“The enemy within” is the phrase that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used to describe the chaos brewing just beneath the surface of the Republican Party. She was referring to how the fencing at the Capitol complex may physically keep protesters out, but there are far more sinister views and schisms within, and she would do well to acknowledge this fact.
This lingering demon that haunts the party — fueled by rage, distrust and sometimes hatred — is not what the party should seek to preserve. As the late conservative philosopher Roger Scruton reminds us, conservatives must know what to keep and preserve and what to discard, and the bad elements that have corrupted the party must be reformed if the party is to sustain and survive. Sure, they will call it by some other name, but it feeds and foments at the darkest of levels. In some instances, it is pure evil. Call it racism, nationalism or whatever you like, but it’s certainly not rooted in good government or leadership and has absolutely nothing to do with conservatism as it is contextually defined.
To that end — and with all due respect — former President Donald Trump was not a leader.
Instead, he was a collector. He did not lead the tens of millions of voters who supported him as much as he collected their votes. He allowed them to view him as a man wearing many hats, and yes, even many masks. They saw in him what they wanted to see, and he was OK with that. He was one man with many faces, and each face represented something different for each of his followers and supporters. It was not his job to root out every evil in society, or even every evil thought or prejudice against a fellow American. However, it is a president’s job to condemn those behaviors when they go against the rule of law, the Republic and the greater good of this country. Though he eventually did offer condemnation of the Capitol Hill riots, you can’t help but wonder if his words could’ve been stronger or whether if he had gone to the inauguration, just as former Vice President Mike Pence did, it would’ve sent a strong and resolute message to his most disgruntled followers. Though it’s all now in the past, which no one can change, certainly things could’ve played out differently for Trump; perhaps, in the end, he could’ve left on a high note. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the decision he made, but the country would have been much better off.
I’ve written numerous columns about Trump’s heroism, his wins on policy and the economy’s unimaginable successes in these times. On that, he absolutely deserves recognition and credit. Yet, moving forward, the Republican Party cannot be a party that appeals to the most negative emotions within the body politic. The Republican Party must be the party of hope and aspiration and the party that paves the road for America’s future as it has so many times in the past.
The Republican Party was the party that embraced the struggle for racial justice, and in its early years, it never shied away from the racial disparities that exist in our country; in fact, it led the charge to improve them. The party focused on economic opportunity and prosperity; it understood the importance of a good education as one of the keys to upward mobility. The Republican Party was America’s party because it always understood that most Americans are centrist and pragmatic in their approach. Shockingly, most Americans don’t want expansive government leading the way; most Americans want an opportunity to reach their dream and, within reason, want the tools, such as a reliable public-school education, at their disposal to make reaching their dreams commonplace.
The Bible teaches us that our Creator writes eternity in our hearts. That’s why we, more than any other nation, pursue and believe that America’s best days are ahead of us, not behind us. That’s why we strive with hope and aspirations and why thousands of people choose to immigrate to this country each year. In many ways, this is a new Manifest Destiny that renews itself year after year, decade after decade. Not because we have some warped sense of American exceptionalism. Our Heavenly Father simply grants it.
The Republican Party should seek to restore that aspect for all Americans. It’s what we yearn for — and what we cannot live without.