Traditionally conservatives like to consider themselves more patriotic and more simpatico with the military than liberals, so Memorial Day is usually a happy time for them. But the leadership of Donald Trump — a self-absorbed, unapologetic draft-dodger who clearly would not piss on a servicemember (or his grieving widow) if they were on fire — seems to have shaken their faith in their own star-spangled cred. This Memorial Day the brethren were less inclined to celebrate, and more inclined toward gloomy grievance.
During the Obama years, conservatives were constantly feigning outrage over alleged Obama insults to the military — remember Bowe Bergdahl and Umbrellagate, not to mention Benghazi — and their Memorial Day tributes were a good deal more peppery. Recall, for example, Kurt Schlichter raging in 2015 at TownHall that “Liberals Disgrace Memorial Day,” that “Barack Obama, like the rest of the liberal elite, cares nothing for our soldiers or our veterans,” and that when laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery the president’s only thought was of “getting out of there and teeing up.” (Believe it or not, conservatives thought Obama’s golfing was a serious dereliction of duty. Yeah, you’re right — it would be ironic, if irony were not dead.)
Trump’s election made conservatives much less concerned about presidential insults toward the military. When Trump observed Memorial Day 2018 with a bizarre, much-maligned tweet celebrating his own alleged achievements (“Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER…Nice!”), conservatives had not much to say about it.
A few even tried to defend him. Hugh Hewitt, a propagandist unaccountably popular with Mainstream Media types, claimed the Trump tweet was “ordinary and routine for almost everyone to tweet about Memorial Day and how we honor the fallen, but also to tweet about other things,” putting the president on the same level as Lane Bryant.
“Trump’s Memorial Day message sparks childish backlash by left,” declared BizPac Review, citing in evidence tweets from such noted leftists as David Frum, Bill Kristol, and Dictionary.com.
But most of the brethren were silent — or nostalgic: “This is a reprint of an article I wrote while Obama was in office,” Tom Barrett wrote at Conservative Truth before re-upping his “A Look Back at Obama’s Cluelessness about Memorial Day.”
Others focused not on the president, nor on the state of the nation, but on the state of their usual whipping boys. “Chicago’s Memorial Day Weekend Gets Bloody Kick-Off with 23 Shot, Four Dead,” hollered Breitbart.
“This Memorial Day weekend we should certainly remember our slain heroes, but we should also consider whether our fragile, dependent generation has the same mettle as our ancestors,” off-my-lawned TownHall’s Scott Morefield. “Because if not…we’re about to enter a period of bondage unlike any mankind has experienced.” Millennials are apparently killing liberty along with everything else.
Even conservatives’ down-home celebrations were clouded by broodings over unseen enemies. Lloyd Marcus, formerly known as That Black Guy at Tea Party Rallies, told readers at American Thinker how much he and his wife loved living in “Paw Paw, West Virginia (population 500)” where the Memorial Day Parade is “patriotic Americana at its best. Both sides of Main Street were adorned with flags — Old Glory proudly flying high, waving in the breeze” — which, he added, “represents the real America that is demeaned, impugned, and despised by leftists.”
As sinister music played, Marcus’s scene cross-faded to other, less Paw Pawish parts of America where a “leftist judge” and school administrators got rid of the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance, and pre-K teachers were allegedly forced to “explain homosexuality to 4-year-olds.” Marcus raged at New York Jets chair Christopher Johnson for offering to pay whatever fines the NFL might assess his players for kneeling during the national anthem — “coddling his spoiled-brat, ungrateful, and disrespectful millionaire players,” as Marcus put it through clenched teeth — and warned that “if Democrats take Congress” in the November midterms, “the Deep State will surely impeach Trump,” suggesting that the Deep State is actually the will of a majority of voters and, much like Dorothy and the power to go back home, was in our hearts all along.
And where once readers could count on conservatives to celebrate the day with full-throated tributes to America’s military victories, this year many were more ambivalent. At the Washington Times, for example, Scott S. Powell (a “senior fellow” at the Discovery Institute, an intelligent-design think tank), reminded readers that “October 2018 marks the commemoration of 25 years since U.S. forces suffered defeat in Somalia” — um, yay? — and that “some U.S. military engagements were ill-advised and injustices were committed along the way.” Powell included among these “President Obama’s political decision to withdraw U.S. military forces [from Iraq] by the end of 2011 directly led to the injustice of reversal of hard-fought gains made by the military in the prior eight years.” Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of debacle!
At National Review, where Jonah Goldberg once bitched because Google failed to produce a patriotic doodle for Memorial Day (arguing that “they’ve churned out two logos for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day over the years”), there was surprisingly little content devoted to remembrance.
David French did have a tribute that started with a boilerplate ode to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — but then lurched into a warning that “organizing a nation around liberty brings with it a hidden danger, the danger of indulgence; the danger that a nation that protects the rights of the individual will become individualistic.”
French did not make clear what the danger of individualism would be — perhaps such abominations as Heinz Mayochup — but he did refer to a John Adams quote about how “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People,” and bid readers “commit” to “a love that asks us to live with decency and honor…to fulfill the purpose of man as articulated in Micah 6:8; to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.” So my guess is he wants us all to become hardcore Christians and, as hardcore Christians do, demand immigrants be expelled from this country.
Meanwhile one of the president’s side hustles, DonaldJTrump.com, was hitting inboxes with ads for a big Memorial Day sale on Trump items. The Washington Times’ Jennifer Harper helped the president peddle: “Snappy merchandise supporting President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence has come a long way since the classic red Make America Great Again hat, which remains a trademark of the president himself,” she announced. “The official store is currently having 25 percent off Memorial Day sale and advises that ‘Remember’ is the discount code word. Consult DonaldJTrump.com, under ‘shop.’ It is a cheerful spot indeed.” Americans returning from their three-dollar-plus-a-gallon long weekend trips may not be feeling so cheerful — but they may, in the spirit of the holiday, remember.