By Irene F. Starkehaus -
For those readers who are still under the impression that English is the official language of the United States, Jeb is now calling out Trump – in Spanish, no less – for not being an authentic conservative. Thank you, Captain Obvious.
Of course, Jeb Bush complaining that Donald Trump isn't conservative is a little like Hillary Clinton complaining that Don Rumsfeld didn't take national security seriously. So whatever.
This is not exactly a "Come to Jesus" moment in terms of revelation. Donald Trump is a progressive. Jeb Bush is a progressive. They talk the talk but they won't walk the walk unless they are made to do so. If conservatives are looking to either of these men as flag bearers for the cause in the way that Ronald Reagan was, they are going to be greatly disappointed.
And let us not forget. Even Reagan had lapses in judgment when it came to conservative and libertarian beliefs on immigration, the legal drinking age and even the seat belt laws.
Regardless, everyone should know by now that Reagan is the man that Republican presidential contenders channel until they secure the Republican nomination. After that, they can either keep playing lip service until they win and only then reveal that they are progressives (like George Bush I & II), move to the center during the general election and tick everyone off (like John McCain) or curl up like a possum and play dead (like Mitt Romney or Bob Dole.)
Here's the real "Come to Jesus" moment.
None of the likely nominees are Reagan conservatives. Walker flip flopped on immigration and abortion. Cruz and Rubio are hardly better on immigration. Rick Perry is strong on immigration but weak on health care issues and parental rights. Chris Christie will say whatever the crowd in front of him wants to hear, so there's really no value in measuring his statements. Rand Paul shows marked changes in immigration, and his foreign policy views are historically left of center. Ben Carson has admitted that he was a "pretty left-wing Democrat." He's made some stunning statements on Obamacare in the past that should concern those in favor of "replace and repeal." Add Trump and Jeb to the mix and that's your "most likely to win" lineup for 2016.
Bobby Jindal is the conservative candidate in terms of past record. The biggest flip flop that Jindal had was on Common Core, and that reflects an evolution rather than a contradiction as he came to understand the federal overreach of Common Core standards. Based on rhetoric alone, Carly Fiorina is the most conservative candidate, but since she is a political outsider, it's hard to predict how her policies would evolve if push came to shove. Rick Santorum is pretty conservative, but he had some contradictions on the HHS mandates that – in part – drive conservative angst with regard to single payer health care.
With this in mind, conservatives will have to choose to vote during the primaries for either a candidate that is likely to succeed or one who is authentically conservative. I'm not sure that you can have your cake and eat it too this time around, and that means that the real work for conservatives comes after we have a nominee.
We cannot delude ourselves that conservative values matter to any of these candidates as much as they do to you or me. That means you must vote your conscience in the primary rather than for the candidate you think can beat the Dem. Then hold the nominee's feet to the fire during the general and after he or she wins. The key to longevity for the conservative cause requires that conservatives exercise applied cynicism to anyone who is in office.
It's the old "trust but verify" that Reagan taught us so many years ago. Keep your eyes open and know that actions speak louder than words. If any one of these candidates can get away with betraying you to make his or her life easier, that's what's going to happen.
So back to Jeb Bush's Dos Equis moment. Is Donald Trump a conservative? The conservative response should be this: He isn't now, but he will be when we're done with him. When conservatives remain vocal and unified, any Republican candidate can be rehabilitated.