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Tue, March 19

Cantlon: We didn’t believe previous signs, and now…

An important change in conservative politics is being foreshadowed. It’s similar to what’s happened recently, as the fringe edges of the conservative world foreshadowed what was coming. We saw it in things Trump said while his was toying with the idea of running in 2012 and when members of his party endorsed fake conspiracies, like the birther conspiracy. We saw it when some candidates didn’t seem to mind racist groups supporting them.

And not long after the election of Trump — and the ways that he and his support base routinely accept fake “facts and encourage racists while the party has turned from criticizing the candidate to embracing the president -- what had seemed like fringe elements have been revealed to be, instead, early warnings.

Now we have new warnings. Signs of a movement that is dropping its pretense of being for the U.S. Constitution and adoring the nation’s founders, dropping its pretense of being for ordinary people and, instead, now blatant in its support of the rich.

Leader of the Pennsylvania Senate writes to state supreme court to say the Senate will defy its ruling


Neo-Nazis burn constitution and flag.


Trump bombing without legal authority.


Tennessee legislature refuses to condemn neo-Nazis.


Suggestion of winning immigrant votes is derided.


And video of that.


They used to pretend they worried about deficits. Even when President George W. Bush caused the national deficit mushroom, at least that was for what they argued was necessary — wars in the Middle East. Now their tax cuts to corporations are mushrooming the deficit again.

No longer professing fealty to the U.S. Constitution and its founders, when the leader of the Pennsylvania Senate, a Republican, doesn’t like a state Supreme Court decision, he declares, in writing, to the court, that the state senate will defy the court’s ruling.

Further out on the fringe, where secessionist groups and extreme survivalists used to claim they wanted a return to constitutional government and individualism, now neo-Nazi groups put nationalism above the individual and post video of themselves burning the Constitution. They don’t want it. They want authoritarianism.

Conservatives used to say they wanted to convert a broader range of people to their message. Now when a speaker at a key planning conference suggests that immigrants might be persuaded to vote Republican, he is derided. They don’t want those votes.

Trump, himself, leads the way, as he has been doing, by talking about how news organizations should more easily be sued for libel though the law already provides for that where it can be proven. He seems to want to squash the free press when it doesn’t make him look good. And in further authoritarian fashion, he ordered a strike on Syria that fell outside of what can be covered under the war on terror, and so requires justification. The constitution says the president can’t just go attacking whenever and wherever he wants. But Trump has refused calls from Congress to explain the strike. The administration could probably supply a passable rationale, but they don’t feel they should have to answer to Congress, which is empowered by the Constitution to declare war.

We will likely see a few leaders saying the Constitution creates problems, and we need to make it more authoritarian to maintain order.

Finally, last week, a Tennessee legislator asked that the statehouse issue a statement condemning white supremacy, considering that a woman was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a pro-supremacy rally. But the Republicans of the Tennessee Legislature killed that proposal.

The pretense is being dropped. A new phase has been entered. Call it “the turn”. These are not just fringe incidents. They are the clear indicators of where conservatism is going next.

Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at comments at


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