Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) made a really important point in a recent podcast interview with conservative commentator Matt Lewis.
“There’s more to being a conservative than just ‘owning the libs,’” Cox told Lewis. “I believe in a Republican Party and a conservatism that is about opportunity for everyone. We don’t do that with these fake controversies, these false choices we keep presenting people.”
Cox doesn’t mention Donald Trump in that quote, but the former President is all over it. Trump and his brood – most notably his eldest son and namesake Donald Trump Jr. – have steered the GOP over the last four years into a box canyon populated by memes and misogyny.
But as Cox notes, posting altered videos that make President Joe Biden look old or mocking International Women’s Day – isn’t a policy position, much less a party platform.
“There’s not much interesting policy work going on on the right,” he told Lewis. “It seems we’ve just defined ourselves in opposition to whatever it is the left is doing.”
And yet, Cox is in the minority within his party on that view. Or at least, he is in the minority in his willingness to voice an opinion that runs counter to the cult of Trump that continues to seize the GOP.
Trump’s four years in office so many establishment Republicans simply walk away from long-held policy views like concerns over deficit spending (and the broader debt), moral values in their leaders and a free trading penchant.
In place of those beliefs, Republicans subbed, um, whatever Trump tweeted about or happened to say. But the only common thread was a desire to freak out the squares – to make the elites squirm, or something.
Jonathan V. Last, writing in the Bulwark, made a similar point in writing about why Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) continues to be a Republican.
“Political parties build their ideologies around a pyramid of ideas and on the defining idea of the Republican party—Trump—Murkowski is not onboard,” wrote JVL. “Any other pieces of policy alignment are incidental.”
I think that’s broadly right. The Republican Party believes in Trump. That’s the policy. That’s the platform. (Even though it is, actually neither.).
The Point: Voices like Cox are lonely cries in the Republican wilderness. The party is too busy posting “hilarious” memes trolling Biden to notice that Cox is right.