The Trouble With Tomi (And Her ‘Conservatism’)
She doesn't understand what conservatism means.
Talk show host Tomi Lahren is a polarizing figure. Conservatives who have long rolled their eyes at her talking point tirades aren’t surprised at her apparent flip-flop on abortion. Many right-wing fans are disappointed that she came out as pro-choice. Some liberals are laughing at her recent suspension from The Blaze. Others find themselves conflicted between old hatred and newfound affinity for the platinum-haired pundit.
The mixed reactions may leave some thinking what’s the trouble with Tomi, anyway? The trouble is that she doesn’t understand what conservatism means.
Tomi Doesn’t Understand Conservatism
Let’s start with Tomi’s pro-choice moment on The View last week. When the topic turned to abortion, the 24-year-old said (watch below):
I’m pro-choice, and here’s why. I am a constitutional, you know, someone that loves the Constitution. I’m someone that’s for limited government. So I can’t sit here and be a hypocrite and say I’m for limited government but I think the government should decide what women do with their bodies. I can sit here and say that, as a Republican and I can say, you know what, I’m for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well. (Emphasis added.)
— The View (@TheView) March 17, 2017
Yes, conservatives are for limited government. But Tomi doesn’t get what that means.
The Founders intended American government to protect citizens’ rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Life is the most basic of these rights, since none of the other rights can exist without it. How does government protect these rights? Mainly by staying out of them. The government only steps in when one person uses their own rights to threaten someone else’s.
Believing that a woman should not be permitted to harm the separate body living temporarily in her womb is in no way hypocritical for conservatives.
That’s why it’s good for government to protect babies’ right to life by preventing abortion. Unlike gun owners, babies in the womb cannot defend themselves from people trying to kill them. Tomi supports gun rights, but doesn’t seem to get the connection. Which is why her “stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well” line doesn’t hold up.
If you think a woman doesn’t have control over her own body in America, think again. A woman is free to have as many kids as she wants (unlike in China). She’s also free to prevent pregnancy with birth control. She can even have a sex-change operation. So it’s not hypocritical for conservatives to believe that a woman shouldn’t be allowed to kill the baby in her womb. It’s actually consistent with the idea of limited government.
Tomi Represents a Bigger Problem With the Modern Right
Tomi responded to the backlash Saturday night by tweeting, “I speak my truth. If you don’t like it, tough. I will always be honest and stand in my truth.”
I speak my truth. If you don't like it, tough. I will always be honest and stand in my truth.
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) March 18, 2017
Tomi’s tweet represents the individualism of modern culture. It does not represent the constitutionalism of the Founders. For limited government to survive, society must share an absolute moral code. How can we respect someone else’s rights to life and liberty if we do not agree on what life and liberty even mean?
Tomi isn’t alone in her “my truth, your truth” universe. She’s joined by a growing number of people who value unrestricted freedom above any moral standard.
Tomi’s views represent the individualism of modern secular culture.
Stream contributor Joshua Charles reflected on this after the Milo Yiannopoulos uproar. He wrote, “Conservatism without virtue is not conservatism.” For some this statement may be obvious, but to a growing number of people it isn’t.
That’s because people aren’t taught what “conservative” means anymore. Radio host Steve Deace addressed this in his Conservative Review column, “I Know Why I’m a Conservative. Do You?” He writes:
Many people calling themselves conservatives don’t know what “conservatism” means. … This is why we fall for the likes of provocateurs with troubled souls or flat-out charlatans provided they produce anti-Left click bait. Conservatism is merely defined by opposition to the Left these days, simply because conservatism itself is undefined these days.
What to do About the Tomi Problem
The trouble with Tomi is that she’s not a fluke. She’s a product of a conservative movement that no longer understands itself.
However, there’s good news. As long as we value true conservatism as the best way to protect to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we won’t be doomed to a movement of Tomis. But we must become better at educating ourselves and the next generation about what conservatism truly is.
As the Intercollegiate Review wrote last fall, the concept of conservatism can be hard to grasp since there are so many factions today. But Deace’s column and Charles’s commentary would be good places to start.