My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:
This dreadful election cycle is almost over. As we limp into Election Day with more investigations, accusations and general boorishness on all sides, we must remember that the sun will rise on Nov. 9 and the odds are favorable that the earth will still be rotating and we will be contending with the consequences.
One of those consequences, irrespective of the outcome of the election, is the fracturing of the once powerful and united conservative bloc in Wisconsin.
It was not too long ago when conservatives seemed to be a relatively rare animal in Wisconsin. Less than a decade ago, Wisconsin was much bluer. The Democrats were as liberal as they are now, but the Republicans were also quite a bit more liberal. It seems almost strange to think about the debates we were having as recently as 2009 and the leftist paradigms in which those debates raged. We were talking about how much to increase taxes, budget deficits, raids of segregated funds, increases in government spending, etc. Issues like concealed carry, tax cuts, a UW tuition freeze, regulatory reform, etc. were not even on the table.
Then things changed. Beginning in 2009 and strengthening in 2010, conservatives and conservatism surged to push conservative politicians into office. Then came Act 10 and the recall election of Scott Walker that galvanized the conservative base in Wisconsin into an electoral and ideological juggernaut. The conservative base turned out for elections in unheard of numbers, but also worked hard to elect and protect conservative politicians. They also held those conservative leaders accountable and insisted that Wisconsin pass a conservative agenda that included spending restraint, tax cuts, concealed carry, right to work, and hundreds of other items for which conservatives had been advocating for generations. Wisconsin conservatives were the envy of the nation and made Wisconsin the ideological and political center of the political right.
Then along came Donald Trump to shatter Wisconsin’s conservative bloc into pieces. Trump was a pro-abortion, anti-gun rights, pro-government spending, pro-abusive use of eminent domain, Manhattan liberal up until about five minutes before he decided to run for president as a Republican. Knowing that the conservative base of the Republican Party held significant sway, Trump claimed a conservative mantle. In doing so, he has severely fractured Wisconsin conservative base. If you think the public spats between once conservative allies are heated, you should see the arguments occurring behind the scenes.
There are now essentially four conservative factions segmented by if, how, and when they support Trump. The first faction are those who supported Trump from the beginning and passionately continue to do so. These people are not conservatives, but they claim to be. No true conservative could have supported Trump when there were so many true conservatives on the primary ballot with a real chance of winning.
The second faction are those conservatives who did not support Trump in the Republican primary but support him in the general election. Some of these folks are giving Trump the benefit of the doubt that he is genuine in his recent support of some conservative policies, but many of them simply see Trump as a better choice than the truly deplorable Hillary Clinton.
The third faction are the Never Trump conservatives. These are the conservatives who adamantly opposed Trump in the primary and have sworn to never support them. They are preserving the ideological definition of conservatism so that it can survive either a Clinton or Trump presidency.
The fourth faction, of which I consider myself a member, are those pragmatic conservatives who considered Trump after he won the Republican nomination, but decided to choose a third party candidate. Both Clinton and Trump would be equally destructive to our nation. The only differences are in technique and style.
Faction two is angry at faction three for prioritizing ideology over winning. Faction four is angry at faction one for forcing us to have to make this choice. Faction three is angry at faction two for abandoning conservatism. Faction one is angry at everyone because they never liked conservatives in the first place.
If conservatives cannot, or will not, mend their wounds and reunite quickly after this election, Wisconsin will regress from all of the progress we have made in the past five years.
Although conservativism is more popular than it has ever been, Wisconsin is still a majority blue state on many issues — particularly when it comes to taxing and spending. We already see some state Republicans sliding into the comfortable gauzy robe of Madison “get-alongism.” If Wisconsin conservatism fails to unite again behind the ideals we all support and leverage our political energy to support conservative policies and politicians, then the conservative political reformation in Wisconsin is nearing an end.
Conservatives must unite again behind the values we share. Even though we have come to different conclusions regarding Trump, we all continue to share ideals that we believe will benefit our state and nation. Politicians come and go. We are all going to still be here, and there is still a lot of work to do in our state