Conservatism in the Trump Era

 

It use to take a lot of thought and study to be a true conservative. There is a long tradition of high-level debates on the right about the nature of conservatism, about trying to reconcile conflicting ideological components drawn from libertarianism versus cultural conservatism. How much can/should we borrow insights from Schumpeter, Smith, Hayek, Friedman etc?  Must we be purists on free trade or can/should there be tariffs to punish cheating?  Is there any role for government in health care or welfare?  To what extent must we compromise with political, electoral realities to get as much of our shared agenda implemented as possible? Like the rest of the conservative intellectual heritage, ideological divides such as the old anti-communism versus isolationists required some serious historical, economic, philosophical and geopolitical study and thought. 

Fortunately, we no longer have to do any of that intellectual heavy lifting.  Conservatism is now solely about how we react to President Trump’s tweets and then react to each other’s reactions to those tweets.

Take a look at the chart below and select which category you usually fall into.

I am usually a Category B man, myself.  We are largely invisible despite our likely large numbers precisely because we do expressly support Mr. Trump (largely because of the utterly horrific alternatives) and thus we generally refrain from expressing critical assessments.

The Category C fellows are Republican NeverTrumpers.  God bless them for being Republicans and I am certain we share a vigorous agreement on virtually all substantive issues but when they enter the discussion there is that RINOesque whiff of self-congratulations with an implied wish for a Trumpian downfall to vindicate their superior judgment. Category A and B folks generally find that tiresome and oddly detached from the ideological death struggle we believe is in full force.

I try not to argue with Category A people.  They see Trump as the man directing the fire that keeps statist totalitarian pirates from seizing our ship and its cargo of freedoms.  They see his oppositional tendencies (even when overtly rude) as a feature, not a bug.  Only someone so despised by the unworthy elites who own this utterly corrupt political order can be counted upon to bring it down. Criticism in time of war just gives aid and comfort to the enemy and should be avoided.  Even when I don’t agree with Category A people, even in instances when I think they have picked a bad piece of ground upon which to fight a battle, I still gotta love ‘em (hell, sometimes I am them) and love the energy they supply and their commitment to the fight

My generally preferred position (Category B) is, of course, invariably the most reasonable option and I encourage everyone to adopt it.  Frankly, it would be wonderful if Mr. Trump routinely consulted with some category B supporters (Congress is full of them) to craft and temper his various reactive outpourings.  His combative wit is welcome and could still be effective if tempered as it often is in public speeches—and would be less likely to give suburban weenies the vapors.

In any event, we must always try to erect that big tent in which Categories A thru C can unite in mutual respect lest the vile Orc army that is category D devour us all.

 

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  1. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Category B’ – Wish he didn’t have to do that but twittering is a necessary evil in today’s political culture.  Oh well, since he was the guy who ran the electoral gauntlet, I’ll let him run the show and just do my best to try to keep the Democrats and their stoolies within our perimeter at least somewhat intellectually honest and consistent along the way. To do otherwise is definitely not “conservative.”

    • #1
  2. PHenry Member
    PHenry
    @PHenry

    You left off one opinion: 

    I don’t see it as much of a big deal whatever he tweets, but overall I consider it an effective way to counter the media’s propaganda and spin, and as a response to the Democrats’ Alinsky tactics.  

    I also think we have to take in to account that a significant number of those we thought were true conservatives were far less interested in seeing conservatism implemented then they were in being a throttling force on liberalism.  They didn’t really mind bigger government, they just wanted to slow the rate of growth.  

    They are ‘moderate’ liberals.  Maybe strong on a few conservative policies, but not averse to centralized power (in their hands).  Trump didn’t create them, he exposed them.  

    • #2
  3. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Trump’s tweets don’t affect me. I cannot control the effects Trump’s tweets have on others.

    By the way, I don’t think the tweets themselves affect anything but some people’s feelings.

    • #3
  4. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge
    DonG (skeptic)
    @DonG

    Old Bathos: Fortunately, we no longer have to do any of that intellectual heavy lifting. Conservatism is now solely about how we react to President Trump’s tweets and then react to each other’s reactions to those tweets.

    Twitter is only useful for funny memes and snarky comments.  It is the Pop-Rocks of discourse.

