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Republicans Think Rules Don’t Apply to Them

Pictured: the conservative theory of law.
Pictured: the conservative theory of law.
Photo by byzantiumbooks via Flickr

“People who are against him get the law. People who are his friends or can help him out? Merry Christmas.”

-Rachel Maddow

Liberals have got to stop trying to point out the hypocrisy of Republicans in power. For one, they are bad at it, which you can see whenever someone slut-shames Melania Trump as a “revenge” for conservatives attacking Michelle Obama’s shoulders. Mostly though, it’s because Republicans are not hypocrites in the sense they are going against their beliefs. Republicans believe that they have different rules than the rest of us.

The origin of conservative thought is essentially an intellectual way in which to preserve the idea of the nobility against the rise of democracy. The way that conservatives and American Republicans currently think about the world is fundamentally identical to the systems outlined by Edmund Burke shortly after the French Revolution. Burke and his intellectual successors like James Fitzjames Stephen and Irving Kristol have always used capitalism as a stand-in for the old monarchal class hierarchy. Money and adherence to the idea that wealth conveys a sense of specialness that transcends one-man-one-vote or the Labor Theory of Value is critical to the conservative. They all generally still believe in the basic concept of democracy, but not in the idea that all voices should be equal.

It’s important to remember when dealing with conservatives that a key part of their political philosophy, whether they are aware of the origins and texts that frame it or not, is that some people are worth more than others. That’s what brings us to rules. Republicans operate on the idea that rules are the things that other people are supposed to follow.

Probably nothing shows this more clearly that the self-quarantine of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who publicly mocked the danger of the conoravirus to the point of wearing a gas mask as a joke before he suddenly found himself under quarantine following possible exposure. His possible exposure came at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a place filled to the brim with similar politicians denouncing the need for emergency action on the blossoming plague. It’s clear from his actions that it simply never occurred to Gaetz that something like this would touch him, as if he was a minor character in an Edgar Allen Poe story. Other people get sick, not them.

Before the outbreak became the only news of the day, the Trump administration was full of examples that have all been fully supported by his base. Hillary Clinton spent most of her presidential campaign fighting the allegations that a private email server she used was indicative of a major federal crime. Since taking office, seven officials under Trump, including Jared Kushner, K.T. McFarland, Steve Bannon, Steven Miller, and Reince Priebus, have done the exact same thing with no similar outcry from the Republican community who were previously obsessed with the dangers and evils of the practice. It’s not because they are hypocrites; it’s because they think Clinton should have to follow all the rules when they do not.

According to conservatives, Trump was well within his rights to ask a foreign government to investigate a political rival. He is well within his rights to make the Secret Service pay top rates to stay at his hotels and resorts, as well trying to force public dignitaries who wish to meet with him in official functions to do the same. The list of rules bent and broken is too long to print. Those things are good business being done by a savvy operator. They’re only bad if liberals and their dirty democratic agenda to put people above their station, do them.

None of these things, even when they rise to the level of actual crimes, seems to make a dent in the base of support of a conservative president. Trump’s approval has remained consistent, if very low, since the day he took office. Liberals keep looking for a sense of shame to wake up the other side of the aisle.

They need to stop doing that. There is not shame. What we are witnessing is the shedding of the myth that Republicans follow rules. You could argue it started the day Senate Leader Mitch McConnell shirked his constitutional duty to vote on Barack Obama’s Supreme Court Justice nomination. Faced with one of the most hallowed rules in the system of checks and balances, McConnell, with full Republican support, simply ignored them. It was not far from there to the point Trump felt justified in ignoring congressional subpoenas and asking the justice department to go soft on his friends like Roger Stone.

Republicans use rules and laws as weapons against the rest of America. The rules are to keep others in line, not themselves. Their entire ideology is a bad faith argument meant to preserve a ruling class, and they have wielded it for that purpose ever since Republican became synonymous with conservative. They will not be constrained by rules unless forced to, but they will expect others to follow them exactly or face punishment. It’s no accident that the police skew conservative since their power is to determine who will and will not be arrested for the same crimes.

Once we accept that state of being, paths forward will be clearer.

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