Can Conservatism Survive Trump?

Ken AshfordRepublicans, Tea Party, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

The working title for this essay by David Frum is entitled “Conservatism is What Conservatives Think Say And Do”. It’s a good read if you want to know the huge schism among the right. Even among anti-Trumpers, there are now two types: those who condemn him constantly, and those who give him a pass (over and over again) because he moves the ball forward in a few traditional conservative ways (like Supreme Court picks).  The question is: who are the actual conservatives?

As the essay points out, if you cannot get a gig on Fox News unless you are at least a part-time Trump apologist/supporter.  Like the Wall Street journal, Fox seems to have given up the ghost on Trump criticism.  I see a lot of conservatives (or what used to be called conservatives) on MSNBC now, talking and agreeing with liberals on the panel.

It’s not surprising. During the election, very major non–Wall Street Journal columnist was against Trump. The Weekly Standard was against Trump. National Review was against Trump. None of that mattered, and now these Never Trumpers are out in the wilderness. If you want to be successful right wing media, you need to get behind Trump now.

This part especially stood out:

This is something many conservatives tell themselves, but it’s not even slightly true. Trump is changing conservatism into something different. We can all observe that. Will it snap back afterward?

You can believe this only if you imagine that ideologies exist independently of the human beings who espouse them—and that they can continue unchanged and unchanging despite the flux of their adherents. In this view, millions of American conservatives may build their political identities on enthusiastic support for Donald Trump, but American conservatism will continue humming in the background as if none of those human commitments mattered at all.

This is simply not true. Ideas are not artifacts, especially the kind of collective ideas we know as ideologies. Conservatives in 1964 opposed civil-rights laws. Conservatives in 1974 opposed tax cuts unless paid for by spending cuts. Conservatives in 1984 opposed same-sex marriage. Conservatives in 1994 opposed trade protectionism. Conservatives in 2004 opposed people who equated the FBI and Soviet Union’s KGB. All those statements of conservative ideology have gone by the boards, and one could easily write a similar list of amended views for liberals.

Conservatism is what conservatives think, say, and do. As conservatives change—as much through the harsh fact of death and birth as by the fluctuations of opinion—so does what it means to be a conservative.

I bring this up to highlight tweets from Frum following that essay:

I think this is correct. This post is entitled “Can Conservatism Survive Trump?” and I agree with Frum that the answer is “YES, but only because Trumpism IS conservatism.”

I guess the big unknown is… so what happens to centrist Republicans like Frum — of which there are many (not only in the world of punditry, but in the country)?