Donald Trump is no conservative. That’s not a crime, it’s just a reason to vote against him. Many fine people are not conservatives. But the reason Trump’s candidacy should worry the Right runs much deeper than that: He poses a direct challenge to conservatism, because he embodies the empty promise of managerial leadership outside of politics.
NR FEATURE: Against Trump
Conservatives incline to take the weakness of our elite institutions as an argument for recovering constitutional principles — and so for limiting the power of those institutions, reversing their centralization of authority, and recovering a vision of American life in which the chief purpose of the federal government is protective and not managerial.
The appeal of Trump’s diagnoses should be instructive to conservatives. But the shallow narcissism of his prescriptions is a warning. American conservatism is an inherently skeptical political outlook. It assumes that no one can be fully trusted with public power and that self-government in a free society demands that we reject the siren song of politics-as-management.
A shortage of such skepticism is how we ended up with the problems Trump so bluntly laments. Repeating that mistake is no way to solve these problems. To address them, we need to begin by rejecting what Trump stands for, as much as what he stands against.
— Yuval Levin, a contributing editor of National Review, is the editor of National Affairs.