    • #4
  5. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    OldB,

    First, let me congratulate you because you are the first to create a theory of the Trump Tweet phenomena. I can do little to add to this. However, I have an attitude that may not be fully covered in your theory so I’ll present it as a possible addition.

    I think the Trump Tweet phenomena is directly related to the fact that all 50 white house Press Corps people are registered Democrats now. In the past having even 5 or 6 registered Republicans would have presented a little balance but now it is a pit of vipers. Also important, other than Fox, there is no major name outlet that isn’t viciously leftwing.

    This almost total leftist news monopoly has left Trump with no alternative but to tweet. To criticize Trump for tweeting is to live in a dreamworld that things haven’t changed for the worse since Reagan. The media environment is much worse. Only Breitbart, the Daily Wire,..etc. on the net are consistent counterforces to the leftist media phalanx. Given the prevalence of the new maxim of the leftist media “facts don’t matter only the narrative matters”, there is virtually no integrity whatsoever in their coverage and it usually sounds like a propaganda broken record as every leftist news phony recites the same meme.

    This does not constitute Trump playing 3D Chess or being brilliant. I would classify his tweeting as crude, effective, and necessary given the leftwing monopoly of the media. If you wish to add this to your excellent analysis as the fifth alternative please do.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #5
  6. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    I’m in category 1A a sub category of 1.

    Trump isn’t so much “ owning the libs” ( I hate that phrase and tactic) but variously driving the news cycle, throwing up chaff/ distractions ( which I think is often a good tactic) and getting his message out.

    Sometimes it’s effective to send the message in a deformed, garish bottle so it gets picked up.

    I would also have to qualify, it depends on the actual tweet. 

    I really wonder if things would actually be better for him, and for his supporters, if he somehow moderated his tone across the board. I think the jury is out on that counterfactual. 

    • #6
  7. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    President Trump has done a great service to the people by giving visibility to how human interaction works and its effects on government. He may even provide himself an opportunity to  transform to more of a small government conservative by realizing the evil propagated against him through the mechanisms created and supported by big government. 

    • #7
  8. Kevin Schulte Member
    Kevin Schulte
    @KevinSchulte

    I love you Old Bathos for your reasoned and reasonable tolerance of the Orange man. 

    It seems to me Orange man is behaving more and more toward category B’s direction as he matures in office. 

    I don’t subscribe to Twitter, but it does seem there is much less to be  put out about these days. 

    • #8
  9. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Coolidge
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo…
    @GumbyMark

    I’m a Category B guy because I think with a little more self control he’d be well on the way to winning in 2020.  However, I’ve come to accept we are in a Category A world.  Donald Trump is 73.  He thinks this works for him.  He’s not changing.  This is as good as it gets.  In reality we are all bozos on the bus wondering where we will  end up.

    The bigger question is what comes next, either after 2020, or hopefully in 2024.  We are in the midst of a long term realignment of American politics across the political spectrum following the end of the Cold War and the Holiday from History in the 90s.  At this point both parties, as they existed in the post WW2 world, have been destroyed.  Trump is part of that but we still have a ways to go before it is clear how each will be reassembled, and how conservatism will be defined when that happens.

    • #9
  10. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    “The bigger question is what comes next, either after 2020, or hopefully in 2024. We are in the midst of a long term realignment of American politics across the political spectrum following the end of the Cold War and the Holiday from History in the 90s. At this point both parties, as they existed in the post WW2 world, have been destroyed. Trump is part of that but we still have a ways to go before it is clear how each will be reassembled, and how conservatism will be defined when that happens.”

    I agree. But I don’t think ‘conservatism’ per se will change one bit. Even now I don’t think it has changed. The Republican Party has had a lot of political baggage it’s been hauling around that is associated with conservatism but not itself conservative. Regime change wars,  globalism and what some consider “free trade” have no ideological components.

    Constitutional conservatism is actually holding up classic liberal values. Cultural conservatism is supported by constitutional conservatism in the political realm, and can’t really be otherwise advanced inside politics. Economic conservatism is almost non existent in today’s political world, and that may make this whole conversation moot.

    Lastly, the biggest threat is the advance of leftism and socialism. To me it’s a no- brainer that supersedes any ideological argument. It’s as though we are sitting at home arguing over our family budget priorities, whether our kids should go to private or public school and how to plan our retirement while two masked men are on our porch trying to find a way to invade our house. 

