The right-wing purity test

Mark Belling, the dean of Wisconsin conservative talk radio, wrote a strange column in the Waukesha Freeman that starts off fine …

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and staunch supporter of President-elect Trump, said on national TV over the weekend his biggest fear is that Trump and his administration will cave to the enormous blowback he’ll be getting from the left. Gingrich mentioned issues like school choice and environmental policy where liberals are likely to go ballistic if Trump follows through on his plans. Gingrich fears that Trump might step back and say, “Oh well, we tried,” and then back down.

Trump needs to learn about Wisconsin. Our state has proven the left’s bark is unbelievably loud but its bite is nonexistent. Democrats, activists, unions and the media went crazy when Governor Walker and the Republican Legislature moved forward with Act 10. But six years later, the Republicans have more power than ever in this state and the Democrats and the unions are in tatters. The key was in not backing down. Belligerent crybaby teachers made fools of themselves. Democrat state senators bugged out of the state. Activists seized control of the Capitol. Walker faced a recall. But in the end, Walker won and the Republicans have gained seats in the Legislature.

The same will happen nationally if Trump stands his ground. The backlash will be even more ferocious than what we saw in Wisconsin. Some Republican senators will no doubt wilt (Lindsay Graham is probably already wilting). But the Wisconsin experience is instructive. Walker and the GOP were rewarded for standing their ground. America, especially the millions of alienated citizens who flocked to Trump, is screaming out for strong leadership and will reward the Republicans and Trump for passing their agenda and not bowing to pressure.

Here’s what liberals don’t get: Most people don’t like them. Remember the “blue fist?” It was the symbol of the anti-Walker resistance. The day of the governor’s recall election lefties were standing along highway overpasses all over the state with blue fist banners. It’s not possible to more badly miscalculate. The Democrat goon squad was trying to bully voters into turning on Walker. What else would a fist represent? Walker became more popular than ever because ordinary citizens saw backing the governor as a way of standing up to thuggish elites trying to shove them around.

The same shoving will come against Trump. The tactics will be over the top. The left will overplay its hand. If Trump and the GOP stand firm, they will be backed by voters in the same way Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans were supported.

Six years after Act 10, it is apparent that none of the doom and gloom that was forecast has materialized. The only people upset about the reforms were the ones who were bawling six years ago. Nobody give’s a rat’s patriot that some teachers are kicking in for their pensions. The only remnants of the brutal fight are the hacked-up “RECALL WALKER” bumper stickers still half-sticking to some spoilsport unionista’s car. This will be America in 2021 if Trump and the GOP repeal the excesses of liberalism and refuse to cave to the thunderous opposition.

… and then jumps off the rails:

Wisconsin has been blessed in recent years with some wonderful think tanks and advocacy organizations that advanced conservatism. On the national level there is the Bradley Foundation. A partial list of groups with more of a state focus is: the MacIver Institute, Media Trackers, Wisconsin Institute For Law and Liberty, and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. But it’s time for conservatives to question if these groups are still worth supporting. It is not clear whose side they are on.

The organizations are the homes of every prominent conservative “Never Trumper” in the state. Egghead anti-Trumpers like James Wigderson, Christian Schneider, Jerry Bader, Charlie Sykes, Brian Fraley and a slew of others either work for or allied with these groups. This crowd is showing no sign of admitting it was wrong about Trump and is not celebrating the many positive conservative signals sent by Trump since the election.

With a new war coming over Trump’s Revolution, it is not clear that these groups will support a President that so many of their principles loathe. As was the case with Walker and Act 10, the first few months of Trump’s presidency will require the full support of all committed conservatives. Will these groups in Wisconsin, led by anti-Trumpers, ally themselves with the leftist opposition? Someone needs to serve as a watchdog on them.

If MacIver, WILL, WPRI and others allow themselves to be co-opted by spoilsport brats who hop in bed with the enemy, they are not only no longer needed in this state but will be counter-productive. I’m not suggesting a purge. I am clearly implying that treason against the new conservative cause is possible.

Charlie Sykes can go out and do his new MSNBC Trump-bashing thing. But if his fellow travelers in the “I Hate Trump Club” use Wisconsin organizations to fight against their own groups’ very mission, it is imperative that the organizations’ boards clean house. The fight we are embarking on is larger than the bruised egos of a bunch of faux intellectuals.

