Can Conservatives With Integrity Save Us?

Many thanks to all the readers who posted kind thoughts yesterday. They are much appreciated!

Among the regular readers of this blog are several people I came to know through Republican politics. Even then–“back in the day”–I had philosophical differences with a couple of them. (I generally described myself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal, but even in my politically-active days, I defined “fiscal conservatism” as prudence, as “pay as you go”–not as ignoring the needs of the poor while being generous to wealthy purported “job creators.”)

The thing is, philosophical differences are philosophical. Rational adults can discuss them, agree or disagree about what the evidence tells us, and even find middle ground. As anyone who is following today’s political environment can attest, today’s GOP is neither rational nor philosophical. Its members bear virtually no resemblance to the center-right, generally Conservative party of which I was once a part.

The liberals and Democrats who dismiss help from the so-called Never Trumpers point out that many of them actively worked for the GOP for years and continue to hold very conservative political views. True–and that is their strategic virtue. The crazies who currently control the GOP and its various propaganda arms certainly aren’t going to listen to people like me; they most definitely aren’t going to listen to AOC and think, “you know, she has a point.” When the New York Times or the Washington Post reports that something from Fox News is false, they aren’t going to believe it.

However, when people who are known to be principled conservatives refuse to engage in the propaganda, some who are not entirely lost to the cult may pay attention. So when longtime commentators resign from Fox in protest, it is a hopeful sign.Steve Hayes and Jonah Goldberg just did that very thing.

We joined Fox News as contributors in early 2009. Combined, that’s more than 20 years of experience, relationships, and friendships. For most of that time, we were proud to be associated with the network, if not necessarily with every program, opinion, or scandal that aroused controversy. We believed, sincerely, that the country needed Fox News. Whether you call it liberal media bias or simply a form of groupthink around certain narratives, having a news network that brought different assumptions and asked different questions—while still providing real reporting and insightful conservative analysis and opinion—was good for the country and journalism.

Fox News still does real reporting, and there are still responsible conservatives providing valuable opinion and analysis. But the voices of the responsible are being drowned out by the irresponsible.

A case in point: Patriot Purge, a three-part series hosted by Tucker Carlson.

As they write, the Carlson piece is not the “hard-hitting expose” Fox is promoting.

it is a collection of incoherent conspiracy-mongering, riddled with factual inaccuracies, half-truths, deceptive imagery, and damning omissions. And its message is clear: The U.S. government is targeting patriotic Americans in the same manner —and with the same tools—that it used to target al Qaeda….

This is not happening. And we think it’s dangerous to pretend it is. If a person with such a platform shares such misinformation loud enough and long enough, there are Americans who will believe—and act upon—it.

This isn’t theoretical. This is what actually happened on January 6, 2021.

The two of them defend the news programming on Fox, which they say “routinely does what it is supposed to do.” If one only turned Fox on for the news, they’d be told that COVID-19 is deadly, vaccines work, Joe Biden won Arizona, the election wasn’t stolen, and January 6 wasn’t a “false flag” operation. But the news side of Fox has been buried by commentary masquerading as reporting, and they’ve had enough.

As they conclude:

With the release of Patriot Purge, we felt we could no longer “do right as we see it” and remain at Fox News. So we resigned.

We remain grateful for the opportunities we’ve had at Fox and we continue to admire many of the hard-working journalists who work there. This is our last recourse. We do not regret our decision, even if we find it regrettably necessary.

We often hear people bemoan the GOP’s “move to the right.” That isn’t really accurate. I don’t know where insanity falls on the political spectrum, but a collection of conspiracy theories and racial and religious animosities are not a political philosophy. Genuine conservatives with integrity understand that the Republican Party is no longer home to people holding genuinely conservative beliefs.Just ask Liz Cheney.

Ultimately, whether our “backsliding democracy” survives may depend on how many principled conservatives are willing to join Cheney, Goldberg, et al. and draw a line in the sand.


  1. While I agree about strategic value, dismissal is an easier path when you remember that most of these “principled” conservatives actively cultivated the environment we now find ourselves in. The GOP has, for decades, vilified their opponents as un-American socialists and worse, then they are all shocked that some members of their party start going to these extremes. They want the political wins that environment breeds and then want to act like they are somehow above the consequences of the environment they created.

  2. The Tucker Carlson arm of Fox is right out of the Joseph Goebbels playbook. Carlson, if he believes even half of what is mouth utters, is a pure-bred Nazi. “Make the lies big enough and sell it as truth often enough, and the people will believe you.” That is what the Murdochs have always wanted for Fox News. That’s why they hired the monstrous Roger Ailes. And they got the ratings and the advertising dollars to make the stockholders and the Murdoch family rich. It’s runaway capitalism fueling fascism. Brilliant.

