The conservative bible in the Trump era

Recently I spoke to a Democratic Party organization in Reno and one of the things I told them was that they, and Republicans, have gotten into the bad habit of reading only publications and listening only to broadcasts that tell them what they want to hear.

If they want to know what both sides are thinking, and want to work with the other side, they have to KNOW both sides.

This used to be normal behavior, but in the age of polarization, both sides have been driven to the comfort zone of shutting out all other viewpoints. It’s crazy.

I recommended to the Democrats that they start reading two conservative sources – the London Telegraph and the National Review. The London newspaper serves a double function. It expresses conservative views and it gives us a look at what the U.S. looks like from abroad, without all the U.S. chauvinism that characterizes the Associated Press and other U.S. entities that cover international news.

The National Review was founded by William F. Buckley Jr. and it is far too little known in the United States.

For six decades it has been the heart of the conservative movement, and it has also had a dedication to principle.

For instance, when President Richard Nixon drew right-wing U.S. Rep. John Ashbrook as a GOP primary challenger, the National Review didn’t hesitate.

With Nixon’s opening to China and his Family Assistance Plan, he had alienated many conservatives and the NR immediately declared for Ashbrook. It didn’t really matter that Ashbrook was dead on arrival. That was the way the tenets of conservative pointed.

National Review is also one of Donald Trump’s leading critics. Its writers are not fooled by the notion that Trump is the Republican standard bearer. So was Nixon. That doesn’t mean Trump is a conservative, and this comes from the conservative bible.

Recently, for example, one of NR’s columns – titled “Presidential word salads” – took the transcript of a strange Trump statement on health care and tried to make sense out of it.

The syntax and the reasoning and the choice of words all conspire against the reason, and the NR writer wrote, “After reading this, it is advisable to take a moment to wonder at the absurdity of life, to offer a quiet prayer of thanks for the fact that any of us is still alive, and then to pursue – yet again, and surely not for the last time – that recurring question of our era: What in the world is the president talking about?”

The article then proceeds to dissect the statement and decipher what it was intended to communicate to listeners. And the reader is likely, along the way, to realize that this president probably talks this way in private meetings with foreign leaders who are similarly unable to understand him when the consequences of incoherency are much greater.

The National Review, incidentally, is not so doctrinaire that it is difficult to understand. Here are samples of the writing:

“Three senators — Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, Hawaii Democrat Daniel Inouye, and Alaska Republican Ted Stevens — sent $22 million in taxpayer money so Reid’s buddy Robert Bigelow could research UFOs. And no one else in the U.S. Senate was allowed to know!”

“Ten Democratic senators from states carried by Donald Trump are up for re-election, while there is only one Republican senator, Dean Heller of Nevada, up for re-election in a state that went for Hillary Clinton.”

“If [accused U.S. House sexual harasser Blake] Fahrenthold stays, does Nevada Democratic representative Ruben Kihuen stay?”

“Before 2016, the conventional wisdom was that Republican presidential candidates (who had not won 51 percent of the popular vote since 1988) were increasingly doomed, given that they supposedly had lost for good old battleground states such as Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, while they were fading in purple Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina.”

“Bannon didn’t invent the GOP protest candidate.

In 2010, Sharron Angle filled that role in the Nevada senatorial race, running for the seat held by Harry Reid. Angle was a flawed choice, having a poor reputation and being prone to making outlandish statements.”

Regrettably, William Buckley is gone and his sparkling prose no longer blesses the pages of the NR except in retrospect, but the writing is still first class and wedded to intellectual honesty. For those conservatives and liberals who are not afraid of persuasive arguments for conservatism, I recommend it.

Dennis Myers is an award-winning journalist who has reported on Nevada’s capital, government and politics for several decades. He has also served as Nevada’s chief deputy secretary of state.

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