Belling, it should be pointed out, wrote a column upon Sykes’ departure from the radio by claiming:

Charlie has always wanted to be an insider and has relished his close access with people like Scott Walker, Paul Ryan and other Republican powerhouses. He often seemed like a cheerleader rather than a commentator. He criticized me when I ripped one of these Republicans as if I had some obligation to join him in shaking the pom-poms. It often seemed like he thought of himself as a spokesman for a cause rather than an independent analyst. Self-serving as this sounds, I feel my influence has always been greater than his because our audiences never considered me to be in the tank for any Republican.

No inflated self-importance there, hmmm? I admit to not listening to Belling’s show (which due to WISN radio’s lesser power has much less range than WTMJ), but what role did Belling have getting, say, Scott Walker elected governor, or Paul Ryan elected to Congress, or David Clarke elected Milwaukee County sheriff, or the GOP’s getting near-complete control of state government two years after the GOP controlled almost none of it? It’s also rather hypocritical for Belling to accuse Sykes of being in the tank for certain Republicans when Belling is totally in the tank for Trump.

Belling’s screed prompted this response from Bader …

Last year will be remembered as the year Donald Trump defied the laws of political physics and was elected President of the United States. It will also go down as the year it was revealed that there was no consensus among the conservative community as to what it meant to be a conservative.  Neither Trump’s history nor his behavior during the campaign indicated that he was what many of us considered to be conservative. Yet many voters, who consider themselves very conservative, branded as RINOs those of us who had the audacity to point out that Trump didn’t act like a conservative,  nor did he believe in things that have been generally accepted as conservative.

And it’s clear that some conservatives who supported Trump believe that those of us who did not should now fall in line, never uttering a discouraging word about the president-elect.

This brings me to an unseemly rant that Milwaukee talk show host Mark Belling published in the Waukesha Freeman. Belling questions whether Wisconsin conservatives should continue to support think tanks with a proud conservative heritage because, in hiring anti-Trump conservatives,  they dared to violate the Belling Conservative Purity Act of 2017. …

Belling also mentioned Media Trackers. In November, in addition to doing my radio show, I became Communications Director for Media Trackers. I’ll let the others Belling attempts to tar as traitors speak for themselves; I will speak for myself here.

First, Belling inaccurately states that I am “not celebrating the many positive conservative signals sent by Trump since the election.” On my radio show I have given Trump high praise for many of his cabinet selections. Specifically, retired General James Mattis as Defense Secretary; Tom Price at HHS; Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary; and Rick Perry as Energy Secretary are particularly impressive.  And if reports are true that Diane Sykes is at or near the top of his list for Supreme Court picks, that would be welcome news indeed. Those “positive conservative signals, as Belling calls them, do not, however, require me or anyone else to admit we were “wrong” about Trump.

First, we cannot be wrong about Trump before January 20. “Signals” do not a president make. If Trump impresses as president I will say so. Second, we weren’t wrong about his character. Winning doesn’t mean he’s not the person he demonstrated himself to be during the campaign.

It also doesn’t mean that we need to be comfortable with a “Twitter presidency.” It’s hardly traitorous to be deeply uncomfortable with the leader of the free world blurting out random thoughts to the globe in 140 characters or less, especially when those thoughts bully American corporations or antagonize nuclear powers. All of that said, most of my post-election criticism of Trump focuses on his shocking indifference to the security threat Russia poses to the United States.

I would ask Belling to imagine his own response to President Obama had the outgoing administration taken more seriously the espionage estimations of Julian Assange than he did those of the U.S. Intelligence community, as Trump did in a tweet Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Trump claimed a security briefing he was to receive on allegations of Russians hacking DNC emails was delayed. He suggested the intelligence community needed additional time to build its case. U.S. officials insisted there was no delay in the briefing. Anyone who considers himself a conservative should be deeply, deeply concerned about Trump’s bizarre behavior toward the Russian hack allegations. But that’s not the case with Belling; he believes that refusing to overlook Trump’s ongoing erratic behavior makes us the enemy. …

I trust Wisconsin conservatives to judge the work of all the above organizations on the merits. If Belling believes a McCarthyistic rant in a local paper will hold more sway with conservatives than the product our organizations deliver, perhaps iHeart Media should change the name of his show to CSI:Milwaukee (Completely Self-Important).

