In his explanation of why most of America isn’t America, Eastman’s fellow board member Glenn Ellmers doesn’t shy away from making it clear that being a modern conservative isn’t about holding any policy position. These are things that concern “intellectuals, journalists, and the world of think tanks,” but in terms of the movement that the Claremont Institute and others are pushing, all of this is “a distraction” and “mostly irrelevant.” Political positions simply don’t play into what they’re about.
The same thing is true of the Republican Party, as “apart from Trump, the party does not really care“ about the people who want to restore “the one, authentic America.”
Conservatism, say the conservatives, is dead. That’s because “the original America is more or less gone.” There’s no point trying to conserve anything because “mainline churches, universities, popular culture, and the corporate world are rotten to the core.” This isn’t a fight about politics. No modern conservative is genuinely concerned about the national debt, or devoting one second to thinking about the best way to deal with Social Security. All that is done.
What Ellmers is calling for isn’t a fight over policies, or a fight at the polls, but simply a fight. “Learn some useful skills, stay healthy, and get strong,” writes Ellmers. “One of my favorite weightlifting coaches likes to say, ‘Strong people are harder to kill, and more useful generally.’”
In a perverse sort of way, Ellmers’ essay is right: Something has died. That something is conservatism as a political movement. In a way, it’s almost refreshing about how clear conservatives are on that point.
Long devoid of any mores or intellectual heart, that movement was easily hijacked by a reality show reject who played on racism, xenophobia, and the primal joy of smashing things. See that carefully constructed structure of regulations that balance social, economic, and environmental concerns? Let’s burn it! Look at this delicate spun glass cage of diplomacy, crafted over decades. Let’s smash it!
All John Eastman did in his memo laying out the means for Mike Pence to overturn the legal results of an election was to extend that burn it, smash it mentality to American democracy. Democracy is fragile. It has to be fragile. It’s an agreement among the governed that they will participate in their own governing. It’s a system that requires, and is in fact based on, the idea that adult citizens of a society will act like adult citizens of a society, and place the concerns of that society over their individual desires.
Trump supporters are being extremely upfront in making it clear: They’re not playing by those rules. What Eastman laid in front of Pence is just another page of what Ellmers spelled out in his essay: There are Americans who no longer want to make any compromise for the greater good. They don’t believe there is a greater good. They don’t have policy concerns. They don’t place their faith with churches, universities, or even corporations. That doesn’t make them, as Ellmers might say, “not Americans.” It makes them dangerous Americans.
As Alfred explained to Bruce Wayne when describing the Joker, “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical … Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
That statement, more than anything about abortion, or tax policy, or even guns, defines what it means to be conservative today; what it takes to be a rising star in the Republican Party; what’s required to be a pundit on Newsmax or OANN. The core belief is not that anything needs to be conserved, but that American democracy has got to go.
Which makes Eastman, who sat in the White House and provided a detailed six-point plan for America’s destruction, their perfect spokesman.