Sycophancy is not conservative

Although politicians generally support candidates of their own party, many Republicans have staunchly supported Donald Trump without being critical of any of his actions, which threatens the conservative movement.

The conservative movement is on the verge of abandoning principle and falling into sycophancy, or obsequious or excessive flattery, all due to the most vocal Trump supporters in its throngs. 

Conservatives in 2016 were apprehensive to support GOP nominee Donald Trump for a number of reasons, most crucially the widespread fear that Donald Trump wasn’t actually a conservative dedicated to smaller government and individual freedom. In 2016, a large contingent of conference goers at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the largest annual gathering of conservatives in the nation, threatened walkouts if Trump was allowed to speak. 

“Never Trump” Republicans attempted to change the bylaws at the Republican National Convention in order to keep Trump from becoming the nominee. Trump didn’t show up to CPAC and he was easily elected as GOP nominee at the convention, but the point was made: Trump had some work to do in order to assuage the fears of conservative Republicans. People say that time heals all wounds and come election day, when conservatives nationwide were faced with either voting for Trump or sitting out the Presidential election, most ended up voting for the GOP nominee, with some notable exceptions. 

Some conservative political commentators like Ben Shapiro, politicians like Senator Rand Paul and activists like those at the Heritage Foundation that were critical of Trump during the election season for the most part took the role as watchdog, criticizing the president for bad policy and praising him for good policy. This position is a perfectly tenable and is quite responsible. Conservatives should believe that no man or woman is above the principles that built the conservative movement. If conservatives truly care about individual freedom, an accountable and small government, free markets and a vigorous national defense, they should be willing and able to call out President Trump when he violates these principles. Wearing a MAGA hat doesn’t make you a conservative in the same way that criticising the President doesn’t make you a liberal.

If conservatives truly care about individual freedom, accountable and small government, free markets, and a vigorous national defense, they should be willing and able to call out President Trump when he violates these principles. ”

Sadly though, this is exactly what is being attacked by the leaders of the conservative movement. Case-in-point the leader of Turning Point USA, one of the largest campus conservative organizations in the nation, Charlie Kirk. Kirk founded Turning Point USA with the intention of creating an umbrella organization for conservatives of varying opinion to join together and fight for conservative values and policies in the most liberal places in modern America, college campuses.

If you believed in America and American conservative values, Turning Point was a home for you. Kirk’s speech at CPAC, which I witnessed firsthand this past week, shows just how far the conservative movement has slipped from principle and into sycophancy. Kirk outright attacked any criticism of the Trump Administration from within the conservative movement stating (and at the same time making scare quote motions while saying “conservative”) “If you want to get love from the left, be a conservative that attacks Donald Trump. If you want to get on the mainstream networks, be a conservative that writes poorly about this president. You want to get published in all of the best newspapers? Be a conservative that attacks the most conservative president in our generation.” Here, Kirk implies that the only plausible reason for criticizing the president is wanting to be accepted into cocktail parties and hang out with writers for the New York Times.

This type of outright dismissal of valid and well-intentioned criticism is not only morally impermissible, but it endangers the conservative movement as a whole. Sycophancy is a seductive force. Conservatives need to be aware that a large number of members of the conservative movement are falling into its trap and struggle against it before it fully consumes the movement. Conservatism is not about worship of one person, it is about adherence to a set of values. 

Anyone who ignores a politician that transgresses conservative principles and values should rightly be criticized, just as the politician that claims to be a conservative yet proposes liberal policy should be admonished.