Trump vs. the Swamp’s Standards of ‘Presidential Fitness’.

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  • 09/21/2022

Some say Donald Trump is petty and egotistical. Others note his own subordinates war against him. For many, he has joined the swamp on guns, crime, and budgets. Famously, some of his greatest historical supporters think he is falling short on his central mandate.

So how is he still a dramatically better president than his last four predecessors?

Bush 41 squandered the momentum of the Reagan Revolution, and his son fractured the Right’s foreign-policy coalition so badly it still hasn’t reforged a coherent consensus a decade later.

Where he’s failing, he’s no worse than the Republican norm.

The best that can be said of either man’s conservative legacy is that they gave us one solid Supreme Court justice apiece, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. I trust I needn’t convince this crowd of Trump’s superiority to Clinton and Obama.

By contrast, Trump surpasses Reagan on slashing regulations, displays unmatched proactivity for the right to life, defends religious liberty, opposes transgender madness from schools to the military, and shows Republicans how to confront Democrat spin, media dishonesty, and cultural battles.

Where he’s failing, he’s no worse than the Republican norm.

[caption id="attachment_178227" align="alignnone" width="2768"] President Obama had called on the two former Presidents to help with the situation in Haiti. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)[/caption]

Some of this can be explained by certain undeniable gifts like his energy, his knack for identifying concerns neglected by both parties, and his flair for branding his opponents.

But the key difference isn’t some twelfth-dimensional chess genius; it’s what Trump lacks. The absence of habits that make most Republicans so ineffectual.

It simply doesn’t occur to Trump not to call call liars “liars,” that he should pretend not to notice Democrats are moral monsters who want to steal elections.

He was never baptized into the Beltway GOP’s religion of unconditional civility. He didn’t get the memo that campaign promises are just window dressing for the interests of the donor class.

When Trump sets off a cycle of bipartisan outrage, half the time it’s simply because he doesn’t know, nor care, which subjects are verboten in the swamp.

These demented standards are also what make the Ahmari-French “decency” debate so exhausting.

This lack of deference to establishment “norms” is what “respectable” conservatives hate about him. It’s certainly not his character (they’ll overlook countless indecencies from better-mannered Republicans) nor his liberal positions (would any #NeverTrumper have even considered #NeverKasich had 2016 put that choice before us?).

Most of them, consciously or not, bought into P.J. O’Rourke’s logic (endorsed at National Review by Charles Murray) that while Hillary Clinton may have been wrong on everything, at least she was “wrong within normal parameters”—if not by supporting Clinton herself (or at least not admitting to supporting her), then by judging presidents on standards largely divorced from their actual results in office.

These demented standards are also what make the Sohrab Ahmari vs David French “decency” debate so exhausting. Serious conservatives don’t reject decency; we reject the premise that swampcons’ standards are decent at all.

There’s nothing decent about letting child-slaughter enthusiasts feel comfortable in their barbarism.

There’s nothing decent about perpetuating rules and habits that sabotage the causes for which Americans voted.

There’s nothing decent about demonizing conservative voters for prioritizing conservatism in their politics.

There’s nothing decent about holding two sets of standards for honesty and civility depending on whether the offender is inside or outside the club.

And there’s nothing decent about basing your vote on anything other than the net suffering of your countrymen that an election’s outcome will either cause or prevent.

There’s nothing decent about demonizing conservative voters for prioritizing conservatism in their politics.

Of course, Trump’s lack of a swamp filter isn’t all it takes to be a good president. As stated at the outset, he needs to be steered rightward on several fronts. But if his presidency is to be a success—and if any good is to follow it—then it has to start by smashing “normal parameters” beyond repair, replacing them with a laser focus on results.

Not resentment over old wounds. Not the avoidance of dirty looks from one’s social circles. Not defensiveness because a candidate impugns old, dominant models of how politics is supposed to work. Not moral standards that conservative elites have never applied to their own candidates. And not evaluations that ignore the fallout of electing the alternative.

Just a rigorous conversation about who will do the things we claim to believe in, and how.

Trump has far from every quality the ideal conservative officeholder needs, but—almost accidentally—he’s shown conservatives exactly what to look for.

Calvin Freiburger is a Wisconsin-based commentator who primarily writes for LifeSiteNews. He was previously an assistant editor at The Federalist Papers Project and worked for the National Pro-Life Alliance.



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