Republicans Joining the Virtue-Signaling Crowd

Virtue-signaling is all the rage, especially on the left.  In simple terms, it means taking a public position on a seemingly well meaning cause and then telling everyone how wonderful and caring you are for taking a stand.  Never mind that the issue may be silly and that the position you take may be in direct contradiction to your actions and how you actually live your life; it is a smug and high-browed way of proclaiming your moral superiority, that you care more and therefore are a superior person.

This has become a regular activity on the left, supplanting hot yoga and recycling as daily pastimes.  Hand in hand with virtue-signaling is hypocrisy – talking up a particular behavior while doing the opposite.  There are plenty of examples.

Climate warriors lecture the hoi polloi on the evils of carbon-based fuel and capitalistic consumption while they fly their high-carbon-footprint jets to the conferences and award ceremonies that serve as their climatista lecture platforms.  Gun control is another area of virtue-signaling.  Leftist elites want ordinary citizens to give up their guns, yet they surround themselves and their families with armed security guards and think nothing of the hypocrisy.

They can take what they believe is the high road and proclaim themselves morally superior to those who don't share their views.  Those who disagree are branded troglodytes, racists, bigots, homophobes, haters, and a number of other epithets.  The media and popular culture laud their virtue and sanctimony, never questioning their glaring hypocrisy or asking them to explain why their talk and actions are at odds with each other.  (The latest example of this is Eric Schneiderman, who resigned as New York State A.G. for brutalizing his girlfriends less than a week after receiving an award from the National Institute for Reproductive Health for his efforts on behalf of women.)

Some on the right have taken to virtue-signaling, too, although on different issues.  In particular, the NeverTrumps have taken on virtue-signaling to a degree on par with the left.

A recent article by Deion Kathawa in American Greatness is titled "Suicide of the conservative movement."  In the article, he cites NeverTrump Jonah Goldberg, who observes that there are "[s]ome conservatives who view politics as a game – as just about getting points on the board" – much like a game of high school basketball, with referees to adjudicate fouls and rules violations.

Only now there are no rules and no fair referees.  In the past, we could count on the media to be objective and balanced, the FBI and DOJ to be fair referees in matters of law.  But now they have rigged the game as much as in professional wrestling, creating only a show with a predetermined outcome.

Many of the so-called conservatives are happy to play along with the charade, as long as they can claim the moral high ground.  You know the names – Bill Kristol, Max Boot, Jennifer Rubin, Bret Stephens, George Will, and others – Republicans in name only, signaling to their dwindling audience how refined they are in their opposition to President Trump.

Here are three such NeverTrump tweets in one day:

How ironic.  America has elected the most conservative president since Reagan, and perhaps even more so, in the opinion of some.  Tax cuts, regulatory rollbacks, conservative judicial appointments, strongly defending the Second Amendment, rebuilding the military, just to name a few things.  Republicans should be jumping with delight.

Trump's supporters certainly are, as evidenced by turnout and enthusiasm at his rallies.  Yet where are the smart-set Republicans?  Whether in Congress or the media?  Trump is not "one of them."  He is the Rodney Dangerfield character in Caddyshack, a loud and uncouth nouveau riche guy, offensive to the virtuous snobs at the Bushwood Country Club.

Focusing on style over substance, many Republicans unwittingly display their hypocrisy by virtue-signaling when it comes to their loathing of Trump.  Whom are they signaling to?  Not to ordinary Americans, who support Trump, warts and all, but instead to their Beltway bubble pals, their neighbors and friends – those they play tennis with and other parents at their children's schools and those who invite them to fancy cocktail parties or sunset sailing on the Chesapeake.

Just as the Hollywood leftists find it necessary to virtue-signal to their pals in order to stay on the invite list for movie openings and award shows, the NeverTrumps do the same.  You won't see James Woods or Jon Voight presenting an Academy Award due to their conservative views.  How many Republicans want a similar blacklisting in the Beltway?  No more invites to the Sunday talk shows.

Republicans who bash Trump are a hot commodity.  CNN and MSNBC have open slots for them whenever they want to spout their virtue.  Write a book critical of Trump, and be treated like Moses rolling into town with another set of Ten Commandments.  Just ask James Comey, supposed Republican, now a hero for his herculean efforts to forestall and then destroy a duly elected president.

The left are motivated by hatred of Trump and conservatives.  Those on the right are more conflicted, as they would love the Trump agenda if delivered by a President Jeb or Kasich.  As the above mentioned article described, NeverTrumps have "[o]pted to view the public square as a debating society and the nation as a playground – complete with imaginary judges."

They are not willing to fight, as evidenced by congressional leadership sitting on its hands in the face of the rise of the new fourth branch of government – the Mueller-Rosenstein branch – dictating supremacy over Congress and the White House.  All of it leads me to again ask, as I have many times on these pages, why vote Republican?

Again quoting from the article, the Trump-resistant Republicans are creating "[a] hollowed out America so conservatives can preserve their unearned and perverse sense of moral-aesthetic superiority."  A perfect description of virtue-signaling.

This is not what Republican voters asked for in 2016 or want in 2018.  The GOP should take heed, else they will be virtue-signaling from the back benches of Congress.

Brian C Joondeph, M.D., MPS is a Denver-based physician and writer.  Follow him on Facebook,  LinkedIn, and Twitter.