Many conservatives during the Trump era and beyond have wrestled about where they belong in today's politics.
Those who have defied or criticized the 45th president have been ridiculed or ostracized.
For USA TODAY Network Tennessee columnist Cameron Smith, it is about choosing principle over a cult of personality.
He began writing a biweekly column in June and, in his first essay, he asserted: "I'm conservative, not crazy."
Over the last several months, his essays have varied in topics from criticism of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda to Dave Chappelle's controversial Netflix special to Greta Van Fleet.
Smith, a native Tennessean, was born in Memphis and grew up in Brentwood. A political attorney, he worked in conservative Republican politics and served former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the first senator to endorse Donald Trump for president. Sessions later fell out of favor with Trump when he was U.S. attorney general.
Smith is concerned about the nation tearing itself apart with vitriolic tribalism where one side claims righteousness and speaks ill of the other. His advice is to choose humility.
We also talked about Tennessee politics and his assessment of Gov. Bill Lee's re-election prospects and the Republican-dominated General Assembly keeping its super majority.
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David Plazas is the director of opinion and engagement for the USA TODAY Network Tennessee and an editorial board member of The Tennessean. Tweet to him at @davidplazas.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: The true meaning of conservatism in America today with Cameron Smith