Mero Moment: Calling out political enemies and friends

Photo by zwawol / iStock / Getty Images Plus; St. George News

OPINION — No good deed goes unpunished. You would think I would have learned that lesson by now after 30 years in politics. Of course, career politicians do not care about such lessons. Their interest is their career, not truth, not plainness, not honesty and certainly not the other guy’s opinion. But some of us working in politics have made a career of at least trying to do the right thing for the right reasons in the right way.

You might think that a conservative condemning the agendas of Donald Trump and Steve Bannon might be considered a virtue, an act of integrity an act of honesty. But, as I found out this week, such is not always the case. After penning a commentary for The Salt Lake Tribune calling out Steve Bannon as an enemy to Utah, ideologues and opportunists wasted little time rebuking me. My point is not “woe is me.” My point here is that ideologues and opportunists will always plague politics and will always be an enemy of the right thing.

Interestingly, but unsurprisingly, the comment section for my article in the Tribune is full of incredulity, if not some humor, not unmatched by heaping helpings of ideological error and excess. For me, a faithful conservative and long-time culture warrior, to criticize Bannon left many readers calling me the pot to Bannon’s kettle. Others suggested I could not have possibly penned the article, and that I must have been abducted by “pod people.” Such is the nature of Tribune trolls.

Is it acceptable any more to be thoughtful in politics? Or are partisanship and ideology the only accepted practices today? For instance, is it possible as a sound conservative that I could defend policies sustaining traditional marriage over the years and also defend policies protecting undocumented immigrants? I think so but, evidently, it is not possible to many so-called conservatives in Utah. Is it possible to be a student of conservatism and still oppose many politicians and commentators who seem to represent conservatism today? Again, I not only think so, I know so. And yet ideology and partisanship will not permit the “true believers” to see any other view except their own.

How many times do I have to say it? Entertainment conservatives, such as Hannity and Limbaugh, do not define conservatism. Republican politics do not define conservatism. Prejudice and narrow-mindedness among critics of conservative ideas do not define conservatism. Conservatism has been defined by its historic authors, from Burke to Kirk, and, in a much lesser way, by yours truly right here in Utah.

But ideologues, partisans and critics are not the only ones to blame for muddying honest debate. Politics also is filled with opportunists, perhaps amounting to more impact than the other three imposters combined. Opportunists, in this case, are those people who use conservatism and the cause of freedom for their own gain. They are often too cute by half in their attempts to cover their sins. Not that all of them are nefarious. Life is full of temptations for fame, money and power. Good people, even the elect, get their hearts set upon the things of this world and aspire to the honors of men. I know I have at times. Nobody is immune. But susceptibility is no justification or excuse to permit it when we see it.

My Tribune article was a clarion call to all rational conservatives in Utah to reject Bannonism. And yet, as I mention, some people welcome Bannonism to Utah for their own selfish purposes, whether personal or institutional. And when “some people” include a representative of what, in my opinion, used to be the most influential conservative voice in Utah – a voice I created over a 14-year span – insult becomes offense.

One of the most serious errs in the conservative movement, generally, especially as of late, is the penchant to stay silent when friends are wrong. We do so out of a misplaced sense of our own shortcomings, personal courtesy or political loyalty. I have been guilty of that – ignoring the wrongheadedness and imprudence of my friends. Discretion is often the better part of valor. But sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is simply partisan forgiveness or, more accurately, partisan condemnation.

We think Utah is conservative because we understand what conservatism is. I am not so sure. Ideology, partisanship, critics and opportunists will always be with us. But the sign of a healthy conservative body politic is how the rest of us behave – and how the rest of us behave will always determine what everyone now calls the “Utah Way.”

