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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Trump Has Officially Made ‘Conservative Ethics’ an Oxymoron

Jonathan Chait
New York Magazine

The conservative intelligentsia initially greeted the rise of Donald Trump with revulsion. After some of them peeled off, a minority remained within the party tent on the grounds that they could support Trump’s policy goals without endorsing his grotesque character. Mitt Romney’s op-ed attacking Trump’s lack of virtue, however, has put this question squarely on the table. And the conservative response seems clear: Republicans will not abide attacks on Trump’s character, either.

A couple of recent columns nakedly illustrate the moral depravity into which conservatives have descended. It would be easy to mock some blow-dried Fox News bobblehead, but I’m going to focus on two samples from a pair of the more esteemed intellectuals the conservative movement has produced. The first is a column by Roger Kimball, and the second by Henry Olsen.

Kimball is an esteemed, long-standing conservative critic, who writes for a wide array of literary, scholarly, and pseudo-scholarly journals, and is frequently photographed in a bow tie. Like many conservative intellectuals, Kimball once devoted himself to the evils of moral relativism. “What a relativist really believes (or believes he believes) is that 1) there is no such thing as value and 2) there is no such thing as truth,” he wrote in one such essay, in 2009. Kimball explained that by attacking fixed truths, relativism allows the strongman to impose his own values. “Relativism and tyranny, far from being in opposition, are in fact regular collaborators,” he wrote. And also: “Relativism, which begins with a beckoning promise of liberation from ‘oppressive’ moral constraints, so often end in the embrace of immoral constraints that are politically obnoxious.”

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