Yesterday provided conservatives with yet another glimpse of the real Donald Trump. Faced with three easy calls on issues of vital importance to the conservative movement, he got each of them wrong. Trump isn’t half as “fearless” as he claims to be, and when he does try to be bold he’s bold in all the wrong ways.
First, at a time when North Carolina conservatives are under attack from progressive corporations and a hysterical media simply because they reserved men’s restrooms for men and women’s restrooms for women, Trump threw them under the bus. He essentially told Tar Heel State Republicans that the issue was no big deal and that they should give in to heavy-handed corporate pressure:
North Carolina did something that was very strong and they’re paying a big price. There’s a lot of problems. You leave it the way it is. There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble, and the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife, and the economic punishment that they’re taking.
By the way, the reason why there has been “few complaints” is that the “way it is” reserves bathrooms for people of the same sex. North Carolina was preventing a change from the “way it is.” But let’s not confuse Trump with the facts.
Later, while on television with Trump campaign spokesperson Sean Hannity, Trump “clarified” his comments, saying that states should have the freedom to decide the issue. But once again he noted progressive corporate pressure — North Carolina is “losing business” — without condemning corporate America’s blatant hypocrisy and unprincipled incoherence.
Third, when Trump was confronted with a choice between one of American history’s most heroic Republicans and one of this country’s worst Democratic presidents — a man who, ironically enough, opposed paper money — for the redesigned $20 bill, Trump, of course, chose the Democrat. He called the decision to place Harriet Tubman on the front of the bill “pure political correctness.”
Political correctness isn’t a cultural problem simply because it’s coercive — it’s a problem because it’s coercively wrong. Thus, the true answer to political correctness is to demonstrate independence and moral courage in charting the right course — by choosing the truth. In the case of the Tubman controversy — as National Review’s editors have noted — the “whole episode [was] a product less of considered opinions than of ideological whims,” but the ultimate decision was still correct. Conservatives can call out the motives while applauding the outcome.Taken together, these incidents prove, once again, something we already knew: Conservatives can’t trust Donald Trump. One day he’ll boast of his commitment to the First Amendment and unborn children; the next day he either embarrasses the pro-life movement (punishing mothers?) or signals his disregard for fundamental conservative principles. That’s not “politically incorrect” — it’s just wrong.
The one thing you can count on with Trump, he’ll be contrarian enough — especially on issues of race — to keep his merry band of alt-right fans gleeful and aggressive. It doesn’t matter what he says as long as he makes someone angry, and if he can annoy conservatives and liberals, then all the better. It’s a fine strategy for a cultural arsonist but a terrible approach for a national candidate.
America’s most disliked politician just gave us reasons to like him even less. Most candidates would call that a problem. Trump just calls it “Thursday.” For him, wrong is routine.
— David French is a staff writer at National Review and an attorney.