… and this response from Wigderson:

OK, I’m old enough to remember when Belling prided himself on his independence from the Republican Party. Now he’s abandoning conservative principles and insisting that I do the same just so we can support the team.

Yes, I was a “Never Trumper,” along with a number of other prominent movement conservatives whom Belling derides as “eggheads.” The reasons were spelled out on the pages of the Waukesha Freeman, at Right Wisconsin and at my website, and they remain unchallenged by Belling despite his demand to conform to the Trump Revolution.

Trump is not a conservative. Trump is personally unfit for public office. Trump’s erratic behavior actually makes him dangerous on foreign affairs. Trump’s authoritarian tendencies and his use of the “bully pulpit” to attack free speech and bully companies should cause concern to anyone who believes in limited government. We can even add that his business interests are already compromising his administration. The only thing that has changed is that Trump, despite everyone’s predictions to the contrary, managed to win the election.

Trump deserves the same respect that is owed to any elected official. He should be treated like Gov. Scott Walker or President Barack Obama, praise when Trump does something right andcriticism when he does something wrong. Just because Trump ran with an “R” instead of a “D” or an “I”, it doesn’t mean he’s above criticism. He needs to be judged on his policies, his actions and his personal conduct, and we should resist the empty-headed scribbling of Ann Coulter who said she didn’t care if Trump allowed abortions in the Lincoln Bedroom.

So when Trump makes good Cabinet picks like Betsy DeVos at Education and Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, hurrah! And when Trump announces his infrastructure spending plan or causes a company’s stock to crash because of a Twitter rant, then we’ll criticize him. It’s not treason, it’s the American way.

Let me take a moment to remind Belling, a Milwaukee east sider, the last time he sided with an erratic political figure: former Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima. Despite warnings to the contrary from people actually in the city of Waukesha, including me, Belling defended Scrima nearly to the end despite embarrassment after embarrassment. Belling should have learned not to become so personally invested in politicians.

It’s sad that Belling has adopted the attitude that unless we join “Trump’s Revolution,” we should all lose our heads. He even questioned whether the MacIver Institute, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute will be “counter-productive” if they continue to provide a home to conservatives that stand on the principles Belling once espoused but now mocks. These organizations are invaluable to the conservative renaissance in Wisconsin. Belling could find that out just by asking his Milwaukee east side neighbors what they think of the conservative organizations.

It’s ironic that many of those now being attacked by Belling stood up for him when he was being attacked by the left for remarks he made on-air about Hispanics and on other occasions. You would think that someone like Belling who demands so much team loyalty would show some gratitude and team loyalty of his own. Engage us on our ideas, not demand we be silenced. But that’s not the new Trump Revolution style.

Belling’s 180 on Trump is also interesting given that he wasn’t a fan of Trump’s during the primary campaign (in which talk radio helped defeat Trump in Wisconsin), and he called himself a “reluctant” supporter after Trump got the GOP nomination. Now he’s apparently drunk the Kool-Aid and wants a purge of those who don’t swear fealty to The Donald.

Politicians get policies into law, which means the ideas have to exist first. That also means the ideas are more important than those who support them. Cults of personality are pathetic from liberals (the Kennedys, the Clintons, Obama, Russ Feingold); they should not be taken up by conservatives.

Any politician, regardless of letter (or lack thereof) that follows his or her name, deserves support only to the extent that politician does his or her job correctly. (Which means, in my case, representing my views.) Elected officials are supposed to represent us; we do not work for them, and we owe no loyalty to them beyond what they earn for doing what they should be doing.


One thought on “The right-wing purity test

  1. To leave it unchallenged that Act 10 has been good for Wisconsin education is a gross miscalculation. Because teachers are now paying more for their benefits has not improved the status of public schools as evidenced by hundreds of referendums being passed to keep public schools operating along with teacher shortages and the overall disdain and disparaging directed at educators in the wake of Act 10. To claim that Gov. Walker has moved Wisconsin’s economy forward by claiming lower unemployment rates while Walmart and big box retailers have become our major employers is fool hearty. Wisconsin’s environment and roads have taken significant hits from Walker’s policies and governing and as a state based on many metrics we are doing less well than our Midwest neighbors. Belling or anyone can frame a narrative using falsehoods to build their case. What we all need is an open declaration using facts and truth rather than innuendo to attack others.

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