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Monday, February 22, 2016

Is Trump a conservative?

Throughout this presidential campaign, the Conservative Commentariat has asserted that Trump is not a conservative. Their evidence is past positions on social issues, which he has abandoned, and past support of universal health care, which in the wake of Obamacare, he has also abandoned. This leaves the wall, questioning free trade and calling for the United States to quit going it alone in world affairs.

The wall is conservative. We are a nation of laws. Amnesty is not a conservative position but rather an attempt by the Chamber of Commerce to keep wages low, as is unbridled free trade. Low wages are why half the nation no longer works. That is not healthy for the nation's economy.

Which leaves what some call isolationism and questioning free trade. Surprisingly, those too are conservative positions.

Bob Taft, Mr. Republican

America and open borders are neo-conservative positions. The paleo-conservatives, which include Trump supporters Phyllis Schlafly and Patrick Buchanan, are followers of a movement that goes back at least a century, when Teddy Roosevelt and company decided to make the United States a world power.

Bob Taft, the Republican senator from Ohio, was the last champion of this cause among Republicans -- well, at least until Ron Paul came along. I mocked Ron Paul in 2008. Now I am not s sure.

Michael T. Hayes, a professor of political science at Colgate University, wrote about Taft in 2004 -- 52 years after Taft lost the presidential nomination to Ike Eisenhower. From Michael T. Hayes:
Republican congressional leader Robert A. Taft articulated a non-interventionist foreign-policy vision sharply at odds with the internationalism of Truman and Eisenhower. Although derided as ostrich-like, Taft was prescient on several points, such as the structural weakness of the United Nations and the propping up of repressive regimes that would result from U.S. interventionism.
First elected to the Senate in 1938, Robert A. Taft represented Ohio from 1939 until his death in 1953. Although Taft was defeated for the Republican presidential nomination three times, in 1940, 1948, and 1952, he was universally acknowledged as the leader of the Republican Party’s congressional wing. Taft offered both a positive vision of international organization following World War II and a prescient critique of the internationalist policies developed by Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. Dwight Eisenhower embraced and continued these internationalist Democratic policies during his two terms in office (1953–61), so his victory over Taft at the Republican convention in 1952 represented a decisive rejection of the alternative foreign policy advocated by Taft and other isolationist Republicans of that period. The significance of Taft’s defeat — and the thesis of this article — was well articulated by journalist Nicholas von Hoffman, writing in the midst of the Vietnam War almost two decades later. Observing that Taft’s critique of internationalism had been vindicated subsequently on almost every point, von Hoffman characterized Taft’s foreign-policy vision as “a way to defend the country without destroying it, a way to be part of the world without running it.”
Which brings us to Iraq and Donald Trump. First, let us get this nonsense that he was gung-ho about ridding the world of Saddam Hussein. Asked by Howard Stern in 2002 if he supported the war, Trump said, "Yeah, I guess so." A year into the war, Trump declared it a mistake. My own feeling is Democrats succeeded in turning it into a Vietnam when what we needed was a Korea.

As for free trade, conservatives once embraced protectionist policies.

The argument that free trade creates jobs is specious. Yes the number of jobs has increased, but they are in transportation and retail. I am not knocking them, but allow me to suggest that you would have had those jobs anyway as we would ship goods to stories from factories in the USA just as we now do stuff made elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with enforcing the free trade agreements and even re-negotiating these trade pacts.

Too often, America is a binary country that swings from one extreme to another. Consider DDT. Other countries limited their use. We banned it.

So it is with being the world's policeman. I disagree with those who say we should not have that role. Someone will. Might as well be us. But just as citizens have a duty to arm themselves as a protection, so foreign governments had better be able to protect their border. We cannot and should not do it alone, and some battles we ought to butt out of.

Conservatism is not dogmatic. We need “a way to defend the country without destroying it, a way to be part of the world without running it.”

America has to put its self-interest first. Amnesty and unbridled free trade that is never questioned are not in our best interest. Brandishing the names of Buckley and Reagan is not a convincing argument.


  1. Open borders and free trade are from classical liberalism. They are in the long run good for individuals as a whole, but the transition and piecemeal imposition is harmful to some individuals in specific.

    There is also the problem that the wholesale migration of individuals hostile to classical liberalism, will just undermine the advances achieved by, and that await expansion of, classical liberalism.

    And we should note that much of what Conservatives seek to conserve today were the policies imposed by Progressives 100-150 years ago.

  2. Congress has Republican majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. How is that working out for conservatives? - Elric

  3. It's not whether Trump is conservative or not. The real question is, is he sane? I still don't know why people readily accept his whiny, bratty behavior. Is this what we want from a president? If so, our military will be devastated because Trump will want to deploy it every time a world leader offends him. Think that is crazy. If Trump goes ballistic every time an opponent, a reporter (Megyn Kelly) or a public figure (the Pope) - to name a few - question him, what's Trump going to do when someone like Putin thumbs his nose at him?
    Trump's website is so lacking in detail on so many positions, how can one no what his true leanings are? ... other than the laughable suggestion that he will make Mexico pay for the wall that will be built on the border.

  4. I'm not the first to say this, but the Conservative movement in the United States is dead because there is nothing left worthwhile to "conserve". Barry Soweto's "fundamental transformation" has been a success. There is, however, an energetic neo-reactionary movement.

    1. Use of the word "reactionary" is itself a way of letting the left set the terms of debate. It is too facile a term and describes nothing except to inter in the subconscious of the heater a negative feeling for those supposed to be that way.

  5. I had a whole rebuttal, point by point, planned and ready to unload. Screw it all. I don't like Trump for a number of reasons, but primarily because he has staked out ONE! precisely ONE!! position behind which "conservatives" can rally ("The Wall"), and this is supposed to be enough for us to ignore his long record of previous, decidedly non-conservative, positions. And when we make skeptical inquiries as to the how, when, and why these changes occurred, WE are the ones told to sit down and shut up.

    Twelve years ago, one of the major parties nominated a candidate for president who was a notorious flip-flopper. What has changed between then and now that should make me want to make the same mistake they made?

  6. Has Trump ever, even once, shown that he has any respect for the Constitution and the constraints it places on the federal government? Has he ever said about any issue, "That's not the federal governments job"?

  7. and Dean.

    I thought Obama was thin-skinned; he looks like he's got teflon for skin next to Trump.