Conservative in the Age of Trump
conservatives who once found Donald Trump unpalatable have come around to accept
him. Most famously, Mitt Romney once excoriated
Trump as dishonest, "a phony, a fraud," and condemned his
bullying, greed, showing off, and misogyny. After the presidential election,
however, Romney praised
Trump ("I look forward to the coming administration") and hoped to
work for him.
change of heart has not been limited to job applicants. The president-elect's
many qualities that conservatives once condemned have disappeared down memory
hole, to the point that recalling them is akin to making rude noises during a
Republicans are in a mood of optimism, even ecstasy, celebrating Trump's
unconventionality and holding him up as the only candidate who could have
defeated the despised Hillary Clinton. As House Speaker Paul
Ryan put it, "Trump heard a voice out in this country that no one else
heard," enabling him to accomplish the "most incredible political
feat" Ryan has ever witnessed.
not vote for Trump but did prefer that he win. Since the election, I am glad
to see he has recognized that, as an outsider to Washington, he needs cabinet
members (with the inexplicable exception of the secretary of state) who know the
ropes. I am even more pleased with Trump's many appointees ready to forward a
conservative agenda, especially ones ready to disagree
with the boss.
Mattis will end social experimentation with the military and return to its
war-making mission. Jeff Sessions will consistently apply the rule of law.
Steven Mnuchin will simplify the tax code. Tom Price will undo Obamacare. Betsy
DeVos will focus on the interests of students rather than of teachers and
bureaucrats. Andy Puzder will prune back regulations obstructing job growth.
John Kelly will secure the borders. David Friedman will revive U.S.-Israel
two giant caveats remain, both pertaining to character.
what Trump gives he can take away. As an egomaniac with enormous political
latitude and no consistent ideology, he could, for any or no reason, sack these
worthy cabinet members and replace them with technocrats. Worse, he can freely
discard his current conservative orientation. His chief strategist, Steve
Bannon, once boasted that "we're going to build an entirely new
political movement. It's everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going
to go crazy." Trump
himself has warned that nothing he has specified so far commits him:
"Anything I say right now - I'm not the president – everything is a
suggestion. ... I'm always flexible on issues."
much depends on whether the office of the presidency tames Trump or he continues
with his old ways. Colin
Dueck of George Mason University suggests that Trump has the bravado of a
real-estate developer who adopts maximalist rhetorical positions but "is
not actually about to implement every off-the-cuff statement." Maybe.
the qualities that appalled so many Americans remain and, indeed, have been
massively vindicated. Trump reached the ultimate prize by staying true to
himself; also 70-year-olds tend not to change much. It's entirely possible he
will continue to attack individuals
obsess over grievances,
the press, make flamboyantly reckless
statements, display defiant
ignorance, engage in dubious
business practices, resort to bravado
litigiousness, and pursue wildly inconsistent
best, Trump will be to Barack Obama what Ronald Reagan was to Jimmy Carter, the
leader of a national renewal of optimism and strength. At worst, his personal
flaws will lead to social tensions, domestic disturbances, economic upheavals,
I am agnostic, having no clue where the country is heading. For me, America now
resembles a monarchy whose incompetent but predictable king has died and a
rowdy, volatile son takes over.
Trump becomes president, I wish him the best, for his sake and ours. I shall
applaud when he does well (conversing with the president of Taiwan,
thereby breaking with decades of moldy precedent) and condemn when he does badly
(his "reckless and bizarre" conversation with the prime minister of Pakistan).
I will aid his administration as best I can while keeping my distance from it, not
being part of it nor ever apologizing for it.
appointments have earned him a conservative's good will but his character flaws
prompt skepticism and worry. Let him now prove that he is worthy of the
extraordinary position he soon will occupy.