WATSON: Principled Conservatism, or Politics as Usual?

It’s bound to happen: every 4-8 years the party that just regained control of government throws principles out the window by doing exactly what they criticized the opposite party of doing for years. What’s worse is that members of the newly empowered government bend over backwards to defend exactly what they screamed about.

Conservatives, it’s up to us to remember our principles. If we truly are supporters of limited government, less overreach, and balanced budgets, we have to put aside the Republican title we usually associate with and stand against the GOP when necessary-and lately, it seems like it will be necessary for a while. Don’t forget-we usually like to say “I’m conservative first.”

Which brings me to the new Republican government under the 115th Congress and President Trump: in the few weeks that they have held power, the Republican controlled Congress, now able to pass spending cuts to reduce the debt and deficit, introduced a budget resolution that would increase the debt $9.7 Trillion over 10 years. Additionally, Senator Rand Paul’s budget, which would balance the budget and repeal the Affordable Care Act, received a mere 14 votes (including Louisiana’s new Senator, John Kennedy and a “Who’s Who” of conservatives like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott and Ben Sasse). Senators Bill Cassidy and Susan Collins introduced an Obamacare replacement idea that was widely panned. Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan healthcare think tank Kaiser Family Foundation said the bill would keep a majority of the ACA intact. The right was promised more fiscal conservatism and a full repeal and replacement of Obamacare. So far, I’m worried.

On the executive branch side, we’ve heard nearly non-stop coverage of President Trump signing executive order after executive order. Sure, most of them are the policies that Republicans dream about-from moving forward with Keystone XL, to defunding International Planned Parenthood, to building the wall (he still says Mexico will be reimbursing us). Remember, however, how the right decried the Obama executive orders over the years? Why is it OK now? Is it because we like what he’s doing with them? What happens if we ignore the precedent he’s setting and he begins issuing orders we don’t like?

Julian Assange was once called a traitor by the right-with people like Sean Hannity calling for his arrest. Now that Assange has released DNC emails during the election, a move which could have seriously hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances, some on the right, Hannity included, consider him a hero. The hypocrisy doesn’t end there – the same people who are joyful over Wikileaks and Assange’s work in 2016 are up in arms about Bradley/Chelsea Manning’s sentence commutation in the last week of the Obama administration, calling him/her a traitor and demanding a reversal of the decision by former President Obama.

In 2009, the Democrat-controlled government passed the massive stimulus bill to the tune of $831 billion. The bill was opposed by most Republicans, and American Issues Project ran an ad that noted if $1 million was spent every day from the birth of Christ to present day, it still wouldn’t add up to the massive stimulus bill. However, President Trump proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan during the campaign, praised by several Republicans (although it appears that the actual plan will fall short of that amount and may call on private dollars for the projects being targeted by the administration).

Allow me to be frank: it’s OK to criticize President Trump, conservatives. It’s OK to criticize the Republican Congress. Doing so will not embolden Democrats and lead them to a wave of victory in the 2018 midterms – in fact, I’d argue the opposite. If we do not hold Republicans to the promises they made – reducing government, restoring fiscal sanity, repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a free market solution, and appointing truly originalist judges to the Supreme Court – we will allow Democrats to take over in 2018 and possibly 2020. President Trump is not perfect, and the idea that any criticism of him is a betrayal of party and country is absurd. When he starts overreaching in his role as President, a position that was intended to be weak at its creation by the founders, or signing unbalanced budgets, or shying away from free market principles, or, yes, attacking free trade, we must stand up to him.

If we want to be better than the left, we have to stop allowing our side to get away with double standards. We have to stop being social media warriors when a Republican politician is less than pleased with what the President or Congress is doing. We have to hold their feet to the fire and do so publicly. I promise, doing so does not equate to being a traitor – on the contrary, it’s patriotic. Which title means more to us: conservative or Republican?

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