George Will, the Koch brothers and conservatives in crisis

George Will, the Koch brothers and conservatives in crisis
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Few matters more powerfully prove the crisis of modern conservatism than the attack against the Koch brothers by President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal plan to contain Washington protests employs 7,600 personnel: report GOP Rep calls on primary opponent to condemn campaign surrogate's racist video Tennessee court rules all registered voters can obtain mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 MORE, who calls them “a total joke.”

As a Kennedy Democrat, my view is that when Trump clashes with the Koch brothers, the world is a better place. That's because the world more clearly sees the hypocrisy and phoniness that currently corrupts the great philosophy once known as conservatism.

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One of the reasons I have repeatedly praised George Will, the conservative columnist at the Washington Post, is that he has stood up with clarity and conscience against the collapse of modern conservatism created by the politically reactionary and morally corrupt presidency of Trump.

 

That is why I offered high praise to former President George W. Bush, no matter how much I disagreed with him throughout his career, for his sweeping and cogent criticism of the Trump presidency. 

That is also why I offered high praise to principled voices such as Joe Scarborough, Max Boot, Steve Schmidt and others who have spoken out, as Will has, with clarity and courage.

True conservatism is an honorable philosophy with which I have almost always disagreed. True conservatism is an honorable philosophy that believes in free trade rather than trade wars, strong border enforcement but not tearing immigrant children away from their moms and dads and putting them in cages.

True conservatism stands for reducing deficits rather than raising deficits to catastrophic and disastrous heights.

Make no mistake, George Will disagrees with most of the views I hold, but he represents a true, honest and principled conservatism that Trump is determined to destroy while many “conservatives” march in lockstep behind him.

The Koch brothers, by contrast with Trump, take certain positions that reflect an honorable conservative viewpoint. While I have supported a stronger trade policy than free-trade Republicans or Democrats, the Koch brothers are entirely right to oppose the reckless and radical trade wars that have defined the Trump presidency.

Similarly, America desperately needs an enlightened bipartisan immigration policy, which Democratic leaders and the Koch brothers are entirely right to champion and Trump is radically wrong to attack.

It is not surprising that the Koch brothers have come forth with criticism of certain wrongs of the Trump presidency. What is surprising is the degree that the authoritarian and intolerant Trump has chosen to personally and politically attack the Koch brothers.

I have known for many years prominent people across the ideological landscape of American politics, from the left to the right, but I have never known one person from either party who has described the Koch brothers as a “total joke," as Trump now does.

To many conservatives, the Koch brothers are heroes. To liberals, the Koch brothers are villains. That the Koch brothers would criticize Trump is a warning to conservatives. That Trump would attack the Koch brothers is a warning to Republicans.  

Most likely, the Trump-Koch feud will fade with a little time, but what if it becomes worse?

The Koch brothers might consider the clarity and courage of true conservatives such as George Will. He understands the dangers to America and to conservatism if Trump Republicans maintain control of Congress after the midterm elections.

Remember when conservatives stood for family values? Does Trump stand for family values in his personal life or with his cruel and callous breaking up of immigrant families?

Remember when conservatives stood for lower deficits? Don’t Trump and the GOP Congress realize they made a mockery of fiscal conservatism when their bloated tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations create mammoth budget deficits?

Remember when conservatives favored free trade? Don’t conservatives realize that the radically protectionist trade wars Trump wages are an attack on a core value of conservatism?

Remember when conservative leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatched united the NATO alliance in defense of freedom against Russian attacks?

Aren’t conservatives humiliated to watch Trump say ad nauseam that there was no collusion with the Russian dictator who attacks democracy and now watch his mouthpiece Rudy Giuliani wrongly claim that even if Trump colluded with Putin it was not a crime?

Remember when conservatives were strong on defense and defenders of democracy? Isn’t it disgraceful to watch some conservatives tolerate or support Trump's repeated praise of foreign dictators and his disgraceful praise and submission in Helsinki to the Russian dictator who attacks America?

It will be fascinating to watch the Trump-Koch feud unfold as the midterm elections approach.

It is possible that Trump destroys Republicanism and conservatism for a generation. His supporters, in politics and media, need to begin a heartfelt conversation about what conservatism stands for.

George Will is right. The way to save conservatism and defend Americanism is to elect a Democratic Congress in November. When the Koch brothers feel compelled to strongly dissent from Trump and his supporters, something very powerful and important is happening in American politics.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.