By CHRISTIAN LEDFORD, Staff Writer
A curious phenomenon has overtaken the Republican Party and seeks to overtake conservatism as well: Trumpism. Conservatism is defined as “the holding of political views that favor free enterprise, private ownership, and socially conservative ideas,” essentially conserving the Lockean ideals of classical liberalism and opposing the big-government collectivism of modern liberalism. In the modern American political scene, the party that obviously most ascribes to this ideology are the Republicans; yet, under the administration of President Donald Trump, is the conservatism of the GOP dying, or even dead already?
While there was obvious outrage on both sides of the aisle directed at Donald Trump’s presidential primary campaign, there was a specific pocket of disdain within the GOP itself. Whereas Donald Trump had his pocket of frustrated supporters that garnered him about 30% electoral support. The majority of the Republican Party was against him, however, this dissent was divided, as figures such as Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Ben Carson gobbled up portions of the mainstream GOP, effectively giving Trump a plurality on which he eventually won the nomination. Throughout his campaign for the nomination, Trump provoked millions of Americans with his outlandish claims, harsh rhetoric, and general demagoguery, leading many within the GOP to view him as a joke, albeit a pervasive and long-lasting one, and assert that there existed no chance of him becoming the nominee, much less president (with many conservatives vowing to exclusively block this, labeling themselves as “Never Trump.”) He did.
In the general election, conservatives faced a dilemma; with no Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio to fall back on and faced with the stark reality of a binary choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. What now? Should conservatives refuse their nominee and perhaps vote for a third party candidate such as Gary Johnson or Evan McMullin? Should they not vote at all? Compelled by their disdain for the plutocratic Clinton who vowed to stand against their values, fiscally and socially, American conservatives forsook their inhibitions against Trump and voted for the man they viewed as the lesser of two evils. Prominent Republicans such as Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, and Ted Cruz who were “Never Trump” abashedly got in line and supported the nominee. As a conservative, I’ve never been one to subscribe to “ends justify means” or “lesser of two evils” ideology; in fact, I refused to vote for either Trump or Clinton. However, I cannot judge these Trump supporters in the general like I judged Trump primary supporters; despite my disagreement, I can somewhat rationalize this approach in the vein of giving some final resistance to leftist ideology. Nevertheless, that refusal to judgement has passed and I beg the question: why are conservatives still supporting, defending, and excusing Donald Trump?
We are a mere 10 weeks into the Trump presidency (I know, it seems like many more) and in these 10 weeks we have witnessed Trump collision with Russian operatives be all but confirmed and prominent affiliates be caught lying under oath about ties to Russia, Trump attempt to use executive force to frighten private businesses and corporations into compliance, Trump twice try to put forth an unethical legal ban on immigration from specific countries, Trump create legislation to begin construction of his nonsensical border wall, Trump put forth a nonsensical deficit-increasing budget, and Trump try to ram through Congress a failure of a healthcare bill that kept all of the worst parts of the disastrous Obamacare he vowed to repeal, with all of these and more occurring under a president more concerned with tweeting falsehoods than with policy and governance. To be fair, Trump has done some scant good, with his executive order undoing President Obama’s unethical and nonsensical transgender bathroom order for national public schools being one of few positives. Yet, through all this failure, Trump still has vast party support not only in Congress but in the general public as well. Figures like Rubio, Cruz, or Paul give lip-service to rejecting Trump’s policy, but in the end do nothing substantial.
I recently discussed these shortcomings of the administration with an educated friend of mine who is also conservative, the chief difference between us being that he supports Trump and I refuse to, and he gave me an interesting look in the rationalization of support for the disastrous president. We sparred back and forth for a bit, with my main question being how can a proponent of limited government and conservative values support a man who is utterly unconcerned with either, and the answer was strange. My friend, whom I don’t doubt for a second in his morality or intentions, simply said, “I still hope that he can do some good.” While this friend agreed with me on mostly every critique I gave of Trump, his audacious hope that Trump would somehow change course and become a Reaganesque conservative and champion conservative policy kept him supporting the orange tyrant.
“I still think that God can use him and I still think that he can do a lot of good,” my friend said to my completely befuddled facial response, and with that the conversation really ended. I mean, what else could I have said? If the facts of Trump’s overwhelming failures don’t dispel this sheer hope, what could? I’ve thought about this for a while now, and the question is begged: If hope of a Trump role-reversal keeps everyday conservatives holding on, what does this say of the conservatives in Washington?
Are Paul Ryan and others so focused on their pipedream of channeling Trump’s brute force to accomplish their own conservative policy goals that they are ignoring the reality of the situation? How long until Ryan realizes this grand experiment has failed, and it’s time for Trump to be replaced with a competent and conservative leader (such as VP Mike Pence)? For the sake of both conservatism and, perhaps more importantly, our country, I hope this realization comes soon. The denial needs to end: Trump is no conservative.