Trumpism is not conservatism


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USA Today reports on how thirty black students were ejected from a Trump rally in Valdosta, Georgia the night before Super Tuesday. Without knowing all the details, it is safe to say that on its face, the optics are disgraceful. This feeds the narrative that Trump is a strongman for bigots.

In recent weeks, movement conservatives have intensified their opposition to Trump. Famously, National Review withdrew its sponsorship from a GOP debate in order to come out in print against the orange mogul.

Trump makes it very easy for conservatives to disown him. Fewer than 100 words from the USA Today article readily exemplify how Trump has nothing to do with American conservatism:

During his remarks in Valdosta, Trump said he’s leading a movement. “I’m just a messenger,” he said.

Later, Trump said his whole life has been about making money, but “now I’m going to be greedy for the United States,” as the audience roared. “I’m going to take, take, take and we’re going to become rich again.”

Karen Clendenin, 58, a victims advocate in the local district attorney’s office, said she was very impressed and that she’ll vote for Trump on Tuesday in Georgia’s primary. Clendenin said she wore her “Trump” T-shirt Monday even though she was “a little embarrassed.”

  1. Trump doesn’t own his positions. By saying “I’m just a messenger,” Trump refuses to take responsibility for his own words and actions. He is comfortable as a demagogue and opportunist, but a coward when it comes to committing to ideas and people in the real world. If nothing else, American conservatives are loyal to ideas and institutions that have a past track record of serving the common good. Failure to own, defend, and advance these ideas and institutions is not conservative.
  2. Trump is a redistributionist. “I’m going to be greedy for the United States” is essentially the same promise a Democrat makes to redistribute wealth by making college free, erasing student debt, or raising the minimum wage. This is not the free market under the rule of law that Reagan conservatives advocate.
  3. Trump is a one-man lawyer employment agency. Conservatives despise how overly litigious America has become. The conservative’s bible about this is Philip K. Howard’s The Death of Common Sense. One major conservative plank for reforming healthcare is tort reform. When I read that one Trump’s supporters is a legal “victim’s advocate,” I take this to mean ambulance chaser, like the 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards. The way progressives bring lawsuits, political correctness re-education and other vindictive instruments to bear on fellow Americans is anathema to conservatism. Trump’s constant threats to sue are much more at home with progressive tactics to silence and punish political enemies than with conservatism.

Bringing it back to race, opposition to immigration is populist protectionism, not free market conservatism which embraces competition and invites the best and brightest to become part of the American fold. Whatever Trumpism is, it is not conservatism.

Photo credit: markahuna via Imgur.

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About cogitating duck
I study Christian apologetics at Biola University and occasionally write on ethics, truth, science and politics.

One Response to Trumpism is not conservatism

  1. Dr Grady says:

    You are absolutely correct that Trump does not represent conservatism. Not only does he not own his positions, but at times, he doesn’t even know the positions he’s claimed and ends up suggesting positions contrary to his own. But that’s all part of “deal”. The more vague he is now, the more his devoted followers fill in the blanks with their own hopes about what he might do, and the more flexibility he has later to bargain. Almost everything he’s stated is nothing more than a bargaining chip once negotiations start. His followers believe that he’s serious and will find ways to make those campaign promises a reality because he’s so good at making deals, but they completely miss that the groundwork is already being laid for the deals. Part of that groundwork is manipulating people and how they think about “the deal”.

    From his famous book on deal-making, he admits to misleading people to gain a perceived strength that isn’t real. He wrote, “My leverage came from confirming an impression they were already predisposed to believe.” He also wrote, “I play to people’s fantasies… That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular.”

    For a man who’s spent his entire career seeking personal wealth and power and espousing mostly liberal positions, it’s odd that so many people have decided that he will suddenly be a champion for something even akin to conservatism, especially when he continues to let his true colors shine through at times talking about a centralized healthcare plan, defending Planned Parenthood, and throwing out statements about how he will personally penalize foreign countries and US businesses who don’t comply with his desires as though he is already planning a form of tyranny. Additionally, I see a bit of irony in this man who will save the country from political correctness being the same man who throws out so many threats of frivolous lawsuits.

    My one caution about your piece is that I’ve seen no opposition to immigration from Trump, or the other candidates, for that matter. A temporary ban on immigration does not necessarily contradict conservative values or the push for free market conservatism. Whether such a ban is to simply ensure assimilation of immigrants already here or to get better control on the vetting process and implement stronger enforcement of the visa program or for some other reason, such a temporary ban or curtailing of immigration can fit within the conservative ideals. And despite all Trump’s bluster about immigration, he supported the DREAM Act, he was contributing to the liberals behind the Gang of 8 legislation, his businesses hire many foreigners through the visa program, and even his immigration plan largely amounted to what some have called “touchback amnesty”. Yes, he’s given the perception that he is tough on immigration, but as with the rest of his campaign, it’s all part of setting up “the deal”, but I do not see it as “opposition to immigration”. I think you’re intro is correct that the optics and narrative for Trump in this area are not good, and he is furthering the perception that conservatives are opposed to immigration.

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