After two days of the “Con­ser­v­ative” Political Action Con­ference, it became abun­dantly clear: The Repub­lican Party is no longer the place for me.

I don’t know what I expected, hon­estly. I knew that the Grand Old Party was now the party of Pres­ident Donald Trump, that tra­di­tional con­ser­v­a­tives such as Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, and Marco Rubio, R-Florida, were now an unwelcome fringe and that stir­rings of pop­ulism and nation­alism were making the rounds throughout a changing party.

Trump’s nom­i­nation dealt a massive blow to my political optimism, but for some reason, I still held onto the belief that the GOP remained a net good and that Trump’s “winning” out­weighed the white nation­alist element of the party that keeps rearing its ugly head. Plus, my Hillsdale bubble kept me immersed in real con­ser­vatism.

After the first two days of CPAC speeches, panels, and inter­views, my optimism van­ished. European pop­ulists, Fox News pundits, and Trump syco­phants filled the speaking lineup. Nearly every speaker, with the exception of political com­men­tator Ben Shapiro and columnist Mona Charen, stayed safely entrenched behind talking points that Trump’s avid sup­porters were sure to enjoy, including the wall, national pride, and immi­gration reform.

Con­spic­u­ously absent was actual con­ser­vatism, dis­cussion of the Con­sti­tution or the Judeo-Christian tra­dition, or speakers like Sasse, who at CPAC 2016 said he desired to “breathe passion into our children about a con­sti­tu­tional recovery.”

Edu­cators such as Hillsdale College’s own Pres­ident Larry Arnn, who habit­ually addresses the history and tra­dition of con­ser­vatism, were rel­e­gated to inter­viewing White House staffers about policy deci­sions.

Instead, former leader of the UK Inde­pen­dence Party Nigel Farage gave an awkward, poorly pre­pared speech that pan­dered to the anti-European Union sen­timent of Trump’s base and praised his own endorsement of the “wildly suc­cessful” pres­ident.

Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, a con­tro­versial French politician, spoke broadly about the impor­tance of family and national her­itage. Sup­posed con­ser­v­a­tives wildly applauded Maréchal-Le Pen, who claims to be the “political heir” of her dis­graced grand­father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Although Marion may not espouse the radical Holo­caust denial that got Jean-Marie Le Pen booted from his own party, the question still remains: why would the American Con­ser­v­ative Union welcome a speaker shouting “Vive le Nation­alisme!”? Figures like these do nothing to advance con­ser­v­ative causes in America. They serve only to ostracize true con­ser­v­a­tives who wish to avoid asso­ci­ation with these unpalatable indi­viduals.

The shallow nation­alism peddled by most CPAC speakers left much to be desired, but the audience’s response jarred me the most. It’s hard to ascertain from CNN sound­bytes, but the electric current in the air was unmis­takable. CPAC reeked of ebul­lient optimism and a sense of triumph. Trump kicked the Democrats in the teeth and melted the snowflakes; Repub­licans of all ages flooded into the Gaylord Con­vention Center to claim their victory. None of this shocked me, but the sen­ti­ments that these indi­viduals chose to cheer and boo were unhappily rem­i­niscent of the the 2016 election’s neg­ative tone.

The Wash­ington Examiner’s Phillip Wegmann, a 2015 Hillsdale alumnus, reported via Twitter that a “speaker talking about the beauty of nat­u­ral­ization cer­e­monies draws loud, sus­tained booing.” In an interview with Hillsdale sophomore Ben Diet­derich on CPAC’s Radio Row, con­ser­v­ative fire­brand Ben Shapiro pointed out that the con­ser­v­ative position is not anti-legal immi­gration. Keeping out skilled legal immi­grants just to “arti­fi­cially boost wages” is neither ben­e­ficial from a free market stand­point nor the tra­di­tional position of the GOP.

Chants of “lock her up” res­onated fre­quently throughout the hall. Various reports noted attendees wildly booing a panel member’s remon­strances against the use of eminent domain to build Trump’s border wall, yelling “build that wall!” to drown him out. Wegmann further reported that speaker Rick Ungar asked an angry audience why they rejected these legal Mexican immi­grant voters, who aligned with them on so many issues. He was met with more dis­ap­proving shouts and boos.

In Hillsdale’s radio interview, Shapiro addressed the two pillars of con­ser­vatism: “limited gov­ernment and God-given rights.” Until I lis­tened to that interview after the fact, I hadn’t heard any mention of these prin­ciples in the various speeches at the con­ference. Panels or smaller lec­tures may have ref­er­enced the higher things of con­ser­vatism, but major speeches given by Le Pen and Farage, as well as the addresses from Trump and Vice Pres­ident Mike Pence, did not contain tra­di­tional con­ser­v­ative themes.

