Three days ago I wrote that "while Never Trumpers seldom disagree with [Jeff] Flake & Friends' political ideology, liberals needn't excuse any of it merely to pause and applaud the Flakean break with Trumpism" — a group break that includes Bob Corker, as well as John McCain and Ben Sasse. I can't say that I gave abundant thought to my words about advisable liberal conduct; it seemed self-evident to me that applauding this senatorial insurgency for its trashing of Trump in no way implied either a liberal accommodation with its still-backward political views, or an expectation that Flake, Corker et al. would — or should — suddenly soften, modify or reverse those views.
The militant group's detestation of Trump and lingering blindness on policy — such as joining their colleagues' current fraud of benevolent tax cuts — are entirely unrelated; thus, from the group's anti-Trumpism, no salubrious effect on the group's policy views should be anticipated. Flake & Friends can loathe Donald Trump with the wisest of them, but it's a peculiar illogic for liberals to expect that their loathing of Trump would, or should, disrupt and alter the anti-Trumpers' long-held political ideology. Again, the one has nothing to do with the other.
It seems, however, that some, many, perhaps most liberals have failed to connect what I rather casually thought were these two self-evident dots. This morning's column by Christine Emba, of the Washington Post, perfectly exemplifies liberals' aforementioned peculiar illogic.
She first writes that "It’s time to extend at least a bit of credit: Flake and Corker are leading by example…. All but the most jaded critics should find something of value in Flake and Corker’s willingness to recognize and stand up for a greater good than the phantom prize of tax reform: that of a democracy with standards and an America with a conscience."
Quite reasonable, no? But then comes the unreasonable whiplash. "That said," continues Emba, "these congratulations still remain conditional. Further lauding remains dependent on what the two senators choose to do next. Will Corker and Flake use the remaining months of their tenures for good? In a Senate chamber where the Republican majority remains knife-thin, well-considered conscience votes could prevent all manner of bad legislation."
In other words, if the rooster's crowing isn't causing the sun to rise, it damn well could. Which is to say, Emba somehow envisions a preposterous conservative causation: opposing Trump should lead to Flake & Friends' abrupt acquisition of a "well-considered conscience" that "could prevent all manner of bad legislation" — notably, imbecilic tax cuts. Why, I ask you, would anyone believe that the latter should flow from the former? The Senate's insurgents can genuinely bemoan the atrocity of a Trump presidency while just as genuinely adhering to manifestly backward macroeconomic ideas. In no way should voting for the party's inane tax cuts diminish the credit due to "Flake and Corker’s willingness to recognize" the evil of Trump.
And yet many liberals confuse and conflate the two, as Ms. Emba does. I don't understand it. Such a conflation violates fundamental logic — and liberals should know better.