    There hasn’t been anything socially conservative about the GOP since the day Lincoln was shot. The donor class that has always supported them simply don’t like democracy, egalitarianism or fairness. The mindless lust for profits negates all of that.

    Sorry for the rant, but being fiscally conservative is not on the Venn diagram with socially progressive. The capitalists simply can’t see that as valuable to their enterprises. Now, since that lot have allowed un-fettered money into national politics, we are a national disgrace and an international clown show. Much of the rest of the world sees us as Ronald McDonald holding an AR-15.

    The 25% of us who are certified idiots are ruining our nation for their own sake. The same thing happened in Germany before Hitler started invading countries. That’s when he sealed the deal with the German people. Fox is the voice of those 25% and care nothing for the social aspects of their B.S. I am probably wrong, but I feel that Fox and its bastardly clones are responsible for this utter abuse of freedoms of the press and speech. They have created a nether-world where up is down and lies are truth.

  3. What’s hilarious is our “left-wing news” doesn’t have much value either. Sure, they aren’t riddled with looney conspiracies about Jewish satellites shooting laser beams, but they are 100% propaganda for the State Department/Department of Defense.

    Once you break away from the right-left political spectrum in this country, your critical thinking improves and the indoctrination fog begins to clear.

    We once had an American Revolution because we thought it was unfair that we paid taxes to the British Empire as colonies but we had no representation. The problem is we swapped a theocratic monarchy for a secular oligarchy. We the people never won our independence, but the oligarchy did. We just started paying taxes to them to run things.

    It’s almost 2022, and we are still fighting for our independence. I think we’ll get it right this time because of technological advances. Although, one must read Julian Assange’s book about Google to understand what we see and hear are illusions of reality.

    The truth shall set you free, or it could get you tortured and silenced for a decade. 😉

  4. I have been saying for the last five years, our former prez admired adolph and other dictators, wanted to be like them, and January 6th was his first attempt at it. People vilified me when I made the comparison. But as time goes on, we are seeing more and more attempts to put this country into the worst place possible. Pretty sure the rest of the world looks at us now with laughter or horror.

    Maybe it is a good thing we have space rides now, the new frontier will have to be off this earth, if the sane ones choose to leave and start anew.

  5. John Street,

    Thanks, but my rants are the outlet for my heart-sickness over what we’ve become. All of us are at fault in that we let the lunatics out of the asylum in the person of the orange hairball. Now we are reaping the whirlwind.

  6. Vernon,

    We didn’t let them out, we shut the entire asylum down, literally and figuratively. Now we have no way to deal with those who would tear us apart. The right has been a little on the crazy side for years and as proof of that, I give you the John Birch Society. They crossed the line when Newt took over the Party in the 90s and began encouraging his GOPac stars to call the Democrats traitors and to use every invective that came to mind.

    BTW, part of me wonders about the level of insult to the actual lunatics when we compare them to what is happening now. One of my favorite films is “King of Hearts.”

  7. Peggy,

    Thanks for refining my points. Yes, Gingrich is an evil little swine with a raging small-man complex. Look up the topic of his Ph.D. sometime if you want a good laugh.

    I don’t know if we’ll live long enough to witness our re-capture of the spirit and letter of the Constitution, but overturning Citizens United v. FEC would be a good start.

  8. As a conservative, Never Trumper I take umbrage with the suggestion that people like me helped foster today’s political environment. To even make such a suggestion is to dangerously misread the existential threat our American democracy faces.

    I became political aware/active in 1980, the year Ronald Reagan swept to victory. As a college student, I became involved in the growing conservative intellectual movement which fueled politicians like Reagan. While we had conservative ideas, we certainly didn’t hate those who didn’t share our views or believe them to be evil. What’s more important is that we believed in freedom, and respecting the results of free and fair elections. We believed fervently in American democracy and rejected autocracy as a legitimate form of government.

    Trumpism (not my preferred term) is a completely different animal than Reaganism (also not my preferred term). First, unlike Reaganism, Trumpism is completely disassociated with an actual political philosophy. (Sheila is right that Trumpism shouldn’t be labeled as conservativism.) The politics of Trumpism is flexible. For example, Trump supports a massive increase in infrastructure spending…until it’s a policy advocated by Biden. Under Trumpism, the only correct policy is to always oppose what the Democrats want. Those policies have nothing to do with what is conservative or liberal. If Democrats were opposed to a minimum wage increase, you can be Trumpers would be for that increase.
    The important thing is to ALWAYS be on the opposite side of Democrats. Trumpers see Democrats as evil, un-American. If you asked Trumpers who is more evil Vladimar Putin or Joe Biden, Biden would win in a landslide. The fact that Putin kills his political enemies doesn’t bother Trumpers one bit. Many admire him for that…they think it shows “strength.”