Forget the Aris­totelian Good or Judeo-Christian values. Where were the free-market cru­saders railing against the national deficit? Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ken­tucky; his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas; and their enthu­si­astic lib­er­tarian fol­lowers were nowhere to be found. The party has actually con­sol­i­dated post-Trump, mar­gin­al­izing free-mar­keters and intel­lectual con­ser­v­a­tives in favor of Trumpites sup­porting tariffs, pro­tec­tionist policies, and expe­diency in pol­itics.

The final straw came toward the end of the con­ference, when Ethics and Public Policy Center Senior Fellow Mona Charen sat on a panel addressing the #MeToo movement and called out the hypocrisy of the GOP on sexual abuse-related issues.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed in people on our side for being hyp­ocrites about sexual harassers and abusers of women who are in our party, who are sitting in the White House, who brag about their extra­marital affairs, who brag about mis­treating women,” Charen said.

She also slammed the GOP for its support of accused child molester Roy Moore: “You cannot claim that you stand for women and put up with that.”

The crowd went berserk. Attendees shouted “not true!” and booed loudly. A pro­tective security detail later escorted Charen from the con­vention center. The GOP has angered and dis­heartened con­ser­v­a­tives such as Charen and myself by turning a blind eye to Trump’s extra­marital dal­liances and boasts about sexual assault. When Trump and Farage endorsed Moore, it further rein­forced the idea that the GOP was no longer the party of decency and moral char­acter. CPAC attendees, and the GOP at large, seem content aban­doning morality in pursuit of victory.

I hung on, for as long as I could. I pinched my nose and shrugged, as the president’s Twitter tirades spewed ignorant divi­siveness across the political land­scape. After all, he gave us a decent Supreme Court justice and some tax cuts, so I could keep my con­science quiet for a little while. But the despi­cable behavior of my fellow CPAC attendees, as well as the pop­ulist voices that now rep­resent the Grand Old Party, has become too much.

I cannot asso­ciate with a party so dis­in­ter­ested in actual con­ser­vatism. “Winning” is not a good enough reason to abandon prin­ciples of decency, small gov­ernment, property rights, and respect for women. I did not leave the Repub­lican Party; the Repub­lican Party left me. I hold hope for a con­ser­v­ative revival in America, whether through GOP ref­or­mation or the insur­gence of a viable third party. Until then, I’m on my own.


Joshua Lieb­hauser is a senior studying mar­keting.

  • Lance Lashaway

    So much is wrong with what is written here. I’ll start with saying the writer seems to have no idea what he is talking about and it sounds like he needs to stop watching CNN. Scratch that, I watch CNN… He needs to stop thinking CNN is reporting hon­estly and be aware of the huge amount of bias coming from them. Every­thing he com­mented on is spun in the favor of the left. The amusing part about all of this is he’s right about one thing, albeit wrongly so. The GOP is dying.. Con­ser­v­a­tives have taken over the party. Con­ser­vatism doesn’t have one voice or directive. That is what was hap­pening at CPAC. An exchange of mul­tiple ideas from mul­tiple people from mul­tiple views. Com­pletely unlike the GOP and espe­cially the DNC. I’m kind of shocked someone from Hillsdale Wrote this.

    • Camus53

      There is nothing…nothing at all “con­ser­v­ative’ about the GOP these past decades and more so these past few years. Gold­water, the true Father of American Con­ser­vatism is rolling over in his grave.

      Thanks Josh for maybe…possibly… causing a few who read your piece to hope­fully think.To think with open minds. Some­thing lacking for many years at Hap­pydale.

      • Lance Lashaway

        I’m won­dering if you know the dif­ference between the GOP and The Con­ser­v­ative movement hap­pening in the Repub­lican party. Just answer one question for me. Is Shaprio Con­ser­v­ative? Lets see how “open” your mind really is.

        • pumped_up_kicks

          the problem w/ people like shaprio is they think they can sit on the side­lines and NOT vote for either trump or clinton and that things will work out for the rest of us.

          • Camus53

            Like so many…he is simply an enter­tainer.

          • Lance Lashaway

            So were Trump and Reagan. You didn’t answer the question.…

          • Camus53

            I did. You’re not lis­tening.

          • Lance Lashaway

            Sadly, I was lis­tening. Don’t worry, I will not make that mistake again.

          • Lance Lashaway

            I agree, but that wasn’t the question.

      • Bobloblaw67

        How many states did Gold­water win?

        • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

          Just a handful. It was roughly a 60 – 40 split in popular votes. The news media cru­cified Gold­water, he never had a chance.

      • bc3b

        At the end of his career (influ­enced by his second wife), Gold­water wasn’t very con­ser­v­ative. He barely won re-election in 1980 (received less than 50% of the vote) while Reagan won Arizona by 20 points. Gold­water saw the writing on the wall and did not run again.

        • Camus53

          Yes…thanks!…good reply…he did…perhaps seeing the light.

          Please under­stand that as someone who many here might call a “liberal”…I prefer free thinker…I fre­quently use Goldwater’s writings and speeches as touch­stones against what is and who do call them­selves “con­ser­v­a­tives” nowadays.

          And until when and if anyone here cares to dispute “The Con­science of a Con­ser­v­ative”, Barry, his def­i­n­i­tions and descrip­tions of a Con­ser­v­ative, will remain the true bible of Con­ser­v­ative thinking and pol­itics.

          BTW…at the height of his rise and power in the Senate…he rose to the Senate floor for fierce ora­tions railing against the GOP for bringing in the reli­gious bible thumpers as a way of building the Party. Pre­dicting it would be the death of the party!

          one more…and then I’ll go…it was also Barry who led a small group to dinner across the lawn with Richard Nixon. A quiet dinner and drinks, friendly and honest man to man dis­course. The next morning Nixon awoke and resigned from office.

          • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

            Barry Gold­water doesn’t need to defend his con­ser­v­ative cre­den­tials to anyone. Gold­water WAS con­ser­vatism to many of us back in 1964. True, at the end of his career when he was aging he did and said some things which many of us regretted. But it doesn’t tarnish his lifelong accom­plish­ments fighting for the right cause. Think where this nation would be today if he, rather than Lyndon Johnson, had pre­vailed in 1964? The 4 Pres­i­dents who did the most damage to this nation-Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Lyndon Johnson, Barack Obama. Bill Clinton was con­strained by a GOP con­trolled Con­gress.

          • Camus53

            Your con­tinuing use of “us” serves more to label you than to define, explain or share your view points.

          • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

            I’ll use ‘us’ if I darn well please. Having been a lifelong con­ser­v­ative and active in cam­paigns since the 1964 Gold­water cam­paign I’ll define my asso­ci­ation with con­ser­vatism by using the term ‘us’ without apology. If you want to play the grammar police in this forum go belabor someone with more patience than myself, I don’t suffer boors as well as I used to. It’s an age thing.

          • Camus53

            Yes, I notice you have little patience, save for posting long tomes . Therefore, I will not bore you with Goldwater’s com­ments about “diversity and com­promise”. You also have a pen­chant for insulting people. I know you’re better than that…aren’t you? So as not to bore you any longer nor endure your name calling, I will no longer engage with you…see my old age has proven some things to me as well.

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            As the end of his career he rejecting the growing Neo­Con­ser­v­ative movement.… as well as the pro­gressive “Moral Majority” wing of the party.

            To me that’s a plus and what a true Con­ser­v­ative would feel

      • J.S.L.

        Thanks for your com­ments.

        • Camus53

          Be true to yourself…and take care of those around you.
          Good luck on your life journey.

    • J.S.L.

      I never watch CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, or any major cable news net­works. The bias, as you cor­rectly state, is unbe­lievable. I’m con­fused though. Are you saying that the GOP is dying because con­ser­v­a­tives have taken over the party? Maybe I’m just mis­un­der­standing you.

  • Bobloblaw67

    Maybe in people like Mona Charen has actually accom­plished some­thing for con­ser­vatism these past 20 years and not lead the USA into the worst foreign policy dis­aster since vietnam, Trump wouldnt be pres­ident.

    • Last­Mom­Standing

      Mona Charen is nothing but a glob­alist wench. She is NOT a con­ser­v­ative.

      • bc3b

        She’s a neocon, who hasn’t been rel­evant for at least 15 years. Charen is a big sup­porter of US inter­vention and nation-building. If Vietnam would have ben­e­fitted Israel, Mona would have been for it.

  • Dirk Spencer

    Rubio has sup­ported amnesty. How is that a tra­di­tional con­ser­v­ative?

    • bc3b

      Josh seems to be big on pro-amnesty Repub­licans (Rubio, Sasse and Charen). If they get their way, the country will be filled with une­d­u­cated, unskilled socialists.
      The country will move farther left, con­ser­v­a­tives won’t be able to get elected to any­thing, but as long as he can read other con­ser­v­ative purists in National Review, he will be at peace with the world.

      • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

        National Review USED to be con­ser­v­ative, today it is nearly entirely dom­i­nated by NEOCONS. I stopped by sub­scription 30 yeas ago over it.

  • Bobloblaw67

    ““Winning” is not a good enough reason to abandon prin­ciples of decency, small gov­ernment, property rights, and respect for women.””

    Most of that was abandon during GW Bush’s pres­i­dency

    • Samuel Robert Dunn

      Alas, the Bush family – never Reagan con­ser­v­a­tives – gave us Trump. Jeb should never have run. What was he and family thinking? His huge war chest took out Trump’s Repub­lican Primary com­pe­tition. And, Pappy Bush votes for Hillary? That’s beyond the pale!

      • Last­Mom­Standing

        LOL. Go back to your scratch pad, Sam.

        Bush family and the GOP couldn’t stop TRUMP.

        America is sick and tired of the GOP/Globalists.

        • Camus53

          Trump is a self described glob­alist. Course he describes himself as many things.

        • Samuel Robert Dunn

          Seems that you and I share a dis­taste for Bush antics, LastMom. And, we evi­dently agree re: GOP/Globalists.

  • Shut Up Megs

    Con­ser­vatism is the icing on the cake. Josh doesn’t know how to make a cake. He will know depri­vation and sorrow.

    • bc3b

      No, but he feels very self-righteous, I’m sur­prised he didn’t call Jeb! and Kasich con­ser­v­ative.

    • J.S.L.

      You’re right. I’ve never been great at cake-making. Thanks for the cheery outlook!

  • Chris Cusack

    Rubio and Sasse? Perhaps you have had too much Kool Aid! Go ahead and leave and then you’ll only come back.

    • Last­Mom­Standing

      Rubio and Sasse are nothing but glob­alist wolves in RINO clothing.

  • Doug Sterling

    Nation­alism is con­ser­v­ative and glob­alism is not.

    Guilty even after being proved innocent is not a con­ser­v­ative value!

    Josh Lieb­hauser may call himself con­ser­v­ative, but I do not agree that he is.

  • Samuel Robert Dunn

    Well, Joshua, you will not find much of the con­ser­vatism you seek among the pro­gres­sivist movers and shakers of estab­lishment Repub­li­canism. So at least saith your Hillsdale cur­riculum.

  • Last­Mom­Standing

    Joshua is what is com­pletely wrong with GOP. He is a NWO RINO globalist…NOT a con­ser­v­ative.

    Go away Joshua.

    • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

      Sure seems that way. He pro­motes majority NEOCONS as ‘tra­di­tional con­ser­v­a­tives’, which they are not. Joshua probably had few issues with the Bush brothers and Mitt Romney, because they were gen­tlemen LOSERS-whereas Trump is a rude, crude WINNER. There was absolutely no viable alter­native to Donald Trump in the 2016 election, the Clinton’s are Arkansas grifters who stay out of prison by packing law enforcement and Justice agencies with their minions.

    • J.S.L.

      RINO= Repub­lican In Name Only. And I think I just wrote a longish article on why I’m no longer calling myself a Repub­lican. At least read the title, please. Cheers! 🙂

  • Last­Mom­Standing


    We nor­mally donate a LOT, every year end.

    Hillsdale can now get there dona­tions from Sasse and Joshua.

    Last straw.

    • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

      You’re stopping dona­tions because one of their jour­nalists posted an opinion piece while in brain-lock? Wow. My other alma mater-WMU-refuses to even offer column space to ANY con­ser­v­a­tives. They’re stories are wall-to-wall Leftist pablum. The only con­trasting opinions is min in the Com­ments section. At least Hillsdale offers MAJORITY con­ser­v­ative thought.

      • Ellsworth_Toohey

        Strange. Was this a long time ago? My daughter went to WMU. Never struck me as leftist and they have a more active College Repub­lican Chapter than Hillsdale.

        And you do realize your opinions in the Col­legian are often the ONLY opinions? That’s not a cut on you… but I’ve been noticing quite a lack of student input in this comment section.

        • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

          I’m trying to encourage more dis­course by posting. The Col­legian is a good student news­paper, they should attract more input from stu­dents. Life is not a spec­tator sport.

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            I agree,it is a good paper, it does vary from editor to editor but com­pared to the town rag, head and shoulder’s above.

          • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

            You should see the Western Herald, my other Alma Mater’s news­paper. It’s a far Left embar­rassment. The Col­legian has good writers and view­points, it’s worth a read and a comment.

    • J.S.L.

      Well, maybe Hillsdale can think about dona­tions from me when I finish paying them back my student loans 🙂 So sorry to see you go. And as Alexan­derYp­si­lantis pointed out, ceasing your dona­tions because of me is just plain silly. But you do you, friend.

