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Michael Gerson: The Moral Hypocrisy of Conservative Leaders

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So you thought the election was over after Joe Biden won the vote of the Electoral College on December 14, as predicted, by 306-232. And perhaps you thought it was over when Mitch McConnell finally congratulated Biden after the Electoral College voted and called him the President-Elect.

But: Trump is continuing his hapless campaign to reverse the election, despite the fact that his claims of fraud were rejected more than 50 times in state and federal courts and twice by the Supreme Court. Stephen Miller said that the election was not finished, that several states had prepared their own slates of Trump electors who would take their case to Congress, and that the decision about the presidency would not be finished until January 20, Inauguration Day. George Conway of the Lincoln Project told Anderson Cooper on CNN that Trump was behaving as he is for three reasons: 1) he is delusional; 2) he is scamming his followers by raising money for himself (whoever heard of a billionaire appealing for $5?); 3) he is malevolent.

Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post about the hypocrisy of certain rightwing “leaders” who support Trump’s ridiculous claim that the election was “stolen.”

Gerson wrote about the assault on democracy by conservative leaders, who are enabling Trump’s delusional behavior:

“It was stolen,” said conservative luminary William Bennett on a recent podcast. “The election was stolen.”

In a Dec. 10 open letter, a group of conservative stalwarts — including activist Gary Bauer, former senator and former president of the Heritage Foundation James DeMint, and head of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins — alleged that “President Donald J. Trump is the lawful winner of the presidential election.” They called on state legislators in battleground states to “appoint clean slates of electors to the Electoral College to support President Trump” and urged the House and Senate to reject competing slates reflecting the actual vote.

For some of us, watching prominent conservatives turn against rationality and democracy is not just disappointing; it is disorienting...

The intellectual bankruptcy and moral hypocrisy of many conservative leaders is stunning. People who claimed to favor limited government now applaud Trump’s use of the executive branch to undermine an election. A similar attempt by Barack Obama would have brought comparisons to Fidel Castro. People who talked endlessly about respecting the Constitution affirm absurd slanders against the constitutional order. People who claimed to be patriots now spread false claims about their country’s fundamental corruption. People who talked of honoring the rule of law now jerk and gyrate according to the whims of a lawless leader.

These conservative leaders no longer deserve the assumption of sincerity. They are spreading conspiratorial lies so unlikely and irrational, they must know them to be lies.

Gerson questions their motives for their immoral claims. Is it cynicism? Fear? A will to power? Why accept blatant lies? Why attack the foundation of democracy, which is free and fair elections? Why defend a would-be tyrant?

Perhaps these conservative leaders view democracy as a secondary concern, compared with the broader crisis of Western civilization. Maybe resisting the impending arrival of cultural and economic Marxism requires conservatives to use whatever means are necessary — including the invalidation of a valid election.
This justification — “by any means necessary” — may be the least conservative arrangement of letters in the English language.

Traditional conservatives have regarded such ideas as the path to tyranny, the highway to the guillotine. This approach assumes an emergency that does not actually exist. Are the barbarian hordes really arriving under the brutal, pitiless direction of . . . Joe Biden? Will the rescue of civilization from decadence really be accomplished under the courageous moral leadership of . . . Donald Trump?

Conservatism is supposed to produce the best of citizens — lawful, loyal and respectful of the Constitution. In some quarters, it is now producing the worst — fractious, resentful and cynical. A large portion of the responsibility rests on conservative leaders, who have sold their convictions cheap.

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