    Any action that thwarts the advancement of socialism is inherently conservative by default in my book.

    • #10
  11. Joe Boyle Member
    Joe Boyle
    @JoeBoyle

    Sometimes there is no music if you don’t toot your own horn. With our President there is only his horn.

    • #11
  12. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    OldB,

    First, let me congratulate you because you are the first to create a theory of the Trump Tweet phenomena. I can do little to add to this. However, I have an attitude that may not be fully covered in your theory so I’ll present it as a possible addition.

    I think the Trump Tweet phenomena is directly related to the fact that all 50 white house Press Corps people are registered Democrats now. In the past having even 5 or 6 registered Republicans would have presented a little balance but now it is a pit of vipers. Also important, other than Fox, there is no major name outlet that isn’t viciously leftwing.

    This almost total leftist news monopoly has left Trump with no alternative but to tweet. To criticize Trump for tweeting is to live in a dreamworld that things haven’t changed for the worse since Reagan. The media environment is much worse. Only Breitbart, the Daily Wire,..etc. on the net are consistent counterforces to the leftist media phalanx. Given the prevalence of the new maxim of the leftist media “facts don’t matter only the narrative matters”, there is virtually no integrity whatsoever in their coverage and it usually sounds like a propaganda broken record as every leftist news phony recites the same meme.

    This does not constitute Trump playing 3D Chess or being brilliant. I would classify his tweeting as crude, effective, and necessary given the leftwing monopoly of the media. If you wish to add this to your excellent analysis as the fifth alternative please do.

    Regards,

    Jim

    I categorically deny that I made any serious attempt at a “theory” or product with any intellectual or cognitive substance whatsoever. 

    Your position is a variant Category A which I intentionally defined in extreme terms because that was fun. Your “live in a dreamworld” line –while not without merit–is a dead giveaway.  Cat B and Cat C folks would never put it that way. (And Cat D lives in a nightmare state which they seek to share.)

     

    • #12
  13. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Call me “B”.  I am so close to you, Young Bathos, it is scary. Yeh, there are plenty of times I think, “Why did he tweet THAT? Does he ever think before he tweets?” Then, the next moment I realize, from where he sits, he’s all he’s got. No one has his back. No matter how hard he works for our country and our fellow citizens, the President gets zero credit from many of the people he has always looked for such esteem: New York Times, WAPO, the TV networks. . .ALL the TV networks. . .they all hate him and diminish everything he does. It’s a cacophony of disgust, lies, and deceit. So he tweets. It works, nearly always, but not always. Oh, did I mention all the loyal employees of the Executive branch of our government? I do not know how many here at Ricochet have ever been a boss. There are many levels of “Boss”, but at any level, you need people to support your efforts and, certainly, not purposefully undermine every move you make. I would hate being Donald Trump right now. Oh wait, there is always Melania! OK, never mind.

    • #13
  14. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    I categorically deny that I made any serious attempt at a “theory” or product with any intellectual or cognitive substance whatsoever. 

    OldB,

    I think you are too modest. Also, the Trump playing 3D chess concept is more often than not used sarcastically by major Trump critics to smear any small amount of evident Trump support. I have never thought of Trump’s Tweets in this manner. I stand by my “crude, effective, and necessary”.

    I think this little debate you have started may be much more important than you realize for the future of the Republican cause. If you assume what is going on is solely the result of Trump’s idiosyncratic qualities (tweeting or otherwise) then we have no future after Trump. If, however, we can see even the tweeting as a rational response to a new political reality then we can start to adjust the party’s strategies to face the problem.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #14
  15. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly
    @Misthiocracy

    cdor (View Comment):
    There are many levels of “Boss”, but at any level, you need people to support your efforts and, certainly, not purposefully undermine every move you make.

    < devil’s advocate mode = on >

    Since the President is ultimately responsible for hiring these people, is it not the boss’ responsibility if his people are insubordinate?

    < devil’s advocate mode = off >

    • #15
  16. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    There are many levels of “Boss”, but at any level, you need people to support your efforts and, certainly, not purposefully undermine every move you make.

    < devil’s advocate mode = on >

    Since the President is ultimately responsible for hiring these people, is it not the boss’ responsibility if his people are insubordinate?

