Ryan J. Lanier
At the writing of the first draft of this brief piece, our country found itself in turmoil as a crowd of protesters stormed the United States Capitol building. In the past half-hour, the White House Press Secretary has announced that the President has deployed the National Guard to the Capitol. As the news plays in the background, I have to ask myself, where do we go from here? What is the future of our nation? While I am usually an optimist, I fear that our Republic has indeed been lost.
Even in the darkest of times, I tend to remain optimistic that brighter skies lie ahead, and we will recover. The events of 2020 and now January 6, 2021, however, have erased that optimism. While I do believe that the United States will survive in some form (indeed, talk of the dissolution of the Union has long seemed far-fetched), at the very least, I firmly believe that the Trump presidency may have irreparably damaged the conservative movement, to the extent that the nation may never really recover.
My dire analysis of our current state, admittedly formed by my own terror and anger in response to the actions of January 6, is not merely to reiterate the overstated claim that President Trump has destroyed democracy or promoted fascism. Instead, I assert that our Republic is lost because of President Trump’s actions since the announcement of his intention to seek the Presidency of the United States. While there is plenty of good to go with the bad, even with that good, the President has undermined the potential for the restoration of constitutional government.
Take for example the President’s commitment to remake the Judiciary, nominating judges committed to restoring the original meaning of the Constitution. In his promotion of now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett, our President advanced the nomination on the grounds that she and her justices would act to ensure that he would prevail in the November election. Consequently, one of the major accusations against Justice Barrett in her confirmation hearings was that she would fail to be impartial in election cases. With this claim, President Trump laid out the arguments for Democrats to undermine the Court himself. Not satisfied with handing Democrats ammunition against the Court, the President set out to destroy the Court’s legitimacy with his own base, the people who claim to love and defend the Constitution
Or look at the President’s willingness to take aggressive executive measures in order to get his way. If any other President, Republican or Democrat, used the executive office in the way that President Trump has, self-proclaimed conservatives would be up in arms calling for impeachment. As this President has continued to use the executive in the way of his predecessors, he has only legitimized the use of aggressive executive force by his successors. Because President Trump and his followers act in the name of conservatism, what little effort has been made to reign in the imperial executive will be forever tainted by the association with this President and his actions.
It must be admitted that the dire straits that we find ourselves in cannot be blamed on President Trump alone. Indeed, the collapse of our Republic goes back decades. At the same time, however, the President’s actions and those of the mob at the Capitol Building have destroyed any hope for the recovery of constitutional government. From this day forward, conservatism will be tainted by the actions of mobs that lay claim to its mantle. Just as the riots across the nation in the name of racial justice have tarnished the racial justice movement, so too will this discredit future conservative reforms. As history has shown, in times of trouble, the people turn to the government, and the government’s power grows. When a minority of the American people turn to violence and stage what could fairly be described as an attempted coup d’état, the opportunity for government intervention only grows.
In the end, I fear that we have reached the end of the American Republic not because of how bad things are or will become, but because we have passed a point of no return. The actions taken in the name of limited government, in the name of conservatism, and in the name of America, have demolished the true meaning of this nation and the principles upon which she was founded. As a young conservative, and most importantly, as a young American, these events are a sad thing to witness.
In light of this admittedly dark assessment of our current position, I want to acknowledge that such pessimism is not a reason to lose all hope or abandon our positions as conservatives. Even in the face of overwhelming despair, we must never lose hope. In the coming weeks, I hope, time permitting, to write several pieces analyzing how conservatives can and ought to respond in times of desperation. We also welcome any submissions on this subject and how we ought to respond. In times such as this, it is necessary that we talk with each other and try to find some common ground if we are to move forward as a nation. I can only pray that my fears are wrong and that brighter times lie ahead.