The White House is now home to a new emperor, and judging by some of the deceitful actions of the Trump administration within just the first few days of his presidency (and all throughout the campaign prior to election), it is clear that we are about to be ushered into the age of the naked emperor.
Over the next four years (at least), we can expect to witness his ministers and sycophants attempt to convince the rest of us that he is fully clothed even when discernibly undressed.
Those who still have the integrity and audacity to call the emperor naked when he is perceptibly so—who remain steadfast in their commitment to the truth—will become part of an ostracized faction forced to the margins of the conservative movement. We will hear arguments asserting that lying for the emperor is the morally superior thing to do, and that ensuring that the emperor tells the truth is secondary to “winning,” however undefined.
There will be efforts to persuade those of us who still believe in common decency that deception is actually a commendable political tactic, no matter the ramifications. Gone are the days when we all acknowledged, yet abhorred the fact that politicians lie routinely. It will be revealed that many people hated lying not because it was inherently immoral, but because it was being done by those who hold opposing political ideals.
The Gaslighting BrigadeTM, chaired by Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer, will launch concerted campaigns to legitimize the emperor’s entitlement to “alternative facts” about even the most trivial things, such as presidential inauguration crowd sizes, in order to assuage his bruised ego and gratify his narcissism. One wonders whether an individual with such a fragile self-image (that press conferences must be held to defend it) can be trusted to ethically handle more serious situations that will pose much greater threats to his perceived popularity. One wonders whether the same people defending this campaign of lies would come so ferociously to Trump’s defense had his administration lied about YouTube videos causing the death of four in Benghazi.
“Logical and philosophical consistency must be sacrificed at the altar of Trumpism as the ‘drain the swamp!’ hymn is sung all across Trumpland.”
If Trump’s ascension to the presidency has revealed anything, it is that his most ardent supporters who encourage his lies—”Trumpservatives”—who may nominally identify as conservative, are actually almost ideologically indistinguishable from statist progressives whose eternal hopes lie in Almighty Government.
For Trumpservatives, government is their god, and the Strongman politics of Trumpism is their religion. Vapid populism is central to their rallying creed. Their tendency to unrepentantly applaud President Trump’s proposed plans to vastly expand the size of the federal government and the president’s use of executive power, yet swiftly condemn similar actions by President Obama, prove that the platitudinous call for “limited government” is merely euphemism for “I don’t like Democrats.”
For them, conservatism, rather than being marked by authentic time-honored principles like respect for moral institutions, is instead a hollow policy of cynical anti-left-wing hostility and puerile antagonism. It is a political framework that is mired with contradictions and blatant hypocrisy.
For Trumpservatives, any philosophical commitment to limiting federal government expansion is immediately abandoned when President Trump promises that they will be the direct beneficiaries of federal government expansion. They will scoff at welfare recipients, yet grovel at Trump’s feet for government programs he promised will improve their lot. They will unthinkingly respond with “amen!” to vacuous protectionist and nationalist chants of “America First!”
Obama must work with Congress, Trumpservatives will insist, but Trump need not bother himself with such non-compulsory ceremony. Logical and philosophical consistency must be sacrificed at the altar of Trumpism as the “drain the swamp!” hymn is sung all across Trumpland.
“Situational ethics is at the core of trumpism and will be the doctrine by which many Trumpservatives will formulate their political values”
This sedulous adherence to Trumpism helps to explain why Trumpservatives don’t mind when the president lies. As long as politics is used to bash the other side, the thinking goes, and as long as government ultimately delivers the things I want, I don’t care what tactics are used to get there.
In the age of the naked emperor, Trumpism – if not decried by serious conservative thinkers – is what mainstream conservatism will become.
Situational ethics—the moral belief system which posits that good and bad are not absolutely defined, but are dependent on the outcome of particular circumstances—is at the core of Trumpism and will be the doctrine by which many Trumpservatives will formulate their political values.