    < devil’s advocate mode = off >

    There were no better choices for people with experience. The only good reason for not electing an outsider is they have no ready network to install and must take from existing networks. Second, people were masking their loyalties. Now we are just beginning to see Trump find people with both abilities and loyalty. 
    Virtually the only Republicans with experience were remnants of the Bush network. He could have made worse choices.

     

    • #16
  17. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    There are many levels of “Boss”, but at any level, you need people to support your efforts and, certainly, not purposefully undermine every move you make.

    < devil’s advocate mode = on >

    Since the President is ultimately responsible for hiring these people, is it not the boss’ responsibility if his people are insubordinate?

    < devil’s advocate mode = off >

    For many of these people it is not a hire and fire at will and in the early stages, for example the ‘whistleblower’ was a CIA civil service employee detailed to the White House. Unloading this baggage, where the CIA is loaded with them, can be difficult and the President is relying on his people like Secretary Tillerson. Your characterization is simplistic.

    • #17
  18. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I gather from your remarks that President Trump is still tweeting stuff. (Who needs the MSM to keep up with these topics when we have Ricochet?!)

    • #18
  19. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    I gather from your remarks that President Trump is still tweeting stuff. (Who needs the MSM to keep up with these topics when we have Ricochet?!)

    I don’t often look at Twitter anymore.  I used to play with it a lot. Got up to 500 followers (suck it, any 8th graders who have fewer) and then realized I had not read or written anything interesting in weeks.

    The post is mostly about what happens when some tweeted remark is discussed (i.e., shrilly condemned) by the left and so we know about it through the MSM.

    • #19
  20. Jdetente Member
    Jdetente
    @

    I would fall just short of B. If I took his tweets seriously, I might have some concern that they are hurtful. I don’t take them seriously and find it amusing to see the other side and Conservative Ds lose their collective minds. It reveals more about them than him. We all know who Trump is by now…

    • #20
  21. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly
    @Misthiocracy

    Franco (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    There are many levels of “Boss”, but at any level, you need people to support your efforts and, certainly, not purposefully undermine every move you make.

    < devil’s advocate mode = on >

    Since the President is ultimately responsible for hiring these people, is it not the boss’ responsibility if his people are insubordinate?

    < devil’s advocate mode = off >

    There were no better choices for people with experience. The only good reason for not electing an outsider is they have no ready network to install and must take from existing networks. Second, people were masking their loyalties. Now we are just beginning to see Trump find people with both abilities and loyalty.
    Virtually the only Republicans with experience were remnants of the Bush network. He could have made worse choices.

     

    I’m not convinced that absolves a hypothetical boss of responsibility for the conduct of his people.  One could easily argue that a good boss should either already have a plan for managing the team he’s about to lead or should already have a team assembled to replace the incumbent team.

    I’m not a NeverTrumper, but three years into a four-year term seems like an awfully long time to be getting the staffing right.

    • #21
  22. MichaelKennedy Inactive
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    I am sort of between A and B. Reagan got his message over the heads of the newspapers because he was good TV. Right now, TV is so hostile to Republicans that I doubt it would work now.

    Our government is so corrupt, both parties included, that I despair of success. The Ukraine situation shows how deep all this is.  The failure of the Republicans when we had both houses was discouraging.The petty malice of McCain, and his role in the Steele “Dossier,” are more evidence.  The failure of Republicans when we had the House for ten years (!) is evidence that politicians  are only out for their own pockets.

    Trump is hated because he is not a member of the club. He is Rodney Dangerfield in “Caddy Shack.”  There are a few honest Republicans. Not many. Tom Coburn was one and I think he gave up.  Trump is immune to bribery because he was rich before office. Another reason to hate him.  The only people he can trust are his kids and they have done pretty well for him but are overtaxed.  Flynn was attacked and taken down because he was an ally who knew where lots of corruption was.  Sessions was shocked that his club membership was revoked day 1.

    People are not going to want to subject themselves to the Red Guards that go after DeVos and Sara Sanders.  He is very alone right now.

    • #22
  23. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly
    @Misthiocracy

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    There are many levels of “Boss”, but at any level, you need people to support your efforts and, certainly, not purposefully undermine every move you make.

    < devil’s advocate mode = on >

    Since the President is ultimately responsible for hiring these people, is it not the boss’ responsibility if his people are insubordinate?

