Did you ever think you would see the day when the GOP front-runner rarely uttered the words “freedom” and “liberty”?
Perhaps some Republicans can be accused of loving liberty and freedom too much — or at least using those words as rhetorical crutches. Donald Trump is not one of them. The current GOP presidential front-runner rarely uses the words “freedom” or “liberty” in his remarks at all.
Trump didn’t use the words “freedom” or “liberty” in his announcement speech. He didn’t use those words in his Nashville speech on August 29, or his Nashville rally on August 21, or his appearance at the Iowa State Fair on August 15, or his rally and news conference in New Hampshire on August 14, or his news conference in Birch Run, Mich., or his press conference in Laredo, Texas, on July 23.
He didn’t use those words while discussing his signing of the Republican National Committee’s pledge last Thursday, or in his contentious interview with Hugh Hewitt the same day.
The current GOP presidential front-runner rarely uses the words ‘freedom’ or ‘liberty’ in his remarks at all.
Trump did use the term “free-market” once during his Meet the Press interview with Chuck Todd, in a defense of his qualified support for affirmative action: “Well, you know, you have to also go free market. You have to go capability. You have to do a lot of things. But I’m fine with affirmative action.” The word “liberty” didn’t even come up.
This is an unusual vocabulary for a Republican front-runner. It wasn’t that long ago that grass-roots conservatives showed up at Tea Party rallies with signs reading, “Liberty: All the Stimulus We Need.” The Tea Party named itself after an event organized by the Sons of Liberty. The GOP platform declares the party was “born in opposition to the denial of liberty.”
Some of Trump’s Republican presidential rivals use words like “freedom” and “liberty” more frequently than commas. When CNBC’s John Harwood asked Scott Walker about his health-care plan, the Wisconsin governor used the word “freedom” six times in a 179-word answer. In his campaign-announcement speech, Ted Cruz used the word “freedom” twice, and not counting references to Liberty University, which hosted the event, he used the word “liberty” eleven times.
#share#Trump’s lexicon is another indicator of the dramatic shift he would represent in moving the Republican party from a libertarian-leaning one to a populist one. During the Obama era, self-identified libertarians have asked whether the Tea Party and the GOP are truly dedicated to liberty and individual rights, or if their real objection to big government is that it’s controlled by Democrats. The embrace of Trump suggests their skepticism was well-founded.
It’s no accident that Trump has been labeled a populist by outlets across the political spectrum, from The American Interest to NPR. His speeches and off-the-cuff remarks make clear that he doesn’t see the world through the lens of free and unfree; he sees it through the lens of strength and weakness:
For me, conservatism as it pertains to our country is fiscal. We have to be strong and secure and get rid of our debt. The military has to be powerful and not necessarily used but very powerful. I am on the sort of a little bit social side of conservative when it comes — I want people to be taken care of from a health-care standpoint. But to do that, we have to be strong. I want to save Social Security without cuts. I want a strong country. And to me, conservative means a strong country with very little debt.
#related#The man whose slogan is “Make America Great Again” doesn’t seem particularly worried about a Leviathan state infringing upon its citizens’ liberties. He sees a disordered society whose people are threatened by violent criminals coming across the border, undermined by poor negotiation in foreign-trade and security agreements, and asked by free-riding allies to shoulder way too much of the burden in a dangerous world.
That philosophy is dramatically different from the liberty-focused message Republicans have become accustomed to since the rise of the Tea Party in 2009. And, at least for now, it has made Trump the front-runner by a wide margin.
— Jim Geraghty is the senior political correspondent of National Review.