I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

Paul Mero is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

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  • bikeandfish October 20, 2017 at 11:17 am

    One would hope that critiquing and calling out Bannonism would unite most of us because of its universal threat to basic, modern American values. Both parties are going through internal fights that have yet to be decided but neither benefits from his destructive ideology. Sadly, his willful abuse of Breitbart’s media platform, its namesake would rightfully be appalled, and integration of it with the worst of politics makes for a powerful enemy. If this is the face of politics in the 21st century then we are in for a rough ride.

    • statusquo October 20, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      I’m so cynical about where our nation is politically I like your “Bike and Fish” concept. These are truly the last days for the United States of America.

      • bikeandfish October 20, 2017 at 1:03 pm

        Sometimes the strongest of allies are forged through a shared enemy. Bannon is the worst of power politics. I would rather deal with the predictable oscillations of differing but sincerely held ideologies than the pandering to the base strategies that Bannon has embraced.

  • great success October 20, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    A pivotal fact well stated in the very first paragraph:

    “Their interest is their career, not truth, not plainness, not honesty and certainly not the other guy’s opinion.”

    And it’s doesn’t matter which side they’re on. Do not be fooled.

    Just ask Mormon morality watchdog ORRIN HATCH,


    to hinder DEA and ensure a major problem of opioids death and addiction in United States to continue to go unregulated and in mass to the public!! Well done Hatch you patsy! Term limits on all these patsy weasels needs to become mandated!!!! Like, yesterday!!!!

  • NickDanger October 20, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Steve Bannon should be a non-factor at this point. His motivation is right out there in the open for everyone to see – he got fired by President Trump so now he’s gunning for the whole administration. Taking him seriously is the equivalent of believing a sports team sucks because a guy who got cut from it says so. He’s a clever man, Bannon, the kind who can win either side of any argument – which should make it pretty obvious that he has no entrenched beliefs of his own. After all, why is Trump suddenly wrong in Bannon’s eyes when he was so right for so long? Simple, because Bannon got cut from the team.

    On the other hand, it’s never a good idea to over-estimate the collective intelligence of the proletariat, so unfortunately it’s not safe to assume everyone has Bannon figured out by now.

    As for disagreement among conservatives, it sounds like Mr. Mero is doing a little kettle-calling of his own here. You can’t call people out for disagreeing with you and say that the problem is that people are disagreeing with you. Why are they wrong? That’s the debate, not “Is it or is it not okay for someone to disagree with my obviously correct viewpoint?”

    Lots of broad generalizations in this little diatribe-about-another-diatribe, and not a lot of substance. I usually tend to agree with Mr. Mero philosophically, but this reaction to a reaction has me wondering if he’s simply at a temporary loss for something to talk about. Quite a bit of talk here about what does not define conservatism, but none about what does. If you posted a “clarion call” to reject Bannonism in some other publication, Paul, why waste our time calling out the detractors from that article and offering very little else in this publication?

    I feel, sir, that you have just – perhaps unwittingly – wasted my time.

    • bikeandfish October 20, 2017 at 6:42 pm

      I am not sure you have Bannon figured out as well as you think, either. Bannon is an opportunist but he does have a core set of values that Trump embued. He is an anti-establishment, nationalist and anti-globalist. He is also not fully against Trump though he clearly expects to be a thorn in his side when Trump sways from his campaign promises. I actually think Bannon serves as a better Trump ally outside the White House than within. Bannon can still pressure Trump’s extremist sentiments while feigning distant all the while keeping direct criticism off of Trump (ie, not guilty by association).

      Bannon and Trump are clearly playing the same long game. Disrupt DC but force loyalty to the administration for legislation passage. Increase the power and influence of the Executive, hence the antagonism with conservatives. Dismantle the administrative state while fortifying the reliance on executive whim. Bread and circus politics to disguise the more eggregious actions (Trump is a master entertainer) and/or failures/ lack of substance.

      Ignoring Bannon is a benefit only to Bannon and Trump but not for those who value governance. The US ignores him for too long in the lead up to the 2016 election and his influence is still clearly powerful.

  • John October 20, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    Trump 2020.. and it’s going to be easy….

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