between two of the most interesting and reliable people on either side of the “Trump divide,” as it were. Namely, Andrew Klavan and Jonah Goldberg. Make it happen.
If you agree, tweet this dumb little article to @realdailywire, @thedispatch, @jonahdispatch, and @andrewklavan to annoy them into a special episode of The Remnant or The Andrew Klavan Show or whatever forum they would like.Published in