From that fateful day in June 2015 when Donald Trump announced his candidacy until today there has been a strong “Never Trump” movement led by conservatives like George Will and Bill Kristol. Then there are the rabble-rousers like Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, who championed Trump from day one and defended every useless tweet and racist remark. Somewhere in between were people like radio talk-show host Dennis Prager, who became a fan of the bombastic president after the election, and the more pragmatic conservatives like Ben Shapiro, who praise what they like and jeer what they don’t. All of this bickering created a vacuum in layman leadership, and that is where the new poster boy of the right came up: Canadian professor Jordan Peterson. With all these voices, the lines of conservatism are blurring and fighting, but once you cut the fat, the truth is that the Party of Lincoln might become the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt.
The Republican Party has been having an identity crisis for a while since Barack Obama won in 2008; and since then it has tried to be “a party” instead of a true conservative movement. This has allowed the bullies to take over. Of course, President Trump got support from Coulter and Hannity; they are verbal bullies just like him.
The intellectual right denied Trump its support because of his tactics. A decade ago Will agreed that conservatives should have a core message: “Conservatives tend to favor freedom, and consequently are inclined to be somewhat sanguine about inequalities of outcomes.” Today, the GOP doesn’t seem to have a political philosophy beyond “just win.” This allowed for Trump to be against real immigration reform and true free trade because he was going to be the best shot.
Trump’s supporters tend to be older white males and married women. They want to see the America that the 1980s promised them. They want technology to slow down. They are tired of having to walk on egg shells because of political correctness, which really means wanting identity groups to quiet down and stop demanding gender-neutral pronouns and transgender rights.
Younger men, who should be liberals, are finding themselves feeling slighted,; too libertarian for leftists and too liberal for the older GOPers. That is where Peterson jumps in like a conservative Superman to save the day. His breath of fresh air YouTube lectures are going viral with a simple message: Just grow the hell up and look at the facts around you.
Christianity Today notes that he’s wooing evangelical college men. “I think [most people] see him as, essentially, get up with your shoulders straight, be responsible, don’t be that 30-year-old whose parents are trying to evict him right now on CNN, and be responsible for your life,” said Wyatt Graham, the executive director of the Gospel Coalition Canada.
Peterson is also what conservatives used to be: truth-telling realists reminding us that life is hard, evil exits, and that there are no easy answers wrapped in a government tote bag, like a modern-day Teddy Roosevelt.
On meaning: “The purpose of life is finding the largest burden that you can bear and bearing it.” Meanwhile both parties are promising safety they can’t guarantee.
On evil: “I don’t think that you have any insight whatsoever into your capacity for good until you have some well-developed insight into your capacity for evil.” Remember, the left thinks people are basically good and that society is what is harming them.
On critical thinking: “In order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive.” This goes against the messages being taught on PC college campuses.
If you want to know what true conservatism is, don’t look to the GOP; instead, look to Peterson. He isn’t very political, though he addresses the philosophy behind political issues from the gender wage gap to transgender pronouns. He addresses the facts and then gets out of the way.
Conservatism isn’t just issues; it’s a way of life. It’s a reminder that you have responsibilities to tame yourself and challenge yourself to think beyond feelings. Conservatism isn’t just about being anti-abortion and anti-tax hikes. It’s about freedom. Freedom from government, yes, but also freedom from trying to escape a pain-free life.