By Nathan Hale
There has been a lot of talk about how conservatism is dead, bankrupt, discredited, in disrepute, due to Trump. It’s not accurate.
Conservatism is a philosophy, not a person. You can call yourself whatever you like, but that doesn’t mean that’s what you are. Hitler was a baptized and confirmed Roman Catholic, from a Roman Catholic family. He routinely professed his Christianity, as did the Nazi Party. Does anyone believe Hitler was a true Christian?
Many have attempted to define conservatism, and there are many types of conservatism like there are many types of liberalism. If the argument is that national and traditional conservatism, or cultural conservatism, or authoritarian conservatism are bankrupt, nothing could be farther from the truth. These variations are resurgent in recent years. The Trump movement is very consistent with these types of conservatism.
I would consider myself more of a progressive conservative; like Disraeli, Churchill, Eisenhower, Cameron, or Harper.
Colloquial conservatism usually refers to liberal conservatism, fiscal conservatism, and religious conservatism. The combination of these types of conservatism is what most people view as “conservative,” today. So let’s focus on what these are.
Heavily summarized, liberal conservatives believe in economic freedom from government intrusion. They adhere to Constitution and Institution. Fiscal conservatives think the government should not run up debt and should control spending. Religious conservatives seek to uphold traditional family and social values and structures, based on Christian morality.
Under this definition, how is Conservatism bankrupt? You would have to believe conservatives have abandoned these principles and now want government intrusion in the economy, want to see our institutions demolished, want bigger government, want expansive deficits and unbearable debts, no longer care about wasteful spending, have abandoned the teachings of Christianity, and no longer believe in durable families. Does anyone believe this, either?
A refusal to abandon our principles is how Never Trump began. This movement didn’t start after Trump was elected, it started before he was even nominated – early in the primaries. Real conservatives (by our definition of what “conservative” means) abhorred nearly everything Trump personifies, and we said Never! Two years later, we’re still loudly proclaiming Never! Lots of modern liberals, socialists, Marxists, libertarians, anarchists, and feminists have joined the Never Trump movement, but they’re latecomers. It’s not their movement – it’s a conservative movement. Conservatives are leading the charge.
The truth is, conservatism is stronger today than in decades. That’s both good and bad.
Trump and his followers represent national and traditional, authoritarian, and cultural conservatism, and it’s a formidable political force. I think that’s bad.
On the other hand, Never Trump was born of liberal conservatism, fiscal conservatism, religious conservatism, libertarian conservatism, and progressive conservatism. There’s no sign of surrender or capitulation to Trump conservatism – if anything the anger and volume are growing. I think that’s good.
The claim is that Trump supporters are hypocrite conservatives. That’s a misunderstanding. It’s not hypocrisy. They were always national and traditional, authoritarian, and cultural conservatives. Those impulses were primary to their belief system. Who they are now is consistent with whom they’ve always been.
Never Trump, a movement that transcends Twitter and reaches into the Media, House and Senate, is also not hypocrisy. We were always liberal, progressive, fiscal and religious conservatives. These impulses are primary to our belief system. Who we are now is consistent with whom we’ve always been.
If you’re trying to discredit conservatism because you misunderstood the dynamic, I hope I helped you get a better understanding. If you’re attempting to discredit conservatism, already understanding, because you see a dishonorable opportunity to wound your opponent, then – shame on you.
We need both conservative and liberal perspectives to keep this country moving in the correct direction – right down the center – balanced. As a conservative, it would terrify me if either of these philosophies were unopposed.
It is fair to say that the Republican Party has abandoned one form of conservatism for another, and it no longer represents what it used to. But it is not fair to say conservatives have abandoned their principles.
Conservatism is alive and well. Long live conservatism.