    The existential threat we face is that we have one political party dominated by a faction (Trumpers) who no longer believes in American democracy. Trumpers are not committed to freedom, the Constitution and respecting the results of free and fair elections. They embrace autocracy as a preferred form of government. None of this was ever on the Reagan agenda.

    We are for the first time facing the very real end of American democracy. To suggest this is just a dispute over particular political policy choices is to wrongly ignore the extreme and unique danger we Americans face. If Democrats are unwilling to enter into a coalition with Never Trump Republicans on issues relating to the survival of American democracy, then it is almost certain that democracy is doomed.

  9. It sounds nice, and I hope it happens. But more and more, I think the odds are that the experiment in democracy that we enjoyed and evolved into the envy of much/most of the world was not sustainable. Until Wall Street money makers want a return to democracy sustaining conservatism instead of Trumpism, we will continue our slide.

  10. While “Reaganism” might be different than “Trumpism” I still hold it responsible for the birth of the latter simply because it popularized the notion that government is a problem rather than a solution. That established a mindset that was the cause of Trump and Jan 6 as its climax. That notion still infects a large number, though not a majority, of US minds and it’s simply wrong-headed for conservatives and everyone else.

    The entire history of human civilization argues against it.

    Government is a very necessary institution and functions as effectively as any other institution of that size run by humans from the same pool as run every other institution in the world with the possible exception of the papacy.

    There is no better word for what’s behind government than “infrastructure” for all kinds of necessary goods and services that define each country as separate and unique. Our infrastructure for national security, for homeland security, for law enforcement, for education, for transportation are not problems any more than grocery stores are. Every institution is on a temporary plateau on an endless trip of improvement as new ideas and tools emerge first from science as abilities then from engineering as application.

    Until that notion is forgotten and replaced by the truth the country will struggle under “Reaganism”.

  11. Trumpism (to use that term) represents nothing but pure will-to-power, completely divorced from any coherent political or social system of thought, powered by deliberately-cultivated hatred of a succession of “others” and relying for political muscle on a corps of potentially violent followers who are kept in a state of perpetual outrage by a steady stream of propaganda directing them at the a succession of “enemies”.

    Classic unvarnished fascism, in other words, as described by George Orwell and Eric Hoffer. As Hoffer pointed out, “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.” And as Orwell pointed out with his description of “duckspeaking” loyal Party men who flipped from one side of a political issue to the other in mid-speech when called upon by the Party to do so, ideological consistency is not the point. Calling forth the emotional response of a mob energized by hate is the point.

    Non-Trumpists are continually bewildered by the whip-fast ideological shifts of Trumpist politicians. Infrastructure spending is good when proposed by Trump, but doubleplus-ungood when proposed by any Democrat. Vaccines are divine providence when developed on Trump’s watch, but Satanic vehicles for evil microchips/changing DNA/magnetic skin/whatever when implemented by a non-Trumpist. Non-Trumpist politicians are irredeemably damned for imaginary pedophile rings in nonexistent basements, but confirmed child-molesters who are loyal members of the Trumpist cult are vigorously defended. Even purely nonsensical calls-to-hatred (like MT Greene’s loony invocation of Jewish space lasers) work for this purpose, since logical thought is not the objective, only a purely emotional response that bypasses logical thought.

    Consistency is not the point. Whipping up the emotional response of being part of a “righteous” mass movement energized by hatred of the Other and drunk on the prospect of seizing power and using it to hurt and humiliate the hated Others is the point.

    Nor should principled, genuine American patriots assume that the eventual, inevitable mortality of one man will end this. No doubt it will weaken the cult of personality, but it will not stuff the immortal genie of fascism and hatred back into a bottle permanently. Nothing can. It has to be fought continually.

    At this point, although the captain of the ship for the moment is a non-fascist, the fascists are firmly entrenched in control of one of our two political parties and throughout all levels of government, and are openly plotting to seize control of the ship of state by fair means or foul at the first opportunity. When they make their move, they will not debate amongst themselves whether or not to impose iron-fisted control or to “punish” those outsiders whom they have taught their footsoldiers to hate. (Although they may quarrel amongst themselves for primacy within their movement.) Now is not the time for the loyal crew and officers of the ship to bicker amongst themselves about which of a succession of captains is to blame for the existence of a fascist faction. There will be plenty of time to debate marginal tax rates and details of public infrastructure projects, with ample room for disagreement, once we re-establish the principle of civil, democratic-republican Constitutional limited government that respects the rights of *all* its people and responds to the will of the majority.

