"Truth bomb" — (noun) A fact or piece of knowledge that, when told to a listener, is devastating to the listener's argument or worldview.
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." —William Shakespeare, "Hamlet"
So said the castle guard when the king's ghost appeared on the ramparts. Many self-described conservatives of various persuasions would today say the same of the state of conservatism. Indeed, the ghost of the conservative movement that united to elect President Ronald Reagan nearly four decades ago today haunts a diverse group of factions that each claim to be conservative, each fighting with the others over what, exactly, that word and that legacy mean. And BlazeTV host Steve Deace wants you to know something is rotten.
In his new book, "Truth Bombs: Confronting the Lies Conservatives Believe (To Our Own Demise)," Deace aims to expose the state of modern conservatism with observations he's made throughout his career as a broadcaster and conservative activist. As he's said on his BlazeTV show many times, he wrote this book at a time when he was uncertain whether his contract with Blaze Media, then CRTV, would be renewed. So holding nothing back, Deace set out to write what might have been the final word of this phase of his career to those continuing on in the conservative movement without him — and to burn down every lie conservatives believe on his way out.
If the point of the conservative political movement in America is to enact conservative policies, then as Deace observes, we conservatives "kind of suck at this." Despite two years of full Republican control of Congress and a new Republican president, all of whom campaigned as conservatives, conservative policy enactments at the federal level are few. The most significant accomplishment of the Trump administration, tax reform, is unpopular. Promises to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood, secure the border, and reduce federal spending remain unfulfilled. Confirming originalist judges has not ended the soft tyranny of rogue lower courts, and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is disinclined to rein them in. The government grew bigger with Republicans in power and will continue to grow bigger and limitless with Democrats now in control of the House of Representatives again.
As Deace writes:
We are selling more books than ever before. We are selling out more conferences than ever before. Fox News has become the number one network in all of cable television, regardless of format. ... Yet while conservatism is finding an audience, it's not growing in influence. There is scant evidence that conservatism is relevant when it comes to actual policy-making in places like classrooms, courtrooms, boardrooms, newsrooms, or the halls of Congress even when the Republicans are in charge.
How is this possible? Because, Deace argues, "We have too many people defining what it means to be a conservative, rather than conservatism defining for us who are its people."
Somehow, along the way, conservatism lost its way. It was permitted to be amended, morphed, or even outright bastardized to conform to the image of whatever fad or politician had taken hold of the Republican Party at the time. A mere prisoner of the moment, rather than a timeless movement. An instrument became an industry.
What is true conservatism? Not an ideology, Deace says, but an observational science. "Authentic conservatism comes from being an honest student of history," he writes. "And then, from there, seeking to conserve for this and future generations that which has been revealed in history to be best for humans." No one needs to define conservatism, Deace argues, because the institutions and traditions that are best and worth conserving have already been handed down to us. Conservatism has lost its way to the extent that those permanent things have been traded for short-term personal gain. Integrity has been supplanted by ego. Objective truths ignored for subjective scheming. Patriotism abandoned for partisanship.
"Lies cannot defeat liars. Shilling cannot defeat shills. Tribalists cannot defeat tribalism. Right-wing media propaganda cannot defeat Left-wing media bias. Clickservatism will not advance conservatism," he declares.
Deace is in the business of smashing idols. He gives scathing scathing indictments of the Republican Party and parts of conservative media that he knows from experience are undermining conservatism. He does not write theoretically. Deace has worked for and covered political campaigns, including presidential ones. He's met behind the scenes with activists and with legislators. He brings that knowledge and experience of years working in the conservative movement to this book to show the reader that commonly held beliefs about the Republican Party and its relationship to conservatism are self-destructive lies. The truth is that the GOP is a corrupting influence on conservatism. The truth is that electing "better Republicans" is not possible unless you have Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Matt Drudge on your side. The truth is that the Republican Party platform is irrelevant to almost every elected Republican. The truth is that even though "conservatism" is more popular than ever, audience does not equate to influence, and the influence of conservatism on the country is dwindling.
For many readers, these will be hard truths. Deace's writing is provocative and at times confrontational. But every word is penned with the confidence of a man who knows what he believes and why he believes it. To those who disagree with his observations and conclusions, this book is a challenge. Deace does not intended to win an argument with his writing, but to start one. He presents the evidence showing that the modern conservative movement's approach to politics is not working. He hands the reader the responsibility of deciding what to do with the truth.
The ghost king, Hamlet's father, was murdered by his younger brother Claudius, a corrupt, scheming, lustful villain who put his own personal ambition ahead of what was right and best for his country. The conservative movement's many Claudiuses had almost driven Deace to abandon politics as his life's work. "But one day out of the blue the outline of this book came to me, and what also came to me is that while there are plenty of reasons to give up on the system, there is never a reason for us to give up on each other," Deace writes.
This book, then, is the result of giving it one more try. To see if there are enough of us remaining truly willing to do what it takes to win, because we know what winning really means. It doesn't mean clicks or careers, it means conserving for this and future generations the last, best hope for mankind east of Eden.
It's worth the read.
"Truth Bombs" by Steve Deace will be available wherever books are sold Tuesday, January 15, 2019.
Author's note: I must disclose that Steve did me the honor of quoting one of my essays in "Truth Bombs." While that's clearly the part of his book most worth reading, I didn't write a favorable review of his book because he quoted me; I wrote it because in my opinion the book is worthwhile and important for the future of the conservative movement.