Why Aren’t More Right-Wing Groups Attacking Trump?

Why Aren’t More Right-Wing Groups Attacking Trump?

The conservative movement’s guard dogs aren’t barking against a real threat to the ideals they claim to promote.
Angelo Codevilla
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The Club For Growth has been running ads explaining Trump-onomics. This has helped lower Donald Trump’s numbers from the high to the low 30s in the states where the ads have run. The club has been able to do this because, over decades, millions of Americans have learned that it is a reliable guide to what makes for economic prosperity and its opposite. But the club has been the exception.

Over these same decades, as the establishment was attacking the principles of the American way of life, a host of other organizations took on the task of keeping the American people informed about those principles and of advocating for their maintenance. They earned the American people’s trust by becoming the guard dogs of American principles.

The National Rifle Association, for example, became the gold standard about what and who protects or threatens “the right to keep and bear arms.” The NRA runs elegant ads on the Second Amendment. But these avoid telling voters that Trump’s support for the amendment is shaky at best, or that Ted Cruz has won cases supporting it.

Donald Trump Doublespeak

More remarkably, the several pro-life organizations have made the fundamentals of embryology and moral logic common knowledge among Americans, thereby changing public opinion. Yet none of them have run ads in primary states explaining each candidate’s stand on this most fundamental of all issues. The same can be said of the National Organization for Marriage, and others. In short, these guard dogs have not barked as the media—Fox News very much included—turned the Republican primaries into a circus made to order for Donald Trump.

How can pro-life people, of all people, even consider voting for Trump?

What would have happened, what would happen if, like the Club For Growth, each of these organizations took up its responsibility—not necessarily to endorse candidates, but simply to explain how the candidates stand from each organization’s earned, authoritative perspective. How can pro-life people, of all people, even consider voting for Trump? Easy answer: nobody ever blew away the cloud of generalities in which he has wrapped what he really thinks about abortion.

Same goes for all issues. Personal example. I had dismissed as campaign hyperbole charges that Trump was involved in the pornography industry. This morning, an old-time Republican sent around an email with photo attachments of Trump enterprises in this field, including copious ones of his current wife, quite naked and in porno poses. Good for Trump, some would say. Also, any number of people would vote for him regardless of what they knew about his real views on abortion and gun control. But such chance as democracy stands of producing decency depends on the voters’ level of information.

The Public Needs Accurate Information

During the fall of 2014, believing just that, I imposed on friends from the Reagan years to make the rounds of conservative organizations to ask them to plan their involvement in the 2016 presidential primaries to avoid, as in previous years, picking the person closest to each organization’s preferred position. The point, I said was to avoid splintering the vote among economic conservatives, pro-lifers, gun people, etc.

They should issue what amounts to thoughtful, explanatory voter guides, coordinating their timing with one another.

Rather, each organization should strive to leave no doubt about where each candidate stands in its perspective. They should issue what amounts to thoughtful, explanatory voter guides, coordinating their timing with one another. The effect, I said, would be stronger than mere endorsements, and more concentrated on fewer individuals, because, fact is, persons who are truly conservative on one issue tend to be more or less that across the board. The prospect of such intervention by the people who have earned the right to say who is pro-economic freedom, pro-life, etc. would be another incentive for candidates to converge on good policy.

Most were respectful to a senior citizen. Only David McIntosh, who was about to take over the Club For Growth, was enthusiastic about the idea. My DC friends hit my naiveté. By now, they said, you should know that these organizations are really in the business of self-perpetuation and of securing fancy salaries for their directors. They are not going to spend any money publishing truths about candidates that may alienate core contributors. That is why they will continue to show measurable progress in their field, enough to stroke their constituencies, but no more.

Should it not be plain to each and every one of them that the entire establishment is ever ready to focus all its resources to quash each of their causes, to erase in an instant whatever gains each may have made laboriously over many years? Why do they continue to neglect that a single presidential election, a single Supreme Court appointment, can ruin their causes? Do they not see their long-term interest?

Alas, with one honorable exception, so far these guard dogs have kept close guard only around their little dog houses.

Angelo M. Codevilla is a fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace, Hoover Institution Press, 2014.

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