    For this to happen we need progressives, traditional liberals, centrists, genuine libertarians, and all manner of traditional and principled conservatives who truly believe in the social compact outlined by the Constitution and by our shared heritage as Americans to work together.

  12. The insane right is a natural outgrowth of “principled conservatism,” which has been about using capitalism as a feudal state at least since the Civil War.

    That being said today’s saner conservatives should be used to the greatest extent possible to divide the Republican Party.

  13. I would be willing to work with conservatives like our friend Paul Ogden who have abandoned Trump’s GOP. Holding grudges against sane conservatives is divisive.

    How did members of the GOP not see that the far right with its insane philosophy was infiltrating the GOP to create a coup of their party? I believe it started with Gingrich who told GOP members of Congress to refuse to compromise no matter what was on the table. Autocratic leaders are not open to compromise.

    I want servant leaders who serve the people and the greater good. I wish we had many more moderates in the GOP and the democratic parties. Although, I did not agree with former Sen. Lugar(may he rest in peace) on many issues, he did work toward decreasing the spread of nuclear arms for many years.

    Sadly, I don’t believe that Fox news currently supports servant leaders even though Pete Buttigieg dared to go on Fox. They brainwash their audience with falsehoods by simply repeating the lies over and over again. I wish Tucker Carlson was fired by Fox news. The fact that they have retained him demonstrates that they are not interested in facts or the truth. It shows they are irresponsible with their free speech rights.

    Both democrats and republicans must learn to meet in the middle and create good compromises that move our country forward. We need both conservative and progressive visions so that we can have a balanced, stable democracy. Such a democracy would support the citizenry so that each one has an opportunity to create a prosperous, stable life( without destroying the earth).

    Neither progressive nor conservative media supports that sort of vision for our country. And that’s why I stick with PBS and NPR.

  14. Paul – Of course every Republican did not agree with the elevation of the Orange One to power, just as many Democrats did not vote for Biden, but your party allowed this fascist-tinged group of a power-mad fascist-leaning minority with a demented leader to take over their party, so as reframed if not you personally it was your party’s leadership that is party to this sellout of ordinary Republican conservatives to delusionary fruitcakes, and it is up to Republicans to return sanity to their party because as of now your party (unless quickly reformed) is headed for the oblivion of Whigdom, after which there will be no party to reform.

    I do not agree with Republicans or Democrats who buy fascism and I don’t agree with Republican conservatism of the Taft-Gingrich-Reagan – Tea Party variety. However, I do agree that conservatism represents a point of view in re governing, albeit flawed, whereas Trumpism is not about governing (a sideline to Trump) but rather the acquisition of power for power’s sake and with “governing” limited to tax cuts for its rich campaign contributors.

    I think the best way (as with Kristol and Rubin) for Republicans to end this cancer on our democracy posed by Trumpers is to vote Democratic and help eradicate this threat of fascism and loss of our democracy, after which (if that party survives Whigdom) they can resume their pursuit of conservative policies in governing – real governing – and as an opposition party with a platform and a set of governing principles – which they do not have as of this writing. We Democrats are doing what we can to save our democracy for all Americans, including Republicans, and it’s time they helped us preserve that precious heritage, after which we can debate matters of policy and other matters within the purview of government.

  15. “… the experiment in democracy that we enjoyed and evolved into the envy of much/most of the world was not sustainable.” This is written as satire isn’t it?

    Guess you’ve never heard of proptional representation? And what is enviable about it being possible to overturn the popular vote by the archaic system of an electoral college?

  16. Late comment – I have nothing against “Republicans with Integrity”, nor against people with whom I have a philosophical difference.

    However, will they say Fox News went too far, and then vote for any Republican, because they cannot vote for a Democrat? Unless and until they are willing to destroy the current incarnation of the Republican Party and either take it back, or replace it with a traditional center right party, they are only paying lip service. Wringing their hands at what has become of their party has no real effect. They need to work for its demise. If that means a period of time with the dreaded Democrats in charge, it should be worth it to save America and the GOP. As I told an ultra-conservative co-worker when “that commie” Obama got elected, the country survived FDR, no matter how “socialist” and terrible he was in that man’s eyes. He agreed and felt better about his loss.

    A note on labels. We used to call the extreme left “radical” and the extreme right “reactionary”. Somehow, while Red Baiting is rampant, no “reasonable” person dares use the word reactionary. These crazies are “reacting” to what they perceive as happening and wish to “return” to the White, Christian nation that was written into the Constitution of their dreams. I’d call them “reactionaries” — or anti-American seditionists.

    PS – I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving. I have been too busy with my great nieces and nephews to read the blog until now.

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