    < devil’s advocate mode = off >

    For many of these people it is not a hire and fire at will and in the early stages, for example the ‘whistleblower’ was a CIA civil service employee detailed to the White House. Unloading this baggage, where the CIA is loaded with them, can be difficult and the President is relying on his people like Secretary Tillerson. Your characterization is simplistic.

    The President is the one who hired Tillerson.  Is it not ultimately the President’s responsibility if Tillerson didn’t meet the President’s requirements?   Ultimately, does the buck not stop at the Resolute Desk?

    • #23
  24. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):

    Franco (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    There are many levels of “Boss”, but at any level, you need people to support your efforts and, certainly, not purposefully undermine every move you make.

    < devil’s advocate mode = on >

    Since the President is ultimately responsible for hiring these people, is it not the boss’ responsibility if his people are insubordinate?

    < devil’s advocate mode = off >

    There were no better choices for people with experience. The only good reason for not electing an outsider is they have no ready network to install and must take from existing networks. Second, people were masking their loyalties. Now we are just beginning to see Trump find people with both abilities and loyalty.
    Virtually the only Republicans with experience were remnants of the Bush network. He could have made worse choices.

     

    I’m not convinced that absolves a hypothetical boss of responsibility for the conduct of his people. One could easily argue that a good boss should either already have a plan for managing the team he’s about to lead or should already have a team assembled to replace the incumbent team.

    I’m not a NeverTrumper, but three years into a four-year term seems like an awfully long time to be getting the staffing right.

    I don’t fear turnover in the administration. There is no “term” for a cabinet secretary. The boss and the times dictate what is best and dynamic times are not necessarily bad. Stability for stability’s sake can be as bad…or worse. 

    • #24
  25. MichaelKennedy Inactive
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):
    The President is the one who hired Tillerson. Is it not ultimately the President’s responsibility if Tillerson didn’t meet the President’s requirements?

    Tillerson is another one that Trump thought would be an ally. Tillerson is all about Tillerson.  Too bad. I thought he would be good.  I’m going to read Nikki Haley’s book. I have my doubts about her but the book sounds good.

    • #25
  26. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo&hellip; (View Comment):

    I’m a Category B guy because I think with a little more self control he’d be well on the way to winning in 2020. However, I’ve come to accept we are in a Category A world. Donald Trump is 73. He thinks this works for him. He’s not changing. This is as good as it gets. In reality we are all bozos on the bus wondering where we will end up.

    Agree and applaud the sly Firesign Theatre reference.

    We are (unfortunately, I think) in an era where words speak louder than actions.  Tweets matter even if they shouldn’t.

    • #26
  27. Lilly Blanch Coolidge
    Lilly Blanch
    @LillyB

    I get you @oldbathos. I was category C pre-nomination, then predisposed to be Category B, but sometimes A. Probably more A than I’d like to admit because I have studied and considered conservative philosophy and wonkish legal and policy issues. Perhaps it’s the growing realization that the left is not interested in good-faith political debates.

    • #27
  28. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Coolidge
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo…
    @GumbyMark

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo&hellip; (View Comment):

    I’m a Category B guy because I think with a little more self control he’d be well on the way to winning in 2020. However, I’ve come to accept we are in a Category A world. Donald Trump is 73. He thinks this works for him. He’s not changing. This is as good as it gets. In reality we are all bozos on the bus wondering where we will end up.

    Agree and applaud the sly Firesign Theatre reference.

    We are (unfortunately, I think) in an era where words speak louder than actions. Tweets matter even if they shouldn’t.

    Glad you got the reference!

    Image result for we're all just bozos on this bus

    • #28
  29. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    If it was not for the antiTrump acting like the world ends every time he tweets I would know nothing about it.  Not sure why anybody pays attention to twitter much less taking it serious.

    • #29
  30. Slow on the uptake Thatcher
    Slow on the uptake
    @Chuckles

    Franco (View Comment):
    Lastly, the biggest threat is the advance of leftism and socialism. To me it’s a no- brainer that supersedes any ideological argument. It’s as though we are sitting at home arguing over our family budget priorities, whether our kids should go to private or public school and how to plan our retirement while two masked men are on our porch trying to find a way to invade our house. 

    Liked the whole comment but this is great!

    • #30
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