Graduating from high school in the late 1980’s, I was a prototypical Reagan Republican. Like any good Reaganite, I claimed a certain distrust of government, yet at the same time I strongly supported all the enforcement arms of that same government—the military, the police, and the judicial system. I trusted that, in America at least, our government might have some bad people in it, but fundamentally it was just and a force for good.
Then I got involved in Operation Rescue. For those unaware, Operation Rescue was a massive pro-life civil disobedience movement, in which opponents of abortion would block the doors to abortion clinics in order to stop women from killing their unborn children. Participants were usually arrested (personally, I was arrested a half a dozen times), and sentenced to anything from a slap on the wrist to years in jail (I never served more than a day myself, although I was sentenced to a year in jail at one point, which was later thrown out).
My experience in Rescue was eye-opening, to say the least. Directly confronting the abortion industry let me see up-close the demonic aspects of that business, but I also was introduced to the deep corruption of the entire legal system. I saw police officers abuse peaceful protesters in the streets and then lie about them in the courts. I witnessed judges dismiss clear and convincing evidence due to their ideological biases. Then I watched as the federal government, with the support of many Republicans, made it a federal crime to protect innocent children. Most shockingly to my young naive mind, I realized that these corruptions were a feature of The System, not a bug.
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For years, even decades, my skepticism of The System remained rare among conservatives—most strongly supported the police, the military, and the various three-letter agencies like the FBI, CIA, and NSA. We continued to nominate candidates like Bob Dole or John McCain or Mitt Romney, men who were products of The System.
Yet in the past decade there’s been a rising realization among conservatives that perhaps, just perhaps, The System is actually the problem. It’s still the minority, I think, but it’s growing. We saw this divide in an exchange between Mike Pence and Vivek Ramaswamy in the recent GOP primary debate. Pence—the embodiment of The System—stated, “We don’t have an identity crisis, Vivek. We’re not looking for a new national identity. The American people are the most faith-filled, freedom-loving, idealistic hardworking people that the world has ever known. We just need government as good as our people.”
Ramaswamy replied, “It is not morning in America. We live in a dark moment and we have to confront the fact that we’re in an internal sort of cold cultural civil war and we have to recognize that.”
This was a telling exchange, for it revealed two fundamentally different ways of looking at our current situation. The former Vice President thinks everything is fine; we just need a few good men to show up in Washington and everything will be hunky-dory. But Ramaswamy thinks the problems are much deeper, and I agree with him, at least on that score.
The recent indictments of Donald Trump are a perfect example. It’s clear to any objective observer that this is a witch hunt to try to bring down a popular political opponent. Yet what’s revealing—and encouraging—is the reaction to it by the people. Every time Trump is indicted, his poll numbers go up. And the release of his mug shot last night nearly broke the Internet as Trump tweeted it and used it as a campaign fundraiser.
Think about that for a minute. In the 1980’s, is there any chance that a mug shot would be a positive thing for a conservative candidate? Unless the mug shot was from the Soviet Union, a candidate being arrested was a sure sign of defeat among Republicans. Yet today it’s a badge of honor. Like the massive popularity of “Rich Men North of Richmond,” the Trump mug shot reveals the deep discontent so many in our country have to our elites and their System.
And that’s what Mike Pence and other members of Conservative, Inc. don’t get. Too many people now realize The System is broken, perhaps beyond repair. The man like Pence who embodies The System is despised while Trump’s arrest is seen as his bona fides against that corrupt System.
It’s obvious that it’s not morning in America, but evening, perhaps even nighttime. Sadly, it wasn’t morning in America in the 1980’s, either, as many of the cultural forces that have led to our decline were already present in our country and gaining strength. But now, what was hidden has been revealed. It’s obvious that it’s not morning in America, but evening, perhaps even nighttime.Tweet This
I don’t think the election of Donald Trump in 2024, if it were to be allowed, would make any fundamental difference in The System. He couldn’t change it in his first term, and he wouldn’t be allowed to change it in a second. At the same time, I completely understand the desire of many Americans to instinctively support someone who at least appears to be hated by The System.