I predict that for the next four years, we will listen as media pundits, commentators and politicians tell us why Obama was demonstrably wrong when he enacted bad policy, but Trump must have unencumbered license to do the same. We will be scolded for refusing to look the other way should the Trump administration mishandle any classified information for no other reason than the fact that many on the left chose to ignore Hillary Clinton’s improprieties.
With utmost tenacity, it will be preached all across Trumpland—from the U.S. border wall to the apex of Trump Tower—that being complicit in the cover up of any eventual Trump administration scandals is actually virtuous since the media worked to cover up the IRS debacle under Obama. The retort, “But didn’t Obama…?!” will be lobbed at anyone who dares possess the gumption to criticize the transgressions of the Dear Leader.
With religious fervor, Trump sycophants will insist that the road to making America great again must be paved with subterfuge. With dogmatic exuberance, it will be asserted that his lies are really evidence of his supposed genius; that he’s simply “playing the game” and cleverly manipulating the media.
Conservatives who used to vigorously defend civil liberties will suddenly become fans of stop-and-frisk because Trump supports it. They will publish white papers “proving” why it actually protects blacks’ constitutional rights rather than violating them. Consequently, serious black conservatives will naturally loathe mainstream conservatism, and in response, Trumpservatives will predictably and nonsensically counter, “but didn’t Obama…?!”
If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible "carnage" going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2017
We will be told that tweets like the one above quoted directly from Fox News don’t reflect a deep lack of familiarity with the Constitution; that he said this in jest and we have no reason to take him seriously. Any thinking person knows that if a Democratic president had ever tweeted something like this, the right would be utterly incensed. But Messiah Trump tweeted it, so all is well.
“All together now!” bellows the Trump Choir leader, “In Trump we trust!”
It will be said that Trump is merely joking when he continues to peddle the unsubstantiated claim that he lost the popular vote due to voter fraud by Democrats and illegal immigrants. Deception “works,” so why not use it for political gain wherever possible? After all, it is the only way to win so much that we get tired of winning.
We will be told that the things we see him do and hear him say are not the things we see him do and hear him say.
In the age of the naked emperor, the alt-right aren’t really white supremacists growing in prominence; they’re just a group of misguided young men and women who like Trump and “trigger” the left. Therefore, alliances must be forged with them for the sake of “unity.”
In this debauched age, it will be argued that losing one’s political values is literally the path to obtaining liberty.
For these ebullient sycophants, politics is not a means to an end; it is the end in itself, and thus any means by which their preferred political agenda is forwarded—including lying or ignoring the emperor’s nakedness—is inherently justified. Their doctrine of situational ethics will dictate that tribalism must supplant adherence to longstanding ethical standards. Those who oppose the mendacities peddled by the tribe must be socially exiled.
Once it is rationalized in the mind of the sycophant that lying is a perfectly moral political tool, it necessarily follows that anyone who opposes this use of deception is either naive or fundamentally depraved. The liar then becomes the knight in shining armor, who gets to sit atop his moral high horse and wag his finger at everyone else who simply doesn’t “get it.”
In this age, conservatives who used to stand for authentic morality, will say that up is down and down is up.
I am reminded, however, of Isaiah 5:20:
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
Lying incessantly may afford you short-term wins, but adopting and endorsing it as a signature political strategy not only makes politics dumb and debased, it legitimizes other moral misdeeds. Moreover, what is the point of “winning,” if integrity and moral credence are lost in the process?
At a time when trust in the media is at an all-time low, championing deception in politics makes little sense. If we can trust neither the media nor the White House for the truth, what recourse is there?
In the age of the naked emperor, the truth must be championed. There is still virtue in maintaining honest and upstanding character and expecting elected officials to do the same.
The truth still matters. Inasmuch as the decline of truth signals the atrophy of a society’s moral standards, serious conservatives must possess the moral fortitude to resist the duplicity endemic to Trumpism, lest it consumes the conservative movement.