I used to scurry home from high school so I could watch Rush Limbaugh’s television show, which I taped on our VCR. I was a conservative Republican because I was pro-Constitution, pro-life, pro-military and pro-family values. But in 2017, Donald Trump has made all four of these conservative tenets as much of a relic of the past as that old VCR.
The most egregious example of the degradation of our values came this week when President Trump suggested news networks he doesn’t like should be shut down.
“It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it,” he said while speaking in the Oval Office.
Then, Wednesday night, he tweeted, “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”
His question, however, had already been answered by our Founding Fathers in the Constitution. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Though the First Amendment is too long to fit within a tweet, it’s still as true in 2017 as it was in 1791 when the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution.
Conservatives who demand the government uphold religious freedom should also just as vigorously demand the government uphold the rights of a free press.
Constitutional respect is not the only casualty of the Trump administration. Life-valuing conservatives scratched their heads recently when Hurricane Maria ravaged the island of Puerto Rico, endangering the lives of 3.5 million Americans.
Meteorologists tracked this storm for a week as it went from the northeastern Caribbean, then devastated Dominica before hitting Puerto Rico. On Twitter, Puerto Rican officials told people to evacuate and residents in the eye of the storm posted videos of heavy winds snapping trees, homes falling and other property damage.
The president focused his tweets on NFL players “taking a knee” during the national anthem. On Thursday, he tweeted “we cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever,” even though 90 percent Puerto Ricans still have no power and most cell antennae don’t work.
Trump’s attacks on NFL players attempt to make him sound pro-military, but his record proves otherwise. He dodged the draft to avoid military service. Once, when Howard Stern asked him about how he can be so sexually promiscuous without catching a sexually transmitted disease, he said not contracting one was his own “personal Vietnam” and that he was a “very brave soldier.”
During his campaign, he mocked Sen. John McCain for being tortured as a prisoner of war for five and a half years in Vietnam’s so-called Hanoi Hilton. “I like people who weren’t captured,” he said. His obvious disregard for our military undermines his moral preening over the national anthem. Plus, I’ve written before about grappling with the fact that the “family values” party is now being led by a thrice-married lothario who bragged about grabbing women by their genitalia.
Though Trump violates conservative values so thoroughly, most conservatives still refuse to condemn these violations. For example, when Sen. Ben Sasse suggested that Trump was violating his oath of office to “protect and defend the First Amendment,” Sean Hannity spoke out forcefully … against Sasse. Also, when Republican congressmen were asked to comment on Trump’s attack on the Constitution, many could only pathetically reiterate that the media was biased.
If 2017 had a theme, it would be that people tend to go along with powerful men in the hopes that they’ll get something out of it for themselves. It’s happened in Hollywood and D.C. for so long that it’s hardly noteworthy. What’s new is that American conservatives are now overlooking grievous problems with Trump they never would have stood for in Barack Obama.
For conservatives who let the “Access Hollywood” tape, the American P.O.W mockery, and the Puerto Rico inattention slide by, Trump’s assault on the First Amendment should be the moment you take a stand.
If American conservatives don’t remember what we used to say we believed, the party of Abraham Lincoln will be but a distant memory and we’ll only have our own moral cowardice to blame.
Nancy French is a four-time New York Times best-selling author who has written books with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson, television personality Sean Lowe and others.