Politics & Policy

Where Is the Evidence for Donald Trump’s Conservatism?

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Which dictionary definition of the word “conservative,” as either an adjective or a noun, applies comfortably to Donald Trump?

Is he “traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness”? (Please stifle your laughter.)

Does he count as “cautiously moderate”?

Would he describe himself as an individual who is “disposed to preserve existing conditions and institutions, or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change”?

Trump’s defenders insist that his flashy, shameless, non-conservative style will help win support for his views, which are, they say, substantively conservative. But where, exactly, do we find the conservative substance?

EDITORIAL: Against Trump

His much-heralded hard line on immigration discards pragmatic reform policies favored by the two most popular conservatives of the last half century, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Building a yuuuuge wall along the southern border hardly qualifies as a “cautiously moderate” approach, nor would uprooting 11 million current residents (and, presumably, millions more of their American-citizen children and spouses) in the greatest forced migration in human history.

Worst of all, Trump’s brawling, blustery, mean-spirited public persona serves to associate conservatives with all the negative stereotypes that liberals have for decades attached to their opponents on the right. According to conventional caricature, conservatives are selfish, greedy, materialistic, bullying, misogynistic, angry, and intolerant. They are, we’re told, privileged and pampered elitists who revel in the advantages of inherited wealth while displaying only cruel contempt for the less fortunate and the less powerful. The Left tried to smear Ronald Reagan in such terms but failed miserably because he displayed none of the stereotypical traits. In contrast, Trump is the living, breathing, bellowing personification of all the nasty characteristics Democrats routinely ascribe to Republicans.

And then there’s the uncomfortable, unavoidable issue of racism. Even those who take Trump at his word — accepting his declaration that he qualifies as the least racist individual in the nation — can imagine the parade of negative ads the Democrats are already preparing for radio stations with mainly black audiences and for Spanish-language television. Even if Trump won a crushing majority of self-described white voters, he could hardly improve on Romney’s landslide victory — 59 percent to 39 percent — in that demographic group.

#related#If Trump becomes the nominee, the GOP is sure to lose the 2016 election. But the problem is much larger: Will the Republican party and the conservative movement survive? If Asians and Latinos come to reject Republican candidates as automatically and overwhelmingly as African Americans do, the party will lose all chance of capturing the presidency, and, inevitably, it will face the disappearance of its congressional and gubernatorial majorities as well. There is one sure strategy to pursue if the GOP for some reason wishes to suffer such self-inflicted wounds: nominate a presidential candidate who exemplifies the most unpleasant, and non-conservative, characteristics that the mainstream media and liberal pundits invoke to demonize the Right.

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