  • Huldah1776

    Joshua, join the Con­sti­tution Party. 🙂 GREAT policies. Trump was not the top con­sti­tu­tion­alist in the primary. Cruz was. Trump is a salesman. He ran for pres­ident because the casinos were closing, golf mem­bership was down, and people weren’t taking vaca­tions and staying in his hotels. So now that he has the economy up and running he can ignore what little he knows about the con­sti­tution and say, “take the firearms first and then go to court.” For me, dishing the con­sti­tution crossed the line.

  • vfr­tower

    Well, bye.

  • a.witt

    Just another dis­gruntled never-Trumper who seeks to find per­sonal rel­e­vance in a world where opinions such as his have proven to be the wrong ones.

    • J.S.L.

      Ah, that’s where you’re wrong. I was a Never-Trumper during the election, but as soon as he won I resolved to support his con­ser­v­ative agenda and hope for his success. Dis­gruntled, however, is 100% correct.

  • bc3b

    Joshua, you like neocons like Mona Charen and “business con­ser­v­a­tives” like Ben Sasse, who is owned by the US Chamber of Com­merce. And you con­sider Marco Rubio a true con­ser­v­ative?

    Your “purer than driven snow” con­ser­v­a­tives are the people who have accom­plished nothing for the past 30 years while lib­erals have had their way. There’s finally a Repub­lican Pres­ident with the courage to fight back and it dis­gusts you?

    Frankly, I think the GOP is better off without you.

  • Ernest74

    C ya!

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    Pol­itics comes down to voting for one of two visions for gov­ernment, Mr. Lieb­hauser. In our system there isn’t a third option, you choose between two. I’m not entirely sold on the Trump Admin­is­tration, but Hillary Clinton was so mas­sively corrupt and divisive that no ‘true con­ser­v­ative’ could ever pull the lever for her. Not in a million years. That elim­i­nates such ‘tra­di­tional con­ser­v­a­tives’ such as George Will, Bill Kristol and Lt. Col. Ralph Peters-all of who are really NEOCONS-and sig­naled as much by openly sup­porting Clinton.

    Also, I note that several of the ‘tra­di­tional con­ser­v­a­tives’ you ref­er­enced are in reality NEOCONS. Rubio cer­tainly is. So is Mona Charen. NEOCONS are NOT con­ser­v­a­tives. They are all for busting the budget, as long as the money is used for mil­itary adven­tures around the world. No real fiscal con­ser­v­ative could support a NEOCON, so it might be time to question your own vision of con­ser­vatism.

    The Bushites and Mitt Romney were not/are not con­ser­v­ative, but they packaged them­selves up as ‘com­pas­sionate con­ser­v­a­tives’ and other idiotic stuff and many Repub­licans sopped it up. I voted for them (had to) with deep reser­va­tions.

    You can protest the GOP if you want to, but at the end of the day you’ll have to choose between same flaming Leftist Democrat or a pop­ulist GOP can­didate. Or throw away your vote by pulling the lever for a Lib­er­tarian can­didate. That is the com­promise with our system.

    • J.S.L.

      Thanks for your rea­soned responses to my article. I really do appre­ciate your com­ments, and I agree with much of what you say. I think the dif­ference between us is the degree to which we’ll put up with the pop­ulist slide of the GOP. God bless!

      • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

        Thanks for taking the time to read my com­ments and to respond, Mr. Lieb­hauser. I wish you well in your quest for Truth.

  • Warrior1

    Please save us from the immature rantings of college stu­dents.

    • Ellsworth_Toohey

      At least this one is ranting. Ever notice that about this site? Very few stu­dents actually post. The story about the Palace… the quote about mil­len­nials work habits… not a single comment.

      Mom and Dad forcing a kid to attend a school never works out well.

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    thank you for your writing. good work on this.

    • J.S.L.


  • The Bohemian

    Josh, I just read your piece. Kudos. As an Inde­pendent, I voted GOP 40 years, until Trump. It’s more out in the open now but the GOP has been this way for a very long time. Many con­ser­v­a­tives didn’t see it because they didn’t want to see it, didn’t want to admit it. Read Max Boot. I still voted GOP all those years because I lean con­ser­v­ative on many issues. The only way I’d vote GOP again would be if the other party nom­i­nated a dem­a­gogue like Trump. Oth­erwise, I’ll vote blue in every election and at every level until the can­cerous moral rot in the GOP is routed or a genuine, prin­cipled Con­ser­v­ative party arises with a coherent phi­losophy, com­pre­hensive platform and viable plan.