By Steve Hansen

Conservatives reaping their sowing


August 9, 2017

I don’t know what it is with these U.S. senators from Arizona. They keep turning out to be mavericks.

First, Sen. John McCain, a Republican, cast one of the deciding votes that wrecked the GOP’s “skinny” Obamacare repeal/replace. He’s now being called a traitor.

Now comes Rep. Jeff Flake, with sterling conservative credentials, who has published a book that lambastes President Donald Trump.

He’s being called a traitor, too, even though he titled his book “The Conscience of a Conservative,” which far from accidentally echoes the title of a book by the late Arizona conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater.

Goldwater was probably the original Arizona maverick senator, a hard-line conservative long before hard-line conservatism was cool, in the days before the backers of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News bought its current cachet.

In Flake’s book, he unflinchingly unmasks Trump as an emotionally unstable emperor without clothes.

He takes on Trump’s anti-trade policies, his admiration for foreign dictators, and most especially for his attraction to right-wing conspiracy theory advocates like Stephen Bannon, formerly editor of Breitbart, and Alex Jones, editor of Infowars.

Both Bannon and Jones are echoes of Robert Welch, who founded the John Birch Society, only Bannon and Jones assign Muslims and Islam the same master conspirator role that Welch assigned to the Communists, and both claim that Democrats are secret Communists or Muslims.

I once worked with a reporter who called the John Birch Society a conspiracy to sell books, which it did well, pandering to a human tendency to fear things and people who seem different.

Conservatives need to remember they were first loyal to principle. Trump never was one of their number, even though they allowed him to steal their banner in the 2016 election.

Now conservatives feel compelled to pretend that Trump was their idea all along.

Flake is telling them “no, you don’t,” and he’s not alone.

Trump was the only candidate in 2016 whose tone echoed the anger and frustration of the disenfranchised workers who once formed the backbone of American manufacturing.

Unfortunately, that anger had been mercilessly fanned by the contemptuous tone of right-wing media against a progressive, African-American president.

It’s one thing to make a persuasive case against progressive policies. It’s another to heap baseless scorn and blame on an elected president and make that the sole basis of your opposition, which is what the right did for the eight years of Obama’s presidency.

In the election of Trump, not one of their own, the conservative movement is reaping what it sowed.

They have found that behind Trump’s anger there is little in the way of a cogent plan, definitely not a steady hand, and too little in the way of principled conservatism.

Even though I’m not a conservative, I know we need conservative thought as a balance for unbridled progressive ideas, which often also tend to excess.

That’s why I would hope conservatives would listen to voices like Jeff Flake’s before they start calling for Flake’s ouster based on misguided loyalty to forces they elected in spite of themselves.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:



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