Four Reds with different views of President Trump debate how conservatives should think about the former president, his legacy, his current behavior (including on January 6), and his possible run in 2024. The conversation expands into the future of conservatism, Ukraine, and what it means to be a Red in the 21st century, highlighting both the alignments and the divergences in contemporary Red thought.
Steve Saltwick, co-founder of Braver Angels of Central Texas, is a bio-psychologist who studies the guiding principles of the mammalian brain especially as it relates to artificial intelligence. Marc Ang is a conservative activist, entrepreneur, and freelance journalist based in Southern California whose work has been featured in Newsweek, The Washington Examiner, Redstate, and more. Finally, Paul N., a founding leader of Braver Angels’ Red Caucus, worked in technology prior to enjoying a post-retirement career as a psychotherapist in California.
Twitter: @braverangels, @AprilALawson, @MarquesAngus, @SteveSaltwick
3 thoughts on “President Trump, Ukraine, & the Future of Conservatism: Reds Discuss | Steve Saltwick, Marc Ang, & Paul N. with April Kornfield”
This was the first podcast episode I listened to branded as Better Angels (I listened to one or two of the John Wood Jr Show prior). April did a great job as moderator / participant. Each of the guests conducted and expressed themselves well. I think that as a window on the conservative mind it was helpful, but on some points it left me as perplexed as I began.
I grew up in a conservative family. I took a detour through liberal politics (becoming serious about them with Howard Dean’s presidential run), and wound up in the end with some quite strong liberal sympathies, some somewhat strong libertarian sympathies, and some conservative sympathies that are kind of complicated. That’s where I’ve stood since around the middle of Obama’s first term. My conservative sympathies were strengthened a great deal when I witnessed conservatives holding out against the populist takeover of the Republican party. I daydream about a conservative/liberal alliance that seeks to hold the center against the populist far-right and populist far-left. Listening to April and Paul, I could imagine them participating in such an alliance. Steve was more difficult to read. And I felt that Mark probably has greater sympathies with post 2016 Republicanism than with conservatism… So, my first comment is this: My perception is that the far-right and far-left have more in common with each other than they do with conservatives and liberals respectively. This is known in libertarian circles as “horseshoe theory”. Should Braver Angels have room for left- and right- populism a la Bernie & Donald as a category separate from Red and Blue?
My second comment is this. There is one point where the thinking of Reds seems just as opaque to me as ever after listening to the episode:
Donald Trump’s dishonesty. Temperament and character were brought up by a couple of the participants when asked about Trump’s negatives, and I’m sure dishonesty might have implicitly fallen under one of those umbrellas. But the dishonesty stands out above and beyond the tendency to tweet intemperate remarks at 3:00 a.m. (a practice that was mentioned explicitly), and even the Billy Bush type stuff (which was inexcusable but wasn’t a defining pattern of his political life – also explicitly mentioned). Trump began his political career by spreading “Birtherism”. He conducted his primary campaign by continually promoting dishonest conspiracy theories and untrue and unfair attacks against his opponents. His first act as President was to lie about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, then have Sean Spicer and Kelly Anne Conway humiliate themselves in defense of that lie. He never let up the pace, continuing to lie with a frequency that left many of us dumbstruck. Many of the lies were about inconsequential topics, but their frequency and sometimes their very pettiness made it seem a deliberate power move: to create a sense among his people that adherence to the truth must be secondary to loyalty to himself. He seemed like the emperor who deliberately wore no clothes and dared anyone to say so, at the cost of being labeled “RINO” and primaried out of office if not out removed from the party entirely. And, of course, not all of his lies were inconsequential. Now I’m fully aware that all politicians lie, and partisans in the rank and file are generally quick to ignore or defend their lies. I saw this with the “Blues” when Obama said you can keep your plan and keep your doctor – which one major fact-checking organization labeled the “lie of the year”. And I guess I get that psychology, because in my more partisan and ideological days I was one of those people. But what we witnessed with Trump was not just a different degree, but seemingly a qualitatively different program. It seemed not to be “I can get away with sliding this one in”, but instead “I am above the truth and you better get in line with that fact” variety. After listening to this episode, I cannot say I understand any better the abject willingness on the part of not only right-populists but also on the part of some people who seem to be real conservatives – to accept this from Trump. Nor can I understand the willingness or even reflex to believe what he says, even when it is contradicted by all of the evidence and the word of his his AG, his head of cybersecurity, the international election monitors he invited, a variety of Republican governors and Secs of State, and has been thrown out of court 60 times… So… I guess I’ll turn that second comment into a question as well… Could someone – preferably a conservative – who embraces the Braver Angels’ commitment to mutual respect and cooperation – help me understand how many Republicans (populist or conservative) stomach being lied to in this particular way, and how many of them will even accept the lies as truth?
Fri, April 22 – Thank you, April. Thank you all. I am new to Braver Angels, lean blue, and sense I can and will learn a great deal about the people behind the labels. Viewing this particular YouTube first, leaning Blue listening to Reds only was both a challenge, informative, and inspiring….perhaps even exciting for me. I live I a Blue Bubble in what was once a Purple state and is now Red. I am curious about that shift and yearn to be able to engage in conversation with anyone without apprehension of what another might say.
P.S. The Republican Response to the State of the Union was Governor Kim Reynolds from Iowa!
As a child with complex childhood trauma, who decades later is still in intense therapy to overcome this, I look at 1/6 and think of the police and other staff inside the building, especially the one who committed suicide, likely because he was re-traumatized. The people that entered the Capitol were VIOLENT. those officers will never be the same. Please, Paul, as a psychotherapist, reconsider your characterization of those who entered as “a bunch of clowns who had no idea what they were doing.”